There’s a belief that most of us end up supporting the team our dad supported.
That wasn’t possible for me.
If it didn’t have 4 (or preferably two) wheels, my dad really wasn’t interested in it. As a youngster, I could never understand why he, or anyone else for that matter, couldn’t love “the beautiful game”. For him though, football was never a passion. I think that while I had so much in common with my dad, I can only remember him taking me to one football match and that was a Scotland under 21 game in the early 1980s.
My dad was killed in an oil rig accident when I was 22. I was in the Army at the time, so hadn’t seen much of him on a regular basis since the age of 17 when I signed up. At the time of his death, we was living in Australia. I’d been excited as he was due to be heading back to UK to live so I’d get to see him again. Alas, that never happened.
Although going to the football with him was never a thing for us, I spent many happy hours in his company watching car and motorbike racing. He was going to pay for me to have motorbike racing lessons for my 18th birthday, but I joined the Army so that never happened. Now that I live in New Zealand, I’d say that my other sporting love is V8 saloon car racing, something I definitely did take from him. Sadly, Covid-19 has just put paid to the NZ round of the Australian Supercars competition.
But I digress.
My dad always said to me that he didn’t know how I’d started supporting Rangers given his total indifference to the game. He acknowledged that I seemed to be supporting them almost before I could walk. My earliest personal recollection of wanting Rangers to win a game must have been around 1973. I can recall, as a 5 year old, sitting on the couch in our Livingston council house, watching a cup final. It was in colour, so would have been after we got our first colour tv. There was a team in blue playing a team in green and white and I recall wanting the team in blue to win. I can’t recall much of the match, and certainly not the result, but seeing as Rangers beat Celtic 3-2 in the 1973 Scottish Cup final, in my mind it’s always been the time that I started following Rangers – whenever it was, it was my first recollection of being a Rangers supporter.
Although my dad never actually took me to a single Rangers match, he did ensure that I was ably supported in getting along to matches. Either with friends of his or latterly with Supporters Clubs, my love of Rangers was cemented.
The other day I was talking with some good friends from the Rangers Supporters Club in New Zealand, the Kiwi True Blues. We happened to get talking about football tops that we each had; our favourites, our ones with the best memories, the ones that meant the most to us.
I’ve never actively “collected” football tops. I just stopped getting rid of them when I grew out of them, or when the next one came along (sadly, I wasn’t always like this so have lost a number of tops over the years, when I either wore them to death or threw them out when I stopped wearing them).
Ever since I joined the army back in 1985 (and therefore had my own money!), I’ve always bought each home top (banter years excepted) and, if I liked them, I’d grab the away top as well. The picture at the top of this article shows the ones I’ve managed to keep hold of. I have a similar collection of baseball caps and t-shirts from V8 racing teams, but that’s a story for another day.
The more astute among you will have noticed a Hearts home top in among my Rangers ones – the reason behind the story line of “One of these is very different”. It’s not mine. Or at least I didn’t buy it. And never intended even having it!
While my dad wasn’t interested in football, my grandfather – James Blyth – was. From Edinburgh, he was a big Hearts fan.
All through my formative years, we used to have plenty of banter around football. Sometimes he got the last laugh, sometimes it was me. He was a hell of a character. He could burst out laughing for literally no reason, and within minutes, have the entire room crying with laughter without anyone even knowing what it was that they were laughing about. It’s the thing I remember most about him – his infectious laughter.
Whenever I visited my grandparents while on leave from the Army, the first thing I’d do was to make him get his jacket on and we’d go off for a couple (ish) of pints together. He got away with it because I was on leave – but would be in the bad books if he’d nipped out for a beer on his own. He’d tell me stories about his youth when he’d get lifted over the turnstiles at Gorgie Road “can ye lift us over mister“, so that he could get in without paying as a child.
When Josanne and I first came to New Zealand, we shouted my grandparents (Jim and Gertie as they were known to everyone) across for a visit. We’d done the same when we were in Cyprus with the Army for their 50th wedding anniversary. They were two trips that, I’m told, they both talked about for months afterwards. Living on their pensions, it wasn’t something they could have done themselves, but was something that we wanted to do for them.
Sadly, my gran passed away a few years after we’d moved to NZ. My granda was totally lost without her. Six weeks after she’d passed, he had a heart attack on Xmas day and died on Boxing day. We discovered after he’d died that he’d been buying “I miss you” cards every time he went to the shops, something that I find truly sad even now.
And what about the Hearts top?
Josanne and I had decided that it would be good for my granda to have a break, so we had booked him a flight to come back out to NZ to spend some time with us. My gran had died in November and we were going to get him across in February for a month. I’d joked to him, as I always did, that if he turned up in a Hearts top, I’d be sticking him on the first plane back home. His great grandchildren, thinking that this was a great laugh, had all chipped in and bought him the Hearts top for Xmas. The plan was that he’d get off the plane wearing it. Alas, his heart attack meant that he never got to have that last laugh! I don’t even know if he managed to wear it at all.
But after he’d died, the same great grandkids who had bought the top, thought that it was only fitting that it should be sent to me.
So while I’ve never supported Hearts, I’m more than happy to have this one in my collection of football tops. We went on holiday to Rarotonga shortly after it arrived. I wore it out one night and toasted him and my gran. While my love of Rangers was purely down to me, he certainly had an impact on my love of football, with my dad being entirely responsible for everything involving the internal combustion engine!
While one of these is very different, it actually means much more to me than it ever should!