A day out with my dad

October 1, 2016

On 1 October I went to see a football match with my dad. We have done this hundreds of times. Dad has been a fan of Fulham FC since 1948, but we knew that this time it was for the last time. It made for a hugely emotional, but wonderful day which included, thanks to the special club that is Fulham FC, my Dad having a whole page in the match programme and meeting his absolute all time football hero George Cohen. These are the notes that were included in the programme:

“Brian Gilbert was born in London on 27 April 1935 his father a railwayman and a staunch West Ham fan. During the worst bombing of the Second World War he was evacuated to the west country and perhaps lost a little of the tribal loyalty his father might have hoped his son would share. His first match was on 11 December 1948, West Ham 1 Fulham 0. Dad cannot remember anything of the game except being slightly mesmerised by the team in black and white. Dad chose not to blow any bubbles. The record shows this was a promotion season for Fulham and so a love affair began. 

Brian is my dad and I want to write a little about his love for Fulham. 

In the late forties there was no money, but dad found a way to watch his team. His Uncle Tom, a copper, had his patch in Hammersmith. On match days dad was smuggled in by Tom, told to stand stock-still and to be there at the end of the game. What must that have been like? …Surrounded in the warmth of a crowd, cheering on your team and no doubt feeling very special to be there courtesy of His Majesty’s Constabulary. 

Sadly dad’s father was killed in a railway accident when he was just fifteen. At that moment there was a lot of growing up to do. Dad left school to get a job to support his widowed mother and baby sister. Not surprisingly Fulham disappeared from dad’s life. 

Then one day something magical. It was in April 1975, dad wanted to see me. This did not bode well, but unbelievably he was holding two Cup Final tickets. We were going to Wembley. I can remember every moment of the day including meeting an elderly Uncle Tom …Life really does have its circles. 

As I grew up I watched my father rekindle his love for Fulham. Despite living in Wiltshire he was a season ticket holder. We had some hard days out together, relegation at Swansea being a particular low, but also some amazing days.  Some of my fondest memories are just watching dad in his seventies leaping to his feet when Fulham scored and imagining him as a young boy doing much the same sixty years before. 

1 October 2016 is a huge day. Brian is 81 and a very sick man. We have planned this day for a few weeks. It is his last ever visit to this wonderful old ground and he wants to say goodbye. He wants to see the Cottage, smell the river and feel the emotions again that first stirred in 1948.

If you see him please say hello, he is a great friend of Fulham and Fulham has been a great friend to him.”

Fulham programmeDad with George Cohen 3

 

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