First away game for the little fella

Paul Traill 04/10/2021 23comments  |  Jump to last
Man Utd 1 - 1 Everton
With close family friends living just up the road who have season tickets for Manchester United, I usually jump in the car with them for the trip to Old Trafford. However, I usually bring just myself. This time I experimented with bringing my almost 5-year-old son along to see how much he would enjoy a raucous Evertonian away support.

While this seemed a good idea when I ordered tickets, as the game got closer, I became increasingly nervous about it. He hasn’t been to a match since he was a little older 2-year-old against Lincoln City in the FA Cup. He seemed to enjoy that experience then, in that he clapped and cheered when others did, though if not for a tablet device and child headphones, I’m not so sure how well he would have coped. Now he is older and more streetwise, he’ll quickly tell me if he isn’t enjoying it. It’s one thing if he finds it a bit much at Goodison Park. We’re seated most of the game and, if absolutely essential, it’s not a big problem to call it a day and go home. When we’re away at Old Trafford, however, and depending on a lift home, it’s another story.

He slept most of the way there while we chewed the fat with my friends as we headed up the M56 in what became increasingly heavy rain as we approached Manchester. Yes, typically. Despite it benefiting Everton, we were all rocked in the car by the news that Cristiano Ronaldo was not starting the game. Anthony Gordon replaced the injured Alex Iwobi in Everton’s only change. We parked on the street, about a 20-minute walk from the stadium as the rain tumbled down. We walked past Lancashire Cricket Ground. “Are we there yet, Daddy?” I was asked plenty of times. We were there about 10 minutes before kick-off. Just enough time to get some food and get to our seats.

As is almost always the norm at away games, everyone was stood up throughout. My son had quite the shock when he realised he couldn’t see anything if he stayed seated so had to stand on his seat. This he didn’t like as the seat wouldn’t balance very well. Another thing he really didn’t like was how much everyone was shouting. This probably wasn’t helped by one fella in front of me, who swore and shouted incessantly throughout.

It’s football and it's an away game. I get it, I don’t expect everyone to behave like saints. I certainly swear from time to time at the game. Some songs contain swear words. However shouting ‘F’ and ‘C’ words continuously, and not even for any apparent reason as far as I can tell, is a bit much, particularly when there’s children around.

My son found it a bit too much and, after maybe 10 minutes of the game, he resorted to staying in his seat and playing games on my phone. Though disappointed, he struggled with it; I could at least then take in more of the game.

Just as well it was a good one then as, despite being depleted in numbers, Everton battled admirably throughout. All the midfielders, including our wingers, battled manfully, and our defenders were up for the fight in defence. We dared to get excited when Salomon Rondon got behind the defence only to hesitate and have his effort charged down, though the flag had earlier gone up for offside. At the other end, Anthony Martial headed an effort wide at the back post when maybe he should have done better, and Edinson Cavani also headed at goal though this time Jordan Pickford was down smartly to save, though perhaps the Uruguayan should have scored.

There was a real flashpoint when Scott McTominay tried to unnecessarily drag up a sprawled Lucas Digne from the turf. Good on our lads for having none of it and getting stuck into the Manchester United players with more or less everyone involved from both teams. Other than trying to get under the skin of the opposition, I don’t get what Scott McTominay was doing and what his problem was.

Everton continued to battle, our supporters vocally backing them all the way. Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan in the middle both did particularly well in the first half. Demarai Gray at one point ran the ball a fair distance and drove at goal though David de Gea beat it away well. Everton had plenty of play in and around the penalty area though couldn’t quite break through to hurt Manchester United.

Manchester United were not really hurting Everton either by this stage and a half-time stalemate looked likely. By this point, I’d managed to convince my son to get up and watch a bit of the game. It turned out to be bad timing as, with what felt like out of nowhere, Bruno Fernandes found Anthony Martial inside the penalty area who finished ferociously to give Manchester United a half-time lead. It felt pretty gutting given how well Everton had competed. Plenty of work for Rafa to do at the break to keep the players focused with a plan of how to get level.

I had work to do myself at half-time in convincing my son to give it more of a go in the second half. In the end, we compromised on watching 15 minutes until the hour mark, and if he still didn’t like it, he could have my phone back.

Somehow this worked, and he was all of a sudden much more interested and asking questions about what was happening. “Why do so many people come and watch, Daddy?” has asked. He couldn’t understand it, though for comparison, he’s more experienced with watching his local cricket club play in front of 50 people or so.

I was very pleased he saw the goal, particularly given the excellence of it. Allan cleared from a corner kick and it was at least in the area of the park where Demarai was positioned, but with Fred and a couple of other defenders around him, you didn’t see much opportunity.

Yet he battled, shielded the ball, thought quickly and moved away from them and looked up for support and who else would it be but Abdoulaye Doucouré who had sprinted up the pitch to help out Demarai. He took a few touches and the key moment was his brilliant drop of the shoulder which took a couple of players out. He looked up and who else but Andros Townsend had sprinted up the pitch on the opposite flank. He was in space. The weight of Abdoulaye’s pass was perfect. Andros took a touch and fired past David de Gea, sending us into raptures. My son joined in the cheering which was quite a special moment for me. From then on in he was mostly hooked.

It was very absorbing mind. By this point, Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho had entered the arena and Everton still had plenty to do. But Everton didn’t lose their bottle. They didn’t cave in the fight. Rafa Benitez made a good substitution, replacing the tiring Anthony Gordon, who did very well, with another local lad, Tom Davies.

And it was Tom Davies who could, probably should have won Everton the game late on. A corner kick, Everton’s only one of the game, was cleared. Ben Godfrey kept it alive and it was fed back in to Tom Davies in loads of space. He took a touch and it looked for all the world like he would shoot. Instead, he squared it across goal for Yerry Mina who easily tapped in. The offside flag stayed down and the players celebrated. Everton ahead, my son celebrating, though you could only do so cautiously. We were well in line with the play and it looked offside, and alas it turned out to be.

How gutting. Though goals aren’t really Tom’s forte, when you’re in that position, you really should have a crack. That said, it was a very clever ball also, and Yerry really should have kept himself onside. It really is one that got away.

We also survived an even later scare when a beautiful backheel from Cristiano Ronaldo freed fellow substitute Jadon Sancho, though his scuffed effort was comfortably saved by Jordan Pickford. That was pretty much it. Michael Oliver blew for full-time, and an honourable mention for him; he officiated superbly in my view. The best referee in the league for me. He lets teams get stuck in but keeps good control. He hasn’t always been good in my opinion, not least when he disallowed a clean Sylvan Distin header at Anfield before booking Victor Anichebe for asking why, and then apologising to Steven Gerrard when the Liverpool captain called him a “shithouse”; but credit where it's due, he has massively improved.

At full-time, we escaped quickly and marched back to the car, my son on my stiff shoulders for most of the way. On the journey back, myself and my Manchester United friends all felt it was a game that got away for our respective clubs. Given we were literally a few inches away from actually winning, I couldn’t really agree with them; I felt we should have won, but I guess begrudgingly accepting a draw at Old Trafford shows very good signs of progress. Meanwhile, my son entertained with a sing-song.

Onto the next one, and now my son has had a taste for it. I’m now really looking forward to taking him back to Goodison Park.

Player ratings

Jordan Pickford: Had a good game. He couldn’t do anything with the goal and saved well when called upon. Distributed pretty well also. 7

Lucas Digne: He was excellent defensively, notably so in the first half down in front of us. He really dug in. 8

Yerry Mina: Also excellent. Stood firm throughout. I just wish he’d have held his line and he could have been celebrating a winning goal at Old Trafford. 8

Michael Keane: Probably the pick of the two centre-backs for me. Mopped up and read the game well. 8

Ben Godfrey: That was much more like it from Ben, the best he’s played this season. Much more like last term. Hopefully he’s now well on the mend from Covid and getting back to his best. 7

Allan: He was excellent in the first half. He tired in the second but the effort was still there throughout. 7

Abdoulaye Doucouré: Another superb display from Abdoulaye who covered every blade of grass. Magnificent. 8

Anthony Gordon: He’s a good player. Not quick, but very technically good. He uses his body well to good effect and has a good brain on him. He reminds me of Adam Lallana a good few years back – very technically good but without pace. Lucas Digne seemed to enjoy combining with him. 7

Andros Townsend: Full of industry and good use of the ball when he had it. He took his goal well, and you always felt he would score from there. You wish the Tom Davies chance would have fallen to him instead but what can you do? A great effort again. 8

Demarai Gray: Probably the one player we had who had a real cutting edge and wouldn’t look out of place at one of the top teams. His strength, composure and skill for our goal was outstanding, and he was a constant threat throughout. Quite brilliant. He and Andros have already far surpassed my expectations. My Man of the Match. 8

Salomon Rondon: I think he’s getting better. After so long without playing it was always going to take time for Salomon, and nobody was expecting him to start so many games so quickly. He’s now completed two back-to-back 90 minutes in Premier League games. He showed some good flicks and kept on going. All-in-all, we can’t really complain. 6

Tom Davies (for Anthony Gordon): He got into the game quickly, just such a shame his most telling impact didn’t result in a goal. Keep going, Tom. 6

Lewis Dobbin (for Demarai Gray): Came on to help run down the clock. Not on long enough to judge. He’s been off the substitutes bench twice in a row now so Rafa must see something in him.

Reader Comments (23)

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Dave Williams
1 Posted 04/10/2021 at 09:33:51
What a great article- lovely to read about a five year old at his first away game- well done Paul for lasting the whole game!
I agree the player markings but to me Gordon has plenty of pace, he just lacks the power to help him surge past players but if he works at it in the gym he will fill out and could be a regular by next season.
Paul Davies
2 Posted 04/10/2021 at 09:51:06
Dave I agree that Gordon looks a bit lightweight but will be a good player with some confidence which his performance on Saturday surely gave him. I remember seeing Jeffers for the first time and thinking he’ll be lucky to weigh 5 Stone wearing a wet donkey jacket full of spanner’s. But he didn’t do too badly!
Steve Hogan
3 Posted 04/10/2021 at 10:38:42
Your a braver man than me Paul, taking a 5 year old to Old Trafford, even with the away supporters. Too many dickheads, even amongst evertonian's.

The aggression and toxic language heard even at Goodison, would make a nun blush.

Glad you both enjoyed the experience.

Danny O’Neill
4 Posted 04/10/2021 at 11:05:41
Great stuff Paul. Pleased the young man grew into it and enjoyed the occasion.

I took my lad to his first match at home to Villa on the first day of the season when he was 2 (I think). We sat on the front row of the Enclosure, right in the corner with the Park End. My back turned for a second before kick off and he'd helped himself on to the sideline, heading towards the pitch, but his mini pitch invasion was curtailed and the offender returned to his seat. Probably his first memorable away match was not so memorable. Lost away to Charlton in the match Ferguson got himself sent off in.

Agree with most of your ratings. Probably would have dropped Keane a point. Extremely harsh of me, just picked up on his token "let it float over my head and watch the ball" moment in the first half that nearly cost us. But other than that, he did play well.

Your comment and comparison on Gordon intrigued me. Technical but not blessed with pace. I instinctively thought of Pienaar. I could be wrong here, but I don't recall him being particularly quick either. But his technical ability, quick thought process and change of pace gave him an edge. And the left back of the time enjoyed playing with him too!!!

Dave Abrahams
5 Posted 04/10/2021 at 12:10:24
Good report Paul, glad your little boy enjoyed the game and it looks like he is getting an appetite for the Blues,hope he doesn’t suffer as much as most of us have in the future.

The way Townsend cushions the pass from Doucoure, is absolutely brilliant, just a little pat with his left foot getting it completely under control ready for his right foot to take over and slam it in, excellent.

A very good team effort that I thought was deserving of all three points. Benitez is doing a great job with a threadbare squad, the longer he stays at Everton all the better for us.

Martin Nicholls
6 Posted 04/10/2021 at 12:22:59
Great report, Paul – been there and done it with the kids and now the grandkids!

My take on the match was pretty similar overall to your own, although like Dave@1, I think Gordon (who played far better than I could have hoped) certainly does have some pace about him, if not being exactly jet-heeled.

I've entered the Davies debate on another thread so won't repeat myself here!

Tony Abrahams
7 Posted 04/10/2021 at 12:46:59
It's hard when the kids can't watch the game Paul, but hopefully once he got home and thought about it then he asks you to take him next week!

I took my youngest who loves playing football but has no time for watching it to the Norwich game, and although he said he wants to go next week, I've got a feeling that he will like the away games a lot more, because he only came alive when the crowd sang, and during one of the quiet moments he jumped up out of his seat and shouted “just break his fuckin ankles” something he definitely never got from me.

I asked him why he said it, and he said the Everton player was just watching their player who had the ball, and you're supposed to get stuck in, and not just let them do what they want, which is exactly what Everton did at Old Trafford. 👍

Alex Kociuba
8 Posted 04/10/2021 at 13:31:14
Although I can sympathise with the awkwardness of the severe language near your child, I wonder what other scenario in life you can actually shout out 'You fucking cunts' repeatedly and for no reason. 😂

I think the best place for this kind of behaviour and language is precisely at an away match with heightened emotions. Maybe I'm looking at it through tinted glasses and because I now live in another country and missing matchday atmosphere, but the 'aggression and toxic language' is actually kind of brilliant – maybe even poetic in its own way – and I miss it very much.

Stephen Vincent
9 Posted 04/10/2021 at 14:31:18
Great report, Paul, took me back to taking my son to his first match (EFC 4 Sheff Utd 2 – Cottee hat-trick) sat at the front of the Paddock, he was much better behaved than Danny's lad.

Thought Ben Godfrey was our weak link, he is definitely not a full-back and a lot of the time Man Utd had the freedom of our right flank. Don't understand the reluctance to play Kenny, he is a natural right-back and, whilst he may not be the long-term solution, he is limited going forward and does not have Godfrey's pace, but he would have been tighter on Martial. Got to be worth a go.

Danny O’Neill
10 Posted 04/10/2021 at 17:45:02
I think it depends, Alex @8 and who it's directed at. We all get emotional and my son used to get a "pass" at a young age to "express" himself during the match as did I. But as with anything, there's a line that can be crossed.

Reading Paul's comment on that made me thing of the bloke behind me, Derek Knox & Andy Crooks last week in the Gwladys Street. All 3 of us grown men, lots of cumulative Goodison experience between us and used to sitting near "that guy". But he was special. Genuinely never heard one that bad in all my years.

I hope the young man is still buzzing, Paul.

John Raftery
11 Posted 04/10/2021 at 20:55:53
Great report, Paul. I hope the positive aspects of the day outweigh the negative ones from your son's point of view.

Like others, I was surprised to read your comment about Anthony Gordon's pace. From what I have seen, he is quick, certainly compared with some of the pedestrian performers we have recruited in previous years. On Saturday he was up against Aaron Wan-Bissaka who is one of the fastest full-backs around and gave him a run for his money.

A concern about Gordon has been his lack of physical strength but he is beginning to show the sort of tenacity he will need if he is to make the grade. The other obvious aspect for improvement is his output of goals and assists. The lad has potential but we will need more from him as the season progresses.

Paul Kernot
12 Posted 04/10/2021 at 22:29:37
Alex #8. You reminded me of the first time dad took me to Goodison (late 60's) and many subsequent games. There was a guy behind us who screamed the same thing 20 plus times during the game at the top of his voice. Scared the shit out of me the fist time he screamed 'get a grip Everton'. Was that you!!
Danny O’Neill
13 Posted 04/10/2021 at 23:20:10
The pace thing is interesting John Raftery. I'll need to watch a bit more of young Gordon, but what I've seen so far, I don't see blistering pace like a Demarai Gray or even dare I say a 30-year-old Andros Townsend.

What I see is an intelligent football brain and a good turn / change of pace. That is just as good to beat a player and buy space as much as winning an outright 40-yard sprint and can give the perception of pace, when really, you've left them standing and given yourself 10 yards that they won't make up in time.

For a lot of players, it's often the change of pace that's important and I think that's what Gordon has along with technical ability and a very intelligent footballing brain. Hopefully I'll get to watch him more closely but so far, that's what I'm seeing.

Nicolas Piñon
14 Posted 05/10/2021 at 04:21:54
Great story, Paul!

I believe Gordon is pretty quick as a few said.

You're article reminded me of my visits to Goodison, great descriptions mate! I envy you a lot, from Argentina! Hahaha.

As for the slating man, well that is something that very often happens and can be frustrating, but away at Old Trafford, I'll take it!!

Bill Watson
15 Posted 05/10/2021 at 13:53:39
Great report, Paul, and I wouldn't argue much with your ratings although, like a few others' comments, I do think Gordon does have quite a bit of pace. Hopefully, this game will have boosted his confidence that he can cut it at Premier level.

Stephen #9
Before the QPR game I'd have agreed with you on JJK but he had a nightmare and didn't deserve to be selected on Saturday.

Stephen Vincent
16 Posted 05/10/2021 at 14:22:07
Bill, if you are judging by performances against QPR very few deserved to start. With a first choice 11 he may still be a better option. But as I said I really don't think he is going to be the long term solution.
Anthony Flack
17 Posted 05/10/2021 at 17:42:05
Lovely read! It was also the first away game I have taken my daughter to – though she is 17 and a hardened blue!

We could only get tickets in their North Stand, and behaved a bit like a tourist neutral for most of the game, but as soon as we equalised Issy said to me if we get a winner lets go for it!!!

88th minute and we are on our seats screaming goal like the best South American commentators – sadly saw our arses a little, when we finally sat down – but all the fans around us were perfectly decent!!

Issy said she was surprised how subdued a group of fans they are and how Ronaldo obsessed the support was!

Danny O’Neill
18 Posted 05/10/2021 at 18:01:21
Anthony, if you thought the United fans were Ronaldo obsessed, I'm glad you were at the match and didn't have to listen to the punditry and commentators.

Outrage at his non-selection and then delirium when he came on. They were so wanting him to score so they could no doubt roll out their pre-prepared scripts.

And it continued onto Match of the Day. "If Ronaldo is on the pitch, he scores that", repeat x however many!

John Boon
19 Posted 06/10/2021 at 00:46:33
Taking your son to the game was far far bigger than Manchester United v Everton. These are memories that you will delight in and savour for a lifetime. You and your son will probably see many Everton games in the future, some you will want to remember and hopefully not too many that you will be glad to forget.

But what you did last weekend will always be a first for both of you. Not counting the one you took him to when he was 2. For his sake, and with all due regard to Lincoln City, never tell him that the Lincoln game was his first.

Andy McNabb
20 Posted 06/10/2021 at 01:34:10
You're a brave man, Paul. Makes me feel a bit of a coward watching it from behind the sofa 12,000 miles away. Hope your lad lasts the course.

I text my son, who lives an hour away in Melbourne, and he had turned it off after 8 minutes, fearing the worst. He was carried to his first game at Goodison by his mother when he wasn't to be born for another 3 months but at least was there as Tony Cottee scored a hat-trick (yet another false dawn) on his debut.

Sounds like you had a good time with friends and family of both colours. Good to be reminded of that when we often just concentrate on the idiots.

Jon Wit
21 Posted 10/10/2021 at 08:25:37
Nice story – not sure when what age I should take mine. I certainly remember hearing my first colourful language at Goodison, I must've been about 6.
Brian Murray
22 Posted 10/10/2021 at 09:14:37
This thread I’m sure should be a lump in the throat getting all kenright moment but on the flip side as a 14 year old going to old Trafford in the last 8 of the league cup in 76 with my let’s say handy older brother. I was petrified as Ronnie goodlass ran amok as we win 3 nil. Half the Stratford end stemmed to be outside waiting to hear a scouse accent. My brother got me all the way to the coach door when all hell broke loose and some Manc had his head jabbed off by my brother as he screamed for me to get on the coach that they where blocking. Hardly a window was left intact on that journey back. Scary but I remember thinking I’d never seen us play like that. The 69 season a bit hazy for me. Only remember two or three matches.
Jim Lloyd
23 Posted 10/10/2021 at 13:28:23

What a smashing article – and another Blue for life... brilliant.

What was equally great, that *goal* was so near to being perfect and a wonderful piss-take of the Mancs. What was equally excellent, is that we had eight players in and around the box in that attack. Good to see and I can't remember seeing so many thoroughly superfast counter-attacks from Everton for yonks!

As for funny moments at Old Trafford, me and me mate went up there on Boxing Day (forget what season,) horrible day, pouring down, cold and we got beat 4-Nil. That was bad enough but we got surrounded by a bunch of Mancs in a chippy, no way out but past them. One asked my mate what the time was and he just jammed a load of chips in his gob and mumbled (quick thinking get!) Then the Manc asked me... knee-knocking time. Luckily, by the time he got to me, I remembered my dad's woollyback language (he came from Haydock) and spouted out a poor attempt of relying "It was a great match, didn't we whack the scousers!" and held me hand out to show him my watch. I think he thought I was a mental defective!

Thankfully, we escaped and when we got into town, spent the rest of the night in the wine lodge drinking Hot Toddies... Got the last train back to Liverpool. Don't remember the journey...

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