Adam Bird


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Friday, 19 December 2008

An Executive Baptism

Priestfield Stadium

Being the son of a fanatical football fan means that more than likely, it's a case of when you start going rather than if. In Oliver's case it was always inevitable, although I hadn't planned on it being so soon.

The plan had been to mention football as much as possible and tell him everything about the Gills and put it off until he was five years old so that I could build up the anticipation and excitement. On his fifth birthday he would go to his first Gills game - as a mascot, making his Gills debut by leading the side out at the hallowed turf of Priestfield.

As always with best intentions and perfectly laid plans, they go awry in amongst a set of strange circumstances. When Gillingham drew Stockport at home in the FA Cup second round it wasn't exactly a tie that caught the imagination, but a home game I would not have wanted to miss.

I had decided to go for the pay on the day option, not imagining a sell out by any means! But as the game drew closer I became aware of a problem. I couldn't get a babysitter! All the people in the world who normally help me out, where either abroad, pole dancing in London, or getting ready to join the pole dancers later that evening!

Luckily, Reaso had a plan! His Dad owns one of the executive boxes and just so happened to have room for one man and a baby. Now knowing that a) I had my five year plan and b) Oliver can be a monster I wasn't initially enthused by the idea, but I think Reaso was so I felt bad letting him and the Gills down! Oliver was therefore about to be baptised at Priestfield for his very first Gillingham game at only 710 days old.

In the end, after all the fuss and tribulations Oliver nearly missed all of the fun! With the drive down to the ground Oliver had fallen asleep and I was worried that he would sleep all the way through! But like typical Bird, he woke up when the smell of the pre-match meal arrived!

Once Oliver had settled into his new surroundings and had met everyone who was currently sat around the table, as apart from Reaso, they were all complete strangers to him. I put his coat, hat, scarf and gloves back on and took him outside the glass box for a real feel of the pre-match atmosphere.

Now, how I imagined it, when Oliver was five, and saw the hallowed turf and the four stands that house the Gills congregation, he would look up at me with tears in his eyes and say "Daddy, this is the best place in the world, it is amazing", or something along those lines. As it was, Oliver said the word "football", pointed and ran away up entire the length of the Medway stand and amused himself by slamming all the seats down and letting them fly back up again.

Despite Oliver's apparent early ignorance, he managed to sit and enjoy himself watching the teams come out and the crowd cheering early encouragement, but after ten minutes or so he had seen enough and wanted to climb the steps, or run up the Medway stand again, or take his hat, gloves, scarf and coat off, or sit on someone else's lap (for 30 seconds) or go back inside the box before coming back out again!

Priestfield, and probably any football stadium isn't really suitable for a two year old toddler, but the blessing was in having the executive box and the comfort of having somewhere warm in which Oliver could run around, play with his toys in quiet whilst the rest of ground gets on with it. Many thanks should go to Mike and the rest of the Dockyard Blue's for allowing us to encroach upon you - and Oliver, when he grows up will surely be as appreciative as I.

And so, Oliver's baptism wasn't the event that I had in mind, but it was a significant moment for me as a fanatical football supporting father! There is a positive, which I believe Oliver's presence had influence over, which was the result! Had he not been there, we would surely have lost, never had the chance to win the replay, and never have played Aston Villa on the television!

For the Record

Oliver's first Gillingham match

Date: 29th November 2008

Against: Stockport County, FA Cup, 2nd Round.

Gillingham lineup: Simon Royce, Barry Fuller, Garry Richards, Simon King, John Nutter, Andy Barcham (78 Mark McCammon, 90 Andy Pugh), Curtis Weston, Mark Bentley, Albert Jarrett, Adam Miller (64 Gary Mulligan), Simeon Jackson. Subs not used: Alan Julian, Leigh Mills, Stuart Lewis, Connor Essam.

Stockport County lineup: Owain Fon Williams, Johnny Mullins, Dominic Blizzard, Jim McNulty, Anthony Pilkington, Jason Taylor (46 Gary Dicker), James Tunnicliffe, Stephen Gleeson, Matty McNeil (67 Peter Thompson), Leon McSweeney, Craig Davies (46 Tommy Rowe). Subs not used: Michael Rose, Peter Thompson, Carl Baker, Paul Turnbull, Lloyd Rigby.

Result: 0-0

Attendance: 4,419

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