As we come to the close of 2017, lists are written compiling the greatest, best, worst moments through news, current affairs and of course sport. The measure of the year in football is as relevant as ever – just look at all the talk of Harry Kane smashing Alan Shearer’s record for the number of goals in a Premier League year!
The end of the year is an opportunity to talk about some magical moments from the past 12 months. Rather than focus on the obvious such as Chelsea’s Premier League triumph, Huddersfield’s fairytale play off final win or Plymouth Argyle finally getting promoted to league one, I have chosen some moments I saw and experienced and I hope you’ll enjoy reading about.
The first is all about Bristol City. Last week I met an amazing lady called Margaret Dodds. Margaret is 100 and a Bristol City season ticket holder. She goes every week and sits in the Landsdown stand. She has been going for years and we were lucky enough to meet and chat with her for Sky Sports. Margaret had the most adorable dog Bailey, and even though she struggles with her hearing we had a wonderful chat about Bristol City, her passion for football and the amazing life she has lived. She knows more about football than most of us!
On Wednesday evening as Bristol City scored that 93rd minute winner against Manchester United Ashton Gate erupted and I thought of Margaret in her seat and how much she would be loving it! I saw after she went for a celebratory sherry. I hope if I make it to 100 I will be a bit like Margaret.
In the aftermath of that game I also met a young boy called Jayden Neale. Jayden gained overnight fame as he was the young lad the Bristol City manager picked up, swung around and celebrated with. Jayden is 10 and plays for Bristol City Academy. We managed to secure a chat with him for Sky Sports. His reaction was awe of all those supporting the club he loved so much on that special night, and it made me think of Margaret. You may not think 2 people with 90 years between them have much in common, but their passion for Bristol City was there for all to see!
Also in the aftermath of that game there was a huge amount of attention on Bristol City manager Lee Johnson. Last season he was under immense pressure as the club struggled, this season they are flying in the Championship and now have reached the semi-final of the league cup. An impressive turn around which has seen praise heaped not only on him, but the board for sticking with him.
I also got to chat to his Dad, Gary Johnson, former Bristol City manager and now in charge at Cheltenham Town, about what the last year has been like. He revealed how it was difficult for him as a Dad to see his son struggle but also the immense pride the family had.
Many don’t see that personal side in the world of football. That these are actual people with families, yes they are often very well paid for what they do but they have feelings too. When things get personal on social media and the like, whether against players, managers, coaches or the media, I cringe and wonder how those dishing out the abuse would feel if that was their dad, mum, sister, or son on the end of it…but back to the positives…
One of the most special moments I witnessed this year was when I went to Wycombe Wanderers. The game at Adams Park ended 0-0 with Exeter City. It was actually a decent game for a 0-0, with plenty of chances, but the best bit was something that happened in the stand. A few rows below where I was stood on the gantry were an older couple. At half time they returned to their seats clutching their seat pads, which they carefully placed down and sipped their tea, gently leaning against one another. I stood there and pondered how long they had been watching Wycombe, that shared love must be special. It would have been great to see their reaction to a goal but unfortunately that wasn’t to be.
The above are just a couple of small highlights from another fantastic year of covering the beautiful game. The action on the pitch is the most important, but there are some special things that happen alongside off the pitch.
Follow Michelle on Twitter – @MichelleOwen7
Read Michelle’s previous articles here.