In 1966 I watched England beat West Germany (as it was then known) in the World Cup Final.
I was 12 years old and had never been to a live football game.
My Dad and I sat in the living room at home and viewed the match on our black and white TV - my Mum made our traditional football meal of corned beef hash (usually reserved for once a year on FA Cup Final day).
Football wasn’t a big thing in our family but Cup Final day brought my father and I together (a rare event).
Here is a confession.
It would be another 4 years before a school friend took me to my first game - we walked from home to Maine Road and stood on the Kippax, watching the amazingly successful Manchester City team of the late 60’s - Francis Lee, Colin Bell, Mike Summerbee and others. The atmosphere was electric and I have never experienced anything like it before. Hooked on the game.
However, a few weeks later I was invited to stand in the open air at the scoreboard end of Old Trafford and watched George Best playing alongside Denis Law, Bobby Charlton and Nobby Stiles, legends playing alongside England’s heroes from ’66.
So the working class lad from Levenshulme who should have been a City fan was converted into a Red -and there I stayed.
Unlike Ashley, I’m an armchair supporter nowadays but have served my time as what used to be known as a “league match ticket book holder” (basically all home league games in the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s).
Like any true supporter, I’ve suffered the bad times - losing to Southampton in an FA Cup Final at the old Wembley, a succession of mediocre managers in the post-Busby era, relegation to division 2 after a Denis Law back-heel at Maine Road.
I’ve also been inspired by the good times at crucial home games and, notably, watching the Champions League win against Bayern Munich at a friend’s house and driving down to Old Trafford after the game to dance in the streets with fans and policemen. Watching the Champions League win against Chelsea with Annie in an Antwerp sports bar.
There’s nothing quite like the ups and downs of football - but whatever the result on Sunday, we will have more precious memories to share with our children and grandchildren.
Whether or not football comes home or travels to Rome - you’ll be able to say “I lived to see that.”
Let’s count the beautiful game as a blessing.