I was at the game when my Mum phoned five minutes after we beat Huddersfield to make the 2001-2002 Play-Off Final. It wasn’t good news. Bournemouth Hospital had just phoned to say my Dad was going downhill fast.
He’d suffered severe breathing problems because of emphysema for many years and had been pretty poorly and more or less housebound for some months but we’d still had a great season together; me going to the matches, him listening on the internet and comparing notes together afterwards.
But now I was haring down the M3 as I’d done so many times in recent months, shouting out loud, “Don’t die Dad, we’re in the Play-Off Final. We’re going to get you to the Millennium Stadium.” even though in my heart I knew it wasn’t true.
I raced into the hospital car park just before midnight and ran down the corridor trying to be rational and make myself feel better by thinking, “This is silly. Don’t be so dramatic.”, but as I was trying to pretend it couldn’t really be happening the nurse said softly, “I’m afraid he died just before 10.00.”
Tears welled up immediately and I went into the little room where my Mum and my Sis sat, with my Dad lying on the bed; at peace at long last with a white sheet up to his neck and a red rose on his chest ….. red and white ….. just like the shirt I was still wearing.
I sat down beside his bed and all I could think of to say – but it was enough because it summed up taking me to Cranford Park to play with that lace-up football on a freezing Christmas morning, him lovingly restoring his old bike for me which I used to ride to Brentford, me trotting beside him excitedly discussing how Johnny Brooks and Mike Block were going to get on that afternoon against Oldham – all I could think of to say, between sobs was, ‘The Bees won, Dad.’