Anybody who knows me knows that the forthcoming game between Wales and England is just about the most important event in my annual social calendar. The past couple of months have been spent with my head buried in books and documents related to Welsh football as I research my forthcoming book. I am living and breathing the Wales national team. So much of my life revolves around Welsh football – and this is the big one – this is England.
To make things easier for local people to reach the game, and to give an opportunity for the children in my village to share a great day out and experience what could be a momentous occasion, I organised a coach trip to Cardiff on Saturday. The bus filled up quickly and I was proud to order a batch of 50 tickets from our small village near Caernarfon. There will be about 100 fans there in total from Felinheli, from a population of 2,000. That’s a pretty big percentage for a game 5 hours away. It was going to be a great day and there was a real buzz of anticipation amongst the children and their parents.
Even when I became ill, I didn’t think for one minute that I wouldn’t be able to go. It didn’t once enter my head. After all I had been at the Wales v Italy match in 2002 when Mair went into labour with Ifan. With Saturday’s game my priority, I made alternative arrangements to ease my discomfort – I would stay in Cardiff after the game and avoid half of the 10 hour return trip. It would be fine.
But then last night I suffered a setback. I’d taken Ifan to his training session with our Under 9’s team and went for a coffee while a mate of mine covered the coaching session that I would normally hold. But even as I climbed the few steps to the Leisure Centre, I knew I was struggling. I had to stop half way for a breather. I had the cuppa and drove home from training, but I didn’t feel too good. By half past eight I had gone up to bed and was feeling pretty grotty. Bloody hell, if I was like this after 20 steps, how would I reach my seat on the 2nd tier of the Millennium Stadium? The unthinkable started to enter my head.
As I lay there I imagined how the day would pan out. Perhaps I would feel rough after a couple of hours on the bus – then on arrival at Cardiff we could be parked half a mile away from the stadium. Even if I could keep up with my excited young sons, what would the exertion do to me? Would there be an escalator to my seat? I then thought about a Wales goal – I’d go mental – what effect would that have on my heart and lungs? On the other hand, it’d be a great way to go wouldn’t it?
And what if we won? I couldn’t go out and celebrate – when we beat Germany in 1991, my mates and I had broken back into the stadium in the early hours of the morning to re-enact Rush’s goal, deliriously drunk. This time I’d be sitting alone at my Mother’s house, the full debilitating effect of my stark, booze-free life sentence hammering home at me as the City partied.
It might have worked out okay, but the stakes are too high, and I’ve got no right to put Mair through a weekend of worry. I just have to accept that this is how it is going to be from now on. One of the big lifestyle changes that are needed is the shift from spectator to participant. If I’m going to get anywhere near the Alpe D’Huez, then Saturday afternoons will need to be spent on a 6 hour training ride, and not sat in a car, eating Monster Munch on the way to Middlesbrough for a Cardiff City game. You can tell from the lack of humour in this post that I’m absolutely gutted to be missing the Wales game, but I’ve been given a chance to recover and I have to take it.