On Christmas morning, one of the packages opened on behalf of my then three month old son was a set of Tottenham Hotspur branded apparel. It was a welcome gift. My brother-in-law and two nieces are dyed in the wool Chelsea supporters, and the idea of them sinking their teeth into him in this respect might have been somewhat difficult to deal with. As it is, little Dylan Edward will grow up with the psychologically damaging albatross hanging around his neck of supporting the same football team as his father and grandfather, and any deviation from this pre-ordained path will be treated as the act of treachery that it undoubtedly will be. An altogether more satisfactory state of affairs, I think we can all agree.
All jesting aside, however, that a three month old child should be crowbarred into the colours of a Premier League football club – and crowbarred he will need to be soon, considering his current rate of growth – speaks volumes about the significance that we place upon the game in the twenty-first century. Which football club a child should support has long been considered a crucial part of their identity, and the age at which we expect this interest to blossom has shrunk and shrunk over the last few decades. We might consider ourselves to be thoroughly modern parents who allow our children the freedom to make their own decisions, but when push comes to shove even the most liberal of parents will most likely impress their will upon the malleable mind of an infant on this particular subject if given the opportunity. I should know. I’m doing exactly this right now.
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