It starts at a very early age, you tear the Christmas wrapping off that soft package with boredom being the primary expression on your face as you expect another pair of pyjamas, only to replace that expression with one of absolute delight as the paper falls away to reveal a black and white striped replica shirt.
You turn it around to see the number and name of your favourite toon player emblazoned on the back and you just cant resist putting it on right there and then, with that look of excitement changing to a satisfied grin as you show everyone the front view followed by the back view followed by a little goal celebration for good measure.
You grow up and do the same for your son (I even bought my son one for his 21st with his name and the number 21). He will undoubtedly do the same for his and so on, the toon lineage is preserved.
Its not all joy and good will at Christmas though. There are always conflicts around the world and some of those sons who proudly wore that little replica toon shirt now wear camouflage fatigues in distant places, fighting for whatever cause our politicians deem worthy.
Toon fans muck in with Arsenal fans, liverpool fans and yes even Sunderland fans to fight for a common cause. The rivalry is not forgotten though and the banter is never far from the lips of our brave boys and girls. It keeps them sane and it gives them a sense of normality. The one who manages to pass on the footy results from back home is always surrounded by mates.
As an ex serviceman (25 years Royal Navy) I understand that its a job that I chose to do and so too today our young lads and lasses understand it.
They wont whine and whinge, they won’t run from a fight but they wouldn’t be human if they didn’t miss their friends and families this time of the year especially.
My son is serving (also Navy) and out of the blue has been transferred home from his ship (HMS Illustrious) which is currently helping those poor souls in the Philippines. He was married in july and his new wife is pregnant with his first child (toon shirt at the back of his mind?)
So to say we are ecstatic would be an understatement but I can’t help feeling guilty for all those sons and daughters (and parents) who haven’t had that lucky draw. Our very own Boydie from The UTD111 Forum has his son (Ramboyd) out in Afghanistan over Christmas and my heart is heavy for him.
But don’t be sad. He is doing what he wants to do and he will take great pride in that as will his parents.
But just spare them a thought this Christmas and raise a glass of cheer to our brave lads and lasses, their parents, their siblings and the friends, some who will look at that empty seat on match day and well up before turning their eyes once more to the game.
Thanks to ALL our troops whoever you support and wherever you are, have a safe and happy Christmas and maybe one day we will have peace on earth.
What do you think? As ever, comments, opinions and views welcome below. You can also join the discussion at the UTD111 Forum!
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