As I boy dad didn't take me to The Arsenal. It was the days of proper hooliganism and pretty damn scary. I did go to a north London derby in 1982 and all I remember was people being carried around the pitch covered in blood. No place for a dad to take a son. Milton Road, a few miles from home, was the place.
Dad would meet his mates as I stood listening and not understanding the banter. As I got older I joined in. When I bought the tea (with money dad had given me in the car park) I was part of the gang!
Cambridge City are a best kept secret. They are continually confused with United even when The Us were in the old second division and they even got a mention in Nick Hornby's Feverpitch! Yet many locals don't seem to know they exist. They nearly went under in 2006 before a fantastic band of fans stepped in and saved them. I lost Highbury that year. Thank goodness City didn't go too. When dad died in 1999 it took me about 4 years to return as it was our place and going without him wasn't right. Now I go whenever I can with my own son and we love it.
I sat excitedly in the horrible north London traffic waiting for my son to come out of school. He jumped in and we sat in another queue as we headed for the A1 and supper in the Baldock services. At just after six we arrived, parked by the River Cam and walked to the ground to get a good spot. Normally, when there are only 300 people there you can stand where you like. Not tonight for tonight is a special night.
It's the FA Cup first round proper. This will be the fifth FA Cup game I've seen this season already and this is the big one. MK Dons are in town. 4 leagues above. 100 league places away. A mountain to climb but whatever the score Cambridge City have already won. For a struggling non-league club the £27,000 won from the previous 4 rounds was most welcome. The £64,000 from ESPN is history changing! Yes, for the first time in their 104 year history they were truly in the spotlight!
We bought the special scarf, programme and raffle tickets and stood behind the goal to the left. Black and white scarf was draped over the advertising board so the family at home could find us on the telly (Yes! The telly!) and the inflatable cup was blown up and tied above the scarf. It got a thumbs up from some of the City players. We were ready.
Now I've shared many a stadium with Ian Wright but I never thought it would be at The City Ground. This was all too much! We watched the build up on my phone. Bizarre! Then watched a game available across the world with the other 1500 people there. The secret I shared with my dad was out.
As expected it was all one way traffic. MK Dons looked fitter and sharper as they should but City were magnificent. They defended with passion and the goalkeeper was a superhero. Zac Barrett really is a secret I hope nobody finds out about. Best keeper in this league by a mile and why he's not playing at a much higher level is a mystery. He made stop after stop as did the post twice and they hung on for an exciting replay at the mini Emirates style Stadium MK.
My son and I returned down the M11 happy and cheering the score as it was read out on FiveLive every half an hour. We arrived at our dark home at 11pm. Son staggered to bed and I sat in a quiet living room catching my breath. Everyone else was asleep. Lets just have a quick look! For the first time ever I could relive a City game on the telly in HD! I watched the build up and then did a X6 fast forward stopping every time the ball went near us. There we are! Scarf dangling. Me and boy on the TV!
After the game players and managers, not used to the limelight, interviewed perfectly. Both managers showed a respect for one another which made a nice change from the Premiership. No underhand comments. No moaning about the ref. No reading between the lines. No egos. A breath of fresh air.
It was a truly historic night at Milton Road and a fitting memory for all the happy times as City pack up and ground share with Newmarket next season. The game has been re-watched and a DVD made. It was a fitting reward for all the fans who worked so hard to keep this brilliant club going.
And we get to do it all again next week in the replay. I just wish my dad could be here to see all this!