Ten years ago today on Saturday 9th August 2008 my amazing old man Jimmy died after fighting a brave battle against pancreatic cancer. My wonderful Mum lost her beloved life partner and my older brother Kelvin and younger sister Steph lost their brilliant dad. My son Sean and his cousins Amanda, Robbie, Chris & Simon also lost their fun loving and absolutely barmy Grandad. I can remember it as if it were yesterday. Sean and I had provisionally arranged to go to our first game of the season which was an away game against Shrewsbury Town! I had stayed at my mum & dad’s the night before (we did it on a rota basis to support my Mum) and although my heart was broken in two during the early hours of that Saturday morning because I knew that the time was coming, I had contacted the wondetrful night nurses who had supported me to make him comfortable with the appropriate positioning and medication. This allowed me the crucial time that was necessary to get the family around his bedside in time to be a part of his heart wrenching yet ultimately beautiful death.
Jimmy was one of life’s genuinely nice guys. He was kind, friendly, fun loving and as Sean so often says about yours truly he was ‘as mad as a box of frogs.’ I can remember when I was about thirteen I awoke to my dad at the side of me shaking me and telling me to wake up. Although still very drowsy, I sat bolt upright concerned that there was some catastrophic event taking place. He then asked me if I wanted to buy a battleship and then just laughed out loudly and went back to bed leaving yours truly confused and by this time wide awake! My poor old Mum used to dread going into town because he knew literally everybody, and I mean everybody. As a consequence an hour long trip turned into practically a full day as Jimmy would meet and greet and chat happily with all and sundry much to her exasperation but she always forgave him unconditionally for it anyway. Jimmy was quite literally my best friend. I absolutely adored him. He was Labour to his core and was a party member and shop steward. Jimmy was not a hard nosed union type at all, and would try to find an amicable resolution to whatever dispute there was. Jimmy was a printer by trade and senior members of his union wanted him to become a full time official which is a role he would have loved and revelled in but he chose not to take because of his desire to be a good family man to his wife and children.
Jimmy got me into my love of football (the Silkmen and England of course) and cricket where we were both big Lancashire (and England) fans and regularly attended domestic and international games at Old Trafford. Jimmy instilled into me a great sense of right and wrong and the importance of treating everyone as equal and always listening to and respecting their side of the story whether you agreed with it or not. I am of course also staunchly Labour and have consistently fought the cause of those less fortunate hence my love of Macc & Lancs! Needless to say Sean is also a Silkmen Lancashire and England fanatic, and I like to think that he sees me like I saw Jimmy; as both a dad, and one of his best friends as well.
Sean and I did not make the Shrewsbury game ( I remember us losing but that’s all I can remember) and I can honestly say in the year that followed his death all things football and otherwise were a relative blur. There is however one thing that I can remember which was the visit of Bradford City a week after Jimmy’s death. Jimmy’s amazing General Practitioner (Dr Carter) who had been so unbelievably fantastic throughouut my dad’s last few months was a lifelong Bradford City fan and was actually having a hospitality package within the confines of the McIlroy Suite prior to the game. Unbeknown to Dr Carter, I had liaised with the club and officials at Bradford City who were both so supportive and provided me with a signed Bradford City shirt which I presented to him before the game, something he was both gobsmacked and delighted about. I had also arranged a minute’s applause in memory of Jimmy prior to the game and many members my famly including my Mum Lilian and my wife Geraldine were present. How I managed to speak before the game I literally have no idea, but speak I did. The generosity of spirit of the huge following of Bradford City fans was astounding, and the minute seemed to last an eternity as what appeared to be a cauldron of applause thundered around the Moss Rose.
I returned to Star Lane following the minute’s applause where my mum, wife and other members of my family were congregated. Tears flowed openly yet smiles were on our faces as we shared our delight at the amazing reception received by both home and away fans. Ever since this time I have always had a soft spot for Bradford City, and I would be delighted to see them return to the top flight of English Football. As I write this article tears flow down my cheeks. I miss him so much that sometimes I find it hard to breathe. They say it gets easier with time and in a way it does because I don’t shed tears in anything like the volume that I did in the months following his death. What I do know is that Bradford City and their fans will forever hold a place in my heart, and although I hope we beat them on Tuesday night, they will always be thought of in a positive way.
I am Silkmen till I die and Bradford City I salute you!