Another tournament following England around a country. Another hope of silverware in the hearts of the nation
I have been eagerly watching this tournament with the rest of the nation. Just as I did with the world cup three years ago. Except for, this time I am watching with a new name. For I got hitched 2 months before the tournament. A date picked so precisely that it would be well after the WSL season ended but before the kick-off of these fair Euros.
This isn’t an article to humble brag that I have a wife now. Because I mean I do. But instead about how football changed my life forever.
Picture this. June 2019 and a young dynamic and devising handsome young England fan was boarding a Eurostar excited by what was to come. Little did they know that whilst it wasn’t coming home. They would be in more was than one.
I arrived in Paris hot, sweaty and tired and very very unprepared for the madness of the French capital. Luckily I had one of my besties to already there. To help navigate the confusing metro service, translate my pigeon French and making sure my food was veggie.
Despite its nickname, I had not considered that I might find love on what was essentially a lads lads lads footballing holiday.
So when my bestie asked if a friend of hers who had been deserted by their travel group could join. It was just another person to discuss what Norway’s tactics should be against the host nation.
In fact, I didn’t do much talking at all ( I know shocker) as I was in ore at who walked in.
“Kate (spoiler, my now wife) walked in 5ft 10 a mop of bright red hair and cheeky smile. I was smitten and tried to woo her with my profound football knowledge. Such gems as ‘Cor isn’t Wendie Renard tall’.”
Somehow she found me adorable enough to agree to a date when we got back. Not sure why. Maybe it was our shared love of Ellen White. Maybe it was because of my cockney charm. Or maybe it’s because I am a nerd and she liked that.
That was three years ago and a lot of happiness and miles have been clocked up.
From the off, I made it clear that my Sundays were taken by travelling around the country. Following the greatest team to ever play in claret and blue. If any of you said Aston Villa. You just got a Paddington-style hard stare.
I believe the timing of the new relationship and the new season was rather fortuitous. In the flush of young love, Kate decided to join me on my travels. This lasted all of one season. However, that’s all it took to make her a secret hammer.
It still makes me warm inside that she says “we”, when speaking about West Ham. She still gets excited by who we sign and is very much platonically in love with Kate Longhurst.
For anyone aware of the lesbian stereotype we embodied it completely. We moved in together after three months and I proposed after 10. When you know you know right?
My love of football and my love for her are very much equal. Both are sitting shotgun with each vibing with each other and not against each other. The most common question/ comment I get is
‘ I can’t believe Kate lets you travel like you do.’
Firstly Kate doesn’t ‘let’ me do anything. I just go.
Secondly, Kate knows how my mental health suffers without. I am never happier than when I am in the stands. I am a completely different person. Why would she want to deny that? Spoiler she doesn’t.
When it came to the wedding, I made it clear that my colour palette was going to be a tribute to the other love of my life. A navy suit, maybe a claret tie. Definitely West Ham cuff links.
This was not only embraced but encouraged. With a begrudging ‘ if add gold to the colour scheme as well.’
However, she did give me the best West Ham United themed wedding of my dreams. With a cake with claret and blue flowers. People blowing bubbles instead of throwing confetti and allowing me to stage a crossed hammers photo.
The greatest suggestion was however to wear West Ham shirts for our legal ceremony. ‘after all they are white aren’t they?’
I am indeed punching above my weight I am aware.
Once again the point of this article is not to brag about how happy I am. I have met some amazing people on my travels. Football, especially women’s football has made me a group of friends I call family. Whether it’s as a supporter, podcaster or writer. Or playing again after an 18-year break.
Football was the hyper fixation during my worst mental health days. When all the world was collapsing in on me and I wanted to hide under my bed. The one motivation I had was to get up at the crack of dawn and join my fellow fans. For more depression. What I am a West Ham fan! Nothing but cynical
Football became my happy place, I lived, ate and breathed it. It gave me a break from my demons.
This tournament has been the best experience. My wife joining me as we did the for the World Cup. That the two pathways of my life collide in the most beautiful way. She even forgave me when I said that England winning the Euros was the best day of my life.