Saturday, 8 May 2010

Glad All Over...

I'm going to write something nice on here, something upbeat. I know it’s been a while. There may have been lots of stress and strain in the Bird household over the past couple of weeks, but that hasn't stopped Adam enjoying two absolutely amazing experiences. Experiences to treasure for many years to come.

First he was the West Brom mascot at their Monday night match away to Crystal Palace. We arrived at Selhurst Park around 5.30pm not knowing what to expect, but from the moment we stepped inside the ground we could not have been looked after better. I can't claim that Adam is a football fan, we're not fanatical about the game in our house, but his Grandad used to play for the Albion in the early 60s, and every night he sleeps with a little cuddly Baggie Bird they bought him when he was first diagnosed.

We were welcomed in by some members of the Palace staff, and met by Simon and Lee who had travelled down on behalf of West Brom to look after Adam. Sort of like his personal bodyguards I guess. The two lads were a credit to the club, at least until they joined the throng for the match itself... can't vouch for them after that. We started off on the pitch down by the dugout area with Susan from Palace looking after us. What a thoroughly nice lady. And what a lovely smile on Adam's face as Baggie Bird - the 'real' Baggie Bird - came striding down to meet us. Baggie was great, a really friendly bird who kindly donated us the boots and goalkeeping gloves that he's worn all season! Who wants to start the bidding?

We got handed over to Jo who looks after all the mascots on match day. He was a lovely guy too (are you detecting a theme here?) He'd obviously handled a ton of kids over the years, and he really put Adam at ease. We went down to the dressing room area and Adam met and had his photo taken with some of the players. He would have met and had his photo taken with more but after a while he turned and said 'that's enough now, I don't want any more photos'. Clearly not starstruck then! The players were great, in particular Stephen Reid who welcomed Adam into the dressing room and Scott Carson who took care of him when he led the team out for the match itself. Before we left the dressing room Adam said to me 'Dad, I like that blue drink'. I had no idea what he was talking about. 'You know that blue drink you have sometimes when you go running'. Then it dawned on me, he was referring to a tray of powerade sports drinks that were in the middle of the dressing room. I can’t remember who it was that said he could have one, but next thing I knew he was drinking it. He drank the whole bottle, and I can tell you for the next 15 or 20 minutes he was buzzing!

We went out on to the pitch and all the mascots, Jo, and the two Alice the Eagles played a few kick-about games. Adam was hopping, skipping and jumping around having as much fun as I'd seen him have for ages. Ten minutes or so before kick-off the mascots had to go off and back to the dressing room area to get ready to lead out the teams. All parents had to remain outside so I was a little worried how Adam would react to being on his own and having me out of sight. I took him to one side and explained to him what would happen and then watched him trot off the pitch. I’d been prepping him for our trip to Charlton all week, and had told him that when we did our lap of the pitch the fans would (hopefully) all clap us, and he should wave back at them. As he came off the pitch at Palace some of the players came running off behind him. The crowd behind the goal started clapping and cheering and little Adam, unaware of what was going on behind him, looked up and started waving nervously back to them! Bless his little heart, not a chance of me explaining to him what really happened.

I waited just outside the tunnel area as all the final pre-match preparations went on. The teams come out when the Sky production team say it’s time, so we had a bit of hanging around until the big moment. For those of you that have never been to a live football match, one of the loudest moments is when the teams first come out on to the field. Watching on television never does justice to the true extent of the crowd noise. And so it proved on this occasion. Little Adam came out on cue leading the West Brom team, followed immediately by Scott Carson, the West Brom goalkeeper and captain. As the huge cheers went up round the ground I sensed for one second that Adam was going to do an about turn and run back over to me. But Scott Carson gave him a gentle nudge forward and out they ran together on to the pitch. Adam took part in all the pre-match formalities - the ceremonial handshakes (although he told me after that the first player on the other team missed him out.. ‘Maybe he didn’t see me, Dad’, he said) and the official photograph. And he got to have a little kick-about with Scott Carson too with a football that he was then given to take home and keep. Another nice touch I thought. Adam later told me that the ball was ‘a little bit too big and bit too hard’ for him to play with, and he’d hurt his foot when he kicked it! I hadn’t noticed watching from the sidelines, all I saw was the sublime skill and artistry of my middle-size footballing superstar.

We didn’t stay to watch the game itself, it would have been far too much for him. Because his chemotherapy had only finished the week before I didn’t really think he’d be up for going, but clearly I was totally wrong about that. As we drove back and approached home he said to me ‘When we get home I don’t want you to tell Mum anything. Don’t tell her anything. I am going to tell her it all myself’. If any further proof were needed that he’d had a thoroughly good time it was right there in that statement.

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