Married to a Non-Believer (Millwall – NFFC Programme Notes)

For those regular readers of ‘The Red Revolution,’ who have grown accustomed to anti-establishment rants and chilling visions of football’s soulless future, I’m afraid this week I’m taking a break from all of that so that I can offer some invaluable relationship advice to those who need it.

Although I’m a happily married man, there is the slightest of blotches on our matrimonial parchment. My wife, Sarah, carries a dark disturbing secret that I was not made aware of until after I’d proposed.

She doesn’t like football.

I’ve been reliably informed, by friends and well wishers, that this is grounds for an annulment. After all, I was, technically speaking, tricked into this marriage under false pretences. Of course, I’m not going to go down this route; for a start, I don’t have a comprehensive enough understanding of how the microwave works.

But those obsessive football lovers amongst you, who are on the cusp of a new relationship, should take heed … if your partner doesn’t like football now, they probably never will!

I know what you’re thinking. I thought exactly the same. You’ll coerce them into coming to a game and their whole ideology will be transformed by one spontaneous moment of ingenuity from Andy Reid.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. These anti-football fiends are a stubborn bunch. You may think you can change them, but essentially you can’t. Believe me, I’ve tried everything.

The wedding itself should have given me a clue as to what being married to a non-believer was going to be like. I suggested having the service at the City Ground, with Frank Clark conducting the ceremony in the centre circle. I assumed that as chairman of a football club, much like the captain of a ship, he would have the authority to legally marry us.

I also wanted to get married in my Forest kit, with ice sculptures of the 1979 European Cup winning squad placed at strategic points as Sarah walked down the aisle. All of these ideas were rejected without consideration, and yet, according to Sarah, I was the one being selfish.

In fairness, she did try and add a few Forest touches to the day. In the church where we had the service, there were pictures and statues of Jonathan Greening everywhere. He’s one of my favourite players and it was very thoughtful of Sarah to arrange this.

Since that day I’ve tried everything to entice her into football but even a romantic midweek break in Doncaster didn’t do the trick. Personally, I can’t think of a better place to spend your honeymoon.

Her dislike of football can border on being unreasonable at times. I saw Christmas as the ideal opportunity to subtly indoctrinate her and decided to buy her some paraphernalia from the club shop. She burst into tears and threw the hilarious Nottingham Forest Goalkeeper Oven Gloves straight into the bin. Perhaps I should have bought her something else to go with it.

You may well be thinking Sarah and I need some marriage counselling but nothing could be further from the truth. We’ve spent eight happy seasons as a couple and, in that time, we’ve developed a number of ways to co-exist harmoniously, despite the fact that I love football with all my heart and Sarah has grown to pretty much despise it.

Crisis negotiations take place on an almost daily basis, in order to ensure I get my recommended football dosage. We have all kinds of little deals in place to help maintain the equilibrium. For example, I get to have my life-sized cardboard cut out of Stuart Pearce out in the living room and Sarah gets to name our first born child.

With the European Championships this summer, there is a household meeting planned, the like of which hasn’t been seen since the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

Of course, in this vastly advanced technological age, there is one other thing which has proved a great aid to a mixed marriage like ours. They say a successful relationship requires hard work and compromise. Personally, I think all you need is a Sky Plus box. The person who invented this devise deserves a knighthood. It means you can watch live football, without your significant other having to miss the Hollyoaks omnibus. Genius.

The only real wisdom I have to impart is that non-footballing folk cannot be converted. As hard as you may wish to try, they will never be quite the same as us football fanatics.

Though scientists claim not to have found it, there is such a thing as ‘the football gene’. If you have it you will absorb all the football you possibly can and it will never quite quench your thirst. If you don’t have it you will, at best, be apathetic towards the beautiful game or, at worst, develop a pathological hatred of it.

For anyone embarking upon a relationship with a dynamic that bares resemblance to what I have portrayed here, I would strongly suggest drawing up a formal contract, early doors.

It’s important to have all the necessary clauses in place so that you don’t find yourself monotonously trudging through the aisles of Ikea at three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon, having forgotten all that once meant so much to you.

Follow me on Twitter: @Dave_Abbiss


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