TWENTY years ago in August I went to my first Blackburn Rovers match.
Aged seven and living with my Manchester United-supporting stepdad, it was announced I was being taken to Wembley for the Charity Shield against the Red Devils.
My excitement was tangible. Luckily for my dad, I had avoided the potential lure of Old Trafford and remained loyal to my local side, but had so far never been taken to a match.
Looking back, it was a bit sad. Down the stairs I bounded on the morning of the match, dressed head to toe in blue and white.
I can’t imagine the sinking feeling inside of my stepdad who hadn’t yet had the heart to explain that I would not be sat with those who shared my passion.
No, the tickets in his coat pocket were for the United end.
Still, off we went to London, my expectations high having little knowledge of football and only having known Rovers as a top Premier League side.
Little did I know at that point that just four years previously we were penniless minnows struggling in the old Second Division with a crumbling stadium.
I remember walking down Wembley Way, filled with awe. My mum, for some reason, gave in to my pleas for a Rovers flag.
Then, disaster struck. The awful realisation of the true reality of the day, and my first experience of the marauding horde that is Manchester United’s supporters.
My being introduced to another unfortunate soul in the concourse who it was revealed to me was also a Rovers fan did not quell my misery.
The fact he was not in full Blackburn Rovers atire and carrying a four-foot blue and white flagpole probably made things more bearable for him.
I was tall as a child and always passed for someone older than I was (which certainly helped later in life when I developed a taste for ale).
So it was then I discovered the true horrors being a fan can bring, as I suffered abuse usually reserved for somebody much older than I was at the time.
I sat for 90 minutes being sworn at. By full-time, a Cantona penalty and a Paul Ince goal late on had consigned us to defeat and I was left in tears.
Sadly I don’t remember my first match at Ewood, but it came at some point the following season as Rovers battled their way to the Premier League title.
My memories after that, before Venky’s came along and apart from the two-year drop into the First Division, are of a club with relative riches enjoying success in the top flight.
My point, apart from me getting all nostalgic after a weekend without Rovers, is that despite the rough patch we are going through, fans have never had it so good.
Certainly not since the 1960s.
The generation above mine watched Rovers struggle through the 70s and 80s when times were tough.
But then again, as my dad says: “We were rubbish, but you didn’t mind so much because we had nowt and the craic was always good.”