Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Rob's Story

Blaby & Whetstone Athletic  4  Gedling Miners Welfare  3

East Midlands Counties League

I want to tell you the story about my mate Rob.

Rob lead a very simple existence, he worked hard, lived with his partner and her little lad, he loved his football and he liked a pint, very much like myself.

He also had a couple of kids of his own, a daughter who was thirteen and a son who was eleven. They lived with his ex but they used to see plenty of each other, especially the lad, who used to stay over three nights a week, and also went to football with him.

Football wise they did loads of things together, from the age of four he took him all over the place, the length and breadth of the Country, it was great, they had a fantastic relationship. Both Rob and his boy used to look forward to an adventure on a Saturday, the venue and the game didn’t really matter, it was their time, time that was precious.

On Saturday 27th September 2014 he took him the short distance to Derby, to watch Sherwin v Melbourne Dynamo, they took a football with them and spent a large part of the game playing together in the open spaces behind the goal. It was to be the last game Rob and his Son would attend together.

A series of events, lead to a period of heated exchanges between Rob and his ex, and her new partner. They decided to punish Rob in a way that they knew would hurt, they stopped him from seeing his kids. The argument was not about the kids, but it became about the kids, and that was very sad.

Lawyers were instructed, and after much letter writing, debate and expense, Rob made a heartbreaking decision. He became aware that no matter how hard he fought, no matter how much money he spent, the kids Mother held all the cards, by law that was. Anything a court decided, she could contravene and pretty much get away with. Plus, they had also worked out that financially they could turn the screw on Rob by stopping the kids seeing him, ultimately it would result in a 60% increase in Child Maintenance. One winner, three losers, how can that be right?

Rob started to look into the work of Fathers For Justice, he could completely understand their cause, the system was so heavily in favour of the Mother. As a Father he had little or no rights, and that was when he made that awful decision that had to be made, he stopped fighting. The lawyers said that while he was correct from a legal stand point, it wasn’t a very good idea because the longer the absence between him and the kids, the tougher it would be to rebuild a now damaged relationship, because the kids had been poisoned.

Those close to Rob told him that time would heal, he would have to play a waiting game, and eventually the kids would find their own way back to him. He wanted to believe them, but at this stage, his head had gone, he struggled to see it, he had lost his children.

When I say Rob’s head had gone, he’d admitted defeat. A harrowing visit to his GP with the symptoms written on a piece of paper because he couldn’t speak lead to a diagnosis of depression. 

This lead to medication and also to counselling.

The medication was merely another chemical, he had gone pretty hedonistic by this stage. His coping mechanism was alcohol, work and football, as long as he fuelled himself with those drugs he was above water, but when he gave himself time to think, he sank. It was awful, but eventually the drugs worked, and a reasonable sense of stability was returned.

The counselling was as harrowing an experience as the initial visit to the GP. It was a kind of regression therapy, he was taken back to his childhood. You see, what had happened with the kids was an event that merely bought it all to the surface, the real problem was his formative years. He was encouraged to find anger and bring it out, but his anger was being directed at the wrong people, it wasn’t their fault, but where else could he take it? He lost faith with the counselling, they described his experience as a ‘bereavement’ but he refused to acknowledge that, and he certainly didn’t want to be walking out of his padded cell every Friday afternoon feeling anger towards his partner, her child and his parents.

It was bloody tough, but tough it out he had to, with no end seemingly in sight. A glimmer of hope appeared just over a eighteen months ago when he made contact with his daughter, she was growing up quickly though, about to do her GCSE’s and she had a life very much of her own. Contact was and is sporadic, but that’s fine, she’ll be eighteen soon and going to University, the relationship is probably where it now needs to be given the circumstances.

But the lack of contact with his son continued to be heartbreaking. He had heard that he was finding life tough at home with his new Step-Dad, he wanted to protect him but didn’t know how to. He also knew he was the shy and nervous one, he would be fearful to make contact because of the possible consequences. Mum and Step Dad did not want the Kids to even acknowledge Rob’s existence.

Then, just before Christmas, Rob was sat in his office at home when he heard a noise from outside, someone was shouting “Dad, Dad”, he looked down and it was his Son. He bolted downstairs and nervously ran into the street to see him, they chatted for fifteen minutes in the freezing cold, they also exchanged contact details.

Since then, they’ve met on several occasions, even on Christmas Day when he came round for an hour. Again, he’s grown up fast, he’s a big lad now, planning for life after GCSE’s. They talk every couple of days in some format or another, and guess what, with both kids there are no grudges, no sense of anger that Dad didn’t fight for them, just a want to have contact and see him. It seemed as though his actions had been justified and those closest to him were right all along.

Rob’s life changed in the space of a month, he felt like a huge weight had been lifted, he could start to plan for the future, he’s getting married soon, he also knows he can pick up the phone and contact his own flesh and blood. Their names may have been cynically changed without him knowing, but both kids call him ‘Dad’, and that means the absolute World to him. It’s not perfect and you can’t change or repair history, but the current outcome is far better than Rob could ever have hoped for in those dark, awful days when life seemed pointless.

So why the story?

Firstly, it needed telling, a lyric from a song sticks in Rob’s mind, Emile Sande sang “It’s about time we got some airplay of our version of events.” Rob had suffered in dignified silence for long enough, and if the story inspires just one Father who is going through something similar to have faith and believe that good will prevail, then it was worth telling.

Secondly, the first game Rob ever took his son to was in April 2005, it was Blaby & Whetstone Athletic v Birstall United. It was a pivotal moment for Rob, it was the start of a journey that he hoped would never end. He kept records of all the game they went to together, because maybe one day his Son would ask about the games and where they went. But, when it all came crashing down, the records were archived.

Rob has never been back to Blaby since, and vowed never to do so unless the relationship with his Son was restored. Once that happened, Rob got in touch, and asked me if I wouldn’t mind joining him. We set a date, and last night that day arrived.

It was a belting game, Blaby went 3-0 up before half time but visiting Gedling pulled one back almost on the whistle. Blaby made it four just after the break before Gedling engineered a tight finish with two goals later in the second half. As a match, it was superb entertainment on a damp and misty evening.

The ground has been developed since Rob last went, seats and cover have appeared on the old terrace, whereas another small shelter has been built on the opposite side. The clubhouse has been smartened up while a small all weather court has been built behind the goal.

How did the whole experience feel though for Rob?

Well the next step is fulfilling the promise of taking his son to a game again sometime soon, but also, it was about closure. It felt like I finally had that sense of closure after nearly three and a half years of agony, and it also felt like the time was right time to finally tell my story, or indeed, my version of events……….


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