Three years ago Nathan, my eldest son, and I headed off to the UK on the first Barlow bloke’s pilgrimage to the UK. In a couple of days Theo, my other son, and I jet off on the pilgrimage – part 2.
Like last time our itinerary has been largely engineered around football and we’ve got several good games to look forward to.
Before we go to those, however, we head out to Wembley to watch England host Slovenia in a FIFA World Cup qualifier. I joke, of course… It’ll be Theo’s first chance to see Harry Kane and Dele Alli, which will be a nice taster of what we have to come.
As an aside, the first pilgrimage wasn’t a massive success in terms of brainwashing Nathan into a mindless love of football. By and large he got bored at the games. He either fell asleep (Watford v Brentford), played Plants versus Zombies (Charlton v Middlesborough & White Hart Lane) or paid more attention to non-football stuff (England v San Marino).
I hold out a bit more hope for Theo. He’s very much into his football so should, at the very least, be able to humour me a bit more than his older brother. I think, though, he’s well up for a whole lot more than that.
After our first (of three) visits to Wembley we head across to Ireland for a few days to catch up with ex-Matamata Swift, Marcus Woods. Marcus manages a team based in Newry – Windmill Stars – so hopefully we’ll be able to catch a game in and around swapping stories.
Back in England, we have a Premier League double-header to look forward to. On the Saturday we’re back at Wembley for Spurs v Bournemouth (surely the curse will be lifted in that one…) then the next day we head down to watch Southampton take on Newcastle.
We have a few days driving around England’s south and we’re in Exeter when the home team host Luton Town. I’m keen to have a look at that. It’ll be different, I have no doubt about that.
Then we’re back in London for our final weekend. We’re booked in to see Spurs v Liverpool on our final day in England, a Sunday. That should be a decent way to end our trip. With the way Liverpool defend surely there’s a result to be had there.
Before that game, I’m aiming to get in to a Friday night game at the London Stadium – West Ham v Brighton. General sales tickets aren’t available yet, and I’m buggered if I’m going to buy a West Ham membership to get early access to those tickets, so we’ll just wait and see. I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to get in, though.
We have a whole heap of touristy stuff planned, too. I’m looking forward to showing Theo some of the sights I’ve become so familiar with over the years, while also having a look at a few things that are new to me.
I don’t expect we’ll get too much rest. Which will be perfect. And I’ll do my best to tell you about the football.