A father and son can’t lose between them in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley this Sunday – because one supports Wolves and the other Watford.
Scott Mathers, 40, and his nine-year-old son Oliver, from Bridgnorth, are both football mad. The only trouble is Scott is a boyhood Watford fan, and Oliver follows Wolves.
Both are Wolves season ticket holders in the Billy Wright Stand and have seats in the East side of Wembley with the 34,300-strong gold and black following.
Scott’s Watford ties go back to his teens. Born in Luton – the town whose football team are arch rivals of Watford – he was given a Hatters shirt as a child and grew up in Harrow, Middlesex, just three and a half miles from Wembley. But he began supporting the Hornets when he started attending home games with school friends and had a season ticket at Vicarage Road from the age of 14 until he was 30.
“In fact when I first moved away from home, I only lived five minutes from Watford’s ground,” said Scott. “I was a massive fan to the point where I used to play for the supporters team and manage them, so wherever the first team was playing away, the supporters team would play a team of the opposition’s fans, so I followed them around the country.”
Poor Scott claims he had no say in the matter as to which team Oliver, who attends St John’s Primary School in Bridgnorth, would grow up following.
“All of my wife Tanya’s family are Wolves fans,” said Scott, who works as a project manager for a web development agency. “For Oli’s fourth birthday, his grandad bought him a Wolves shirt with his name on the back before I had chance to start him on Watford.
“The first game I took him to was Wolves against Watford at Molineux when Bakary Sako got sent off after Fernando Forestieri had made a right meal of it!” recalled Scott, about the 2-2 draw at Molineux in March 2015.
“I think that was the catalyst for him – going to a live match wearing his Wolves shirt. I don’t think there was much chance of changing his mind after that and the family haven’t been much help!
“I haven’t really tried to change his mind. It’s just nice for us to be able to go to games together. I am a massive football fan anyway and will watch most games, so seeing it with Ollie is great.”
Not surprisingly, there has already been plenty of banter between the two about the big game this weekend.
“Oli says it’s not a question of ‘if’ Wolves win, it’s when,” laughed Scott. “He says Wolves are going to win 2-0 with Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota scoring. I say Watford are going to win 3-1 and if that’s the case, he might be sulking in the car all the way back home. I might buy him a McDonald’s to cheer him up!
“He doesn’t think Watford have a chance and thinks Wolves have much better players. I keep reminding him Watford beat Wolves 2-0 at Molineux earlier in the season! Wolves were still playing their 3-4-3 formation at the time and Watford dominated the midfield through Etienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure. So it’s going to be interesting what happens now Wolves play three in the middle of the park.”
Scott jokes any claims of dual allegiance give him the best of both worlds at Wembley.
“We’re on the East side but we’re quite close to the halfway line, so I can make a break for it!” he laughed. “I don’t know what I’ll do if Wolves score – I think I will stifle my celebrations but if Watford score, I hope I don’t jump up and instead keep it in!”
Whoever wins, having a foot in both camps means it makes sense to make plans to watch the final as well.
“We have said whoever wins the semi-final, we will go to the final,” added Scott. “If I’m being totally selfless I would almost rather Wolves win on Sunday so Oli gets to experience his team going to a final. But fingers crossed there are lots of big games ahead for both teams because of how well they’re both doing.”
Scott hasn’t been allowed to forget his old ties however.
“All the guys I used to play with for the Watford supporters team have been giving me so much stick, saying I’m a converted Wolves fan because I’m sitting with them,” he said. “But I still try to play for the supporters team if they’re local. In fact a couple of them work for the club and I sometimes see them standing in the background if I’m watching Match Of The Day.”
Scott hadn’t started watching Watford when they reached their only FA Cup final, in 1984 against Everton. But he has plenty of memories of big occasions he and the team have shared – including winning at Wembley.
“One of the first big games I remember was the play-off final when we beat Bolton at Wembley (in 1999),” he said. “Nicky Wright scored with an overhead kick and Graham Taylor was the manager.
“Then there was the play-off final (3-0) win against Leeds at the Millennium Stadium (2006) when my favourite player, Jay DeMerit scored a cracking header. He was a centre half, which is where I always played.
“Other than that, I remember Ashley Young playing for Watford. For us he was always flying down the wing or up front, not playing at the back like he seems to for Man United now.”
So which players has Oli taken a shine to? “His favourite player is Rui Patricio, the goalkeeper,” added Scott. “Since he had his first Wolves kit, all of his kits have been goalkeeper’s ones, and he’s liked Patricio since he signed.
“As a matter of fact, when we were driving to the Manchester United game the other night, we were debating whether Patricio or John Ruddy should play in goal and he thought it should be Rui.
“He loves watching football but he doesn’t actually play it – he plays rugby.”
Moving to Shropshire after Oli was born diluted Scott’s devotion to Watford somewhat, and the last game he saw the Hornets play away from Molineux was another FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, which they lost to Crystal Palace, 2-1 in 2016.
“Oli went to that one too, and his grandad is a Shrewsbury fan, so he went to the Checkatrade Trophy final and saw them lose that to Lincoln. Now he’s hoping this one will be third time lucky!” added Scott. “At least one of us will be going home happy!”
This weekend will be an even bigger family affair, as father and son are going to visit Scott’s parents – his father lives in Rickmansworth, five miles from Watford, and his mum resides in nearby Harrow.
Father and son’s shared passion in football is in sharp contrast to the rest of the family.
Scott and wife Tanya, who is from Ditton Priors near Bridgnorth, met when they were working for the same company in London then decided to return to her Shropshire roots after she fell pregnant.
Neither Tanya, a business manager at Highley Primary School, or their 15-year-old daughter Layla, who attends Wolverhampton Girls High, have the slightest interest in the sport.
All of which makes trips to Molineux together all the more special for father and son, and these days, Scott is happy to be going to Molineux as a ‘home’ fan.
“I’m not a Wolves fan but I support them for Oli,” he said. “Over the last few seasons, he has really got into it, to the stage where he points to where players should be and asks why a player hasn’t made a particular run. It’s brilliant to see him enjoying it.”