I wrote this back in February I think, but mainly for myself. I was not ready to publish it or sure if I ever would. Certainly, for the family it was way too soon back then.
Now – as we approach the first home match of my first season without my son – seems the correct time, as many have asked me about it. I will not leave it on the site for long – but this was it. I doubt it is perfect, but it was helpful to write at the time…..
Liam, Arsenal and me
I have had a pretty shocking 2019 to date, and even the things that normally give me a buzz are not doing so at present. I had a new book, in fact, two potentially, in the offing. Arsene’s Double Double was to be followed up by Double Double to Invincibubble. (Worry ye not! as I haven’t the energy, inspiration or creativity in me to write a blog, let alone a rhyming book. You are all spared more of my couplets.)
Losing a loved one is indescribably tough and whilst I am living life on a day-to-day basis and keeping busy, the grief is constantly with me and with all those who I care for. For me it seems to take the form of a permanent knot in my stomach, which serves as a constant reminder of how I ache for one more conversation with my Liam.
Arsenal are always there for me – as they were for my son – but at present, their fortunes are inextricably linked to my relationship with my Liam. I celebrate a goal in the stadium and I cannot share it with him, as I often did. I watch poor performances – like Rennes away -and constantly expect to get his texts exclaiming our team’s poverty. I miss his constant messages assassinating individual player performances and the ones praising those in his good books, in his own unique abbreviated text style. If I am honest, his negativity did my head in but now I miss it enormously.
Like many on Arsenal social media, his reactions were extreme – both during matches and in the aftermath. I would say he was typical of many Arsenal fans of his age. His first game was in 2001: a comedic 3-3 at home to Blackburn, en route to Wenger’s second Double. He grew up watching his team play the best football this country had ever seen and the trophies that earned us. In short, he was part of a spoilt generation who began watching Arsenal at any point in the late 90s or early noughties. A group who have struggled, at times, to come to terms with Arsenal’s fall from the pinnacle of English football, and indeed Europe’s top table.
Unlike many on Arsenal social media however, Liam played football at a high level under professional coaches, so when he made sensible observations, I listened. I miss hearing his opinions now, not just on football but also on everything – Brexit, global warming, politics… but mostly I miss talking to him about football.
I always assumed, like most dads, that for the majority of the time, we are an embarrassment to our kids. In fact, as his coach at the beginning and as a far-too-vocal parent on the touchline, I am sure I was. However, his friends have told me that when it came to me and my relationship with Arsenal, my writing, my books and even my radio he was secretly proud of me. If I do write another book, which is doubtful, I will dedicate it to Liam.
Liam was named for an Arsenal legend, a player who was my hero but – as I said in my eulogy – by the time, I was fortunate enough to meet Mr. Brady, another Liam had long since become my footballing hero. As if by fate, my Liam too, had the sweetest left foot, equally able to caress the football or to hit is with such power so as to give a goalkeeper no chance.
For many years, Arsenal took a back seat for me as Liam’s football took complete precedence. I recall watching him lift his first trophy as a player, with me as his manager. It was a Spring six-a-side tournament in Hastings at Under-Eights. By the final, I had lost my voice from encouraging my boys but I don’t have any words to describe how proud I was that day. He knew, as everyone knew, watching the tears of joy stream down my cheeks. An hour or so after, I was in a bar with other dads – watching my Arsenal hand the Premier League title to Man United by losing at home to Leeds. The truth was that I was entirely indifferent to the realisation that my Arsenal would not be champions, because I was with my own champion and had just watched, with huge satisfaction, as he became one. Of course, ‘our’ Arsenal bounced back the following campaign to become Invincible and Liam came to Highbury for a few matches that wonderful session.
Because the weekends were for Liam’s football most of our trips to Arsenal together were for midweek matches and often that meant Champion’s League fixtures. As a family, we moved from South East London to Hampshire in the summer of 2004 and a round trip to North London was up to 5 hours, on a school night. I first let him come with me on such an evening because we drew Real Madrid in the last 16 in 2006. I convinced his mum that it might be the only chance for Liam to watch the ‘Galacticos’ in the flesh, not truly expecting us to advance past them. Of course, by the time the match arrived, Henry had given us a slender lead and Liam and I watched what turned out to be the most exciting stalemate history. Liam was now my lucky charm, as I allowed him to accompany me to the Juventus and Villarreal home ties. Our luck run out in Paris, but we were there together for the final.
Less than two weeks prior to Paris, we were also together for the final salute at Highbury. He saw my emotional farewell to the North Bank and our spiritual home. I think that day as he watched my reactions to events, he understood my relationship with Highbury and I know he hoped to one day have that relationship with The Emirates. The truth is whilst we have shared incredible experiences in the new stadium; it will never truly be our home until we win the league again. We were there together for the Barcelona 2-1, the first Spurs 5-2 and many more besides but we both knew we needed to win the Premier League at the Emirates.
I had hoped that in the coming years he would be more and more in my seat, as I went less and it would be he that enjoyed the next sustained period of Arsenal success and saw our team crowned Premier League Champions again. Sadly, that can never be and when it does happen, I will relish the moment but it will not mean half as much as it would have, as I will be unable to savour and share that triumph with Liam.
My final shared stadium experience with Liam was the North London Derby in December. Obviously neither of us could have had any idea that was to be the case and whilst every sinew of my being wishes it were not, it was a perfect game to be his last. How we celebrated the three second half goals to come back from the undeserved half-time deficit. By the time the Arsenal faithful erupted in unison to salute Torreira’s first goal as a Gunner and we embraced in sheer joy, both of us were hoarse with singing and cajoling on our team.
I have had a few celebratory drinks post-match with Liam, the one after the 2015 FA Cup Final, I particularly recall, but the 2nd December 2018 beers were special. Special at the time as we both felt Emery’s Arsenal had turned a corner, special as the victory was achieved in such style, special as it was in defeating the old enemy and now special in hindsight as it was the last time my son and I went to the pub together after a match.
A story never really finished, a love undiminished…
Since January The Seager Family have been raising money for a charity they selected that reflected Liam and his concerns for young men in society. Every small donation assists vulnerable teenagers, young men and young dads in SW London.
Future Men is a multi-award winning specialist charity supporting positive male activity, engagement and involvement and is the first organisation of its kind on such a scale in the UK.
It intervenes in cases that may seem hopeless. Some examples are where boys and young men are having trouble integrating at school, or are addicted to substances and fall foul of the law. It has many success stories, transforming the lives not only of the individuals it supports, but also their families and wider communities.
Passionate fifty-something Arsenal supporter who has been making the journey to N5 regularly since the early 1980s – although his first game was in 1976. Always passionate when talking about The Arsenal, Dave decided to send a guest blog to Gunnersphere in the summer of 2011 and has not stopped writing about the Gunners since.
He set up his own site – 1 Nil Down 2 One Up – in February 2012, which he moved on in 2016 to concentrate on freelance writing and building Gunners Town, which he launched with Paul in 2014.
The objective of GT was to be new and fresh and to give a platform for likeminded passionate Arsenal fans wishing to write about their team. Dave still of course, writes for the site himself and advises the ever-changing writing crew.