Presley, 6, and Cash, 5, have suddenly got into football. They play on a Saturday (and in the garden and at school and any chance they get) and watch as many matches as they can on television and collect football cards. Presley pours over league tables, reads the sport pages in the paper and reads the live text commentary on the BBC Sport website. Our junior Statto can tell you pretty much every scoreline in every match this season, and not just in the Premier League.
The boys follow many football clubs for many reasons. One of the teams we follow is our local team, MK Dons. From controversial beginnings, MK Dons are doing well in SkyBet League One (the equivalent of the old Division 3, if you're as old as me).
We were prompted to visit yesterday by an advert in the local paper about a free family day at the club. We also bought tickets for the match that day, for a bargain £20 for all four of us. Under 12's were free, as they will be with 2014/15 season tickets. I found the website difficult to navigate and ended up buying the wrong tickets. Luckily I phoned the box office and the woman on the phone sorted everything out for me there and then. Two days later the correct tickets arrived. She couldn't have been more helpful.
We also paid £7 to park, as we hadn't been before and wanted to get close to the stadium. The match day programme was £3 (which Presley held throughout the game to see the team listings). We also bought t-shirts for the boys at £5 each. Unfortunately the shop had sold out of replica home shirts in the boys' sizes, which is a shame as the shop were offering to add a free name and number on the back, to collect after the match.
We also paid for the boys to go on rides and bouncy castles, and we had burgers, so we probably had an afternoon out for £50, but what an afternoon. There were many stalls at the family fun day, in aid of both local and national charities and organisations. The boys played Fruit Ninja on a big screen, met Mickey Mouse and Gully Mouse from Gullivers, visited the many stalls giving away lollies, entered tombolas and ate chocolate brownies. There was also free live music. This kept us busy and entertained for a couple of hours.
Walking through the very modern turnstiles into the very modern stadium, I was impressed by how smart it looked. MK Dons is a small club, but thanks to the vision (and cash) of Chairman, Pete Winkleman, it is impressive and professional. The area around the club has been regenerated and is now in the middle of a large retail park, MK1. I have agreed with Andy that the next time he takes the boys to the match while I go shopping...
There is a 'ring of steel' art installation around the stadium to celebrate 40 years of Milton Keynes. n 2012 every school child in Milton Keynes was photographed by the club and their images, tens of thousands of them, form a circle around the interior of the oval stadium. We didn't see Presley and Cash, but I suspect there is a way to find out where they are.
The seats are spacious and comfortable, although the seat numbers aren't that easy to see. We were in the family corner and felt welcomed at every turn. I couldn't get over how family-friendly it was. I didn't hear a single swear word all day. The coffee was okay and the toilets were clean.
As it was the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster there was a minute's silence before the match. 8,877 people stood in respectful silence between the blows of the referee's whistle. This was incredibly moving and completely quiet. I held my son's hand and felt the tears falling down my cheeks.
At half time was the thing I had been looking forward to, the mascot race. Hello Donny and Mooie...
The boys loved the match, and the atmosphere was sporting and good-natured. Unfortunately the result didn't go our way and Crawley won 2:0.
As we left we were handed a free World Cup wall chart (with information about the MK Dons 2014/15 season on the back), another lovely touch. Stewards outside directed the traffic and ensured that we got out of the car park and on our way home easily.
The women's FA Cup final is being held at Stadium MK on 1st June. The cup was on display yesterday too. 'Citing.
We had a wonderful day at a wonderful local club. COME ON YOU DONS!
Other reasons to love living in Milton Keynes:
The sausage and cider festival
The Stables at Wavendon
Milton Keynes Museum
The well-planned new city
The Concrete Cows
The green open spaces