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Watching dad play makes us so proud, say Ryan and Natasha

It will come as know surprise to learn that two of Watford's most enthusiastic supporters are called Chamberlain, rarely miss a home match and often follow the team on their travels too.

They have grown up supporting The Hornets, and the simple fact is that they have had little choice. Well, dad just happens to be Alec Chamberlain - Watford's 'Number One' for the past eight seasons, and very much number one to 12 year old Natasha and 8 year old Ryan.

"He's our dad, and we're very proud of him," they both say together, without any hesitation. Said Natasha: "Of course Watford is our favourite team, but although we have always gone to matches to cheer dad on, we are genuine supporters, whether he's playing or not."

That said, Ryan admits to a sneaking admiration for Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea.and Sunderland. Funny enough, Sunderland is Natasha's second team, too, though that should come as no surprise - well, it was Alec's previous club before he headed South to Watford.

"I wasn't born when dad played for Sunderland, but because it was his previous team I do keep a look out for their results, and I'm really pleased they have been promoted to the Premiership," said Ryan.

So what is it like, then, having a dad who plays football for a living. Are the Chamberlain children the envy or their schoolmates? And do they get nervous watching dad play, just in case - perish the thought - he has a 'bad day at the office'!

"Having a dad as a footballer is cool," said Natasha. "But it's his job, and I have only ever known my dad working in football for a living so it's no big deal really." Adds Ryan: "It's really good that we can watch dad play, and it's been really exciting that he's been back in the team for the last four matches of the season - even more so because the team have avoided relegation."

Alas for Ryan, he was too young to remember watching his dad in the Premiership - how he would have enjoyed seeing him run out at Old Trafford, Highbury, and Stamford Bridge, but he has the videos, and enjoys watching re-runs of the games, even if the results were not quite as memorable as the occasion!

Natasha, however, was seven when Watford were promoted to the Premiership - and says her favourite memory of watching her dad was on that fantastic Wembley afternoon of May 31, 1999, when Alec was among the star performers in the 2-0 victory over Bolton.

Ryan was at Wembley too. But bearing in mind he was only 2 and a half at the time, his enthusiasm on the day was not quite that of his mum, sister and other relatives who were there en masse to support Alec.

"Apparently I fell asleep in mum's arms just before Nick Wright scored his great goal, the overhead kick," said Ryan. "Mum tells me she leapt up and disturbed me and I wasn't too amused. But I did doze off again, then woke up for the second half, and though I don't remember it, I'm told I was wide awake enough to see dad doing his lap of honour with all the lads after the game!"

It is fair to say that Alec was kept rather busy during that Premiership season, and it might be fair to assume that football did not feature too often in conversation at Chez Chamberlain during that year. You see, when Watford have lost, Natasha and Ryan raise the subject very tenderly!

Explains Natasha: "We know how disappointed dad gets if Watford lose, whether he is playing or not, but I suppose even more so if he has played. Therefore we don't mention the match because we know he'll be upset - we try to sidetrack him and talk about other things."

And the obvious question to the Chamberlain children is this: do they play football themselves, and have they inherited their dad's ability. Well Natasha has just started football training at school in Northampton, and has already taken part in a couple of tournaments, while Ryan is football mad.

But whisper it very carefully - Ryan does not really want to be a goalkeeper: "I play for a local team in Northampton, and I love it," he said. "But I must admit, I don't really want to be a goalie, I like being at the other end of the field, scoring the goals. Yes, I would love to be a professional footballer one day, but it's not going to be easy - thousands of children want to be footballers, and there are lots of good players. And I'm only 8, so I have a long way to go yet."

An enthusiastic goalscorer as he is, it will come as no surprise to learn that Ryan's favourite players - apart from his dad! - are strikers. "I liked Tommy Smith when he played for Watford, Tommy Mooney, Heidar Helguson and Nick Wright - all the goalscorers. But I think Richard Lee's a very good goalkeeper and I hope he is at Watford for a long time, and Sean Dyche is a top player too.

Sean and Heidar are clearly popular in the Chamberlain household: they are Natasha's Watford favourites too, though she admits her leaning towards Sean is because: ".his son is the cutest little boy in the world - and he wouldn't forgive me if I forgot to mention him as one of my favourites!"

And favourite non-Watford players? Said Ryan: "Again, goalscorers: Ruud van Nistelrooy, Michael Owen, David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and Thiery Henry." Henry is also Natasha's favourite, along with Milan Baros of Liverpool.

With Alec's playing days now numbered, both Ryan and Natasha acknowledge they will not have too many more chances to see their dad playing in a top class match, but say they will always cherish the memories. And both of them hope their dad is able to stay in football in some capacity once he stops playing.

Said Natasha: "I hope he does - but if he does need to look elsewhere, I recommend he doesn't do DIY for a living!"

And at that point, we decide to end the interview - possibly because the prospect of enticing some more secrets from inside the four walls of the Chamberlain household was becoming quite appealing!

Natasha and Ryan are clearly very proud of their dad, but more to the point, dad - and mum - have every reason to be proud of their two children.

And by the way - they will carry on supporting Watford, whether their dad's at the club or not. Said Ryan: "Once a Hornet, always a Hornet!"

As told to Peter Jones, of the PR consultancy Red Alert Media.

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