WHEN it comes to the battle of winning over young hearts and minds, an approaching cup final would seem to be a most helpful and persuasive tool.
If only those in question had any idea what a cup final was. The boy is now four-and-a-half. His sister almost two. Their interest in football is limited to a mild acknowledgement that it is where daddy goes to "work" on a Saturday afternoon.
They are also aware of something called St Mirren, a phrase normally heard when daddy is in a bad mood and which is often accompanied by a string of words that mummy gives daddy a row for using.
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Daddy was a bit happier about St Mirren last Monday morning, although he also seemed to have a pounding headache, red eyes, and breath like a brewery.
Despite some fairly unsubtle prompting, the boy is doing his best to resist football's charms. He is at that difficult age: able to work the television remote control on his own, but having no interest in using it to tune in to live sport. His idea of Super Sunday is a four-hour Mickey Mouse marathon on the Disney Channel, followed by back-to-back episodes of Curious George.
The easiest way to get his attention, as his eyes begin to glaze over under television's hypnotic powers, is to flick over to Sky Sports for a second. Suddenly, he is as alert as Scott Brown after six packets of Jelly Tots. "MUUUUUUUMM," he will bellow at a volume so loud it rivals the planes landing at nearby Glasgow Airport. "DADDY'S CHANGED MY CHANNEL!!" At which point sheepish daddy, having caught the scoreline and nothing more, will hastily change it back.
There has been no pushy parenting. No replica strips. No posters. Not even a hat, scarf or gloves. There have been two blocks of football lessons at which the boy showed marginal interest in rolling the ball back and forth under his foot and practising his dribbling, and a lot more interest in running around after his pals and generally making an earsplitting din.
Hope that he would follow in the footsteps of Tiger Woods and Serena Williams by showing outstanding sporting talent from a very young age would seem to has been somewhat misplaced. Why spend hours kicking a ball around the garden when you can have more fun zooming around on a scooter or making castles in the sandpit instead? And no doubt the boy feels the same way.
But his time will come soon. Surely. His resistance will be broken eventually, if not by his dad, then by someone else. For if there has been a reluctance to push the boy into a life supporting St Mirren that will only bring too many days of heartbreak and too few of joy, then there has been no hesitation on the part of his mischief-making grandad to forward his own green-and-white propaganda. That became apparent one day when the girl, out of nowhere, blurted out "Hibees!" at the top of her voice and her brother instantly joined in. That signalled the start of the aforementioned battle for hearts and minds, with both children warned that anyone using the H word in the house again would have to endure a lengthy stint on the naughty step.
Or be given a season ticket for Easter Road if they were really bad. The boy, finally showing a bit of loyalty, learned to respond to any "Hibees!" chants with an instant reply of "St Mirren!", although out of wickedness his sister has started chanting even louder for Hibs.
The prospect of a cup final would seem like the ideal chance to push the St Mirren cause although both parties have been stung by this ploy in the past. Three years ago, the boy got his so far one and only piece of football merchandise, a T-shirt marking his team playing in the Co-operative Insurance Cup final.
The next day, with St Mirren having capitulated to nine-man Rangers, it was stuffed down the back of the wardrobe and never seen again. Similarly his pop's crowing about Hibs went rather quiet for a while after last season's Scottish Cup final.
At least with Hearts providing the opposition for St Mirren in Scottish Communities League Cup final on March 17, there will be a united front for a day, with the boy and his sister hopefully propped in front of the television taking in the game. More likely, though, it will be the Disney Channel on as normal.