‘I’ve cried a lifetime’s supply of tears over grandson Charlie’s Man Utd debut’ – Val Savage

In this week’s very emotional column Val, the 74-year-old mum of Mirror columnist and football legend Robbie Savage expresses her pride at grandson Charlie stepping out at the Theatre of Dreams …and claims Yorkshire puddings make a Christmas dinner.

Charlie Savage of Manchester United in action during the UEFA Champions League

I’ve cried happy tears, sobbed with pride, and wept with relief. If there was a limited number of tears per person I’d have used a lifetime’s supply.

They started the moment my grandson Charlie, who’s 18, called to say there was a chance he’d be picked for the bench for Manchester United’s Champion League game last week.

The news left me so nervous I had to open the back door to breathe in cold air. As soon as I did, a little robin appeared on the fence.

The robin’s been hanging around a lot since the summer and I know it sounds silly, but I always feel the little bird represents my late husband Colin.

So I said to the robin: “If our Charlie does get on the bench, I know you will be with him in his boots, guiding him.”

Val is proud of her grandson


Manchester United via Getty Imag)

The next time Charlie called, he said: “Now Nana, don’t cry. But it’s confirmed I’m on the bench.” I told him it was too late: I’m a crier and there’s nothing I can do about it.

On the day of the match I couldn’t settle or eat a thing. I was glued to the telly hours before kick off. As soon as I saw Charlie coming off the team bus I was off again.

Then it was our Robert’s turn to make me cry. In a pre-match interview he told how Charlie’s Taid, my Colin, would be watching from above. And he said his nana would be on the sofa crying.

Of course I was. I was in bits.

The tears cranked up another notch when I saw Charlie warming up and I thought, ‘There’s my baby’.

But by the 86th minute I thought Charlie wouldn’t come on and was half relieved as I wasn’t sure I could take it.

Then commentator Darren Fletcher said he wanted to step aside to allow our Rob to announce his son’s first-team debut at Manchester United.

I had to stifle my sobs to hear Rob say: “Coming on for Manchester United, Charlie Savage. Wow.”

I would have cheered seeing the moment Charlie ran on to the pitch but I couldn’t since tears were rolling into my mouth.

And they wouldn’t stop because I could hear our Robert fighting his own emotions in the commentary box. My heart was missing a beat and I wondered if I’d have to book myself into the crem.

Robbie Savage



During Robert’s playing career my nerves got so bad I couldn’t watch and had to walk around outside until the final whistle. But Colin always stayed calm in the stands.

He showed little emotion but took everything in. And each time Robert got in the car afterwards, he’d say, ‘How did I do Dad?’ because he knew Colin would tell him the truth.

Sometimes Colin would say: “You were buzzing, son”, which meant he was good. And sometimes he’d say: “If you’d put a pair of shorts on me I’d have played better”. Colin never hyped him up and Robert respected him for it.

And so my joy for Charlie was mixed with aching for Colin. I imagined him in the Old Trafford stands and his quiet pride as he watched his grandson.

Robbie’s proud mum Val


Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

Charlie works so hard, is very modest and doesn’t like a fuss being made of him. He has not had a single foot up. I would love him just as much if he was sweeping the roads outside Old Trafford as I would if he as playing inside it. But to see my boy’s hard working young lad achieve his dream gave me extreme helpings of every feeling going.

I have watched Charlie’s match 240 times since. I start at Robert’s interview, fast forward to the 88th minute, then rewind.

I wish I could explain how it feels to see your grandson succeed your son. But I can’t share it with you because even now, over a week later, too many tangled up feelings have left me in a big happy mess.


As I snuggle down for Christmas time I find the best comfort is nostalgia.

My favourite thing on the telly is the ITV2 reruns of Heartbeat, when the music, manners and fashion from the 60s were fantastic. I can lose myself in the green scenery of Yorkshire and revisit times when life didn’t move so fast.

I’ve been listening to carols on Alexa and am immediately transport back to school days singing in the assembly hall. Hark the Herald Angels Sing was my mum’s favourite, which she sang with her eyes closed because she really gave it some welly.

I really hope there’ll be some religions films on over Christmas like Jesus of Nazareth, which I remember watching decades ago while the smell of Christmas pudding wafted into the living room. Those films remind us why we celebrate this time and are so much better than modern films with shooting and banging, sex and violence.

So if you’re getting stressed, look back on Christmases past and you’ll remember those cosy, content feelings and not whether the gifts were beautifully wrapped or the dinner was perfectly presented.


To anyone who says there’s no place for Yorkshire puddings on a Christmas dinner I say: nonsense. Christmas is a time we can eat whatever we like, whenever we like. And if we feel like three or even five helpings of gravy, we’ll go right ahead and have it thanks very much.

I don’t like to boast but I think I have the best postie in the country. Steve always looks in to give me a smile and a wave, even when I have no mail. Giving him a little box of Matchmakers left him over the moon (and no, I hadn’t sneakily eaten a few, but I was tempted).

The best thing Steve delivers is my mail from you readers. Thank you to Eunice and Jean for counting me as a friend, to Vanessa from Holyhead for the beautiful Christmas embroidery and to each one of you for taking the time to write. Each letter cheers me enormously.

Whether you spend Christmas Day with a big noisy family or quietly on your own like me, and whether you’ll be in sparkles and make up or your dressing gown or long fleece like me, I hope you have a fabulous time.

Here’s wishing you all a peaceful Christmas full of family, fun, gravy and snacks. And may we never run out of Tena Ladies in the New Year.

  • If you would like to contact Val, please email [email protected] co.uk or write to Val Savage, PO Box 7290, E14 5DD
  • The Mirror makes a donation to the Alzheimer’s Society in lieu of payment. alzheimers.org.uk


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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