JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS
Memories of the beautiful game.
I was absolutely obsessed with football as a young kid. From about the age of six to maybe nine or ten years old it consumed my every spare moment. Break times at school, every night after school and every weekend I’d be kicking a ball about with my mates either over the back field or in someone’s garden. And we really did use jumpers for goalposts! I was quite handy too and managed to represent the junior school team on many occasions. I can remember rushing to the school notice board at lunchtimes to see if I’d been selected for the next game. I didn’t pick up any medals or trophies at the time but, like every young lad, I was certain I was going to be a professional footballer when I grew up.
If I wasn’t playing the glorious game I’d be watching it on TV, or going to see my home team Luton Town at Kenilworth Road with my Dad. We even had a local celebrity in the shape of Luton Town defender John Moore living in our street and he’d occasionally join us lads for a kick about over the back field – what a top bloke. You can read more about that in my recent blog post I used to walk John Moore’s dog.
I’d also get to see the England team play in a friendly against West Germany at the old Wembley Stadium courtesy of a school sports trip. We beat them 2-1.
I can’t remember exactly when the above picture was taken. Probably sometime in the late 1960’s. I’m guessing I was around seven or eight years old… I’m the lanky one on the right at the back wearing the Manchester United kit. It had a number nine on the back which is the number the legendary Bobby Charlton would wear. The others in the pic are my mates from the street; Mick Conneely and Gareth Milton at the back (Gareth is sadly no longer with us) and in the front Tim (can’t remember his surname) and the two younger Conneely brothers Tony and Kevin.
Most of my birthday and Christmas presents at the time would consist of football kits, tracksuits, new boots, football games (remember Striker?!). I’d read football comics and even buy football records – yes, I am still the proud owner of ‘Back Home’ by the 1970 England World Cup Squad. I was too young to remember the joyous World Cup of 1966 so 1970 was my first World Cup experience. I can vividly remember the Bogota Bracelet incident surrounding Bobby Moore as the team travelled to Mexico to defend their previous World Cup success. He was, of course, found innocent and all charges dropped. As for the football? Sadly a rather lack-lustre England were knocked out in the quarter finals by, ironically, West Germany who we’d beaten in the 1966 World Cup Final.
FA Cup finals were a major, all day, event for me at the time. The tv would go on straight after breakfast and I’d watch every interview, all the team preparations and pre-match nonsense right up to the kick-off, hardly moving from the sofa. It was 100% focus while the game was on until the final whistle. After the game it would be out into the garden or over the back field with my mates to re-enact the game. And the joy when one of your mates got a colour television - it was all round to their house, along with assorted neighbours and relatives, to watch the game in spectacular colour! I was still an avid, if not quite so obsessive, watcher of the FA Cup final into my early twenties although my playing days started to wain after the age of about 10. I’d got my first guitar for my 8th birthday and a few years later would discover the bass guitar. Some things in life just became a little more important than football from then on.
Today I’m not really fussed by football if I’m honest. I still follow the fortunes (or misfortunes) of my childhood home team Luton Town and will always get into the World Cup spirit and support the England team – which as we all know can be quite a frustrating experience!
For me, that childhood magic of the beautiful game is long gone. As are so many of my childhood heroes; Bobby Moore, George Best, Gordon Banks to name a few. It’s just all a bit of a circus these days. There’s too much money involved and too much unsportsmanlike conduct on the pitch. In some respects it’s a bit like the modern music industry where a number of its participants seek fame and fortune over integrity. But I guess that’s just a sign of the media driven times that we live in.
As for me ever playing again? I think it’s all over... it is now!