I took some gentle stick for mentioning a few posts back that sport didn't interest me one bit - there's a reason for that, but my friends are right, I do retain a residual interest in sport rather like an escapee lizard drops its tail but still has the residual stump. You see I had a sports mad father, actually it was worse than that - he used to be a professional footballer.....
This was long before I came on the scene I should add, so don't start getting pictures in your head of some upbringing in a blingy Essex or Wirral nouveau mansion with a fleet of BMWs and Armani suits.... Instead think mid nineteen-forties, boots that would have done down a pit, a Britain exhausted by war and the smell of Brylcreem everywhere. Well, that's how I imagine it anyway. But as I say that was a long time before I arrived. By the time that happened it was the mid sixties and to his credit my dad was still playing regularly, albeit for non-league and works' teams - it was possibly as an excuse to extend drinking hours away from home but I do think he really loved the game, evidenced by his gradual slide into disillusionment with it when he joined the directors, and later became chairman, of the local team. The politics behind the scenes pretty much killed off any enjoyment he had left and he, ever one to hold a grudge, never went to see the team play again once he resigned the chairmanship.
The thing is I grew up going at least twice a week to see the local team play - they were reckoned a good non-league side and the matches were usually pretty entertaining to my young eyes. With the added bonus that quite often there were punch ups on the field which could involve players who were also our teachers at school and which gave us some moral superiority when we saw them on a Monday morning! Home and away I watched them play everywhere and rather like my dad I enjoyed it when I got the odd shandy and a packet of Golden Wonder after the game (and on a couple of memorable occassions being allowed a half of something, even a brandy once, which, given I was probably about ten at the time, should have started me off on a drinking career of George Best proportions, but luckily didn't). I ended up being the programme seller at home games and despite my normally fairly reserved nature worked up a fine line in urchin banter when abused by the travelling team's fans. I liked going as well because my dad knew all the players - he was also the club physio at the time... Knowing the players meant access to them in the dressing rooms and as a pre teen I found nothing odd about standing around whilst my dad had a conversation with eleven or telve naked young men in a communal bath that reeked of deep heat. Again, its a wonder that didn't have a lasting effect, at least I don't think it has ?
Then, probably about the same time that my dad became disillusioned I stopped going so regularly - it had nothing to do with him stopping and more to do with the advent of music and girls into my life. But looking back I've always preferred being part of something rather than just a passive spectator.
I can remember my dad playing a full 90 minutes for the local team when he was well into his fifties - he puffed a bit but I was proud of him for doing it. Similarly, when he died a year ago the most touching moment was when, at his funeral, three men came over. I didn't know them but they were all in blazers, well pressed slacks and the two who had hair had that distinctive Brylcreem 'wave'. They looked a fair bit younger than my Dad - but still maybe in their seventies. They turned out to be some old teammates from a work's team in the fifties - they gave me the photo above and told me how they'd been in awe of my dad because of his professional background. He was, they said, simply their hero at the time.
The picture is about 1956 and the team are modelling their futuristic new kit - complete with gold shorts - I thought it was a very brave choice for the times ! My dad is the second from the right - front row. One of the guys who gave me the photo is the first person on the back row - and he's the one that still had that haircut, like a forgotten member of the Rezillos.
So for my dad and the rest of the team wherever they are..... doubt that they would have liked the music ("You call THAT singing ? Thinks he's going to be Mick Jagger does he ?") but I think that they would have appreciated the sentiment.