Describe an item you were incredibly attached to as a child. What became of it?
Those of you who have been keeping track on my blogs may know of my love of the game of football.
The original game that is, played with a round pigs bladder by men in funny long shorts.
As a young boy I loved reading about football. In 1973 I received a book for Christmas from my parents called The Sixty Memorable Matches. It was published by Marshall Cavendish as part of the series of ‘Golden Hands’ books. I was 10 years old.
It had a hardback cover and originally a dust cover over that.
Inside it opened with an introduction which began with the question,
Just how do you define a great football match?
and ended with this short paragraph.
These are sixty cameos of unforgettable, history-making moments in British football. If you were not there- even if you were – then this book is the next best thing to have.
I remember devouring the book instantly. All other gifts forgotten. This became my prized possession. As well as being a hardback ( we didn’t have any hardback books in our house) it was written in a style that conjured up powerful imagery. I learned about many teams and their famous exploits and I saw photos of never to be forgotten goals and incidents. It really was like ‘Being There’. I could hear the roar of the crowd, feel the sense of excitement and sometimes tragedy.
This was my book.
Of course my younger brother who was not really interested in football soon learned that hiding the book would cause me the utmost consternation and eventually lead to him getting thumped, which by the way, and perhaps interestingly to any child psychologists out there, never stopped him doing it again.
The joy of causing me any kind of trauma far outweighed a smack round the chops. He even went as far as to graffiti the book with a statement of false ownership ‘this book belongs to Neil….’and also the dreaded initials M.U.F.C.
I consciously winced as I typed one of those 4 letters just.
It should always read M.C.F.C
It was MINE. This was not to be shared. He got thumped again.
I lived in and out of the stories in this book for years.
Every page was printed on a different colour paper with vivid greens and yellows and orange. On top of that text and newspaper style clippings. It was beautifully put together and very well written.
It was the fact that they were real life sporting dramas that got me. You can’t beat it. Honest. Try it.
It has moved with me wherever I have roamed and is very tatty now.
I still love it dearly though and went to find it this morning in order to sample some text from it for this blog.
I couldn’t locate it.
Then I remembered. I had told my son about it some months back. He wanted a look and asked could he borrow it.
He left for Australia 6 months ago.
Fortunately, The Book was still in his room.
I did have a moment or two of profound sadness whilst looking for it though. A big Phew!
To conclude I want to show you a few snaps of the book and then quote a small passage from it.
There were only two entries in the book about my beloved Man City. This was my favourite.
The last photo shows the Celtic goalkeeper John Thompson diving at the feet of Rangers forward Sam English from a game played in 1931.
Here is a passage from the text accompanying the picture.
It was a typical Rangers raid, and when the ball was sent in front of Fleming that redoubtable Celt, Peter McGonagle, raced to challenge. Fleming dodged him and, seeing Sam English uncovered in the middle, pushed a pass through and ahead for English to run onto. That was the fateful moment.
Sam English, a fair crinkly-haired Irishman was new to the Rangers team. There had been doubts about playing him because of injury and only a late fitness test freed him for a match he was always to regret. With only Thompson to beat a Rangers goal seemed certain at last.
There was the ball running in front of him, ahead was the exposed goal and behind it the mass of Rangers supporters were cheering him on. John Thompson, a lithe figure in a red jersey, saw the threat and glided out in that athletic way of his. He was balanced and watchful, trying to anticipate English’s attempt to score.
On came Sam English, nearing the penalty spot with the ball running perfectly for a shot. It was then that John Thompson made his move. He dived forward, his body parallel to the ground as Sam English’s leg drove into the ball. There was a clash and both fell to the ground. The ball passed Thompson’s right hand post. He had made another great save but it was to be his last and he was to know nothing of it.
The story goes on to tell how John Thompson was killed in that very moment by a depressed fracture to the skull. He was 23 years old and at the peak of his game. Some say he was on his way to becoming the greatest keeper of all time.
It still gets me that passage and whilst it is about a tragic subject, it, amongst all the many things I have ever read, is still one of the most powerful yet poignant pieces of writing. Maybe because in it I sense the respect that the writer has/had for the young footballer. He goes on, this unknown writer, no credit anywhere to be found in the book, to describe the scene with such gentle honesty as to bring tears to your eyes.
Words can do that. That’s why I love them so.
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