We all moan when CamJam blazes over from six yards and we’ve also known we have had a defence built on the foundations of a Rowntrees’ jelly for some time now.
Michael McGovern scares the S out of me when he shapes up to take a place kick. Although all of that is surely about to change.
But are you honest enough to respond to my footballing backstory? Yes, I know you are. So read on, if you will…
The very first “competitive” match I ever played was for the 4th Goodmayes Cubs (Scouts) around 1966. I was eight; the other boys were at least a year older.
None of the others wanted to play left back so that was my job – as if I knew what it meant at the time.
We wore moth-eaten (literally) oversized West Ham shirts and whatever our parents could find to cover our little nethers and shins. Our “Baloo” or whatever he was really called (probably Dave, or maybe Jeff) said we should ‘Do Our Best’. It was the Scout motto, after all.
Well I did my best, and about five minutes into the second half one of the other lot hit a shot which I superbly deflected into our net off my arse.
One of the parents was most vociferously unkind with his comments about me in particular and our performance in general. Most fortunately for him, my dad was at work on late turn at the time. However, they met up later and discussed the situation.
Dad made his point to the gentleman concerned in a rather physical, totally unrestrained way and afterwards he and I agreed that I didn’t need to be in the Cubs any more. We then shared a chow mein and had a pancake roll each – quite something in 1967!
My junior school (Barley Lane in Chadwell Heath) had an incredibly good under-11 side. We played Saturday mornings and my role was normally to travel to the match in case somebody didn’t turn up, which quite often happened.
No subs then. I could do a job just about anywhere as could my little mate Stewy so it was always us two who travelled, often for no end purpose. Sometimes we both got on the pitch. Most times neither of us. Oh those days in yellow and blue hoops
A while after I was somehow accepted as a scholarship kid at possibly the most minor public school in the country. Those of us who knew what a football was had trials to get into the Junior Colts. A good mate called Chrissy Powell whacked over about ten crosses and I put three away, one in style. I remember it 45 years on
We had fixtures against Greshams, Alleyns, Bancroft, Forest and Brentwood amongst others. At Greshams, I encountered a couple of sons of then NCFC players, but strangely that was when we played that school at cricket. I was the wicket-keeper – see my fingers if you don’t believe me.
I cannot remember ever beating Greshams at anything. Football, cricket and, in my case, tennis. We never won anything against them, I don’t think.
Between roughly the ages of 16 and 23 I discovered my evolving personal world and disappeared from the sporting scene completely. If anybody wanted a game of tennis I’d play, but that was about it. Unless it was pool or cards. Sometimes for money in the latter instance, I’m ashamed to say.
My football renaissance began when I was about 25 and I sometimes played for a Harlow League Sunday side in the morning but always the Walthamstow Guardian “Press Gang” in the afternoon. At Hackney Marshes.
We were a tight-knit little unit – so tight that me and my mate would get changed in my Austin Healey Sprite (MG Midget) rather than use the disgusting facilities at the Marshes. Two rooms for 100+ teams? No ta.
Hackney Marshes was notorious for its pitch markings as well. Lime, often frozen in the winter; I once sliced the back of my thigh open with a slide out and so did the guy who came with me. We looked like a pair of involuntary blood donors but carried on somehow. Both of us. I think he played for Ilford Firemen.
I also broke an ankle and a minimum of three ribs there. Happy memories indeed.
And who was in the Press Gang side for a short while? Matthew Lorenzo. Yes – one of the nicest men on the planet, believe me, as was his father, the well-known commentator Peter.
The trouble with Matt though, was that he couldn’t – I mean really couldn’t – play football. Even at that level.
He managed to get one of our games suspended for nearly twenty minutes when his back “went”. The ambulance came and one half of the crew was female. He did his usual stuff and probably got her phone number. A good guy is Matt. Rob Newman is no Charmer compared to him.
I trained with and played for a couple of Anglian Combination “A” teams, so thanks to those who allowed me to do that.
I’ve played at The Pitz (ha ha) in Liverpool, a couple of Sportcentres in Manchester and a fantastic complex in Palma de Mallorca I cannot remember the name of.
But when I’d had my day, I knew it.
They may not want to be reminded of it but I was a pretty reliable (and vocal) goalkeeper in an Archant League I wasn’t strictly allowed to play in (six-a-side at the UEA) and played the same role in number two son’s side in a different League at the same venue for some years.
I once played on Luton Town’s plastic pitch in a company match – the firm paid for the ground but it was scary to get to as the locals were running down the road with huge staves and ceremonial (I hope) swords. We couldn’t work it out at the time, although I understand what was going on now.
The only true professional I can remember playing against was a certain Mr Woods, who played for you-know-who. He made me look a complete idiot in a charity match as I readopted the old left back position.
And my final game, when I was 51, was in goal at the UEA on behalf of our next-door City neighbour, who was Greek-Albanian. There was Aki, me, two Swedes, a Brazilian guy called Carlos, a couple of Dutchmen and a bloke called Rob. All from the John Innes Research Centre except me. And, with English as our common language, we won 6-4 – now that’s how to end a crap career!
The whole point of this article is to invite MFW readers to bring forth their playing experiences.
Looking back sometimes does no harm. Don’t be shy – just about everybody has played at a higher level than me!
We’d love some shared thoughts on playing when there’s no £25k in the bank every week just for turning up at Colney:-)
Football’s always been fun to me.