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My First Football Match

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 It is no surprise that I recall my first visit to a League football match. I was taken by Uncle JPD on 17th March 1956 during Don Welsh’s last season as Liverpool manager. GB had already declared himself as an Everton supporter and I was more than happy to enjoy this adult treat, going alone with Uncle JPD to a real football match. He even bought me a programme which I kept for many years. And I much preferred the colour red to Everton’s blue.

Billy Liddell

Liverpool were still a Second Division team in those days and the first match I saw was against Swansea Town. Liverpool beat the visitors 4-1. My hero Billy Liddell scored one of the goals inside the first two minutes, winger Joe Dickson bagged his final two reds goals in that match and Eric Anderson scored the fourth two minutes from the final whistle. Hard luck on anyone who arrived late or left early. The squad for that match was –

1 Dave Underwood Goalkeeper

2 John Molyneux Left back

3 Ronnie Moran Right back

4 Roy Saunders Left half

5 Dick White Centre half

6 Geoff Twentyman Right half

7 Brian Jackson Outside left

8 Eric Anderson Inside left

9 Billy Liddell Centre forward

10 Joe Dickson Inside right

11 Alan A’ Court Outside right

Knowing now how short-sighted I must have been at the time I wonder how much of the match I actually saw. But the atmosphere of the 48,217 crowd was as thrilling an experience as one could hope for at the age of six.

Billy Liddell’s sons – the twins – went to Ryebank and were in the year below me.  It was great to see one’s hero drive up to the school gates and pick them up from school.

Phil Taylor’s three years as Liverpool manager began shortly after but I think it was about 1959 or 1960 before I went again to Anfield – the start of the Bill Shankly era. Liverpool were still in the second division but not for long. By the end of his fifteen year reign they were one of the top clubs in Europe.

Roger Hunt

Another of my most memorable early games came during Shankly’s last season in Division Two and again Swansea were the victims. This time the score at Anfield was 5-0 and by then I had spectacles to help me to see what was going on. All the goals came in the second half with my other hero – Roger Hunt – scoring a hat-trick after Jimmy Melia had scored the first two. Liverpool won promotion to the First Divison (later re-named the Premiership) that year and have never been out of top flight football since then but I can always point out that I began supporting them in the days when they were a second division team. I’m not a fair-weather friend.

In those days one would have been ashamed if one could not recite the team sheet faster than one’s times tables. The squad that day was –

1 Bert Slater Goalkeeper

2 Dick White Left back

3 Gerry Byrne Right back

4 Gordon Milne Left half

5 Ron Yeats Centre half

6 Tommy Leishman Right half

7 Ian Callaghan Outside left

8 Roger Hunt Inside left

9 Ian St John Centre forward

10 Jimmy Melia Inside right

11 Alan A’ Court Outside right

I have been to many other memorable matches over the years but those were two of the best from my early years.

(Roger Hunt was to go on and be part of the 1966 England World Cup winning squad and with regard to the controversial goal in the final Geoff Hurst always commented “Would Roger have turned away from the goal celebrating if it hadn’t been over the line.  Never – he would have followed it up and made it his own.”)

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Signing the Register

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Uncle Eric – Mum’s younger brother – got married in 1955 when I was just five years old. I can remember it well, partly because it was an opportunity for me to show off my school uniform which was in pristine condition, having been bought ready for the new term at Ryebank. (I’d been there a year already so presumably had outgrown my old uniform or done it so much damage that it wasn’t fit for a wedding and Mum had taken the excuse to outfit me anew, notwithstanding the expense.) GB looked equally smart in his new Quarry Bank uniform while Roger – about whom more in another post – looked far too big to still be wearing a Ryebank blazer, smart though it was.

 The wedding, Mum explained to me beforehand, was to be held in a registry office and then we would all come back to Nana and Grandpa’s house on Queens Drive for a buffet which she and Nana had prepared. I was terrified until the moment we left the Registry Office at which stage I started to relax and enjoy myself. Why was I terrified? Because in her explanation Mum had mentioned that at the Registry Office Uncle Eric and Aunty Doris would sign their names and then the witnesses would sign. It seemed obvious to me that if I was present I would be a witness to the event and therefore would have to sign my name. I could print it easily enough but writing it, in front of other people, was a terrifying prospect. Perhaps my relief at realising I wouldn’t have to do that is one reason why I’m smiling so much on the photograph back in Nana and Grandpa’s garden.

My Tricycle

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 My parents home for almost all their married life was a privately-rented ‘superior’ (so they were advertised in the late 1930s) terraced house in Broad Green, a suburb of Liverpool. It was the third house down from a bend in the road on which stood a wooden telegraph pole. The other direction, along the straight, was known as ‘down the road’ despite it being the direction in which the numbers went upwards. About seven houses down the road there was a yellowish concrete lamp post near the kerb. The telegraph pole and the lamp post formed the limits of my world for a number of years.

(‘My’ lamp post and telegraph pole can be seen in the distance between the larger ones in the foreground. By the time I took this photo – in the 1960s – the lamp post had been moved up towards the corner a bit and replaced by a newer model – perhaps the original one was suffering from what occurred below!)

Every mother in the road was concerned about the dreaded ‘Hunter’s vans’ – vehicles from the local meat processing factory, Hunter’s Handy Hams, which used the road as rat-run and whose speed was considered excessive bearing in mind the narrowness of the road and the number of children playing football in it. As soon as a car or van was seen the first adult to spot it would shout ‘Car’ or ‘Van’ and children were excpected to dive for the pavement at all speed. But for me, a pre-school youngster, there was no ball play in the road. I was permanantly confined to the pavement between the telegraph pole and the lamp post. Trespassing off the kerb, for whatever reason and however little, was punishable by a few days indoors.

Fortunately my principal playthings were Dinky cars and, from 1953, Matchbox cars or my beloved tricycle, neither of which required me to go off the pavement. I would pedal up and down my alloted space for hours on end, content with my own company and my own thoughts, whatever they might have been.

My brother, GB, being five and a third years older than me (and the four months mattered at that age) had long since started school. Either by some inner clock or by a warning from Mum as to the time I always cycled down to the lamp post to meet him as he came up the road from school. I say always because in one’s memory the sun shone every day and it was warm; warm enough to be outdoors all the time.

I am extremely short-sighted and have been all my life but when I was small no one realised it. Regular eye-sight and other health checks now undertaken in all schools were a thing of the future in those days though Council schools did suffer the attentions of Nitty Norah – the nurse who checked all the pupils for head lice. Certainly pre-school medicals of any sort were non-existent. As result I was about eight before anyone appreciated I needed glasses. It is therefore unsurprising that in my pre-school days I managed to ride my tricycle at full tilt into the lamp post on at least one occasion. I don’t remember the pain involved but I can vividly recall the shock of suddenly coming to a body-jolting halt. Perhaps this metaphorical hitting the brick wall is my first real memory. I’m tempted to think that both appropriate and a pre-cursor of things to come.

My Early Life

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 My early life is a jumble; a tumble with a cloudy mixture of glimpses that seem unconnected by any sense of continuity. Yet I can often roughly date them by other events that were going on at the time – the death of a relative, what GB (my elder brother by 5 years) was up to, when I started school and even major events in the world. I have divided those early days into a variety of headings from ‘My Tricycle’ to ‘Radio Programmes’. Hopefully some of them will be of general interest as well as being absolutely fascinating to my family!

A Note about This Blog

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 If I ever write my autobiography (God Forbid, cry a lot of people) these notes will form the basis of it. More realistically. They may give a flavour of who I am and who I once was. Total honesty is not becoming to one who is not only hoping to keep his marriage together and his children happy but also is unfair on others of his generation. I have therefore excluded certain things but I have endeavoured to tell the truth as I see it.  As Carole King sang so beautifully –

 My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue,
An everlasting vision of the everchanging view,
A wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold,
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold.

My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hues.
An ever lasting vision of the ever changing views.
A wondrous world of magic in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see impossible to hold.

Once amid the soft silver sadness in the sky
There came a man of fortune, a drifter passing by.
He wore a torn and tattered cloth around his leathered hide
And a coat of many colors, yellow green on either side.

He moved with some uncertainty as if he didn’t know
Just what he was there for or where he ought to go.
Once he reached for something golden hanging from a tree
And his hand came down empty.

Soon within my tapestry, along the rutted road,
He sat down on a river rock and turned into a toad.
It seems as if he’d fallen into someone’s wicked spell
And I wept to see him suffer though I did not know him well.

As I watched in sorrow there suddenly appeared
A figure grey and ghostly beneath a flowing beard.
In times of deepest darkness I’ve seen him dressed in black;
Now my tapestry’s unraveling he’s come to take me back,
He’s come to take me back

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