A Lifelong Telly Football Non-Supporter
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I was three in sixty six;
I sat on Bournemouth beach, bucket in hand.
Digging sand expertly with my spade
and paddling whilst the adults gathered round;
Lounging on summer holidays
and with transistor radios on loud.
Something happened; something good,
I seemed to think. I wasn’t that impressed,
Because when you are three,
getting your mum to buy the flags
to stick in sandcastles is an emergency.
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Fast forward to a Majorcan hotel TV lounge in 1970.
The blurry black and white screen,
Spanish commentary as alien as moon landings.
Off-duty waiters gave us the thumbs-up and nodded
saying ‘Bobby Moore’
And ‘Bobby Charlton’
like a friendly mantra that could cause world peace at once.
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The years rolled by and all the drama of a game
was captured on our telly screens
And kids like me could watch it all
with mum and dad from our front rooms.
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The FA Cup provided romance
and the chance to fall in love with plucky teams,
A generation suckered into Chelsea’s fortunes
long before the money came,
And others who enjoyed
the burr of Channon and McMenamy’s great tale.
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We didn’t even live there,
and my mum said we should cheer on Arsenal if anyone,
Whilst picking out her favourite centre
from a box of Terry’s chocs: ‘All Gold.’
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We had a long, familial admiration
for the squad from Liverpool F.C.
My dad was mad for Tommy Smith,
but I preferred the flair and perm of Kevin K.
And even now I sagely nod
when Gerrard manages to make the workaday seem more.
He is a man divorced from time,
somehow so out of sync as seasons pass and pass
And legions of the foreign guys with silly names this year
are playing for arch rivals from the year before.
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We did have a home team, that,
worse than never doing any good, did it a little bit.
We played our unfair card at every other game,
a pitch with a strange gradient.
And nearly, nearly got somewhere,
a training ground for managers
Who left and rose to glory,
maybe wondering about the Wanderers from time to time.
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Drawing me back to the mad game
years after I ever stopped supporting,
When Lawrie Sanchez nearly won the FA Cup for us,
but football’s often tragedy,
Falling at the last fence (or second last)
and swearing that you’ll never invest time like that again.
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Then, once again, years down the line,
you find yourself in quite another hotel lounge,
Crossing your fingers and willing that wretch of a defender
to strike gold
Willing him on,
although he looks quite sick at that run up
he thought he wouldn’t do,
Whilst tanned and healthy tourists
from the other country smile, relax and drink.
Lo and behold, the doughnut’s missed it by a mile;
we all thought far too hard.
We all did something telepathic, what was it?
Surely we’ll learn next time
As some good-looking, smooth
and smarmy bloke from their team taps one in
And our lot hold their red and sweaty faces
in their over-tattooed hands.
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I’ve watched as Gary Lineker has aged and greyed
and bought himself a patterned shirt
I’ve watched as Lawrenson transmogrified
into a living, breathing Droopy, grumpiness itself.
I only half-watch now
as boys I do not care about make ballet shapes
on under-heated grass,
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As boys I do not care about clutch heads and knees and calves, then, like a modern Lazarus rise up and run around,
As boys grown old chew gum and sit,
like shipwrecked F1 drivers, in an oddly placed Recarro seat,
And my mum’s favourite, Trevor Brooking, who outlived her,
tries to look less weary than he is.
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