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That’s Arthur leaning coolly on his new headstone,
nodding to the people without visitors or flowers.
Born in Accra, buried with the home fans,
provocative to the last, brave and eccentric as his saves.
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That’s Arthur Wharton, the beautiful young man
with the Rotherham tache that grows without light.
Punching, barging, taking crap –‘darky’–
giving back, a ‘goal-custodian’, in the language of the day.
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Arthur was a ‘pedestrian’ an athlete, a hundred
yards in ten seconds. Holder of the World Record,
a working-class hero when he ran and kept goal.
That’s Arthur playing for Rotherham Town.
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The Higuita of his time; he’d jump, grasp the bar
and catch the ball between his legs. My Dad says
Frank Swift used to save a penalty and roll the ball
back: ‘Have another shot’. It’s true! Saved, Arthur!
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He was a Preston ‘Invincible’; but none of us are
without someone to come out and catch us.
Arthur slipped out of his own hands. But look
he has words now to confirm that he lived and died.
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And I’ll bring a football next time and friends
for a kick-in (though the only kicking will be us: ‘Out!’).
That’s Arthur, practising the scorpion save,
Arthur, Arthur give us a wave!