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It mattered that some early-season Saturday
a Butcher’s shop would close at twelve, and a factory
klaxon release a greased and grimed assembly line
to their bicycles, Lambrettas and Reliant Robins.
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It mattered that the toast was buttered and the tea
was strong enough to stand a goalpost in, and that
the radiogram played Orange Blossom Special at full throttle
while the thick sliced cheese melted the bacon’s heart.
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Saturdays assembled around the working men
who hunched on Woodbined seats as football buses
wound along the threadbare streets of the far estates,
reeling the scarfed and rattle-roused spectators to the stadium.
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Most bailed out at pubs along the thoroughfare: The Rocket,
The Sandon, The Cabbage Hall. Small boys sat on steps, cradling
bottled Stout, not daring to set foot inside to find their fathers
in the hubbub of the shouting Lounges, the shrieking Saloons.
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When the jeaned and Brylcreemed masses left the overflowing
ashtrays and the dregs of Guinness glasses to the tender care
of barmaids, the pavements and the roadways streamed towards
the turnstiles and the choruses chiming on the nicotine breeze.
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The press and cram of people made islands out of motorcars
and wrecked the privet hedges of the redbrick terraced houses.
A child’s hand, held tight for fear of slipping from a father’s grasp,
was securely gripped as any Captain’s hold around a ribboned cup.
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And this was the story and the match report for every game:
he held his father’s hand and his father led him to the ground
where, sometimes on his shoulders, sometimes on the stanchions,
his father raised him up like a trophy, like a glory.