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Among the first things that I learned
besides the words of bedtime prayers
and remembering to hold my mother’s hand
in shops, was to recite as litany
the names of 12 great sporting men
who formed a soccer pantheon
for my oldest brother.
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Sprake, Reaney, Cooper, Clarke and Giles,
mere mention brought a wreath of smiles
to his otherwise serious face,
while Charlton, Hunger, Jones and Gray
ensured his grin would certainly stay a while,
or long enough to help me tackle
the poly-syllabic Madeley and Lorimer.
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The name that struck the deepest chord
and earned me the treasured reward
of a brother’s approval, was Billy Bremner,
captain of the team, in whose safe hands
a trophy gleamed in the summer of 1970.
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Now, so many seasons later,
when my brother has reached
the comparative shelter of half-time,
and, stretching metaphor even further,
has scored three goals with more to play for,
I hope his children will rehearse
the names that I set out in verse,
or others like them.