A Game of Two Halves (for Tom O’Mahony on his 40th birthday)

1 Leave a comment on verse 1 0 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.

2 Leave a comment on verse 2 0 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.

3 Leave a comment on verse 3 0 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.

4 Leave a comment on verse 4 0 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.



I grew up with two soccer-obsessed brothers – the eldest, Tom, was a keen Leeds fan, while the other, Donal, supported Everton. One of their favourite hobbies was to encourage (that’s the polite word for it) their little sister to learn off the names of each of the teams .. somehow, the 1970 Leeds team stuck in my mind (I would have been six at the time!) and I managed to remember it, with a little help, 25 years later (this was written for my brother’s 40th birthday in 1995).

Source: https://footballpoets.org/poems/a-game-of-two-halves-for-tom-omahony-on-his-40th-birthday/