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I was startled by the accent in Portugal
From a grizzled taxi bloke
Piloting his ancient Fiat around the city,
Who then told me tales of the Lions of Lisbon
And their night in ’67.
‘There’s only one King Billy,
That’s McNeil,’ he sang quietly
Remembering the sea of green.
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Someone told me one tried to hitch-hike his way to Argentina,
Via Freddie Laker’s Skytrain,
New York one-way for fifty quid,
Armed with a plaid and a bottle.
Sticking his thumb out at the on-ramp somewhere upstate
With a handwritten sign on sodden cardboard
‘The South, Panama, World Cup.’
Way to go without a map.
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‘Thanks a bunch, pal,’ as he clambers into
The front seat of a Pontiac Fairlawn
Never to be seen again.
I like to think he made it to the land of silver,
Played midfield, fell in love
With a Mexican girl who hated catenacchio.
But I know the knife fell in an alley
Quick as a glancing header.
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Epics like these could only be conceived
On Scottish housing estates,
The people pre-stressed like the concrete,
Aided by a few pints and a scotch or two.
The ending comes, for the lucky ones, in a crowded stadium
With Archie Gemmill’s goal stunning the Dutch
Or Billy McNeil lifting the European Cup,
And a whole life lived in hours.