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Impatiently waiting for the whistle to blow,
Your brain computing where you want it to go.
An enigmatic expression on your face.
Not one Brylcreemed hair allowed out of place.
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And I’m back on that windswept terrace in 1966.
You’re controlling the game with your magical tricks.
That car crash in Blackpool ended your England career,
But even past your prime you’re the best player we’ve ever had here.
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Splitting defences with those pin-point passes
That teammates will usually squander.
And serving balls on a plate to the forwards steaming in
Which turned into the net would have secured that vital win.
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And hands on hips you stand, casting a withering glare,
Before gazing upwards to offer a brief, silent prayer;
And trudging up-field in the light falling rain
To work the old magic again and again.
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That spring day in 1961 at Wembley was your apogee,
When you scored twice and we thrashed the Scots 9-3.
As England captain, you were on top of the world.
And clubs near and far their fat chequebooks unfurled.
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You could have won medals and glory at United or A.C. Milan,
But you chose to stay at Fulham as the first hundred-pound-a-week man.
For nine more years the Craven Cottage pitch you would grace.
And for eight straight seasons, you saved our First Division place.
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It always seemed ordained that we would go down one day,
Because we sold our stars and put has-beens into the fray.
But after two relegations running we became truly third class,
As the sands of time drained implacably from your hourglass.
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And so in January 1970 you called time on your Fulham odyssey.
Your 657 games and 157 goals in twenty years went down in history.
You put magic and joy into humdrum lives and put a smile into every eye.
A London lad with a leather ball showed just how high a human can fly.
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Next year, after a bold young team won promotion back to the second tier,
It was said that your presence had curbed the development of others here.
No. You should have been the model for new generations wearing black and white.
At inside left you were not a giant oak shading saplings, but a beacon of light.
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And now The Maestro you will always stay: it’s carved in stone on the plinth;
You grace an elysian field at Number Ten, in a spirit at one with Corinth.
Leading an inverted pyramid, in rows of one, two, three and five,
Which in fruity-voiced black-and-white Pathé newsreels only still survive.
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Johnny, I hope that you win those medals and glory, and even a celestial M.B.E.
Today you’ve revived golden times on that terrace, hallmarked in my memory.
And one burning question that as man and boy I would never ever forget:
In your molten eyes, frozen in time, can I see just a tinge of regret?