Ah jist luv fitba’.
It’s funny cos I was never that interested until about age eleven when a good pal, who wis destined never to see his 21st birthday after a car crash in Rome, encouraged me to try it. John wis there tae become a priest but goat fast tracked by the Big Man who knows a good guy when he sees wan.
John encouraged me tae gi’e it a go in Suffolk St. We played “croassies in” wi’ the metal pull down blinds that formed the gates tae the interior o’ the Barras as goals. Plastic ba’s, Fridos then Wembleys, arrived aboot then and many a red hot poker made the gemme a bogey in a failed attempt at repairing a burst ba’.
(Ah blame the whelk shells; they were aw ower the place fae the Oyster Bar in the Gallowgate – where ah was entrapped in the cellar two weekends in a row cleaning whelks and mussels – and the ravenous appetite of the Glasgow Barras punter for shellfish.)
Ah played fitba’ morning, noon and night in ma early teens and saw Glesga Green pitches UPGRADED fae black ash/clinker tae red blaze. We thought we wur Wullie Fernie playing oan that stuff and there wis a case for playing with 10 ba’s as teams were filled with tanner ba’ players (goalies were just last man standing) for whom the object of the game was to beat everybody else in the opposition before scoring or it wisnae a goal.
Ah remember wan night at the Glasgow Green waiting tae play for St Alphonsus v Our Lady of Fatima when ah saw Tony Green, who wis a Mungo boy and went on to play for Newcastle and Scotland before injury ended his career too early, waiting, sannies under his erm, tae get a game wi’ any team who were a man short. Ah think the OLOF manager mugged wan of his boys as Tony appeared fur thum and turned a virtuoso performance against us tae gi’e OLOF a 3-2 victory.
Ah started work and went tae London furra year tae work in the old Post Office Savings Bank. In ma furst week Jock (a Jock) approached and asked if ah played. He never mentioned the sport – he didnae hiv tae, we wur already communicating at the spiritual level only fitba’ lovers can achieve.
Ah get directions furra gemme oan the Saturday at Acton Town and turn up, new Puma boots, paid by my civil service transfer grant, unner ma erm (nae sannies fur me).
On entering the park ah’m puzzled – there wiz GRASS everywhere! Nae clinker or red blaze in sight. “Must be roon the back o’ the dressing rooms,” I remember thinking.
Anyhow, ah gets changed, runs roon the back to see — MAIR grass as far as the eye can see. So ah troop back tae the dressing rooms to get directions tae the ash pitches. When ah explain whit ah wiz used to playin’ oan they aw jist looked at me like my village wiz searching fur their idiot.
Well ah get sorted oot and line up. The ba’, ah remember, wiz a size 5 orange wan, but no wan o’ they bricks wi’ laces. The first pass tae me wiz high and ah chests the ba’ doon and whirls roon afore I get studded fae the back as wiz the custom oan the narrow pitches o’ Glasgow Green. Tae ma amazement the nearest opponent tae me is about 4 yards away. As ah look intae his eyes ah smile and turn to Jock at the sidelines and shout, “Yer gonnae need anither ba’!” as ah meander aff in pursuit of the only goal that counted for a tanner ba’ man. Ah think I managed 7 before netting and ah’ll take that.
It wiz oan unfamiliar grass efter a’.
“Aye very guid Auldheid,” yer thinking if you have stayed wi’ me so far.
“Nice reminiscing and it is Christmas Eve, so thanks fur the memories. “
But there’s mer tae this tale, fur see me?
Ah jist luv fitbaw.
It’s ma game, it’s OOR game and when ah see the mess those responsible fur looking efter its welfare have made of it ah want tae dae somethin’.
I hope ah’m no’ alone.