Ah jist luv fitbaw.
Its funny cos I was never that interested until about age eleven when a good pal, who was destined never to see his 21st birthday after a car crash in Rome encouraged me to try it. John was there to become a priest but got fast tracked by the Big Man who knows a good guy when he sees wan.
John encouraged me to give it a go in Suffolk St. We played “croassies in” with the metal pull down blinds that formed the gates to the interior of the Barras as goals. Plastic baws, Fridos then Wembleys, arrived about then and many a red hot poker made the game a bogey in a failed attempt at repairing a burst baw.
(I blame the whelk shells; they were aw ower the place from the Oyster Bar in the Gallowgate (where I 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.
I played fitbaw morning, noon and night in my early teens and saw Glasgow Green pitches UPGRADED from black ash/clinker to red blaze. We thought we were Wullie Fernie playing on that stuff and there was a case for playing with 10 baws as teams were filled with tanner baw 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.
I remember wan night at the Glasgow Green waiting to play for St Alphonsus v Our Lady of Fatima when I saw Tony Green, who was a Mungo boy and went on to play for Newcastle and Scotland before injury ended his career too early, waiting, sannies under his arm, to get a game with any team who were a man short. I think the OLOF manager mugged wan of his boys as Tony appeared for them and turned a virtuoso performance against us to give OLOF a 3-2 victory.
I started work and went to London for a year to work in the old Post Office Savings Bank. In my first week Jock (a Jock) approached and asked if I played. He never mentioned the sport, he didnae hiv tae, we wur already communicating at the spiritual level only fitbaw lovers can achieve.
I get directions fur a game oan the Saturday at Acton Town and turn up, new Puma boots, paid by my civil service transfer grant, under my arm (nae sannies fur me)
On entering the park ahm puzzled, there wiz GRASS everywhere, nae clinker or red blaze in sight. “Must be roon the back of the dressing rooms “ I remember thinking.
Anyhoo I gets changed, runs roon the back to see — MAIR grass as far as the eye can see. So I troop back tae the dressing rooms to get directions to the ash pitches. When I explain what ah wiz used to playin oan they aw jist looked at me like my village wiz searching fur their idiot.
Well I get sorted out and line up. The baw, I remember, wiz a size 5 orange wan, but no wan o they bricks wi laces. The first pass to me wiz high and ah chests the ball doon and whirls roon afore I get studded from the back as wiz the custom oan the narrow pitches of Glasgow Green. To ma amazement the nearest opponent to me is about 4 yards away. As I look into his eyes I smile and turn to Jock at the sidelines and shout.
“Yer gonnae need anither baw” as I meander off in pursuit of the only goal that counted for a tanner baw man. I think I managed 7 before netting and I’ll take that.
It wiz oan unfamiliar grass after all.
“Aye very guid Auldheid” yer thinking if you have stayed with me so far.
“Nice reminiscing and it is Christmas Eve, so thanks fur the memories. “
But there’s mer tae this tale fur
I jist luv fitbaw.
It’s ma game, it’s OOR game and when I see the mess those responsible for looking after its welfare have made of it ah want to do something.
I hope ah’m not alone.