The Highbury Estate in the 50s - Part 13
|Author: davidjoyce||Published: 11th March 2017 09:31|
By the late 1950s, the game of SUBBUTEO table football had become very popular amongst our group with myself, Tony Nuttall, Terry Salmon, Dave Warrener, Keith Dyer, Graham Thornton, Richard Tovery and Ed Matthews among others staging regular meetings around the houses and playing a league system (which got very competitive at times).
Terry Salmon and I were probably the most competitive and even today, he will probably get quite heated and tell me that I didn't play properly, especially at free-kicks when I would line up two or three players, tap the ball sideways and then sweep all three onto the moving ball with (sometimes) all of them + the ball + some of Terry's defenders + his goalkeeper ending up in a crowded net to a whoop of delight from me and heavy protests from Terry, along with a few threats to my personal safety. When the bad behaviour of football hooliganism appeared at matches during the 1970s, it was nothing new to us, we'd experienced it years before!
Terry and I even played a 'Centenary meeting' special to celebrate our 100th game one evening, with an exchange of pennants. My old records showed that, of the 99 previous meetings, I had won 36 games, with Terry winning 41 and 22 being drawn. He had scored 138 goals and me 118, and my best win had been 4-0 and my worst defeat 1-6. The centenary game finished 2-2 with no controversies over any decisions or actions. I had kept meticulous records of all my Subbuteo matches along with my football programme collection until my first wife decided on a clear-out one day and threw out the box containing the lot. The things one recorded !
I can also clearly remember Graham Thornton adopting an 'Italian' style of playing, keeping eight of his ten outfield players back to defend and only allowing a maximum of two to go forward into any attack. To gain a 'throw-in' when on the attack to him was to then watch in awe as he carefully arranged his nine defenders to cover every attacking option. If one got a quick break-away, and as a result, left Graham's defensive arrangements unprepared, he would often commit a deliberate foul in order to gain the opportunity to re-establish his defensive pattern to defend the ensuing free-kick. Needless to say he would place a player right in front of the ball whilst doing so, meaning that one could not take the kick quickly and hence catch him out. As I said, throw-ins were torturous as he would take an age to arrange his defenders, and deliberately waste as much time as possible doing so. Graham regarded a 1-0 defeat as some kind of victory, and had more 0-0 draws than the rest of us put together. He never did win the league, but never finished bottom either. He did win the knock-out cup once, I remember, on penalties after (need I say it) a 0-0 draw.! Great guy, Graham, he was priceless.
I kept my Subbuteo game for years, but eventually it had to be scrapped as there was no player taller than half an inch (due to constant breakage repairs). When I remarried in 1997, Subbuteo resurfaced again as my youngest step-son Andy had a set. We still have it now!
A great game and what memories!
THE 'BOMBING' OF St PHILIPS CHURCH
Youth Clubs were very much a thing of the 1950s, as far as my memory allows, all of my friends and I attended the Club at St Philips Church between 1958 and 1962 when most of our group left school to start full-time employment.
The club ran on a Wednesday evening and provided a useful meeting place both local lads and girls. I can remember playing both table tennis and football for the Youth Club teams and we had a successful soccer side that reached the final of the Area Youth Club knock out cup in 1960. Our delight at making the final however, was tempered with problems as we had a new vicar, who insisted that, as it was a 'Church' Youth Club he intended to ban anyone who was not undergoing classes for confirmation from playing in the team, a directive which promptly ruled all eleven of us out!
We weren't certain he could actually do that, and pointed out that, in any case, God surely would not want newly confirmed disciples via such an underhanded pressurisation process, but the vicar remained adamant about his stance and our appearance in the final was in deep jeopardy. So, we did just what he intended by such an action and signed up (rather unwillingly) for classes. However, Graham Thornton was true to himself, refusing to give way to such coercion and turned down the 'request', ruling himself out of the team. One evening when we were immersed in our confirmation 'preparation' class, Graham ensconced himself in the organ loft, out of sight of the vicar. Just as the Reverend reached the bit about punishment raining down from heaven, a hassock sailed out from the loft and landed with a bang on the floor. The vicar didn't half jump and, when recovered, called out 'Who's up there'. There was, of course, no response save a second missile which prescribed a delicate arc in the air and landed at the Reverend Cattley's feet. 'That's YOU Graham Thornton, isn't it?' - another missile arrived in response ... we'd all nearly collapsed with laughter at this point. 'I'm locking you in Graham Thornton, and calling the police!' - yet another missile. He rushed to the organ loft stairs and locked the door. 'Right ... I'm going now' and, taking the key with him, the vicar vanished in the direction of the church house. There was a sudden clanging of the church bell and we rushed outside to find the organ loft window open and Graham clambering down the bell pull-rope. That bell had never made such a vociferous, nor tuneless, clanging as it did that night, Graham dropping the last few feet to the ground and haring off into the night. We all scurried back inside the church, wanting no part in witnessing just who it was that had escaped. We told the vicar we heard someone running off when he returned but had no idea who it was. I don't think he ever believed us.
Eventually, we were all duly confirmed but sadly, we lost the football match 3-1, a result made even more irritating by the fact that our opponents not only did not have such restrictions placed on them, but also included three players who were not even registered at their Youth Club.
'Ah ... lads' responded the vicar when we complained afterwards 'You must derive satisfaction from the fact that, although you were defeated, you lost with integrity!'
We didn't 'derive' any satisfaction AT ALL!.
THE GREAT ESCAPE
Anyone who has seen the film starring Steve McQueen more than once would probably hope he might (in some future version) clear that fence and get away from his pursuers. However, when I see it, the film always reminds me of the great escape Tony Nuttall and I made from the bedroom window of Susan Pink's house one evening. She along with her friend Sandra Burkinshaw had invited us to go and listen to some records as her parents were out. This entailed a trip into Susan's bedroom where her record player was. It was all perfectly innocent, Tony and I would never have had the bad manners to try anything on with them and, in any case, I'm absolutely certain they wouldn't have appreciated such an approach if we had!
All seemed to be o.k. until Susan's mum and dad returned earlier than expected (well - we never actually established if they WERE early or whether Susan just got the times muddled up), but arrive they did, causing panic amongst the four of us..
The only possible escape Tony and I could make was to climb out of the bedroom window and onto the sloping roof alongside, so we did just that, and as Susan had placed her record player across the bedroom door, it bought us time to get out whilst she told her dad to 'hang on a minute' until she moved it. Just how she did this so successfully I have no idea as we were much too busy sliding down the sloping roof, to then jump off the base of it, and run across the garden to exit via her back gate.
Just what happened with the two girls after we'd left I cannot recall, but I may find out as one of my former acquaintances of those years, Barry Farmer, later married Sandra, and in recent e-mails between us, she also remembers the evening. It would be very interesting to get her view of what happened that night especially as she was left behind in the room with Susan after we had gone and, therefore, such an alternative perspective would be a lovely way to finalise our own version of THE GREAT ESCAPE .... it was much better than the film - at least we got over the fence (well ... back-gate anyway)!
Funnily enough, a similar thing happened to Tony and I on a school skiing trip to Switzerland in early March 1962. We had crossed a sloping roof, covered in icy snow to get into the room of two girls from a school in Blackburn. That evening was a bit more successful in that we were not disturbed unexpectedly and all went well until it came time to return to our own room. Poor Tony lost his footing on the way across the roof and grabbed my leg in an attempt to try and stop himself sliding down it - only to then pull me down with him (talk about taking a fall for your mate)! I landed in some deepish snow but Tony hit a dustbin which clanged all over the place and he then was discovered by one of our masters.
'COME OUT JOYCE' Shouted our intrepid teacher 'If Nuttall's here ... YOU wont be far away.' It wouldn't have been so bad had we not already been caught with the same girls in their half of the train on the way out (we'd met them at Victoria Station). We were both banned from any future school trips - not that it mattered as we were due to leave during the coming summer .... and the evening with those two girls from Lancashire was WELL worth it anyway!!
DAVID JOYCE 2017