A summer sensation of sporting excellence, just like the old days…

Oh to be in England now the cavalcade of summer sports is in full flow and with England dumped out of the Euro Girly-Ball Championships due to the fact that the multi-millionaires who play the game seem to have forgotten why they are playing the game, the intention (just in case Roy Hodgson needs a helpful hint) being to place the ball into your opponents net, be that in the normal course of the game or at the end when each side gets five open goals to aim at.

So our attention turns to Wimbledon and English hopes get placed firmly on the shoulders of a Scot, who is English until he loses competitions and then he’s a Scot again, whatever happened to dear Tim anyway and is Henman Hill just called a hill these days ? The fact that both football and tennis were invented in Elizabethan England do not go un-noticed on these shores, nor the fact that having educated those pesky foreigners in the finer arts of competitive sport played by millionaires, they then have the effrontery to thrash us to ribbons every time we organise an event for them, damned impudent I call it.

And hot on the heels of Wimbledon arrive The Olympic Games, the London Olympic Games for now we have cast aside any Blair-ite pretence that “the games are not just for London they are for the whole country to share”, yeah Tony, we’ve noticed how London has even claimed the beach volleyball, beach volleyball, in a city centre who’s closest beach is 30 miles away so they’ve made one in a square that horses normally use for shitting on, “the games are for the whole country to share as long as the whole country will come to London to see them”, and pay for them of course, a mere snip at £10,000,000,000 (no exaggeration on the price there).

Of course all of this could have been different when ah wor nobbut a lad for when ah wor nobbut a lad England won the World Girly-Ball Cup except of course it wasn’t called the World Girly-Ball Cup when ah wor nobbut a lad for when ah wor nobbut a lad the not-very-well-paid professionals who won The World Cup were actually allowed to touch the opposition players, the no-contact rule only applied to basketball in those days and football players were allowed to kick each other up in the air, for fun, and they did, and it was fun to watch.

When ah wor nobbut a lad our schools had a comprehensive sporting excellence plan in place, firmly ensconced in the curriculum it was, so firmly that in my County Primary School we had a games lesson, oooh, every time that Thirsky thought the weather was nice enough to organise a game of football outside.

Cookridge County Primary School was well known in the district for having a school football team that struggled to raise eleven players who had actually heard of football let alone know the rules, and far be it from any of our players to know how to kick the ball – I’ll tell you how bad it was, I got picked to play for the school football team once, yes, me, me who showed even less interest in the sport then than he does now – I didn’t turn up for the game and no-one noticed that Cookridge County Primary School only fielded nine players that day (the goalie didn’t turn up either), it certainly wasn’t reflected in the score, we lost 112-0, as usual.

The problem was Thirsky, our ageing, bald, middle class male teacher, the only male teacher in the whole school and because he was the only male teacher in the whole school then he was given the job of producing a football team every time another school challenged us to a game and every time that happened then Thirsky went off in a panic and declared that “this Wednesday we will have a Games lesson, bring your football boots” and all the boys in the class would cheer and then look at each other and ask “Have you got any football boots?” to which the answer would, without exception, be “No”, most of the Cookridge County Primary School football team played their representative matches in our normal black lace-up school shoes, normal every day school socks, a pair of shorts that were usually only brought out for our summer holidays, your normal Bri-Nylon white school shirt and a jumper over the top if it was cold, our opposition usually faced us at the kick-off in full kit and tears of hilarity streaming down their faces before scoring in the first ten seconds.

Truth is that Thirsky had as much clue about football as we did, the ageing Mrs Mannion who played the piano in assembly would probably have made a better football coach than Thirsky, I mean, how can an 11 year old kid take the concept of competitive sport seriously when your sports teacher turns up on the field of play in his normal everyday tweed suit, with a raincoat if inclement, and the only concession to football being that he’s replaced his classroom shoes with a pair of wellington boots into which he’s tucked his trousers.

He did have a whistle though, and when he blew it someone would randomly kick the ball in a direction that may have been goal-wards, or not, and all twenty-two of us, including both goalkeepers, would run after it followed closely by Thirsky shouting “Go on boys, kick it, kick it” this being the full extent of his football coaching learned exclusively from the Ladybird book of How To Play Football, he was one page in front of us in said tome.

For the rest of the so-called game a spectator spectating from the imaginary bleachers at Cookridge County Primary School (you could have stood on the topside of the hill that our field was laid across) would simply see a huddle of small boys running in random directions back and forth across the pitch, all apparently for no reason at all for the ball was usually contained within the huddle whilst all twenty two of us kicked out at regular intervals, often making contact with someone elses shins rather than a football of any description, said spectator would also have noticed an elderly man with a bald head following said huddle around the pitch shouting “kick it, kick it” at regular intervals and occasionally blowing his whistle, which the huddle would then steadfastly ignore.

The fictional spectator on the fictional bleachers may have called Thirsky to the touchline at some point during our match and asked “What game is this you are playing” to which our Thirsky may have replied “Why, ’tis football, you know, the national sport, the beautiful game which in years to come will only be played by millionaires” and the spectator may at this point have turned his collar up to the inevitable rain, shook his head gently, turned and walked away, for Les Cocker there would be no successful scouting mission at a Leeds school this afternoon.


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