Its September of 1966 and a night that still lays ingrained in memory and yet for which reason I still do not know why.
We had moved from the back-to-back streets of Burley almost two years previously to the sparklingly new suburb that I still habit today but my cousins still lived there and for some bizarre and completely forgotten reason on this particular Friday night our mothers swapped kids for the evening, that is I went to sleep at their house and our now famous showbiz cousin came to sleep at our house, I know not why we did this, it was the only time that it happened but it stays ingrained in the memory not for the fact that I stayed at my cousins house but that it was the night that I attended my first Rugby League match at Headingley.
Their house was but a mere five minutes walk from the stadium, nay, four minutes walk, if we’d walked fast we could have made it in two minutes, but our Al’s Uncle Arthur was taking us, he wasn’t my uncle, we were cousins but we didn’t have the same uncles, it sort of makes sense when you work it out, anyway his Uncle Arthur turned up, on a scooter, Lambretta or Vespa, this was the 1960s remember ?
We sat on the top step outside their front door waiting for Uncle Arthur to arrive.
With a clatter and a din that could only be a two stroke scooter of Italian extraction Arthur arrived clad in long overcoat, huge leather gauntlets and one of those crash helmets that sits like a pot on your head and has leather flaps to cover your ears, throw in a pair of huge goggles and he looked like the least likely Mod on a Lambretta that you’ve ever seen.
“Hop on” he shouted above the Lambretta din to my cousin Al
“Whoa, hang on a minute” cried my Auntie Irene, “You’ve got this one to take as well”, pointing down at me.
“Hop on then” he shouted to me
Three on a scooter, I had my doubts and so did my Auntie Irene and she expressed her doubts most vocally, but Arthur insisted, he gave the tin pot helmet to Al who by now was sitting on the pillion and he gave the huge leather goggles to me then stood me up at the front holding onto the handlebars and with a jaunty wave and a cloud of blue smoke we were off over the cobblestones of Lumley Road, rattling and a-shaking on our extremely short journey to the ground, me leaning forward over the handlebars like Kate Winslet in “Titanic”.
I recall little of the game itself, I understood the rules of the game even less, I recall the smells as if they were in the room with me now, the rust that fell from the roof of the stand above our heads when the ball landed on top of it, I recall the record they played at half time “They’re coming to take me away” by Napoleon XIV, its why I can date the memory so well, I remember two roly-poly forwards, Kenny and Albert Eyre, Tweedle dum and Tweedle dee on a rugby pitch, strange yet amusing names like Wrigglesworth, Shoebottom and a small man called Seabourne who seemed to be able to dislocate his shoulder at will and have it put back in right there on the pitch in front of us as if nothing had happened.
I was hooked in an instant and the following season I would have the first of many season tickets and a few short years later I would be working at the ground for my Uncle Ralph, another uncle who was not really an uncle – but we’ll save that one for later.