What simple times they were. Kicking a tennis ball on the walk to the bus, a game on the tarmac at first and last breaks, sixteen aside on the big field at dinnertime. We only went to school so we could play football or occasionally stop in our tracks to gawp at unobtainable sixth form girls. Lessons were merely fillers.
Then there were the organised matches after school and on Saturday mornings. Every season meant a tussle with our rivals for the league championship and various trophies named after people we’d never heard of. Usually my team would come off second best.
This was not the case when Sunday came. For on Sundays I played for Tadcaster Albion and we were invincible, despite the fact we looked like this:
I recently came across a few sheets of paper on which I’d noted our results and vital statistics for the 1995/96 Under 14s season. The scorelines tell our story:
Railway 0 v 5 Albion
Albion 8 v 0 Knaresborough Rangers
Pateley Bridge 0 v 8 Albion
Albion 7 v 0 Wetherby Athletic
Albion 8 v 1 Knaresborough Town
Albion 9 v 1 Boroughbridge
Albion 3 v 1 Railway
Albion 12 v 0 Pateley Bridge
Wetherby Athletic 1 v 5 Albion
Knaresborough Town 1 v 6 Albion
Boroughbridge 1 v 6 Albion
Pannal Ash 1 v 1 Albion
Albion 1 v 0 Tinshill
Albion 5 v 1 Kirk Deighton
Knaresborough Rangers 1 v 2 Albion
Adel 0 v 8 Albion
Tinshill 2 v 4 Albion
Albion 6 v 1 Adel
Kirk Deighton 1 v Albion 4
Albion 5 v 0 Pannal Ash.
That’s 111 goals for, 13 against. The solitary draw still hurts. We won a couple of cups too, the piece of paper reminds me, and beat the sponsor’s work team of lorry drivers 8-4.
Even now I can remember most of the nicknames and even some real names. In the back four alongside me at left-back, Willy, PJ and Pittsy, and behind us Big Richie Cattle. Ahead of me on the left, Gav, in the centre of midfield Hunty and Browny, on the right wee Pete Marshall. Up front, Beardmore and Moorhouse, the latter my best mate and inexplicably known as ‘Grunt’ to most folk.
An aside, but for a long time I wondered why Grunt and I went to different schools. It took until my mid-teens for me to realise that this was a Protestant/Catholic thing. On the occasions when I’d gone around to his house during what turned out to be Ash Wednesday, I’d just presumed his Mum had been cleaning the chimney and got soot on her face. I must have missed that R.E lesson. I was probably playing football.
Now, I think back to what fine players some of those lads were, in particular Hunty, Browny, Beardmore and Grunt. Yet none of them, beyond the odd trial, got a sniff even at Conference level. This was an era when you knew the names of lads from surrounding towns and villages who were being ‘watched by Leeds’, and those four were those lads. When I stumble across a teenage game on the local park now, it’s sad to think that the very best young schemers, the ones worth talking about, will already have been carted off, life and exuberance coached out of them in some academy or other.
Who said that nostalgia ain’t what it used to be?