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Football fanatic has fantasy career

Thursday 18 January 2024

We now know that the Blackpool away game on 26 January will go ahead, though Blackpool were close to knocking out their Premier League opponents. Albie Morgan getting on the scoresheet too.

Not much happening on the transfer front yesterday. I’m sure there is a lot of work going on but it is a difficult market to be shopping in. Will be interesting to see if Corey Blackett-Taylor plays for us at Burton on Saturday.

I hear a lot of you reading this blog asking ‘What about your own football career Rob?’ Well it is about time I let you know more about that, so you can all see the experience from which I now draw my detailed analysis of the many games I watch, both live or on TV/live stream.
I started my football in the playground at John Ball Primary School in Blackheath. I remember that the school had a team for 10 and 11 year olds that played other schools in the area but those games were few and far between. My enthusiasm for the game, and regular kick about in the school playground, led to my being selected for that team on one occasion. I was very excited about the prospect of showing my abilities in an actual game and I was all ready to do my school proud. Unfortunately the game was called off because of a waterlogged pitch and my big opportunity was gone.
Most of my friends left John Ball to move on to local secondary schools and I assumed I would do the same. My mum though had other plans. We lived on the council estate near to John Ball Primary but my brother had gone to Colfe’s Grammar School in Lewisham at the age of 11 and my mum had the ambition that I would follow him. My school record was certainly good enough for that ambition to be realised. However, this was not an ambition I shared! You see Colfes was a rugby playing school. My mum knew this and she made sure I knew this. She warned me that when we went for a school interview I should show an interest in rugby and not to mention my deep love of football. This was a year after England had won the World Cup. I had watched every England game on our black and white TV and cheered every goal. Rugby had the wrong shaped ball!
I went with my mum to meet the Colfe’s junior school assistant headmaster, who asked me a few questions about myself and my time at Primary school. He then asked the question I had been expecting ‘Do you like rugby Robert?’ and my answer was well prepared ‘No I like football!’ You can imagine my mum’s face at that point! Needless to say I did not follow in my brother’s footsteps, I was not offered a place at Colfe’s. My mum had the last laugh though as her next option was to drag me along to an interview at Brockley County Grammar School which was also a rugby playing school! They seemed less bothered by my football fanaticism. Of course it meant I had to play rugby and not football at school in the periods set for sports in the school timetable. When I look back I remember playing as a forward and not enjoying scrums and all that entailed. I wanted to be passing a ball and shooting at goal or heading in a cross. I did not want to feel as if my neck was about to snap or have my face pushed into a muddy pitch!
Fortunately there was a game we used to play in some physical education (PE) lessons that involved throwing a football in the large hall, used for both morning assembly and for PE, with points scored by heading the cross onto the big stage. I loved heading the ball and found I was good at it. I don’t recall being anything like as good at the throwing part of the game and never took a liking to playing basketball.
Ironically in later life I have enjoyed watching both basketball (I followed Glasgow Rocks for several years) and rugby (I did watch quite a bit of rugby in South Wales, supported Bristol from 1982 to 1986 and Dunfermline rugby team for a few years after moving to Scotland).
There was also football played at break time out on the fields that surrounded Brockley County Grammar School. Most of the ground was hilly, I think we played in school shoes and it was jumpers down to make the goals. Despite all that I had the best of times playing in those games. When I watched football at games or on TV it was skill and speed that I admired the most and I had neither of these. I did, however, have a good sense of movement to find space, I could shoot from distance and I had well practiced heading ability. I also had my imagination and these school break games fuelled that on my long walks home after school. In my head I would be picking the best team from all the boys I played with and we (yes I was in that team!) would be playing in tournaments. We would be the best school team in South-East London, then in London, then in England and we would go on to win the schoolboy World Cup! I played out imaginary games in my head where I was the Bobby Moore of the side, organising the rest of the team to be at their best. We had boys in this team who rivalled the George Bests and Bobby Charltons of the world. My fantasy football extended to how I would think of myself as an expert football pundit when watching a game at the Valley. No internet and no social media and certainly no Charlton TV in those days so I would be commenting on the game in my head as I left the Valley to make my walk back across the Heath. In another world I could have been Terry Smith commentating on live streamed games across the country! Newspaper reports on games were there to confirm my own views on what I had witnessed, be it a scintillating Charlton win, or more likely a defeat where we had been unlucky or just pure rubbish!
With no school football at Brockley County I had to wait until I left school to go to University before playing football on a regular basis on a full size pitch with proper goals. I even invested in a new pair of football boots. Just my luck to end up choosing Swansea University in the hotbed of 1970’s rugby that was South Wales!
More of this in a later blog.