Back Home

ne of my favourite Radio programs has got to be Desert Island Discs which I listen to every Friday morning with a regularity bordering on Obsession! I should start work at 9:30 but I’m invariably late and this bothers me every day except Friday – in fact it used to be so annoying to arrive at work on time and miss the last fifteen minutes – this is less of a problem now that the show is finally available on iplayer but it’s still annoying!

As well as the music I find the life stories of people, some of whom I’ve never heard of until they appear on the show, quite fascinating. There are stories to which I cannot directly relate and can only image what that person must have been going through, for example violinist Gyorgy Pauk telling of his life in the Jewish ghetto in Budapest during the second world war and how he was brought up by his Grandmother who he eventually had to leave behind in order to live freely in the west. Then there was Dame Stephanie Shirley who escaped Nazi Germany when she was sent to the UK by her parents to be brought up by complete strangers. Things that happened before I was born and which, as I said,  I can only imagine what it was like.

More and more frequently now  there are guests who are the same age as me and although they may have been brought up in a different place with different experiences I can still still relate to their memories and musical choices because they are from a time and mindset that is recognisable to me. One such person was Morrissey who I blogged about on a previous occasion and today it was Frank Skinner who although he is a few years older then me I recognise the world he grew up in and some of his musical choices hit the target and fired off memories of my youth.

This was probably helped by the fact that I had spent some time the previous evening looking through some carrier bags of stuff that I had brought back from the garage where we have some of our stuff in storage. A lot of stuff has been in storage in one place or another since  Sarah and I moved in together and has been too painful to sort through due to the memories of a acrimonious divorce. However I’m starting to be able to move on and in the bags I found some interesting things such as almost all my school reports – junior and secondary, my Chipper club membership card from the Sunderland Echo,  even my Baptism Certificate.

Frank Skinner’s fourth track, amongst a very eclectic choice of music, was the 1970 England World Cup song Back Home, possibly one of the first (and best – alongside Frank’s own effort Three lions)  World Cup songs ever and one which reminds me of my first World Cup. As far as I know I did watch the 1966 final but was too young to remember it. In fact my only memory of 1966 was World Cup Willie the mascot who I missed in 1970 and wanted to know where he had gone!

There were huge expectations as the Mexico finals approached, as England were the champions, but as we all know they crashed out in the second round to eventual winners West Germany, who we had beaten to win the cup 4 years earlier. We had been winning 2-0 but eventually lost 3-2 after extra time when Gerd Muller put the winning goal past Peter Bonetti who was playing as Gordon Banks had come down with food poisoning a few days before the game.  This experience seems to have been repeated every couple of years in either the World Cup or European Championships by the English football team. The constant expectations of success in the build up, the inevitably disappointing first game, followed by a scrabble to qualify for the knock-out stage only to lose on penalties or after extra time in either the quarter or semi finals!

Frank commented that football was different in those days and I think he is right. His memories of watching West Bromwich Albion were summed up by saying that football grounds smelt of Woodbines and Meat Pies struck a chord but I would have also added Bovril to that list! Watching Sunderland in the early 70’s at Roker Park would on occasion lead me to buy a cup of the meaty drink. The drink had such a wonderful smell but to me tasted bloody awful, a fact i would remember after a few sips!! He also mentioned the terraces and how small boys would take crates to stand on so they could see.

Well I never did that but have fond memories of standing in the Fulwell end on the terraces….there was a section in the middle at the back we used to call “the Chanters” which was where the most noisy fanatical fans used to stand and from where the most enthusiastic chanting used to come. It was always rough and fluid in that section and you had to be brave (or big) to stand a chance. The most wonderful thing about the terraces was the movement of the crowd. The Fulwell end was almost always full and when the team came running with the ball came towards the goal in front of us about 10,000 people would all stand on their toes to see what was happening before inevitably loosing their balance and falling forward causing the crowd to surge forward to be stopped only by the crash barriers that were spaced at intervals down the stand.

At the back of the stand where the steps opened onto the terraces there was a shop, selling amongst other things, the aforementioned Bovril, running along the back of the stand was a fence, but ducking behind the shop you could get up behind the fence and this would afford you the most wonderful view. You were right behind the most ardent supporters and could see the whole ground. The experience of seeing the fans react when a goal was scored from up there was incredible and worth the risk of occasionally getting told to get down by a Policeman or steward.

The other thing I miss is the event that used to be the FA Cup final – watching it on TV was an event that used to start at about 11 in the morning and slowly build up, following the teams on their coaches to the ground, covering their paths to Wembley and then finally the game itself and then the interviews and celebrations afterwards. I think the first FA cup final I watched was the 1969/70 final which Chelsea won after a replay. A few years later Sunderland made it to the final and although only a second division team beat first division Leeds Utd 1-0 in an historic win. Sadly I wasn’t there but watched it in colour for the first time!

Anyway my flirtation with football was short lived, I seem to recall the last time I went to see Sunderland play I was queuing up to get out when the doors opened! My first love was and still is music and bringing this back to that topic I will move onto Frank Skinner’s 7th choice namely George Formby’s Why don’t women like me? When I was growing up my earliest musical likes were Military brass bands and George Formby – a diversity of taste which has stood me in good stead for the following years! It was good to see someone else my age still has a soft spot for the ukulele wielding comedian other than me (although I understand that the late George Harrison turned Bob Dylan onto him as well) but unlike Frank I have no desire to take up playing the thing!

I loved the stories about his father, how he would not go to the pub or betting shop without putting his suit on first! he even used to say to his wife – nip down the bookies for me because if I put my suit on I’ll have to go to the pub as well. It’s strange now to think that men used to be like that. I remember my dad, who it must be said must have been quite modern and with it, expressing surprise when we bumped into a neighbour in Belgium while  we were on holiday and found he was wearing a suit even on holiday. I watched a wonderful old film on youtube the other week from 1927 which, surprisingly was in colour and in one scene there is a shot of Petticoat Lane on a Sunday and in it all the men are dressed in suits. (I was also amused by the fact that the crowd was almost exclusively men – strange given that my father used to hate the idea of going shopping).

So that’s it for my trip down memory lane for now but in the near future I will scan some of the things I found and no doubt pour forth on a variety of subjects triggered by memories.

World Cup quotes

My favourite quote that I’ve heard over the past week was from former England goalkeeper Gordon Banks who was talking about the much disputed third goal in the 1966 final against Germany. Geoff Hurst’s shot hit the bar and bounced down onto the goal line. There has been much speculation over the years as to whether or not it actually crossed the line but in the event, after much discussion between the Referee and Linesman, the goal was given.

Gordon Banks offered his view the other night. It was, he claimed, definitely a goal as he saw it cross the line and after all he had a perfect vantage point to see it!

The runner up award goes to the News of the World for their headline on Sunday after England’s current goalkeeper made the most awful blunder to let in the equaliser in their opening match against the USA.

Out on penalties in the quarter finals?

So the World Cup starts tonight and England play their first game against the USA tomorrow. As usual we are all flying our flags and wearing our t-shirts and hoping that England will bring home the cup for the first time since 1966. The recent history of course hasn’t been great although England always seem to get through to the last 16 but we are all familiar with the inevitable penalty shoot out and then disappointment.

So lets look at the likely outcomes for England. the good news is that they are favourites to progress to the next round from the 4 teams in group C. Second favourites are tomorrow nights opposition the USA. So the game tomorrow night could be the deciding match to see who tops the group and who goes through as runner up – so which would be better?

Well in the next round the winner would play the runner up from group D and the runner up would play the winner from that group. The favourites to win group D are……….Germany! So that makes tomorrow nights result even more important if England are to avoid a showdown with their old mates the Germans – I mean who would want to go out on penalties to the Germans?

But what if England and Germany both win their groups? Who would we play then? Well the other three teams in group D are Australia, Ghana and Serbia. At the moment the Ghanan’s are second favourites so it would look like we could avoid the international family crisis that would ensue if Australia were to be our opposition in the next round!!

So come on England!!

They think it’s all over

Last night I was working at an awards ceremony and the guest speaker was former England goalkeeper and member of the 1966 World Cup winning squad Gordon Banks. After cracking a few topical jokes about recent sporting events and the forthcoming World cup he started to reminice about his career and then got onto the subject of 1966. It was a really interesting and amusing tale which featured one name in particular – that of Nobby Stiles.

While I am told that I watched the 1966 World cup Final I was actually only 4 so I don’t remember doing so. I do remember the 1970 World cup Finals in Mexico and his wonderful save from Pele in the match against Brazil – probably the second greatest save I’ve ever seen eclipsed only in my somewhat biassed opinion by the double save from Jim Montgomery in ithe 1973 FA Cup Final. Bank’s career was cut short by a car accident before I was old enough to go to football matches butI did however get to see Nobby Stiles play.

It was towards the end of his career* when he was playing for Preston North End under the management of former 1966 England star Bobby Charlton. Sunderland beat them (3-1 I think) and at one point Nobby was a source of amusement for the crowd when he went to kick the ball, missed and fell over! After the game we waited outside the players entrance trying to get autographs of the two England world cup heroes. Nobby Stiles came out and started to sign peoples programs etc. However after a minute or two Charlton emerged and not only brushed away anyone who asked for his autograph but made Nobby Stiles get on the coach as well. Sore loser?

* I think it was the 1973/4 season, the year after the FA Cup win against Leeds, because I remember being in the Roker End as my dad wouldn’t let us go in the Fulwell End where the  Sunderland fans were at that point. A very scary experience in amongst a bunch of Middlesborough fans during a local derby did finally change his mind though!