Sunday, 26 December 2010

Chapped Legs and Punctured Balls

I have a book, Chapped Legs & Punctured Footballs,

The book is a light hearted look at growing up in North Devon in the 1960’s and playing football.

“A really wonderful and funny read that took me back to my experiences of playing football with my mates.”

Tony Adams (ex-Arsenal & England captain)

Here are a few quotes from the book;

On balls...

The Light Plastic Ball

Cheap ball that came in a cheap plastic net. Usually red, yellow or blue with black hexagons.

The ball was so light that even the slightest breeze could waft it to Venezuela and beyond.

Frowned on by all street footballers and usually only purchased by well meaning grandparents, existing on a small state pension. The remedy was a quick kick about in Granddad’s garden and a volley into the nearest rose bush. The punctured version of the ‘light plastic ball’ was actually better for street football but was a bugger to head.

On footwear...

School Shoes

Then there was the slip-on which was quiet trendy but one of the most dangerous weapons known to man, ranking somewhere between the Scud missile and the Atom bomb.

Many a goalkeeper has been dragged from his goal to the school nurse’s room after being hit by an Exercet Clark’s slip on.

The scenario has been played out on many a playground until the slip on became less trendy. A player through on goal hits a volley with all his might. He miss times the shot and his slip on travels faster than the speed of sound striking the hapless goalie on the forehead, knocking him backwards and unconscious into his goal. The miss hit ball meanwhile trickles innocuously over the line.

In fact some weak players purposefully got their mums to buy them slip ones and a size too big to boot so they flew off the foot at the players will. This gave them a certain street cred in the playground as to how many goalies they had permanently disfigured.

When the slip-on was at the height of fashion, the sky over the playground would become dark with the number of slip-ons in the air. Dinner ladies and teachers likened it to the blitz.

On clothing...

Duffle Coats

These were very popular for a time in the 60s. On a cold day everyone would turn up in a duffle coat, so to distinguish the two teams, one side wore their hoods up and the other side wore them down.

For the casual observer it looked like some obscure sect of Belgian, Trappist monks who brew their own wheat bear for sale in expensive supermarkets.

When it rained the steam coming from thirty or so duffle coats was enough to turn the pitch into a recreation of Jack the Ripper’s, smog filled London. By the end of a game the temperature inside a duffle coat reached levels, hotter than the sun. It was not uncommon for a winger, running down the flank at full pace to self combust.

On places to play...

The Bedroom

Many brothers shared bedrooms and this was paradise for those that wanted to play twenty four hour football.

With twin beds placed at each end of the room players took it in turns to try and score against your opponent by hitting the wall behind his bed. With a springy mattress to dive on the favourite game was Banks v Yashin. Lev Yashin was the Russian keeper who dressed like a referee, all in black. He became a bit of a cult figure in England during the 60s and vied for best keeper in the world with Banks.

The game varied from brothers to bedrooms with extra points awarded for hitting the wall and then rebounding to hit the keeper on the head. Extra points were also awarded by some for goals scored by various pieces of bedroom furniture such as the wardrobe.

A light ball was normally used as a Wembley Trophy in such a confined space could cause extensive collateral damage.

A heavy ball hitting the overhead light was also both spectacular and a regular occurrence that led to many thick ears around the country.

There was talk of a boy up Rayleigh Hill who while making a wonderful save, full stretch, ended up two floors below in the cellar, still on the bed and still clutching the ball. What we used to refer to as ‘a Lev Yashin moment.’

Would make an ideal Christmas present at just £5.99 available at all good bookshops or at most charity shops from 27th December prices 50p!

Kindest Regards,

Paul Cooper

A hilariously funny and gloriously nostalgic book -- it made me cry with laughter. But it has a serious side too. So many of today's children just watch football on TV or 'play' it on games consoles and Wii machines. How will they learn the pure joy (and occasional pain) of real-life play, and all the physical and social skills it takes to make a real-life player? This stuff is caught, not taught. And without it, where will our country's next generation of world-beating footballers come from?

Sue Palmer

Author of 'Toxic Childhood' and patron of the Children's Football Alliance.

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