Tag Archives: Sport

Leicester City – Premier League Champions!

Ivan Vardy

Football was always important to my dad and from about the time I was old enough he to take me to Filbert Street to watch Leicester City.  The first game I saw was against Blackburn Rovers in April 1965 and Leicester won 2-0.   The team photo below is from around about that time and is one of many in the Scrap Book.

I think I can remember them all: Back Row: Riley, Norman, Cross, Banks, McLintock. Front Row: King, Appleton, Gibson, Stringfellow and squatting down  Sjoberg.

I can recall quite clearly going to the matches in my blue and white hand knitted scarf and bobble hat because this always involved a long walk of about three miles there and three miles back.  Very close to my grandparents house there was a bus stop with a direct service into the city but dad rather cunningly always started out for the match at a time that was certain not to coincide with the bus timetable.  I never caught on to this little trick of course and he had a very brisk walking pace that required me to run along side him just to keep up as he strode out ahead.   It turns out that dad just didn’t like paying bus fares which he considered to be an unnecessary expense.

Foxes in the Derby Pen

In the past dad must have seen some football ups and downs because Leicester were always a club who were not quite good enough to stay in the first division (the Premiership) and just a bit too good for the second division (the Championship) so they were up and down like a yo-yo.  The year that I was born, 1954, was a good year, he must have been happy when City were promoted as second division champions in May just beating Everton to the title by .3 on goal difference.  Their biggest win was 9-2 against Lincoln and their biggest crowd was 51,811, against Everton, I wonder if he was there in the crowd that day cheering them on?

The FA cup was always disappointing and I can remember 1961 when  Leicester reached the FA cup final for the second time and were beaten 2-0 by Tottenham Hotspur who did the league and cup double that year.  Full back Len Chalmers broke his leg early on and they had to play most of the match with ten men because they didn’t have substitutes in those days.  They reached the cup final again in 1963 and lost to Manchester United and again in 1969 and lost to Manchester City.  They had been there before in 1949 and lost to Wolves and this means that they have the unenviable record of being the only team to reach four FA cup finals and lose them all.

There were some good times though, especially when they won the League Cup twice in the 1990s and the best moment of all when they beat Derby County at Wembley in 1994 with two Steve Walsh goals to get promotion to the Premiership.  We had tickets and went to Wembley for the match and he was really happy that day.

My granddad Ted, wearing Blue of course – another lifelong City Fan…

Ted Petcher c1974

Football grounds were totally different to the all seater stadiums that we are used to now and were predominantly standing affairs.  I was only a little lad so it was important to go early to get a good spot on the wall just behind and to the left of the goal with room to swing my heavy wooden rattle.  This required an early arrival and although matches didn’t start until three o’clock dad used to get us there for the opening of the gates at about one.

This must have required great patience on his part because two hours is a long time to wait for a football match to start standing on cold concrete terracing and I really didn’t appreciate at the time that all of this was done just for me.  In the 1960s of course it was common to have pre-match entertainment when local marching bands would give a thirty minute medley of tunes up until kick off time so at least there was something to watch.

In 2002 Leicester City replaced the Filbert Street ground with a modern new ground close by and called it the Walkers Stadium after the club sponsers.  The last time that I watched Leicester City play with my dad was sometime in the Spring of 2003 when we went to the new ground to see a match.  I don’t remember the opponents or the score and I haven’t been since because he died in October that year and going to football matches without him would just never seem the same.

Village Cricket

W G Grace

“I’m getting into cricket. I love the way you stop for lunch and afternoon tea. I’ve had strawberries already and some Pimms.” – Judy Murray

23rd October 2015 is the one hundreth anniversary of the death of probably the World’s most famous cricketer – W G Grace.

“Our bag is green & made of canvas, strong and leather bound,                Overfilled with kit we’ve purchased, borrowed, begged or found;               Emptied out on summer evenings when it doesn’t rain,                                                But frankly half the stuff it holds we’ll never use again-                                          Worn out gloves with pimply rubber stitched up to the knuckles,                    Floppy pads with leather straps & little jingly buckles,                                                  All marked ‘Brookfield School’ in pen in prominent positions,                                  And some with names of other clubs, nicked from the opposition.”  –  Arthur Salway

20 Over Village Cricket

Like my dad before me I worked for the local council and one of the nicest things about this was the social aspect because I worked with a lot of people with similar interests.

One of these was cricket and like most organisations the council had a twenty over cricket team that used to play weekly fixtures against other councils, banks and other businesses in the town.

Village Cricket 20 over competition

Before I started work I used to get a guest spot in my dad’s team, Rugby Rural District Council, this was pre 1974 and the reorganisation of local government so there were a lot of small local authorities who sometimes struggled to field a full strength team so there were always places to fill and I was more than happy to go along every Wednesday night for a bat and a bowl and a glass of bitter shandy afterwards.

In 1975 I started work at Rugby Borough Council and my boss, the Borough Treasurer, John Lord, was the captain of the cricket team so amongst my other duties he gave me the job of team secretary and it was my job to arrange the fixtures, book the pitches, look after the kit and make sure we had a full squad every week.

Throughout the summer every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I had to allocate a fair amount of my time to phoning around and putting the team together, arranging the catering and making sure all the kit had been returned the previous week.  We had three or four old bats, a collection of balls of varying age and quality, battle scarred batting pads and some old fashioned batting gloves with green rubber spikes sewn onto the fingers.  Best of all were the protective boxes which were several years old and it was a good job we were not too concerned about personal hygiene because these things had been slung around several sweaty groins in the past I can tell you!

Village Cricket

On Wednesday we would worry about the weather because many a match was washed out without a bowl being bowled but hopefully it would stay fine and we really didn’t mind playing through a bit of drizzle now and again.

Twenty overs each side meant about three hours of cricket and if both sides used up their full allocation then we had to get a move on towards the end of the season when the days were getting shorter.

We were reasonably successful and joined the local twenty over league where we were not.  I used to produce an annual review of the season and the 1976 yearbook tells a sorry tale of played 10 and lost 8 and finished bottom of the league.

This didn’t really matter because it was the cricket that was important.  Taking to the field to bowl or just sitting waiting for your turn to bat, someone lovingly keeping the score book up to date and wives and girlfriends turning up towards the end of the game just in time to go to the pub afterwards where we would review and assess, exaggerate and rue our mistakes.

Twenty over evening cricket was one of the best things about the summer and was always missed during the long winter months!

The sorry tale of the 1976 season:

“It is not true that the English invented cricket as a way of making all other human endeavors look interesting and lively; that was merely an unintended side effect. …It is the only sport that incorporates meal breaks. It is the only sport that shares its name with an insect. It is the only sport in which spectators burn as many calories as the players-more if they are moderately restless.”    – Bill Bryson

Rugby and the World Cup

School Rugby

The 2015 Rugby World Cup statrts today!

When I was a boy I used to like playing sport, especially football and cricket even though I was never especially outstanding at either.  At school, when we were lined up against the wall and team captains made their selections I suppose, generally speaking,  I would be in the second wave of call ups in between those who were considered to be the best (those who everyone wanted on their team) and those who were completely hopeless and were avoided like the plague.  I suppose you would describe me as average, as with everything else in life.

School sport at Hillmorton County Junior School was really just about having a bit of fun, P.E. in the playground, a gentle game of rounders and French cricket at the nearby recreation ground and the annual Sports Day at the end of each Summer Term.

But in 1965 when I left the Junior School and went to secondary education at Dunsmore (now Ashlawn School) all of this changed and the whole thing took on a new dimension and became altogether more competitive and serious.  Dunsmore was a school that was proud of its sporting pedigree and achievements and expected all of the pupils to play a full and active part.  Because I was going to school in Rugby this meant Rugby Football and this was a whole new terrifying experience for me.

Before turning up on day one in September some during the summer holiday I had to be kitted out with the new school uniform and all of the appropriate new sports kit from the school outfitters, J M Squires at their shop in Sheep Street in the town.  The claret and blue reversible rugby shirt was made of a heavy cotton, the navy blue shorts were baggy and voluminous and the socks were too big and itchy.  To complete the kit there was a big pair of old fashioned ankle length boots made of stiff leather with nasty cork studs nailed into the sole. As well as the winter sports kit we had to have P.E. kit of sky blue doublet, white shorts, ankle socks and white plimsols.

First year sports afternoon was on Friday and so at the end of the first week I packed all of my kit into my duffel bag and looked forward to being on the playing field.  Naturally I was a bit apprehensive because although I had never played rugby before, or ‘rugger’ as people used to call it (presumably to differentiate it from the place) I knew that it had a reputation for being a bit rough and some of the other boys were considerably bigger than me.

The changing rooms were at the back of the playground and smelt permanently of stale sweat and carbolic soap.  They were functional and stark with rows of pegs for our clothes and wire baskets for our shoes, no lockers in those days and any valuables had to be handed in for safe keeping.  As soon as we were changed and ready we were required to line up for a kit inspection before being released through the blue double swing doors and out onto the playing field.

For the very first lesson we were given some basic instructions about the rules of the game and the general principles involved.  Not all the rules of course because there are a lot of them and they are quite complicated and then the games master, Wyn Morris, split us up according to size and his judgment on whether we would make rugby players or not.  Morris was a rugby fanatic and walked and talked with an arrogant swagger that struck fear into us boys.  It must have been obvious to him that I was most unsuitable for the scrum and with little spindly legs he probably didn’t think I had the pace for the wings so I was in the group of potential scrum halves, that’s the poor chap who puts the ball in the scrum and then gets jumped on by all the big boys the minute it comes back out again.

After about thirty seconds I knew that rugby football wasn’t my thing but for the entire first term until Christmas every Friday afternoon was a miserable two hours of being bellowed at by Wynn Morris and being tried in a succession of different positions to see if we could find one that was suitable for my non existent talent for the game.

I hated it and as the winter wore on it got colder and wetter and muddier and when it got colder and wetter and muddier the kit quadrupled in weight and I barely had the strength to lug it around the field without the added burden of picking up an odd shaped ball and running with it.  Finally however, after what seemed an eternity, the whistle would thankfully blow and it was all over and there was a mad undignified dash for the warmth of the changing room and the communal hot shower.

When we returned to school in January 1966 we all changed and trooped out as normal but today there was a surprise because Morris called all the first years together and amazed us with the question, ‘right, hands up all the boys who want to play soccer?’ (it works best if you can do this with a thick Welsh accent and say the word ‘soccer’ with a distinct sneer of disapproval for such a pansy game); of course a forest of arms went up into the air and he looked scornfully at us all and said, ‘right, all the boys who want to play soccer, go and stand over there’ and he dispatched us contemptuously to the touch line.

There was real exhilaration and anticipation about this development because at least it seemed certain that we would be playing our preferred choice of Association Football.  This excitement started to wither away however as we were kept waiting on the touch line while Morris spent half an hour or so with the rugby boys as he prepared them for the afternoon’s sport.  This was completely deliberate of course because it was cold and wet and we just stood around getting damp and miserable.  It was obviously a well rehearsed routine that he would stage every year and I bet all of the other teachers knew about it and were probably watching from the staff room window and pissing themselves laughing.

Finally the rugby match got under way and Morris strutted over to us with an evil leer on his face and things were about to go from bad to worse. ‘Right’, he said, he always started a sentence that way ‘all you boys who want to play soccer (pause for effect) you’re going on a cross country run…’

Twelve Treasures of Spain – Beach of La Concha, San Sebastián

The “Twelve Treasures of the Kingdom of Spain” was a contest/poll that was conducted by the Spanish Television Company Antena 3 and the radio broadcaster Cope. The final results were announced on 31st December 2007.  I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the eight out of the twelve that I have visited.  Eleventh in the competition (and this one surprised me, I confess) was the beach of La Concha in the Basque city of San Sebastián in Northern Spain.

We visited San Sebastián on a cold day in May and after leaving the tedious coast road from Bilbao speeded up and completed the final thirty kilometres of the journey in less than half an hour.  As we approached the city I was struck by the fact that it was much bigger than I had been expecting and fairly soon it was much busier than I had imagined as well.

As we followed signs to the centre we joined a queue of crawling traffic with snarling engines, red hot clutch plates and frustrated drivers and we made slow progress towards our destination.  This seemed strange, we knew it was Mother’s day and this was making everywhere busier than normal but we couldn’t understand how this could have produced so much congestion.

As we nudged our way slowly through the obstructions the car parks all showed full signs and police were moving cars along and we circled the city centre twice looking for a parking spot.  I was all for giving up and finding somewhere else to go and I was regretting the decision to drive east this morning when perhaps we should have stayed in Cantabria or gone to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao when we finally found an underground car park with a few remaining vacant spaces and after nearly three hours of driving finally stopped the car.

We were unsure of our position and we were ready for refreshment so we walked around the cathedral square looking for somewhere suitable but almost everywhere was crowded and boisterous and I began to detect a lot of Irish accents in the bars.  Eventually we found a bar with some empty seats and went inside.  The room was a sea of red shirts and I had to jostle myself into position by pushing through the scarlet rugby tops that were pushing against the bar as though part of a set-scrum..

Now there were French voices alongside the Irish accents and the penny began to drop – somewhere there must be a sporting event and my enquiries revealed that not only was the place busy because of Mother’s Day this was also Rugby Football Heineken Cup semi-final day and Biarritz from France were taking on Munster from Ireland right here in San Sebastián.  This was not turning out to be a very well planned day at all!

Biarritz Rugby Shirt in Basque Colours

I still wasn’t quite sure why a Biarritz home fixture was being played in San Sebastián in Northern Spain but I learned later that Biarritz consider themselves to be the Rugby Union representatives of the wider Basque community so often play games in Spain especially for important fixtures when they need a bigger stadium than they have available in France, but I suspect there is an economic driver in there somewhere as well.

It was quarter to three and the bar remained packed but having established that kick off was at three-fifteen we were confident that it would soon begin to clear out but at three o’clock it remained just as lively and at five past and at ten past and soon we began to realise that a lot of people hadn’t actually got tickets to the match itself at all and had just visited San Sebastián to be close to the event and to savour the atmosphere.

After a drink we abandoned the noisy bar and the throng of scarlet shirts (both sides play in red!) and went outside to see the city.  We made our way to the seafront through streets of tall, elegant  well maintained buildings with balconies with elaborate iron railings and not a washing line or a satellite dish in sight to spoil the view because this is a wealthy resort town with the highest property values in Spain, which is especially popular with holidaymakers from France.

There weren’t many holidaymakers today because it was grey and cold with a sharp wind ripping in from the Atlantic and I really could have done with a hat and scarf.  We walked along the beachfront boardwalk lined with stylish and expensive hotels, street art, gardens and fountains.  The beach was deserted today but it was easy to imagine just how busy this golden crescent of sand might be during the summer because this is the busiest and the most popular of all seaside resorts on the north coast of Spain.

It was too cold to loiter so we walked briskly across the beach and through the old town back to the car and then fearful of getting caught in traffic again at the end of the Rugby match left San Sebastián with the intention of finding somewhere to eat.

 

And that as they say is it because I cannot post about number twelve in the list of Twelve Treasures of Spain because I have not visited the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Mine

My Golf Clubs…

I don’t know why we worry so much about our golfing skills, it’s as though we are convinced that everyone else out there is a Tiger Woods or an Rory McIlroy and the reality is of course that they are just not.  One of the things that I am very good at on a golf course is finding other peoples lost balls, I have got thousands of them, more than enough to see me through my golfing days without ever having to buy another one, and here is the point I am making, if everyone else is so good why is it that I have got so many of their balls?

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