My football career prior to first year (S1 in Scotland, or year 7 in England) was minimal, and that’s being generous- I remember I’d play with the other boys during Holiday Bible Clubs and in the BB (where it was pretty much compulsory), but rarely getting a touch, never mind scoring a goal (I would often volunteer to play in goal to avoid the embarrassment of terrible touches and lack of fitness). I actually couldn’t stand football until I was about ten when I saw Man U lose the Cup Final to Everton (got to come clean, I did used to be a Man U fan. Judge me how you will…) which coincided with my leaving Primary School, so I spent the summer learning up on football stuff so I’d have something to talk about with the boys at the big school.
Unfortunately it ended up something like this:
Regardless, given the choice when I got to big school of playing rugby (of which I did not understand the rules), hockey (of which I also did not understand the rules) or football (of which I understood most of the rules, but hey, offside doesn’t matter, does it?) , there was only one choice.
Unsurprisingly, I found it difficult, not least because I didn’t understand positions (in any case unfit doofers like me were told that we should be defenders and the better boys got sent up front), and Mr Jemphrey’s tactics (everyone joins the attack except one defender and the goalie) left me exhausted very quickly. I wasn’t the only lazy and unfit player, and I’d frequently lose out in arguments to Stephen Baker and James Murphy about being the one defender who stays back. To this day I’ve still never worked out how to tackle properly.
My first goal came one drizzly autumn day. It was not a little bit windy too and significant parts of Corn Field was caked in mud. I was wearing trainers and not football boots, so before long much mud had transferred itself to my person; I might have fallen down more often than I had touches. Running around after the attacks left me exhausted, cold, and muddy and I decided it was worth my while ignoring the conventional wisdom of n00bs staying at the back and heading up for the odd attack. One time I almost got a shot away but I fell over before the ball came to me, all while being yelled at by the better boys to get back.
Somehow, I ended up standing a couple of yards in front of the centre of the goal. The ball had bounced off one of the other team and was rolling towards me on one of the rare mud-free patches. I stuck a boot out and poked it towards the goal. I didn’t make great contact on it, but it had enough power for it to reach James Swain in the goal. The ball was soaking wet and he had no gloves on- it squirmed through his hands, between his legs, and in between the two cones. Mr Jemphrey blew the whistle and the goal was given. I was confused because the other boys were claiming offside (which rule we weren’t even playing) so I thought it didn’t count, but he assured me that it did. I don’t remember how I celebrated, or even if I did (I wasn’t really one for showiness), but it was all I talked about that evening and on the bus on the way home.
I guess for the other boys who’d been playing football since the year dot, it must have been hilarious. They accused me of “poaching” (a term I’d not previously come across), saying it didn’t really count, and while I guess anyone could have scored it, it was a big moment for me, as I felt that I’d finally done something on a football pitch that was more than just making up the numbers. I didn’t score another goal for another couple of years, so this is perhaps why I remember it so vividly, and it’s something I’ll always be proud of.
Do you remember your first goal? You can send me the story and I’ll happily publish it!
(Aside: In any event, is poaching inherently bad?
I rest my case.)