Monday, 9 January 2012

Me and Bobby Moore...

I’m not a great lover of football anymore. I watch the occasional big game on tv and I still follow West Ham’s results in that Pavlovian saturday afternoon knee-jerk manner. And of course it remains a sort of lingua franca between men all around the world. But it’s changed a lot since I was a regular matchgoer. The strange middle-class-isation of the sport in the eighties and the influx of grotesque amounts of money (largely from Murdoch’s Sky project) have not been completely beneficial as far as I’m concerned. Last year I was saddened to read of the premature death of Bobby Moore’s son and it made me reflect on a little period of my life that once seemed so intense.

When I was small I would draw footballers incessantly. In fact for one phase that’s all I would draw. My Mum got a bit concerned I think and once said to me “I think you need a rest from footballers, draw something different”. But for 10 year old me there was nothing else ...
I suppose the brick reflects the new hooligan fashion of those days.
Oh look - it's the original Frank Lampard looking remarkably like his son!

More Violence! (Also note the careful observation of Puma and Adidas boots - v. important.)

I was actually born nearer to White Hart Lane than Upton Park (I only realised this when it was far too late), but we moved to Stratford in 1962. WHU won the F.A. Cup in '64, the European Cup Winners Cup in '65 and, as everybody knows, the 1966 World Cup. How could any little boy not want to grow up to be Bobby Moore?I was going to say I saw him play hundreds of times but that can’t be true. But it must have been scores and scores of games. In truth, he’d often have an indifferent match. He had a relaxed, nonchalent way with him but also some sort of star charisma that made him stand out from his team-mates (younger readers: think Beckham). When he ran from the tunnel (strolled would perhaps be more apt), he somehow appeared luminescent, the vibrant claret and blue and his blond curly hair catching the light. Six feet tall but he seemed bigger and had a natural authority that couldn’t help but reassure you. His play was always graceful, at times almost without effort. He never had the volatile saturnine edge of George Best, Bobby seemed more wholesome, but also good and kind and you instinctively felt that with Bob in charge of defence everything would turn out okay.

My Dad got to meet him a couple of times and said he appeared almost shy and lacking in confidence in real life. He certainly liked a drink. And he had an eye for the girls. And if he’d had the freedom of contract of today’s players he'd probably never have stayed at Upton Park (He wanted to go to Spurs at one point, but the old WH board wouldn’t wear it - instead they brought his mate Jimmy Greaves to UP).

Although I have photos inscribed to me from Bob I never did meet him face to face. The photo below is the closest I got...

This remarkable image appears in Bobby’s first ‘autobiography’ (Bobby Moore - My Soccer Story). It’s taken in Stratford Broadway, E.15, from outside Newham Town Hall. It’s 1964. Bob himself is holding the cup aloft on the coach, but... wait for it... below him in the crowd is ME (very blonde hair) on the shoulders of my uncle Kenny. Also there is my younger brother Matthew (pea jacket) astride my Dad and also my Grandad Charlie and Great Uncle John. I had been watching from the roof of The Puddings for hours waiting for the coach to arrive. Then when it did, my Dad and Kenny grabbed me and my brother and waded into the crowd to get us a closer look.

It remains quite clear as a memory. I remember how bizarre it seemed that grown men were sitting on top of traffic lights. Normal rules seemed suspended and anything appeared suddenly permissible. West Ham were on top of the world and everyone seemed so happy. And that’s how you begin a lifetime of footballing disappointment....

Come on Big Sam!


  1. I may be a bit of a footballophobe but I'm most impressed at your pictures, photo and memories. The wonderful detailed drawings made me smile... Weren't biro's great for drawing with? Is that a green biro in amongst the blue too? Haven't seen one of them in ages (seems very of the time to my mind). I haven't a clue what 'Come on Big Sam!' means. All I can remember is "Nice One Cyril". This is possibly where I lose any trace of credibility...??!

    1. Yes, 'fraid so! 'Big' Sam Allardyce is the current manager (well, as I write: things change fast in football) attempting to guide them back to the Premiership.

      I certainly cut my drawing teeth on biros rather than pencils. Glad they made you smile - they do make me chuckle - wish I had more of them.

  2. My mum would dread me coming home after the football. If my team lost, as they did most Saturday afternoons (not just losses, but spectacular thrashings), it would set the tone for the next few days, until my naive hope would begin to build again for the next game.

    Thanks for sharing! Love the QPR v Leeds acton shot. Were they separate biros, or were you one of the kids I envied in class who's mum had bought them the "4 colours in one" clickable biro?


    1. You know Rob, I'd completely forgotten about those jumbo multi-coloured biros! I think my nan gave me one and I thought it just the greatest bit of modern technology. Wonder if you can still get them? If I find one I'll post a new drawing!

      Oh, and belated sympathies for your football losses. I try to console myself that if you're attached to one of the 'lesser' teams it's probably 'character-building' or something...

  3. Hey Andy, some great memories you must have, and to put them down in drawings too, superb. Since their foundation West Ham must have had more ups and downs than any other team in history, but I think that's why the majority of their true supporters are always loyal to them. Given that you saw them play scores of times in your life, I just wondered if your brothers, (Matthew & Gerald I believe) ever attended any of those matches with you, and if they were WH supporters too.

    1. Sorry this is so late, but I've just noticed your comment. Gerard is West Ham through and through and we exchange consolatory texts most saturday afternoons. Matt, bizzarely, decided to throw in his lot with Manchester United at an early age. So you can imagine... David Moyes Don't Go!

    2. PS. Oh you asked if they ever came with me. Matt came a few times to Upton Park to watch George Best. The game I most remember with Gerard was Frank MacAvennie's return (against Norwich I believe). It was a very crowded and hot on the North Bank and Gerard fainted!

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