"A Christmas tale"
By Martin Patching
Strike-ridden England, circa 1972...and it's 'kin cold up there lad!
Fourteen-year-old semi-academic is addressed by his master.
"You must concentrate more...football?...girls?...they are a distraction! Concentrate on your English, what if you're injured?"
He looked, listened, a little...and left the quarters without permission.
He had, unawares, entered another world.
His father, a Yorkshireman ( of neither Boycott, nor eating a pie with a spoon origin), had reservations.
"'What if...' does come into it lad, but if that is where you want to aim, I will support you," he said.
The atheletic schoolboy played in every game.
Almost fourteen and on the edge of England Scoolboy U-15s, his home life changed.
Letters, many visits, rain-coated men representing football clubs...Mum made tea frequently.
"We look after our players", the underlying message from all.
Money is becoming an issue. Bored boy, just wants to play.
Football clubs, it appears, provide inducements to parents.
Boy, England U-15 International, heart set on midlands club.
Yorkshire club...he hates, dirty tactics and players, but visits to see close up.
Brown envelope with five-ish grand promised should he sign.
Dad thinks, they talk...boy says "No".
Dad also agrees.
Mancunian club have different approach.
They in doldrums, facing relegation.
"Youth is the key," they say.
Flowers to Mum. Fruit baskets too, also telegrams to say "How are you".
He visits in school holidays with other "White Hope" from over the border.
Sheffield boy takes £10,000 big ones from The Doctor.
He sees only the fourth team and eventual flip-flops in U.S.A. Seventies soccer.
After being courted by the biggest, and the "Best", they also used him for recruitment!
The Devils came out with "What others offer, we will double it". I mean, what could the boy say to that, except "NO, THANK-YOU!"
A most gentlemanly chairman from a midlands club, telephoned the boy's father.
"We don't do that sort of thing here, Jack, but your boy will play in our first team, Joe will be round with £2,000.00 Tuesday night, in case your son breaks a leg on the first day of training, which happened to a youngster last season". The phone went dead.
"What about the job in Manc?" the boy asked.
"Mum likes it here, I have to think of the rest," the bemused father replied.
Six or seven years later, the boy, now young man, in transfer negotiation with new club asked...???????????????
"We don't do that sort of thing here..."
came the positive reply.