A Day At The Football

I had very good reason to catch up with some good friends a short time ago when Stephen Cleeve, the Chairman of King’s Lynn Town FC invited me along as one of his guests for their home match against Maidenhead United.

Presenting a copy of my book to King’s Lynn FC Chairman Stephen Cleeve

I was absolutely delighted to be able to get along as it not only gave me the opportunity to visit Norfolk’s number two football club and, in the process, watch a ‘proper’ match of football again but also to look ahead to another possible trip to watch the Linnets later on this month when they head off ‘down south’ to play Aldershot Town.

My connections with the town of Aldershot are numerous-and not always connected with football.

I was, believe it or not, quite a decent athlete when I was at school, my performances in that particular sport peaking in 1976 when I won the Aldershot and Farnham district schools 200-metre championship at the Aldershot Military Stadium, breaking the then record for the event by doing to in 25.2 seconds.

Then there was my Grandad, a remarkable man by the name of Jim Beddows.  The story in our family was that Grandad Jim ‘owned half of Norfolk’ which, unfortunately, wasn’t exactly true! But he was a relatively wealthy man, nonetheless, deriving both his wealth and reputation through a network of business interests that meant he did a lot of travelling in order to keep up with everything that he was doing.

I’m like my Grandad in many ways but, if I had to name one passion that I am sure that I picked up from him, then it’ll be the love of travel and exploration that we now share.

Jim lived in Aldershot and I can remember, to this day and in forensic detail, letting one of his dogs out one day so it could have a spot of exercise, only to watch it head out of the gate, turn right and proceed to gallop out of all of our lives forever.

Then there was the day Chelsea came to town to play a game of football.

This would have been nearly fifty years ago now but, like my memories of Jim’s long lost dog, my memories of that day and a very special moment that took place during it, events that ended up having a profound effect on me remain as clear as if they had happened yesterday.

Chelsea were due to play a British Army XI in a friendly so, with Aldershot being the home of the British Army, the towns’ military stadium was a natural choice for the match to be played.

One of my favourite Chelsea players was their winger Charlie Cooke, a man who was so quick and tricky with his feet, he’d invariably turn the blood of opposing players inside out as he jinked and danced his way past them, time and time again.

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet Charlie so, as soon as the game ended, I ran onto the pitch and made my way to him. No-one tried to stop me, it was what small boys did at the time and was accepted as part of the game.

We ended up having a lovely chat as Charlie made his way off the pitch and towards the away team dressing room. Then, just before he went in there, he gave me the remains of the apple he’d been eating, saying, “Thanks for the great chat Russell, I hope you keep on supporting Chelsea…see you soon’.

I was, as they say, ‘made up’. And kept that bit of apple safe and secure until it had rotted away to nothing.

That Chelsea team that Charlie was part of was a special one. The club are always, for all sorts of reasons, in the news at the moment, but, no matter what they have achieved in recent years and the great players who have worn that famous blue shirt, nothing evokes the memories, footballing wise, like recalling the name of some of the players they had back in the day when hardly anyone on football was a millionaire and some of the players turned up for the match by taking the same bus to the ground as the supporters did!

Charlie of course. Plus Peter Bonetti, Peter Osgood, Dave Webb and Alan Hudson.

I can see them all now…

So  for that particular reason and a whole lot more, Aldershot is always a place that I will have fond memories of. It’ll be good to see Stephen and the Linnets playing there, a case of a club that meant a lot to me early on in my life playing against one that I now have a lot of interest in, given that I live near the town now and am hoping, in due course, to be arranging some charity football matches at Lynn’s ground, which is known as ‘The Walks’.

More on that in a future blog but the plans we have are exciting ones.

Whilst I was at the game against Maidenhead, I was very privileged to meet the writer and photographer Anthony Osmond-Evans who, I was delighted to be able to present a copy of my book to. Mind you, I say ‘present’, it was anything but that, as he insisted on buying his own on the day, gentleman that he is.

Anthony is well known as the author of several travel books, including The Magic Of Monaco and China The Beautiful. He has also had his photographs exhibited at the Royal Academy as well as writing a book about the 2012 Olympic Games titled The Spirit Of London.

I’m very proud and, I have to say, honoured, that my book has now taken its place upon one of his bookshelves at home.

I hope he enjoys reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Maybe if he did, he’ll let me carry his bags for him when he next goes off on one of his globetrotting adventures!

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