Football Family

Simon’s Mum, Connie, was a keen sportswoman and had captained Somerset Ladies hockey team. She encouraged the boys in their sports. She joined in the games of football on the back lawn. Most of their kit was hand me down. She made herself and the boys football socks. The local team wore green, so she knitted socks for everyone with green and white horizontal stripes on them. The wool she used was from left over reels of wool for jumpers. When she had finished, she asked Simon to try on the socks. When he put them on it looked like he was stood in green and white wellington boots. They were so thick, he needed football boots that were two sizes too big.

That was probably a good thing as it meant that he could wear his big brother Jeremy’s old football boots. Football boots in those days had hard toes and looked like clod hoppers. The studs were hammered in with nails into the sole of the boot. As the boots aged the nails would come through the sole and into your foot! His Mum tried putting thicker insoles in, but this just made them chunkier and unpleasant to wear. Ultimately it was easier to wear black ‘daps’ to play in. ‘Daps’ were what they wore for PE at school. They were black gym shoes. Some people called them pumps, deck shoes or trainers. Either way, they were a lot more comfortable than old boots with hard toe caps and nails coming through the soles.

Their Dad never joined in with the football, He would either say he was too busy or had to go somewhere. Simon’s Dad grew up on the Somerset Mendip Hills in a poor family. He made his money out of building work. On the side he was poaching rabbits and pheasants. The rabbits he would skin and sell their fur. He did not have the money or the time to play football. He started work at 14 years old. When he did get a chance to play football with the local lads, they used a pig’s bladder as a ball. A farmer who kept pigs let them have a bladder of a pig and then they blew it up and knotted it.

However, the boys’ Dad, Gordon liked to go and watch the boys play football but never joined in their games. They were surprised when one day in his sixties, he joined in a game on a sandy beach and he was brilliant! Maybe he didn’t want to show the boys up with his skills he’d developed kicking a pig’s bladder around?

After knitting everyone socks no-one wanted to wear, Connie decided they would have a football match on the lawn. The Wellingtons against their friends. Several random boys turned up in a selection of football kits and footwear. Simon’s Mum went in goal and guarded the Summer House end. The fattest friend went in goal at the top end. This was where the tunnel between the sheds came out on the lawn and formed a natural goal.

Simon always wanted to win any game he played in, but it did not seem to matter on this occasion. He was playing with his brothers and they were a family. They were a team. It made him very proud of himself and his brothers. Connie played her part in goal and all the boys were very impressed with her goal keeping.

As well as impromptu games like the family five as side on the lawn. Simon’s time was dominated by playing any sports, painting pictures, and watching the men work in the yard and workshops. He mainly loved the signwriting and the artists would let him apply gold leaf onto the gold size. School never was a priority and he hated most of it, but any sports lessons, and of course his art, helped the time go by. In fact, the football practice he had at home and at the ‘Rec’, was to make schooling a lot more bearable.

Mr Handscombe saw Simon playing football in the playground. He was a teacher in the junior school next door. He was obviously impressed. As soon as Simon left the infants school and went into the juniors, he put him straight into the school football team. Simon loved this as he was taken out of school lessons to go to practice and often left early to get to matches. The other kids were jealous that he was being called away from classes.

School was starting to improve!