I can barely remember a time when I didn’t love football. I was born into a football household. My father Bill ran a football club from home. Triangles FC, based at Tooting Bec in South London. He was a very hands on sort of bloke, he did the coaching, fitness work, the health care, the refereeing, collected the subs, organised the travel, he did virtually everything. My mother was the club secretary and treasurer. He started the club for me, so he told me, and what started as an under 8’s side, within a short time, became 15 teams from very young to adult men. We were good too. All the teams were challenging for titles and cups, and we would sometimes have 100 people watching us. The senior team played in the Sportsman league on a Sunday. The top teams in that league, were paid, even back then, and the level of football was high. We were regularly scouted by South London for the schools, and Millwall and Crystal Palace, regularly came to scout our teams. We used to play Chelsea youth, and many of those players were to go on to sign professional contracts. I used to believe they were looking at me, but that was probably pure imagination. In my early days I was a number 9. I was 5 foot 6 at 11 and weighed 8 stone, so I used to score a lot of goals through physical strength alone, as other kids grew bigger, I became less successful.
My house was like a doctors surgery, the phone rang incessantly. My mother kept the books and I played football. I don’t know when I started to play football, probably at 4 or 5. It was every day 7 days a week; and when I wasn’t playing football, I was watching it. I can remember the smell of Vaseline. Even now that smell is the smell of a changing room. In the winter when it was seriously cold we would cover ourselves in Vaseline, it meant the first time the ball thumped against our thighs, it stung just a little bit less. I spent so much time in changing rooms, going around different grounds and parks, following the various Triangles teams. We used to formally train a couple of evenings a week, and I would attend other training sessions just to be around footballers, and also so I could see my dad. If I wasn’t around the football, I wouldn’t see my dad.
My father loved football, but had never supported one particular team. So on the Saturday throughout the football season, we would go and watch a London club at home. We went round them all. My first ever match, was something that was, for me, a wonder to behold. It turned out to be an evening match. It was Chelsea v Notts Forest on February 22nd; under lights All blue against Red and white, it made a massive impression on me and I was hooked. For those interested Forest won 1-0, Chelsea’s only home defeat that season, and Peter Grummitt was man of the match in the Forest goal. The drama, and excitement was vivid and fantastic. That Chelsea side were a terrific team. Peter Bonetti, “the cat” in goal. Peter Osgood, at the time arguably the finest footballer of the day, up top. Chopper harris, Eddie Mcready, Charlie Cooke, it was some team. Interestingly as a player, one of my highlights was receiving a medal from Bonnetti. A nice guy as well as a superb goalkeeper.
For a while, at least I was a Chelsea fan. They were super cool, of the Kings Road and all that, and most boys from my school, based in Clapham Junction, supported them. It didn’t last long, once I had sampled the delights of Loftus Road, and Griffen Park, I became fans of both QPR and Brentford. I became a “full time” fan of just QPR in 1974, having been a part time one from 1967. I experienced them going to within 20 minutes of winning the league title in 1976. That day when we effectively handed the league title to Liverpool, by losing at Norwich, was the last time I cried at a football match. Tears well shed. We will never, in my lifetime, come as close again.
I left London forever in 1977 and have lived in Southampton since 1980. I never stopped being a “fan” of QPR, but in the 1980’s financially I veered between being desperately poor and seriously poor, so opportunities to see Rangers were limited. That said there were many great memories and some not so good. I saw QPR at the Dell whenever they played, and remember being amongst thousands of Saints fans when Dave Beasant let the ball through his legs for the goal which gave us a 1-0 victory. Surrounded by many furiously angry Southampton fans, I managed to not celebrate the goal by biting hard on my gloves. I was keen to get all my three children into football. Estel the oldest did for a while avidly follow Eastleigh, he lost interest when he moved away, ultimately to Stevenage, my daughter Kieran, likes football and does come to the occasional EFC match; but it was to be Rendel who was to became the keen football fan, and as many of you know he still is today.
Rendel’s first match was on April 15th 1989. He saw an awful 0-0 draw between QPR and Middlesborough. The date however was rather more significant for the hideous tragedy that was Hillsborough. During the half time interval we were hearing about all the dead bodies on the pitch. Explaining that to a 7 year old child was not easy. In the 6th round Liverpool had actually beaten Rangers in a replay. I often think had QPR won that tie there would have been no tragedy and football as we know it, would probably be a very different game. Despite the awful nature of the match, Rendel was hooked, and we have been going to football matches together ever since. In recent years I have been seeing QPR on my own, Rendel still, usually, gets along to see Eastleigh.
In the 1980’s, most of my football following was spent listening to the radio and following on teletext. I could never follow Southampton. Unlike many I have no particular hostility to them, it’s more just an indifference. I genuinely just don’t care how they get on. Throughout the decade I was aware that there was an Eastleigh Football club. I didn’t know where it was, but with me living in Swaythling just 2-3 miles from the town, I guessed it was pretty close. I followed their results, read about the club in the Pink on Saturday’s and had a feeling that one day I would need to find out where they played and go and see a game. Thanks of the fantastic book by Gary Day and Ray Murphy I am able to remind myself of the progress they made in that decade. They started it in the Hampshire league and were always in the top few. Then in the 1986/87 season they got themselves into the nearly formed Wessex league. This was a huge step up as indicated by the league placings which were usually in the lower half.
In those days I had 3 young children and my family were seriously poor, we didn’t have a car, and in fact could barely afford to travel by bus. What we did was walk, a lot. Often with no destination planned, we would just walk wherever the fancy took us. It was on one such walk that we were finally to discover Eastleigh Football club. The walk in question took us up Stoneham lane, for no other reason than we hadn’t walked up there before. There were very few cars, back in 1992, very few indeed that were to be seen travelling along Stoneham Lane. In fact in the early days we used to count the number which would pass us, it was always single figures, often low single figures. Any way on this particular day about 20 minutes up the lane, standing on the right was the Eastleigh Football club, which I had read so much about in the Echo. Appropriately standing just inside the grounds was, a man I now know to be Derik Brooks. He was only too happy to talk to us about the club, and to inform us that in a couple of days time they had a league cup final taking place against Thatcham. If we wanted to go there was a coach going and we were very welcome. As it happens we didn’t go, and in the final match of that season (1991/92), Eastleigh were to lose 1-0 after extra time.
Having decided we wouldn’t see that game, me and my three children (Estel, Kieran and Rendel) decided that from the start of the following season, we were going to Follow the club. When we made that decision, we had no idea where it would lead us, Estel got heavily into it for some years, before he went away to university, Kieran went some weeks, but not others, and still sees the occasional match today, with her chap and two children. Us others, Rendel and I were to be lifers. And are still here today.
Posted: 12 March 2018