I learned very early on that the Christmas present wrapped in the fanciest paper doesn’t necessarily mean that the gift inside is of similar quality.
It must have been Christmas Day in 1960 when I spotted a package beneath the tree at the ancient pile.
How my tiny heart trembles as I study the photographs of Brazilian footballing legend Pele upon the gaudy wrapping.
Immediately, I am transported to Saturday afternoon in the local park.
Sashaying down the wing in my risqué South American soccer slippers, I’m sure to catch the eye of any passing soccer scout looking for the next big thing.
Eagerly, I rip open the package.
Thud, go the boots as they fall heavily upon the parlour carpet.
Thud, goes my chin as it joins the massive toecaps upon the Axminster.
Thud, go my dreams as I see the brand name stencilled on the boots.
Woolworth’s Top Dog Continentals!
So it is that I never get to hear the chant, “Rogerinho! Rogerinho!” echo around the packed terraces.
So it is that I never catch the eye of a passing soccer scout.
So it is that I end up with ankles like a hippopotamus.
It wasn’t easy, I can tell you, dragging a stone and a half of prime real estate upon the toecaps of those grisly galoshes every Saturday afternoon.
I am reminded of that disheartening Christmas when I see the Dockers ‘A’ team on Friday evening.
Is this the ocheological equivalent of a Woollies Top Dog Continental I ask myself?
Like a scene from a turkey’s nightmare, they appear to be dressed from top to toe in Yuletide wrapping paper.
Little wonder that opponents the Blyth Spirits smile in a knowing way.
Bit on this occasion, the contents within turn out to be as festive as the paper itself.
The highlight of a comfortable 6-2 win over neighbours Dockers ‘B’ is a masterclass from Adam Blyth, this his fourteenth straight win of the campaign. And with Christmas being all about families, it is also fitting to see that Adam’s dad Cliff is adjudged best on the night for the subjugated Spirits.
Keeping pace with the table topping Preston Street Boys are Highbury ‘A’, the silver threepenny bit at the heart of this tasty ocheological octet, the ubiquitous Robert Dagger. Securing his fifth man of the match nomination of the season, Robert inspires the joint leaders to a 6-2 win over Highbury ‘B’, for whom John Michael Shaw is pugnaciously proficient.
The Olympians keep up their pursuit if the top two with a 7-1 demolition of visitors the Cricket Club. Cavan Thake is best on the night for the victorious Mount, with Darrell Moore flying a solitary flag of resistance for the crestfallen cricketers.
Defending champions the Cons also make short work of the visiting Fuzzy Ducks on Friday, an opening 152 from Colin Newton is the highlight of a one sided encounter upon Lowther Road. Andy Gratrix alone is delighted with his efforts for the 7-1 losers, his victory much needed after a brace of slip ups in the last fortnight.
Chris Garton is also suitably pleased to be back in the winner’s enclosure on Friday, his second mistletoe encounter of the campaign helping the Blasted Heathens secure a 5-3 win away at the Royal Oak.
Desperately in need of a few little helpers, the home side does at least have a roly-poly individual with a white beard to thank for keeping the scoreline respectable this week. Although, just like Santa, Paul Wood does tend to put in a shift like this only once a year.
Tracey Cunningham is the fairy atop the Femme Fatales tree this week, her 152 opener providing a sprinkling of magic in the dying embers of another pointless performance. Arthur Armstrong is the latest Grinch to spoil the ladies fun on Friday, as the Bowling Club ease their way to a comfortable 6-2 win in Albert Square.
Meanwhile, in deepest Thornton, the Beach Road Boys are getting back to winning ways at the retirement home. A brace of opening wins for Jack Wilson and Harold Rees gets the visitors off and running in fine style.
Although Dave Yates reduces the deficit it game three, before long the Queens have both points safely tuck away in their Christmas stocking, this after a trio of wins for Brad Ashton, top stick Mike Tallentire and Jamie Spore.
A splendid cameo for rampant retiree Dave Lang reduces the deficit to 5-2, this before Jeff Wright pulls out a plum for the visitors with the final darts of the match.
Finally this week, there is a bit of a pantomime taking place in Annie’s Attic, as visitors the Workingmens saunter into a comfortable 3-0 lead, courtesy of Geoff Ball, John Gregory and Phil Lee. An eleven darter by Stan Billington prevents the home side from sinking irrevocably below the waves in the first half.
Then, just as seven days previously, the Collapsibles gird their loins to good effect in the second period, Gaz Whitehead and Mark Brook levelling things neatly at 3-3.
But, this week they are to be denied a last gasp victory as visitor’s man of the match Steve Gray takes the Orientals to within touching distance of both points, a victory rudely snatch from their grasp thanks to some final heroics by last man Tony Kane, who thirty years previously had rattled in a 158 finish on the second week of December. Never let it be said that good things don’t come to those that wait.
It was also that year that I wrote to Father Christmas asking for a Craft Cockney dartboard. Obviously, Santa remembered the time I had asked for football boots.
It really shouldn’t have been a surprise when I discovered that what lay beneath the Eric Bristow themed wrapping paper, was not the item requested, but rather a cheap and nasty Woollies Adge Cutler and The Wurzels themed board, along with a set of Combined Harvester flights.
I can’t tell you how happy I was on the day that Woolworths closed their doors for the final time.
Thanks for reading.