Friday, 27 May 2011

A Real Football Hero.

Having said I don't normally 'do' topical here we go again. The Ryan Giggs affair really set me going and here's why. I personally quite admired the guy, so I view his antics with both surprise and disappointment. (Ryan Giggs, professional footballer, married, father of four has a 'liason/affair' with a young lady and tries to use the full force of the law to stop anyone from being aware of his antics. Says he's thinking of his children. Bit late, Ryan, what a hypocrite!)
To those who say his private life is his own business, I say rubbish, we're entitled to know. This man earns millions from football and even more millions as a 'whiter than white' ambassador for football. He is, like it or not, a role model for millions of children.
My background is ordinary, working class village boy born in the first months of the war. Plus I was orphaned at the age of thirteen. Role models have always been important, particularly where young males are concerned; in my case, because of my circumstances doubly so. The like of Reg Harrison, footballer was particularly important in my formative years. Contrast Reg's career with the spoilt, prima donna's of the modern footballing world.
Reg Harrison was a young man, a keen, honest Derby born and bred professional footballer aged nineteen in 1946, playing for Derby County in the immediate post war years. In an era of shortages there were special problems for professional sportsmen and women. Sport is reliant on fitness; diet is a critical factor if success is to be achieved. Footballers were allocated no extra rations yet a level of fitness was maintained creditable in the extreme. True, there was the occasional perk of extra meat from a butcher in return for match day tickets. There was also a Derby County team manager who was in the catering trade, providing the players with a meal once a week, tripe and onions being a particular favourite. But there were no massive wages to supplement the player's diet, even had extra rations been available.
Reg signed a contract in 1946 for the princely sum of ten pounds a week. The manager somewhat apologetically explained that only long term first team regulars were paid more, he, Reg was what was termed ‘a slider', any increase, and small at that depending on regular first team football. In fact a member of Reg’s family earned more after stoppages working as a foreman in the local Rolls Royce factory. Which would suggest that admired they might well have been, but immediate post war footballers were seldom financially secure. Reg never forgot the club director, an accountant by profession who solicitously inquired, shortly after Reg married as to whether he was saving his money. As Reg inevitably retorted, ‘Chance would have been a fine thing on footballer’s wages’.
Reg lived with his parents until he married and then moved to a small house in the town, from where he walked to work. Not that he considered training twice a day preseason and playing twice a week in season as work. A hard life physically, but one he enjoyed just the same. A life that brought the reward coveted by all British footballers. A FA Cup appearance with the ultimate reward, a cup winner’s medal. For in 1946 Derby County reached the FA Cup Final, meeting Charlton Athletic at Wembley on Saturday the 27th April.
Tickets for the match were eagerly sought by a Derby population starved of real football excitement for almost six long war years. Prices ranged from 3/6 (17p) to £2 2 0s (£2 10s). Derby County were allocated 12,000 tickets, applications by post only, though season ticket holders were assured of a seat. Some travelled on the thirteen special trains travelling from Derby minus a ticket. In fact some 10 6d (52 p) tickets were changing hands before the match for £10 10s (£10 50s). The idea that these were times devoid of football disorder was somewhat questioned when hundreds attempted to gain free entrance just before the match and had to be dispelled by mounted police.
Prior to the match the team stayed at a hotel in Harpenden, four to a room; Reg shared with Angus Morrison, Chick Musson and Jim Bullion. Normally the team had tea and toast for breakfast plus a meal before a match of boiled fish or chicken. On this illustrious occasion they had the luxury of breakfast in bed; egg and sherry mixed with milk and sugar before a coach took them to Wembley Stadium. Each player was allocated two tickets, not over generous when one considers the crowd numbered one hundred thousand.
Derby won a memorable match 4-1 after extra time. An extraordinary game made even more so when the ball burst, a rare occurrence indeed. The team stayed overnight again at Harpenden and played Arsenal in London the following Monday.
On Tuesday 30th April 1946 the conquering heroes were paraded round Derby to rapturous acclaim on the back of an Offilers Brewery wagon; from the Blue Peter Public House in Alvaston to the Police Building in Full Street. The following day Derby played another league match and yet again the following Saturday. Counting from the Saturday before the Cup Final Derby County played six games in fifteen days. The players received their normal wages plus an inscribed Royal Crown Derby plate; the pampered existence of modern footballers a far-cry away.
I still see Reg at the Derby County games. He is over eighty years of age. (There are two Derby County survivors from the cup final game, Reg and Jim Bullions.) A lovely, unassuming, modest man, married for many, many years; thanks for the memories, Reg. You may not be rich but you are still greatly admired. You put the likes of Ryan Giggs to shame.



quilterliz said...

G'day Ken. Reg sounds like a good guy, shame there are not more like him. Take care. Liz...

Unknown said...

My stepfather played professional football in the late 40's, early 50's. He was 'spotted' by the Wolves and future England captain, Billy Wright during WWII when my stepfather, when not hurling artillery at the enemy, played football in the Army.

I believe that Billy Wright was a physical training instructor in the army at the time but had already 'signed' for Wolves.

Billy Wright tried to persuade my stepfather to play for Wolves, but he wanted to go to his home town of Rotherham where he broke into a very successful Rotherham United side (not as successful as Wolves I hastened to add) as their centre half.

You forgot to mention that in those days, there were no substitutes in football. If a player got injured, he either played on or the team played with ten men. Invariably, the player played on with the injury.

You were right about small wages. During the close season, my stepfather had two jobs to earn extra cash; assistant groundsman at Rotherham United and also professional cricket for, believe it or not, Rotherham Cricket Club.

I agree with you, I despair at these so called football celebrities 'abusing' their celebrity status. I have no sympathy for them. They should have kept it in their trousers.

By the way, my stepfather's name is Alf Gibson.

Nice post.

Sueann said...

I think most all sport celebs pale in comparison to Reg! Or Lou Gehrig or the like! Modern day sports is so out of proportion it is obscene! The monies they receive are astronomical!! How can they remain grounded when they live in the stratosphere!! A shame really!

Andy said...

Like most kids I always wanted to be a professional footballer but had to accept early on that I wasn't good enough. See this link.

I watch the blessed prima donnas of today and wonder if they know how lucky they are.

Of all of them though, RG was I felt, someone to admire, and a terrific role model for youngsters with similar aspirations.

Truly disappointing and what must old Reg think of it all, still drawn to the game all these years on?

I will still be watching him on Saturday, but it will never be the same again.

Great post again Ken.

Valerie said...

The oldies are definitely the best. The very rich players we have these days are so lacking in morals.

Insert-cool-name-here said...

I think public attention is the price you pay for fame. Your not ok with everyone knowing your private buisness? Don't become a "celebrity" I think footballers wages are a bit out of control some of them can earn 100,000...a week! Some people won't even earn that in thier life

the fly in the web said...

Football clubs have gone the same way as stockbrokers...once the big money comes in and the club becomes a generator of income in selling kits and other tat, sport and sporting behaviour go out of the window.
Same in the City when the big bang came in under Thatcher...and the banks got their mitts on the place with the consequences we all now know..
Mr. Fly came up in the era when 'My word is my bond' meant something.
He wouldn't last a minute among the sharks that run things these days.

Troy said...

They certainly don't make them like Reg nowadays.

I was actually named after a footballer - one of the best of his generation - who went to Juventus to play and who was nicknamed the Gentle Giant. It could have been much worse as at least his name is two decent christian names. I'm sure you'll know who I mean.

Maggie May said...

Well he may be a good footballer..... I'm not really into sport.
However, if the celebrities want fame....... then they must behave themselves or expect people to gossip & get upset.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

The bike shed said...

Money and pressure and stress and constant publicity - I wouldn't want to be Ryan Giggs and for all he's been a daft lad I have real sympathy that his private life has become other peoples entertainment. I don't think it follows at all that we have a 'right' to know just because he earns a lot of money. I"m afraid much more suspicious of the motives of the media.

We need also to be a little careful about our rush to criticism - millions of people have extra marital affairs; one in three marriages end in divorce - I was divorced in my early twenties and that was, to be frank, partly because I met someone else, though no children were involved. It is a harsh world that judges in such black and white terms.

I hope that he sorts things out and comes through, like so many others who don't have to do so in the full glare of publicity

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Dear Ken,

I've just popped over (which I know I am rubbish at doing so apologies for that). I've just seen the number of your followers...blimey! The boy's done good!!! Well done marvellous man....keep up the good work. :) Hadriana xx

Moannie said...

I really do not know where to start, Ken. You have truly highlighted what is wrong with today's sporting heroes; too much money and to much adulation in response to kicking, hitting or throwing a ball. True sporting heroes, such as those athletes who bring home gold medals as the best in the world, have their moments in the sun, are photographed with their medals, then quietly fade back into normal life.
I detest the whole 'Star' thing and the 'Wag' thing...I mean who cares?

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Thanks quilterliz,slommler,Valerie, lilmissbookworm, fly in the web, Maggie May and Andy. You are quite right, Reg is one of the good guys.

I looked up Alf. Sounds a great defender.

John Charles, what a player!

Hi, in a way I agree with you. BUT Giggsy gets money off some for being super clean, top role model for children etc. Therefore I have little sympathy when the image is destroyed by his own foolishness.

Hadriana's Treasure
Hi, long time no hear! Take no notice of the numbers game, it was all a one week wonder!

Fools like me don't help by paying good money to watch football!