When you’re in late adolescence, it seems so important to have an identity, to make you stand out amongst your peer group; well that was how I saw it during the Sixties when I was at Boston Grammar School in my Lincolnshire home town, and from the ages of 17 to 19 I was the school goalkeeper, eventually receiving my “school colours” from the Headmaster, for which one had to go up onto the stage during morning assembly.
It all started when the Gannock’s house team couldn’t find a pupil to go in goal, my father had been a goalkeeper so I volunteered. Pretty soon I was diving acrobatically across the goal tipping hard shots round the post and my speciality became throwing myself onto incoming forwards’ feet and smothering the ball. The reason for the latter was that, in the midst of depressing adolescence and losing one’s girlfriend, at that time I had little concern for my health and safety! I then graduated to the school second eleven and when the first team keeper left the school, I became an unrivalled number one.
I particularly enjoyed the atmosphere on the team bus, many of us singing and playing acoustic guitars, we trotted out all the Sixties’ chart numbers. Visits to Kesteven Teacher Training College and the RAF College at Cranwell, near Sleaford were a real eye-opener to me.
One encouraging and heartwarming detail I remember about all the Saturday morning home games was the sight of Mr Wilkinson, the elderly grey dignified History teacher, on the touchline; he had no connection with running the school team but he always turned out to show his support, and gave the very same shout of encouragement throughout each game – “Come on, the School,” I don’t recall him ever saying anything else; but I should have suggested to him a slight variation – “Come on, the School Goalkeeper,” Ah, those were the days.