It’s funny how certain events trigger off something buried deep in the memory.
There was a downpour on May 11 1968. Manchester City and United went into the final game of the season – United at home to struggling Sunderland, City at Newcastle – on level points.
I spent the day at the local recreation ground with my pal who was a United fan. He had a George Best-style haircut and wore a United shirt. Actually, he was a decent player, one of the best, in fact, and if he had been a bit bolder, could have made it as a pro, of that I am sure.
We were nine years old at the time. We had spent the afternoon playing football with his Frido ball on the greasy turf, occasionally watching Ockendon United play in the Essex League of some sort.
A regular visitor to the rec was an unfortunate but perpetually happy chap called “Terry”, who was mentally disabled – a resident of the local mental hospital. He never went anywhere without his transistor radio. I was keen to know how Chelsea were getting on against Sheffield United as they need to win to gain a place in next season’s Inter Cities Fairs Cup. We also wanted to know what was going on in the two title games.
Terry kept limping over – he had a club foot, I recall – to keep us updated on his very fuzzy radio, which I swear was glued to his ear.
Towards the end of the game, he came over to tell us that United had lost and that City were champions after winning 4-3 at St. James’ Park. At that point, the heavens opened and to this day, I remember my friend’s United shirt running to leave a pink patch at the top of the collar. Funny how you remember these things. Chelsea won, so I was pleased, but for United, their next title was 25 years away. And by that time, Glyn, my pal, had moved to Cornwall.
Terry, by the way, had a mean left foot. The poor devil died in 1974 or 1975, choking on a piece of teacup he bit off while having a seizure of some sort.