Rite of Passage

Ninth month 1970

Boy of seven summers, witness of owl badge eleven inaugural

Peacocks by name but not by feather, plumage white of spectre

Shirts a blank canvas at kick-off, soon rendered by sweat and blood

Child’s blank canvas rendered by fledgling football memories

Pater’s eternal gift for offspring; a point from where he can’t regress

Amongst tribe, son’s first sample of Kop stale Tetley’s & urine eau de cologne

Today’s foes the Saints come marching out, being in their number not option

Boy’s heart belongs to achromatically feathered peacocks.


Sat on barrier, lad’s blue eyes witness tepid game opening by owl badge eleven

Saints early Kop end penalty, crowd’s catalyst to broaden lad’s vocabulary

Giant Welsh striker Davies confronted by compatriot Sprake

A keeper blonde of lock, error prone of disposition

Davies the Penalty strikes ball hard to Sprake the Saves left

Viking like stopper prevails, pouncing on left corner bound sphere

Boy surprised to hear Kop brisk words of celebration mirror those of anger

Men in black with white napkin collar still targeted for abuse regardless

Wee fella wisely refrains enquiring “Dad, what’s a bastard?”

Despite young age, aware caution required before mimicking tribe.


Later half uno, owl badge eleven now spot-kick recipients

Kop question not decision of man in black

His parent’s marital status at birth not felt worthy of mention on this occasion

Emerald Isle schemer, not farmer, Giles stands hands on hips awaiting

Crowd expectant, hoping his wellington boots won’t hinder strike

With Scratching Shed stood adjacent, penalty dispatched top left

1-0  owl badge eleven lead, Yer man from land of little people milks adulation

Adulation not cow from County Kerry, but plaudits of Elland Road tribe

Remainder of contest barren. Saints march home point bereft

For boy, commencement of over two score years of elation, tears, euphoria and fears.

first game

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