Friday, January 20, 2006

Skinned / Birthday Boy

Lots of people have the same recurring nightmare. They're back at school, about to sit an exam. They turn over the paper and realise they know none of the answers.

And there are two hours and 59 minutes to go.

Footballers probably have their own version of this. Some right-backs that played in the old First Division certainly will. Put yourself in one of their shoes for a minute. Picture the scene.


A sunny September afternoon in the mid-70s. You run out for what should be one of your easier away games. This lot only scraped promotion last season. They’ve had a flukey couple of games and the manager’s a bit of a smartarse, but even he probably won’t keep them up.

You look around. A few old journeymen. A couple of kids - that young striker looks a handful, but he’s not your problem. You only have to watch this dumpy little Scottish bloke.

The crowd are a bit weird as well. The only stand with seats in it is packed with old blokes who are all looking at you.

They seem to be crouching. One of them even licked his lips. Weird.

If the first five minutes are anything to go by, this is going to be a picnic. Their only ploy is to work the ball out to Mr Useless, the one you have to mark if you can remember to do it. He looks a bit frightened of you - every time the ball goes near him, he gets rid of it.

But then something happens. Something that will still haunt you in your dotage.

The living dead in the seats all stand up at once. Has something happened? You look around - is there a fight off-the-ball or something?

No. That little bloke has got the ball again. And he’s ambling towards you. The zombies are all saying the same thing.

“Skin 'im Robbo!”

You look back at him. Or at least to where he should be - to your right. He’s not there. You look to your left. Where is he?

You look behind you - goal side of you now. There he is! Cheeky little bastard!

Thankfully, he’s slow enough to catch. A few seconds later, you’re back goal side of him again. Turn to face him now. He may need a quick boot in the shins to teach him some manners.

But he’s not there again. You turn left, and you see a red blur over your right shoulder. So you turn right, and he’s behind you to your left.

Next thing you know, you’re sitting on your arse and the ground has erupted. One Nil. And your dugout are giving you daggers. And there are eighty five more minutes of this to look forward to.

Congratulations. You just met
the unsung hero of 20th century football. The rest is history.

Today is his birthday. Neither I, nor you dear reader, are even fit to wipe his arse.

The rent-a-gobs that commentate on the modern game may have forgotten him. Those who played against him never will. They’re still sleeping with one eye open.

Happy Birthday John. I hope you have plenty more of them. And may the giving hand never falter.

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Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Beautiful post, just beautiful. John Neilson Robertson: dumpy glory of the game.

Now I just want to know, why no link to this?!

Darren said...

Wonderful player.

An inspiration to fat bastards everywhere.