Pete and other friends were quite keen on soccer, in fact Peter still plays and he is a few years older than me. I had played rugby at school and can’t say I have a bent for soccer, but I am willing to have a go at most sports. Lidgett Methodist Youth Club had details for a five-a-side competition and Peter and some others organised a team. I know Chris Mills, Stuart Spinks, Peter, one other and myself formed a team. I was to be the goalie, mainly because I was stupid enough to throw myself around onto the hard gym floors, particularly at the feet of opponents who were going to score. I think it was the shock of the idiot diving towards them that put them off and allowed me to save the goals, rather than my skill, but as no one else wanted the job I had it. The others were quite talented and together we put together a half decent team.
My memory is a little hazy, but I believe that there was a competition that took place at the Judean Club at Moortown where they had a great indoor soccer facility. It was a good size and the rules allowed the ball to be played off the walls. As keeper, I was the only one allowed to handle the ball and there was a small D zone where no attacking players could enter. The goals were much smaller than standard goals, but it was quite possible to score if the keeper stayed on the line. As a result, I developed my famous charge at the player who had the ball, making myself as wide as possible with the hope of either blocking the shot, grabbing the ball or at least putting the attacker off. When I had the ball I had to quickly roll it out to a free player to enable them to score. Speed was the essence of this game and even though we had games of about seven minutes a half, it was frenetic and stamina played a major part. I was allowed to come out of the area as long as I didn’t use my hands and I could intercept any free balls.
We played the first competition and did quite well. The next time we did better than well and won the local round. As winners, we had to take part in another knockout competition to decide who would represent the City of Leeds. This one took place in one of Allerton Grange’s gymnasiums on a Saturday afternoon. There was more than one court used at a time and the format was the same as we were used to. We had quite a crowd of supporters and they could observe the games, if they wanted, from the balcony. At the start there were a lot of spectators, but as the day developed the support waned. It was definitely more exciting playing than watching and we were proving to be a force to be reckoned with. In the end it was between us and another team and we played the game with a large audience, but I noticed that my girlfriend at the time was missing.
The game was played with real passion, a few frayed tempers at some of the physical tackling. I threw myself about with total abandon as we had to win or else that was it for the competition. For some reason it all seemed to work that day and we ended up winning. The Youth leaders were particularly pleased as we had to go on and represent the City as part of the national competition. There was to be a disco back at the club that evening and the mood was high as we were victorious. I discovered my girlfriend had been messing about with another of our friends, Paul, which didn’t please me. That evening at the disco, I explained the error of his ways in the Basil Faulty/Manuel method by thumping him once.
As winners, we had to go and play away against the Lincolnshire winners at Spalding a few weeks after our success. The club hired a coach and a day trip was arranged. Up to this point we didn’t have a team strip and Chris felt we should have one so a set of Liverpool soccer shirts were ordered. They were yellow with a red stripe. Why, you might well ask, would we wear a Liverpool shirt? The answer was that Chris thought that the LFC could stand for Lidgett Football Club. This question was asked by supporters in Spalding. I would have thought a Leeds United shirt would have been far more appropriate.
The day came and an excited group of teenagers and club leaders boarded the coach for Spalding. We felt we had a good chance. We were fast, played a mean game and had beaten all the teams we had come across. We looked fairly smart, if not a bit Quixotic, in the yellow and red striped shirts, shorts, training shoes and socks. The journey was long, on winding country roads and some were feeling a little sick by the time we arrived. Lincolnshire was flat as a pancake, rural and we could see no sports centre when we pulled up. What we saw was a grass soccer pitch, reduced in size, but with much larger than we were used to goals. We were flabbergasted. This couldn’t be right.
The local side had a huge fan base and we were welcomed, not at all. There were jeers, comments on our Liverpool strip and our footwear. Cedric and the other leader went in to discuss what was going on. They came out to tell us that we had to play under these conditions. It was apparently all under the rules. I can tell you that we were far from pleased and that if we were back in Leeds we wouldn’t have played. We would never have taken to the pitch. We stood no chance. They wore boots with studs and the pitch was wet and muddy. In our trainers, we couldn’t get any traction. There was no rebounding the ball off the walls and basically it was a totally different game. It was very disappointing and I know the leaders were disappointed. We were humiliated! Five strapping rural lads, with shin pads, boots and familiarity with the ground and rules, thrashed us. The goals were much bigger and they could just pick a spot and blast it past me. I threw myself around, but this time it was of no use as I couldn’t narrow any angles and the goals just sat open. In fairness to my friends, they didn’t blame me. None of us could keep our feet in the mud, running was impossible and all the skills we had honed were useless. I think the score was over ten nil and they showed no mercy whatsoever. At least the refreshments they provided were good. Afterwards it was a very subdued team and coach of supporters that returned to Leeds. What had promised so much was snatched away from us in unfair circumstances, much like a lot in life.
We started playing soccer at weekends on the Soldiers’ Field and even in the Arena at Roundhay Park. These were friendly games and that summer was a long hot one. Afterwards we would go for refreshments at The Lakeside Cafe. It was a wooden building with a kiosk near the entrance and a more formal cafe inside. I had always thought it was an old tram shed, but apparently not. It was on the site of the children’s playground near the car park and the current Boat House Cafe, which at that time was just a boat house. At weekends The Lakeside Cafe would be the gathering place for teenagers with lots of scooters parked outside, their chrome fairings and mirrors gleaming in the sun.
We carried on playing five-a-side the following year, at the Judean. We never enjoyed the same success, but were always competitive. We went there socially as a number of friends were members and we sometimes saw bands there. I can’t remember how it was arranged, but our rock band, now called Atlantis, was booked to play a concert at the Synagogue that was near Moortown Corner, but that will have to wait for another tale.
For those who might be interested, below is a link to the audio book version of my latest fantasy/science fiction novel. This is Part 1 and the next part will be added each week. Each part is approximately thirty minutes and it is freely available for you to listen to. This is Book four of a five part series, but a short summary of what has happened starts it off. The previous audio book versions are available for you to listen to on my blog web site.