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Flicking to Kick and Other Festive Football Frolics

by Holden Caulfield

 

It's Christ  . . .ma  . . . .sssssss!!!!!!!!  Do one, you bad brummie beaut.  Yes, indeed it is that time of year, a time when a local folk group advise us that it's clichéd to be cynical.  It's difficult not to be a tad curmudgeonly, though, as loads of corpse couples wander around own buying his 'n hers gifts; office parties full of bad Texans abound; and everybody and his brother appear to want to wish you 'all the best'.  Phonies.
 
Like every kid, I used to love Christmas, despite - without wishing to sound like Tiny fuckin' Tim - the fact that we were allowed only one present and a selection box, given our straitened circumstances.  I was always dead jealous of those spoilt bastards who invariably got the whole flotilla of TV-advertised paraphernalia: 'Operation', 'Buckaroo', 'Mousetrap', 'Meccano', 'Monopoly', and 'Bobby Charlton's Casdon Soccer'.  And speaking of the latter, I always selected something related to Association Football myself, like.  So here, in reverse order to make the tension too much to bear, is my all time top five footy-type Chrizzy presents.
 
5. Johnny Hot Shot
Can't believe I once chose this as my core prezzy.  It was an action man sized bloke in a footy kit, a small plastic match-ball, and a goal-net.  The object of the exercise was to get Johnny to kick the ball into the empty net by pulling back his leg and letting go.  And, er, that was it.  No goalie or nothing.  Fuckin' minutes of fun for all the family.
 
4. Striker
Now we're talking.  A 5-a-side game, populated by plastic players - in red and blue kits, natch - who each had a little gap in their foot, into which you rolled the ball.  They kicked by a press of the head, and also had a goalie with rotating arms.  Rather than this making for an exciting encounter, though, your keeper would just end up doing a Gary Sprake and throwing the ball into his own net.  'Big League' was similar, except you pulled back the players leg (see also; Hot Shot;Johnny) to kick the ball, and you had to paint the players kit on yourself - okay for Andy Warhol, but no use to a clumsy inelegant fucker like me.
 
3. Blow Football
A three-day week; power cuts; strikes at the docks; and me granddad really down to his last fiver.  So Blow Football it was, one Christmas ('74, as I recall).  How envious were me and our kid, of the speccy consumptive next door, whose ma wouldn't let us in in case we gave the pasty faced freak our nits.  He got that electronic tennis game which you plugged into the telly, and a cassette recorder (out of which boomed 'Bohemian Rhapsody' all Christmas Day). The twat.
 
2. Subbuteo
Granddad got this from a shipment to Waterloo Dock one year (or maybe he bought it from Jack Sharp's in Whitechapel), and it was the deluxe edition with the floodies, referee, a travelling army of synthetic supporters, 'n shit.  I set it up on the kitchen table, Celtic v Schalke 04, put the floodlights on, turned off the big light, and gazed in awe at the sexiest sight I've ever seen.  Beautiful it was.  It seemed a shame to disturb it, but, 'flick-to-kick' we did and, as I've got a piece lined up on subbuteo for a future SWINE, I'll leave it there for now.
 
1.  Waddington's Table Soccer
My Auntie gave me a £1 note, and I used 99p of it to purchase this in December '75.  At first glance, it was a glorified tiddly winks and, in terms of erotic frission, it couldn't hold a candle to subbuteo.  But this was very much a game you could play on your own, and this I did, for the next four years, whilst my peer group were wanking and listening to Pink Floyd.  A green cardboard pitch, two clip-on plastic nets, 22 plastic players and a counter for a ball.  I set up my own First Division, with made-up teams like Welchester United, Hepton Rangers, Barndale and Tandridge Town, and would disappear for hours into my own world.  Eventually, though, I thought that I should start to engage with real people, and sadly packed away the Waddington's for the final time.  Somewhere in my attic, though, there lurks a cardboard box and, if I listen carefully enough on still nights, I can still hear, say, Kevin Wentworth, of Welchester United, lashing the counter into the back of Hepton's net.  Merry Christmas, Mr Waddington, whoever you were, and wherever you are.  I love you, man.

 

 
   
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