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A Little Story About Finsbury Park, Alfie and Wilson 

By Andrew Vaughan


And on the day that Spurs sign an (above) average player in Wilson Palacios for an (above) average price my mind goes back to 1979. I’m at Finsbury Park tube station waiting for the lads. The Michael Sobell Centre for five-a-side. The dark, dismal Finsbury Park. Before yuppies and the gentrification of Islington. Arsenal country and a mix of Paddies, Greeks, Turks and West Indians with very few white faces and that mix are all at the Sobell.

But we play twice a week and down Dr Peppers after the game. What or who the fuck is Dr Pepper? Not had that in Wigan before but then again I’ve not had doner kebab or jerk chicken or goat curry. I’ve had Guinness though and I’ll be having a few more after the football and the Dr Pepper but for now I’m waiting for the lads in this dark and dodgy Finsbury Park. And as they turn up we start talking about football and our favourite players.

“Bob Wilson,” says Anwar and Anwar’s our goalie and he’s Arsenal and he’s allowed to say Bob Wilson but for the rest of us it is outfield players and skilful outfield players. And for me it’s Stan Bowles ‘cos “Stan’s the Man” and we all know that. Passing the ball better than betting shop’s and all those old clichés but of course he’s much more than that. Saw him a few years back many times. Ran the show. QPR won 2-0 at Goodison and it’s the best I‘ve ever seen anybody play. But Gal thinks Charlie Cooke’s better. He isn’t but I let him have his say. Cooke’s Kings Road while Bowles is White City - a postcode away but a world apart.

And the Spurs lads turn up and we say: “Who’s your favourite ever Spurs player?”

And Ade says: “Alfie Conn” and Dell says “Alfie Conn” and Tone says “Alfie Conn” and I say “Who the fuck is Alfie Conn?”

Which is a bit of a wrong ‘un really as I know who he is but he isn’t that good and he hardly played for Spurs? But of course such things don’t matter that much. Because greatness is measured n different ways and Alfie Conn was magic to these lads.

He was the King of White Hart Lane…

He only played thirty odd games and scored just six goals – three in one match and then three at the end of the season to keep Spurs up. His final goal was against Leeds – dirty Leeds – and Spurs won and he bewildered a dirty set of bastards before sitting on the ball while Bremner, Clarke et al snarled. And Conn had all the skills in the world ad he had attitude and mad hair and mad sideburns... And that is why Alfie Conn was their favourite player. Because that’s what football is about.

And on the day that Wilson Palacios signs for Spurs Alfie Conn does a night shift in a warehouse. The man that started at Hearts went to Rangers and went to Spurs and then – shock horror - signed for Celtic…

Last year Conn told the Daily Record that he had no regrets about his career nor begrudges the modern football his wages.

He said: "I'm delighted because in December I became a granddad - and you can't buy that."

And you can’t “buy” who your favourite footballer is and in ten years some Spurs and Arsenal and Wigan lads might be sat around talking about whom their favourite footballer is and you never know it might be Wilson Palacios… but somehow I doubt it.





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