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Billy's Boots

By Duncan Hamilton

ENGLAND has a tradition of producing oustanding defenders. Moore, Butcher,  Des Walker. You could have added Duncan Hamilton to that list in my mum  hadn't thrown a wobbler over my first pair of footie boots.  I knew times were hard when the Radio Rentals lads turned up to take the  colour telly away and in place of this ostentatious wooden cabinet with  briezeblock-sized remote control appeared a black and white portable with a  glorified coathanger as an aerial.

But as the KTG guide to footie advised this young pup:  ''Buy the best boots  you can''. So sod the gas bill, dad - let's have some of Mr Dassler's finest  cup-winning clogs. My dad hated shopping - so always opted for the SAS-style lightning raid.  That day's trip to Sports shop/trophy engraver/leather good seller/Subbuteo  merchant DF Jackson was no different. You could see in his eyes he wanted  in, slot the target and back to barracks for cup of tea before the pubs opened.  We were ushered to the footwear department upstairs. You'd be hard pressed  to find a finer array of shiny black leather this side of a Berlin S&M club.

Modern sports shops smell of spotty teenage staff's Joop and customers'  Stella sweat.
Jackson's smelt of leather and nowt else.  And. with some strong hint-dropping from England's future super-stopper,  combined with an old-fashioned, gentle sales pitch from a Jacko's assistant,  a pair of Adidas Beckenbauers were purchased.  Glorious things - simple as fuck black with white stripes and a nice red  spanner complete with trefoil for taking the studs out should you wish to  wear them to school.  12.99 please sir. Would you like the box? YES I FUCKING WOULD. That blue  'das box was almost as important as the fussball schu inside. I could picture it sitting on my bookshelves alongside various Mister Men books and footie annuals like a designer bookend.

Walking back to the car I asked pops if I could wear them for the journey home, but was told no, you'll scuff the studs. Shucks. 30-odd years on, I realise there was a reason he was telling me this - he obviously knew the  shitstorm that awaited when we got through the front door and had half a mind Jackson's might be getting these boots back before the vidiprinter had coughed out its last result at 5pm that Saturday. Sure enough, as key turned in lock my mum appeared at the top of the stairs. She saw the blue box bearing the 6 letters that spelt unbridled joy to a 6-year-old and horror to skint parents. There was a tense, silent stand-off, like when De Niro and Pacino come face-to-face in Heat. Then my mum, raised in post-war poverty in Burnley, asked the question ''How much did you spend?''

My dad knew fibbing was pointless as the price tag was still on the blue box. ''Twelve ninety-nine'' he replied. There then followed a noise like a cattery being torched, which probably shook the windows of Adidas HQ all the way over in the Fatherland. My mum screeched in her Burnley accent ''HOW MUCH? HOW BLOOODY MUCH? TAKE THEM BACK'' then burst into floods of tears. I think she threw something at my dad too. I didn't even get the chance to try 'em on again. It was straight back to Jackos for some humiliating refund negotiations. And there was worse to follow. I still needed boots, unless my mum wanted me to play in Mister Men slippers. Not much cop against an Oughtonhead Primary under 7s side already well versed in the dark arts of stamping an aluminium stud into your big toe at corners. Now I've read the stories about Maradona, Pele and the like playing with old bits of tyre/bandage/moonboots on their feet but would they seriously consider kicking a ball of rags around the favela in a pair of Freeman Hardy Willis mouldies? No. I couldn't either.

But to the wire basket outside FHW we went. These atrocities were black plastic with a yellow stripe that looked like something you'd plaster down the side of an Escort XR3. Or, more accurately, if you tried to combine every sports shoe manufacturers logo - adidas, nike, bukta, asics, mizuno, diadora into one design. 3.99 though, so my mum was chuffed. We lost to Oughtonhead 8-0 that Saturday and after the placcy horrors split a few weeks later, I got a pair of Woolies' ''Panther'' brand boots. Leather and identical to the Beckenbauer, except there was no trefoil protecting your achilles, only the words ''Panther'' which any eagle-eyed cunt could spot and puncture my pretensions of wearing God's finest sports brand. Some Le Coq's followed, but I played like Un Coq in them and so the dream of getting signed for Spurs/Aberdeen withered on the primary school footie vine.

I now ply my trade in some six-year-old astro wellies which adidas brought out as a cheap replica of the Predator. They're designed for old carthorses like me too mean to cough up for Predators and - too shit to get the ball to swerve anywhere but into the sports centre car park anyway. Ah well. England's loss is Mile End Stadium five-a-side pitch Number 8's gain.





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