Sunday, June 28, 2009

In Between Talking About The Football by Gordon Legge (Polygon 1991)

The old guy and the Rangers supporters are quizzing each other now. They start by exchanging old football jokes. Who was the only man to score past Pat Jennings with bare feet? Tony the Tiger in the Frosties ad. Name all the teams with x's in them? Choo! Choo! They rhyme off the classic sides: Real Madrid at Hampden, Brazil in '70, Leeds United at Hampden, Aberdeen in the Cup Winners' Cup final; Manchester United in '68. The pub supplies questions and debates the answers. Who was the 'keeper when Willie Donachie scored his own goal? Jim Blyth. What was the highest attendance at Cliftonhill? 27,000. How old was Arthur Graham in the 1970 Cup Final? Seventeen. Who was the only English team ever to field a side made up entirely of Scots? Accrington Stanley. Who was the only second division team ever to win the Cup? East Fife. They go on and on. Everybody's got their own special question to ask. Jim asks how many goals Falkirk scored in season 35/36. The old guy says '132'. The Rangers supporter says it was the third highest total ever. The old guy says Raith Rovers had the highest and the Rangers supporter agrees. The guy who used to hang about with the nutters asks what season Bo'ness United were in the first division. 'Season 27/28,' says the Rangers supporter. With a glint in his eye the old guy agrees and says they were relegated. This is serious. It's like High Noon without the shitty bits. The bell signals last orders but it's more like the command to come out fighting. The old guy and the Rangers supporter quiz each other about the other's team. Names fly like bullets in Beirut: Bertie Peacock, Willie Woodburn, Pat McCluskey, Iain MacDonald, Ally Dawson, Willie McStay. From where did they come and where did they go? They move from the past to the present and back again. They're naming the Cup Final sides easier than they could list their grandchildren. Games they, and tens of thousands of others, were at. They talk about matches that are twenty years old as if they took place last week. The old guy says, 'Name the side, the classic side, that lifted the Cup in '63?' Without thinking, the Rangers supporter rhymes off the classic side: 'Ritchie, Shearer, Provan, Greig, McKinnon,Baxter, Henderson, McLean, Millar, Wilson.' The old guy hollers with delight and does a jig of joy. He says, 'Fucking diddy you are, there was a replay and . . .' The Rangers supporter screams 'BASTARD!' at the top of his voice while the old guy goes on to remind him of how Ian McMillan replaced George McLean in the replay. The Rangers supporter says, At least we won. 3-0. Destroyed you. You lot left at half-time, you were that disgusted.' The old guy concedes that that was a good Rangers side but says the reason Celtic lost was cause they bottled out of playing Jimmy Johnstone in the replay. He goes on to say Rangers were always jammy in replays and blames the referees. The old guy won't shut up. He starts listing the Rangers sides involved in replays. He looks a bit demented and were it any other subject he would be more than whisked away in a white jacket. There's nothing nobody can tell him about football. The Rangers supporter threatens to empty the ice-bucket over the old guy's head if he doesn't shut up. This has the desired effect and they shake hands and agree they're both pretty smart. The Rangers supporter vows he'll one day get his revenge.
From the short story 'Baby on a String'.


Kevin Williamson said...

Just used the very same headline this morning! Is there some kinda Gordon Legge viral wave in the air? Or is this just a typical summer of a year that ends in an odd number?

Darren said...

At any one point in my adult life of the last 15 years of my life, I've always been only three days away from picking up a Gordon Legge book for the umpteenth time.

If there was ever was to be a Gordon Legge viral wave in the air, on the ground or via cyberspace - and why shouldn't there be, he's an undiscovered gem - it will have my greasy fingerprints all over it.

Kevin Williamson said...

I approached the National Library of Scotland a couple of months ago to see about holding a Gordon Legge Tribute Night there to mark the 20th anniversary of his first novel, The Shoe. They were up for it.

When we asked Gordon about it he said "I thought about it but decided against it."

Gordon must be one of the few writers on this planet who would walk away from a tribute evening! Kinda makes me like him even more.