My brother and I often played football in our back-yard and accompanied our play with a breathless and inventive running commentary that was only silenced by the evening call to supper.
Hard to believe that it's more than three score years ago.
I was West Ham, claret and blue;
my brother, Manchester City:
simply arbitrary choices.
Just kids, we didn’t have a clue,
as we outdid Walter Mitty
in our dreaming. We heard voices
of imaginary team-mates,
a ref’s shrill whistle, the crowd’s chant;
pictured a stream of cloth-capped men
filing through turnstiles, the broad gates
of Upton Park, ant after ant
in an anthill of sound. Often,
I’d let him win: I was older.
More often, I’d score the winner:
(Vic Keeble, with gunslinger eyes,
shoots the first goal!). Few were bolder
than Keeble. When called for dinner
we’d comply with audible sighs.
and the pitch would become backyard
or patchy grass once more. Roy Paul
would sit with Vic to eat barmbrack
and jam, forgetting that they’d warred
for Cup or points. We loved football
back then, and football loved us back.