Great Kickabouts of the World #1 Birkenhead Park

Posted: September 3, 2011 in Half Man Half Biscuit, Tranmere Rovers FC
Tags: ,

I’ve still got a few remaining footballing dreams to fulfil – one of them is to play some proper football in Brazil and Argentina, which should happen next January with any luck, when we’re heading out there with our friends from the Easton Cowboys and Cowgirls on their next incredible tour.  But one of my big ambitions was finally ticked off the list yesterday, when I actually managed to be back on the Wirral on a Friday afternoon, and so I at long last got to play in the famous Birkenhead Park all-comers’ match.

I used to walk through Birkenhead’s Park on my way home from school most days, but don’t think I’ve ever previously kicked a ball on the luscious greensward of this, one of Britain’s most influential and historic public spaces.    This informal, some would say anarchic, gathering of Merseyside’s musical football veterans and assorted non-rat-racers has gone on every Friday for over 18 years. I first heard about it in Kevin Sampson’s  1998 book ‘Extra Time’ , which was kind of a ‘Fever Pitch for Liverpool fans’ type of thing – not that I’m sure Kevin would thank me for that comparison!

Kevin himself has pretty much hung up his boots now, and so it seems has the legendary Jegsy Dodd. Pity. Meanwhile, Peter Hooton of The Farm still attends most weeks, but recently he’s been too busy organising loads of important stuff, so I didn’t get to see him in action this time. Other members of The Farm and their friends were in attendance, as of course was the ever-present Nigel Blackwell of Half Man Half Biscuit.  ‘Nippy Nige’, I could call him. The days when opposing defenders used to say that about me are long gone, but this other Nigel, you see, keeps himself in a lot better shape than I’ve been doing lately, and is still a definite force to be reckoned with anywhere in the opposition’s half – particularly anywhere where his legendary “restless” left leg can leather a low lasher, or perhaps loft a lethal little looping lacer.  And he’s six weeks younger than me, you see, so no wonder he ran rings round me all afternoon.

Apparently this game used to be divided into Scousers v. Wirralians, but the sides today were decided roughly according to the colour of the shirts we happened to turn up in. That’s how the two best attackers ended up on the same side, with yours truly a lumbering defender on the other.  Nigel B. was aided and abetted in attack by a tricky Bosnian exile called Nico, a former semi-pro – he “played a few games for TNS”, I was warned. The two of them shared most of the goals, and athough I kept  a clean sheet when it was my turn to go in, beating aside a couple of stinging drives from Blackwell,  I conveniently lost count of the overall score well before the end. Good laugh though.

In other news, our post-match pints in The Shrew took me back to the sixth form days when it was a regular under-age haunt, and by sheer coincidence Peter “Agent” Johnson, Chairman of the mighty Rovers, was holding court in there in there when we went in. Get a grip Johnson and get Ronnie Moore back ASAP.

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