I vividly remember writing an essay at school on the
subject of what I want to be when I grow-up.
It was an interesting subject and one of course that
all youngsters think about. Now from the lofty heights
of middle age I would question what exactly is the
definition of grown-up.
Does it imply simply taking out employment. If so
thousands of people in this country will not be allowed
to "grow-up" through no fault of their own.
Better still does it refer to size and weight. If so
I will always remain a teenager (unless of course the
latest diet fails) or does it refer to some mystical
measurement of maturity and being able to make
Anyway there I was aged about eight I should imagine,
being asked to answer that question. What do I want to
be when I grow up. I think today my answers might
include the words accepted by others, valued,
understood, cared for and treated like an individual.
But of course the essay was not about that. It was about
Later on at secondary school I was able to make a
realistic assessment of the question and answer it
simply. I would like to be either a journalist or a
teacher. Both of these aims were achievable - the fact
that at the age of 45 I firmly believe that I settled
for the wrong one is neither here nor there in this
At the age of eight of course all things are
possible. Being a teacher or journalist was a mundane
choice - all too easily obtainable and possible. No I
had to think of something more dynamic. And I suppose
that's where my love of sport or virtually every kind
I answered that essay by informing the teacher that I
intended playing football for Norwich City in the winter
and riding speedway for Belle Vue in the summer. I saw
no clash between these two aims - both were possible and
the thought of not achieving them never entered my head.
At that time I had no clue where Belle Vue was - I
just knew they were the best speedway team in the
country. Why I chose them instead of Norwich I do not
Now some 38 years on I see the stupidity of that
essay. I suppose I believed that when the last ball of
the season was kicked at Carrow Road (the home of
Norwich City Football Club) I would hang up my boots,
don my riding leathers and take to the shale with no
thought of pre-season training or overseas football
tours or injuries to concern me.
Similarly at the end of the speedway season I would
lay my machine down and return to football. Such is the
immaturity of youth when all things are possible.
Over the years only two things prevented me realising
my dreams. Firstly I never rose above village football
level and secondly I have never ever and do not intend
ever riding a motorcycle.
What that essay does tell me is that I had a love of
sport from a very early age. And this has never died.
Over the years I have been involved in coaching you
teams at both cricket and football and am still capable
of beating both my teenage sons at tennis and table
tennis. The competitive spirit is still there.
The object of this article is to put down some of my
sporting memories from over the years.
I was a relatively quiet youngster and suffered from
this sports-wise for a number of years. Reluctant to
push myself forwards I soon found out that it was the
loudest boys who made school teams. My two sons, both of
whom have representative honours at football and play
numerous sports for their high school, have always been
keen to push themselves forward.
At the top of the junior school I was average at
football, but because I was fairly shy, was always left
to play with the mixture of boys who hated sport or who
weren't very good. So I supported the school team rather
than play in it. When it came to cricket it was another
matter. I captained the school team and opened the
batting. That was purely down to one day in practice
when the teacher tried desperately to bowl me out and I
tried just as desperately not to let him.
I couldn't score off his bowling but neither did he
get me out and I was seen as the best batsman in my year
and the captaincy followed.
This good run in cricket continued at the grammar
school where I must have shown up well in trials because
I was put up a year and, despite qualifying for the
under-12s team, played for the under-13s. Then the
master who had seen my potential left and for two years
I was back playing for the also rans. Talk about not
what you know but who you know.
At the age of about a5 I had a dreadful dilemma for
the summer. I had to chose between tennis and cricket. I
loved both sports and was loathe to stop either. But the
decision had to be made and I chose tennis - which I
believed then and still believe to be my best sport.
I was not disappointed. That first year I played at
junior level for the school and then the following year
played for the senior team, went on to have Norfolk
coaching and played for Norfolk Under-16s. Then the same
thing happened. The tennis master left, was replaced by
somebody who didn't know me and I was left to play
amongst the also rans.
I couldn't believe that this new teacher was unaware
of who had played for the school team the previous year.
The result was that instead of standing up for myself I
failed to turn up on games afternoons and the whole
situation became very unsatisfactory. For two years
after leaving school I didn't touch a tennis racket.
Being a rugby playing school I had no options in the
winter. We were not allowed to play soccer although
sometimes before the coaches arrived we tried to play
soccer with a rugby ball which was difficult to say the
At first I enjoyed rugby but went off it quickly when
everyone around me started to grow and I seemed to stand
still. I was quite fast and wanted to play on the wing.
I was made to play hooker and can remember the scrum
continually collapsing on top of me.
As soon as I could I turned to playing hockey which I
enjoyed and became reasonably good at scoring goals.
Eventually, thanks to a new headmaster, the sixth form
were allowed to play soccer. I think it was as much
owing to the demands of a number of boys who openly
stated that if they were not allowed to play soccer they
wouldn't turn up for games. Thankfully the new Head was
not anti soccer and gave permission.
Those were good times in my sporting life. We played
two afternoons a week and I spent most of my spare time
playing as well
To Be Continued