My first game – Joseph Short


Leeds United v Middlesbrough
The English Premiership
Elland Road
11 May 1997

Only a few weak imprints of my first game are now carved on the back wall of my memory, and they are fading. A seven-year-old’s recollection of the final match of the 1996/97 Premier League is hardly one to be trusted, and so substantial newspaper archiving has been required for me to contextualise a baking hot day at Elland Road.

Leeds had dismissed their title-winning manager Howard Wilkinson earlier in the season, and seemed destined for years of mid-table obscurity. This was, however, a situation far favourable to Middlesbrough’s. With a sudden three-point reduction for failing to ‘fulfil a fixture’ against Blackburn, Boro were deep in the relegation pot. They needed to win. Continue reading

My first game – Dave Mayor


Manchester City 3 Wimbledon 1
Football League Division 1
Maine Road
August 23rd 1986
Att: 20,756

Confession: This wasn’t actually my first game, that was a local derby between Stalybridge Celtic and Mossley (I think, certainly one of the other Tameside clubs) but I count it as such and it does have, more historic and personal significance.

Being six-years-old at the time there’s not a great deal I can remember about it in all honesty. One of the things was standing (or being sat on a railing) on the Kippax, the huge Platt Lane stand to my left looked empty. It often did. 8,000 seats was quite a large number to designate away supports when the average crowd across the league that season was just below 20,000. Continue reading

My first game – Pavl Williams


Bolton Wanderers vs Torquay United
Sherpa Van Trophy Final
Wembley Stadium
28th May 1989

The Wembley crowd – the old, the proper, the terraced and packed with hooligans – Wembley crowd roared again as the ball was hoofed first into and then, with equal vigour, out of the penalty box.

Pressed up against the fences, sat on his young father’s shoulders, with hands over his ears and intermittently teary eyes wide, a three-year old child was absorbed and abhorred by the excitement all around him.

This was my introduction to football. Continue reading

My first game – Stephen Deacon


England v West Germany
Schoolboy International
Wembley Stadium
8th June 1991

It was surely the best place to start? Wembley Stadium: The home of English football’s finest hour, the twin towers and the stadium that Pele described upon its closure as the ‘cathedral of football’.  It was Saturday 8th June 1991and I was part of the Larks Hill Junior School FC’s beano down to the capital for the Smith’s Crisps International Shield clash between England School boys and West Germany Schoolboys.

After a pop, crisp & Gameboy fuelled coach journey down south and a walk around the national stadium, I was given the proposition by my old man: ‘a flag or programme?’…stupidly I went for the flag, a decision that would cause extra disappointment 15 years later.

The match was very uneventful and finished goalless, the nearest I got to witnessing a goal was West Germany shooting into the side netting but I left Wembley thinking that I’d seen the future class of two great footballing nations and did so for years…it was the age of Robbie Fowler, Scholes, Beckham & at a push my future hero Noel Whelan.

Years of tracking down the programme ended in 2006 when I managed to land a copy via ebay but after excitingly opening the packaging, reading some of the names that played that day was met with a face of disappointment: Christopher Beech, David Faulkner, Nathan Murray & Richard Irving (now a commercial pilot according to Wikipedia), hardly the names of England’s ‘golden generation‘.

The most successful player to have featured for England that day was QPR’s Kevin Gallen, closely followed by Gavin McGowan (7 appearances for Arsenal) but the total number of senior caps won by the squad was zilch.  There was one youngster who did go onto have a glittering career including scoring in the Champions League Final 16 seconds after coming onto the field as a substitute: Borussia Dortmund’s Lars Ricken. I suppose witnessing Lars’ first steps into international football will just have to do.

Stephen Deacon

Twitter.com/stephendeacon

Women’s game investment shows slow but sure progress


Caerphilly Castle Ladies 0-1 Swansea City Ladies
FAW Women’s Challenge Cup Semi-Final – 20th February 2011 – by Mark Pitman

Port Talbot Town’s GenQuip Stadium was the chosen venue for this FAW Women’s Challenge Cup Semi-Final match between Caerphilly Castle Ladies and their Swansea City counterparts. A small crowd was boosted by the attendance of a number of FAW councillors but it was obvious as the two teams came out onto the field that for all the efforts of the Association to promote the women’s game, the general public remain unconvinced of it’s quality as less than forty people and two dogs strategically spaced themselves around the 1,000-seater Welsh Premier League ground. Continue reading