North Berks Cup Final Long Wittenham F.C. my father second left back row.

A poem about a true story. I do not know if anybody still alive would remember it.
I have a vague memory as a child.

The match was organised by Ernie Butler who was then working as a driver at Smiths Crisps on the Trading Estate Station Road in Didcot and the club was the Marlborough Club. The park is Edmond’s Park as my family lived in Glebe Road and Newlands Avenue.

I played for Didcot Boys (THE team) briefly before being substituted too many times and my Dad moved me to Didcot Eagles….where I played a lot more and lost every game but happy as larry .


Looking on from the sidelines came naturally,
a boney slightly effete lad who wanted to be what his Dad wanted him to be.
Every Xmas Meccano and Scalextric (or a cheaper version from Bosleys toy shop)
When all I wanted was pen and paper or an Airfix Saturn V and some comics.
Happy with my mum’s Encyclopedia of Animals and a set of colouring pencils.
I even built my own museum of antiquities in my bedroom.
Including a glass topped case of oddments my Dad dug up with his JCB.
A meteorite, a bit of roman pottery, fossils or so he told me and who was I to argue.

I spent hours kicking a ball against my neighbour’s shed.
The smell of tarmac and sweat oozing from his pores after a day labouring
as he showed me how to dubbin my boots. How to pace myself, avoid injury.
In kick-arounds I wasn’t bad, no Tony Adams I struggled at left back.
A position the better team I clawed my way into could not fill so there I was.
Sunday morning in Edmond’s Park living my father’s dream in his position.
Trying to live up to the photograph of his team shot at Reading FC ground
before winning the North Berks Cup ( I have photo, medals and programme.)

My mother watched me take a few knocks and struggle as a defender.
Not ‘filled out’ enough to stand up to the bigger boys. Immature and sensitive.
The inner poet derailing my ambitions to play for Arsenal from an early age.
I look at photos of me aged 14 and wonder I didn’t break something.
But my father’s advice came good. Don’t get angry get even.
They score one you go back and score one against them.
Remember your second wind. I  wrote a poem titled that.
Mum played the long game wanted me to go to University. First in family.

The rest all drove trucks, laid tarmac or went into the police or army.
One Sunday my Gramp Ernie challenged a semi-professional team to a match.
His family and mates from the Working Men’s Club against them as a bet.
Our whole family of Butlers and Belchers turned out on a frosty morning to watch
them win on the park I had been substituted most games on.
My Dad and Uncle Dennis and others ran rings around the so called professionals.
There was a big celebration at the club that evening. Ernie had won his bet.
I learnt then that there is no substitute for perseverance, talent and a bit of luck.

Now I stand on the sidelines again.

Recovering from a host of bad tackles, unlucky injuries and plain bad-timing.

Always a substitute never a first-choice.

Stepping across the poetic line.
Taking on the professionals at their own game.

Waiting for the final whistle.