Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Alastair Campbell, Matthew and the signed Burnley FC shirt.

This child sized Burnley football club shirt of our Matt's has recently come back into our possession.
It has a very interesting history.
But it needs some background information to explain the significance.

Long ago when I was young, my dad, myself and eventually my mum, were avid supporters of Burnley FC when I lived in Lancashire.
Every home game would see us atop a double decker bus making the journey "over t'moor", (as folk would say), from Rossendale, to drop down the other side into Burnley itself.
Then we joined the hoards of others all walking towards Turf Moor ground. Come rain, hail, sleet or shine. Snow was more difficult!! In harsh winters the road over the top down
into the town could be closed.
Burnley were in the First Division and a really great side. It is the one and only time I ever attempted to knit anything, and painstakingly did knit one, purl one, in the two colours of Claret and Blue, until I had a scarf long enough.
This I festooned with badges of the Burnley players. I also had a football rattle. I'll bet Health and Safety would ban them now!
In the season of 1961/62, Burnley progressed through some thrilling FA Cup Final matches to reach the hallowed turf of Wembley itself.
There was a ticket lottery, using numbers in the programmes and my dad got a ticket allocated and I didn't. There were two other lads we knew who also got tickets.
So, he decided to take us all to Wembley on one of the overnight coaches provided by the club. Then accompany us all the way to the ground, leaving me with his own ticket, and go back to watch the game on TV at his cousin's, who lived a stone's throw from the station at Wembley itself.
I was 14 years old and had never been to London in my life before.
So it was a great adventure.
We arrived very early in the morning, and after some breakfast in a cafe, dad took us to see the sights, knowing London like the back of his hand.
I was so disappointed with Buckingham Palace, pronouncing it to look like a biscuit factory! maybe I expected the grandeur of Windsor Castle!
Eventually we got to dad's cousin's and had some lunch.
And with mounting excitement we walked up Wembley Way with the chants of the supporters, and the colourful sea of team scarves and flags, not to mention the rattles!!
All along the route were ticket touts, and we also had to keep our pockets secure.
I will never know to this day how dad felt as he left us at our entrance.
I only know it was a sacrifice for him,made voluntarily.
Unfortunately we lost 3-1 to Spurs! But it was still an experience to have been there.
So, on to the rest of the story.
Moving quickly forward, when our Matt was born and still a youngster, we lived in Cowplain Hampshire, and dad got him a Burnley bobble hat, in the hope that eventually his grandson would show an interest in football. Obviously those who knew him would see his love of the game, and also that of cricket.

So to continue again.......
We moved up to Birmingham and the nearest football team had to be Aston Villa as they also play in Claret and Blue. Matt was 7 when he went to his first match at Villa Park. He became an avid supporter, and also fulfilled an ambition when he played on the hallowed turf with a team from work. We were all there cheering him on! They lost, but to him it didn't matter!! he was cock-a-hoop!
Meantime becoming political animal, (and how!) he discovered that Alastair Campbell was going to be in Birmingham at the ICC, giving a kind of lecture and question and answer session.
He got a ticket like a shot!
During the evening Alastair said he had a signed Burnley FC shirt to give to the person who asked him the best question.
So Matt managed to have the mike and proceeded to tell the story of his Grandad Smith and his mum, Vivien, and the trip to Wembley. Then he asked Alastair if he would've given up his ticket to go to Wembley.
Alastair said that was a very hard question to answer, being a rabid Burnley supporter himself, and didn't think he could've done it!!
So he gave Matt the Burnley shirt having signed it.
And what a happy bunny he was!!
He told his grandad all about it and it passed into the Smith archive of stories!
The stuff of legend!
Miss you dad, one year on yesterday.