Friday, 25 March 2016

Get with the programme special: the young ones

With England playing Germany tomorrow night, it seemed like a good time to write about a programme that’s been sitting on my desk for a while now, waiting to be filed. It dates all the way back to May 20th, 1972, when England took on West Germany in a schools’ international at Wembley Stadium.

If I remember rightly, this trip and a couple of similar ones were organised by my junior school, Ashfield in Bushey, and we witnessed a packed programme of pre-match entertainment with a notably military theme. First up were the Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers, followed by a gymnastic display by the Junior Leaders’ Regiment of the RE and the Royal Air Force Police Dog Team, before the band returned for ‘Community Singing’ conducted by the inevitable Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart. (He used to lead the singalongs that preceded the FA Cup Final, too.) The programme helpfully includes the lyrics to a decidedly mixed bag of songs, including ‘Back home’ (the 1970 England World Cup theme), ‘Consider yourself’ from Oliver, Cliff’s classic ‘Congratulations’ and, um, ‘The happy wanderer’.

Of course, the main fun of such matches in retrospect is discovering which future giants of the game you saw in their formative years. In this case, it’s not a bad haul, with a strong Watford connection: future skipper John Wilfred Rostron of St Thomas Aquinas RC School, and future Assistant Manager Raymond Colin Wilkins of Townfield Secondary Modern. Other names I recognise include John Sparrow and Clive Walker (both Chelsea), John Trewick (West Brom, Newcastle, Oxford) and Trevor Ross (Arsenal and Everton).

The pen portraits of the players are a joy, as you’d expect. Almost every one includes a variation on the phrase “hopes to become a professional footballer”, apart from Terence Pashley, who “plans to train for the catering industry”. (I just Googled him, and it turns it he had a long career at Burnley, Blackpool and Bury; I hope he wasn’t too disappointed.)

Judging by my dad’s notes on the team sheet, England won 4-0, with Wilf Rostron (wearing no. 11, and thus presumably playing as a winger*) scoring one of them. The programme also includes photos from the schoolboys’ previous outing, when England had tonked Holland 5-1. In my 10-year-old innocence, I assumed that glorious days lay ahead for the senior England team once this gilded generation grew up. Sadly, as we know, they didn’t even qualify for the next two World Cups – one of which was won by West Germany, while Holland featured in both finals. If nothing else, it shows that England’s failure to turn youthful promise into adult achievement is by no means a new phenomenon.

*If this sentence makes no logical sense to you, ask someone over 40

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