Retro Sport with Roger Mann:

Brian's gift - Brian's gift - "They have savages in cricket too!"

As I look back over a lifetime of enjoying sport in Torbay, I reflect on one truth.

“You forget the games you played in, but never the people you played them with!”

In 1966, I was playing soccer for Collaton United, and our captain, our manager, our secretary, and our star player was Brian Carter.

Who could ever forget Brian?! Tall, athletic, and multi-talented, Brian was a nationally acclaimed author, a noted poet, and a wonderful artist.

Collaton United 1966  From left, back row: Brian Carter, Jock McCargow, Jackie Gray, George Loye, Roger Mann, Tony George. Front: Tony Mann, Peter Northcott, Johnny Haycock, Tony Washbrook and Johnny ChurmCollaton United 1966 From left, back row: Brian Carter, Jock McCargow, Jackie Gray, George Loye, Roger Mann, Tony George. Front: Tony Mann, Peter Northcott, Johnny Haycock, Tony Washbrook and Johnny Churm

He was passionate about his family, the West Country, Dartmoor, nature, local pubs, and football!

Thousands of years ago, men with talents like his, lived in temples on Mount Olympus, but Brian’s kingdom stretched from Winner Street to Clennon Valley.

Local football was Brian’s stage. He took a leading role in an ever changing play, and his team mates were his supporting cast.

On Saturday afternoons, his imagination ran riot. Even now, I can’t supress a smile as I cast my mind back!

One day we had changed in the village hall, before a match with Loddiswell, when Brian called us all together.

When he had our attention, he pulled out some paper from his pocket and holding each one of us in turn, by the hand, he read Henry V’s full speech before the battle of Agincourt!

In total seriousness, and inches from our faces, he read out: “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he, today, that sheds his blood with me... shall be my brother!” And, rising to a crescendo, he ended with: “...And you will proudly say... these wounds I had on Carter’s Day!”

We humoured him, as always, clenched our fists towards him, and lost 0-2!

On another memorable Saturday, we were changing at Clennon Valley when Brian launched into his usual pre-match tactics talk, which he called ‘Carter’s Catechism’. His match plan was nearly always a variation of ‘Give me the ball, and I’ll do the rest’ but today he followed it up by saying:

“Lads! Our opponents today lost 3-0 last week, and do you know why?”

No-one responded.

“Well! They funked it! They are a bunch of yellow pansies!

“So here’s the plan... in the warm-up, Bungy and Tony take the ball and practise sliding tackles on each other. The rest of you split into pairs, and just shoulder charge each other, with everything you’ve got, and plenty of grunts! Johnny, you stay here in the hut.”

When the whistle went, Brian explained to the referee that he needed to fetch his last man. He ran to the wooden changing hut, reached underneath it, pulled out a two pronged hayfork, and threw open the door.

Johnny charged out snarling, and our captain shepherded him, with the hayfork, past our open-mouthed opposition!

As the referee supervised the toss, Brian apologised to the other captain, saying: “Sorry about that, but we keep him hungry before matches like this!”

Brian tossed the coin, and, as he bent to retrieve it, he slipped a piece of raw meat into his mouth, then stood up, unsmiling, as trickles of blood dripped from the corners of his mouth!

Neither the ref nor the opposing captain said a word!

We won this match 5-1, but did we paralyse them with fear, or, simply with disbelief?

After the match, in the London Inn, I told Brian that, while we could have some fun, we must also be careful not to disrespect our opponents.

He replied: “This isn’t your softy cricket, this is savage, red-soil soccer!” I came back with: “What do you know about cricket anyway? Clearly not much!”

He knew he had upset me, and the next day he slipped an envelope through my letter-box. It was a beautiful A4 hand drawn cricket image featuring a wild looking batsman, with a note that read “They have savages in cricket too!”

Sadly, five years ago, the world lost Brian’s unique talents.

For all his showmanship and eccentricity, he was kindly, sensitive, and always felt your pain. How, otherwise, could he have written “A Black Fox Running”?

It is available as a download, or through Amazon, and far too good to miss!