Retro Sport: Why can't mums keep mum?

My mum watching cricket at Stoodley Knowle in the 1960s

My mum watching cricket at Stoodley Knowle in the 1960s - Credit: Roger Mann

Having played local sport for 30 years, and then coached it for a further 30, I know just what a big part mothers play in encouraging their children to join in.

Yes! Like most coaches I have had to endure mums who tell you that their child is worth a place in the team because “he’s much better than that other boy!” 

But, on the whole, their influence has been beneficial, and, sometimes, crucial. 

I, myself, was lucky enough to have had the most wonderful mum in the world! 

When I was in my teens, and playing for Ilsham Vale soccer team, she used to wash all the team’s kit, and, in the early days, allow us to change in the garage of our house.

She had a heart of gold, but never really understood men’s sport. 

She would slave away on her ironing board trying to make sure that “you have all got a nice crease in your shorts”.   

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When I said that men’s football shorts don’t have creases, she would smile and say: “It’s nice of you to try to save me time, but I like to think that you all look smart, even if it’s just for a football match!” 

When I went on to play cricket for Wellswood, her house overlooked the pitch at Stoodley Knowle, and she would often stroll out to watch my brother and I play. 

When I batted, I used to put a couple of chocolate toffees in my pocket for moments when I might need to concentrate hard. 

One day, I had just walked off after being clean bowled, and was now explaining my error to Fred Neal, our captain, and a couple of the other players. 

Just at that moment, my mum joined the group, pulled out a paper hankie, and reached up to clean the corner of my mouth.  

“Oh dear! You’ve got chocolate all round your mouth. What will your friends think?” 

Later that day, I tried to explain to her that her actions had embarrassed me in front of other men.

“Not as embarrassing as having chocolate all round your mouth!” she said, and never really understood why I thought she was wrong! 

A few years went by, and at the end of the 1967/68 season, I was playing Wednesday League football for Hotels & Caterers. 

It sounds unimportant these days, but back then, the Wednesday League was a high-quality competition, and we had reached the final of the Calder Cup, to be played at Plainmoor.

Mum told me that she would be coming along to watch. 

The Hotels & Caterers team for the Calder Cup final at Plainmoor in 1968

The Hotels & Caterers team for the Calder Cup final at Plainmoor in 1968 - back, from left, Stan Neal, Dave Dodd, Brian Carter, George Loye, Geoff Pearse, Johnny Haycock, Roger Mann, John Grant, Albert Moore and Jimmy Mason. Front, from left, Keith Hare, Peter Northcott, Dave Moore, Don Clarke and Tony Mann. - Credit: Roger Mann

Our opponents were the Post Office, and, in the dressing room, before the match, our captain, Dave Moore, was giving us a pep-talk when, suddenly George Loye interrupted him saying: “I’ve just heard that Mike Sampson WILL be playing!”

At that time, Mike was a key man for the Post Office, but was recovering from a broken leg, and it was bad news indeed. 

However, George had a plan!

We would 'make him think twice about risking that leg!', and: “Roger, you are marking him, so dish out a few heavy tackles!”

I liked Mike, but this was war, and if I was in the front line, so be it! 

Discussing tactics before the match

Discussing tactics before the match - Credit: Roger Mann

After about 20 minutes, I saw Mike coming towards me, and pushed the ball half way between us before launching into what I thought would look like a fierce 50/50 clearance. 

Sadly, I just mistimed it, and Mike went up in the air, and spun like a Catherine Wheel before landing on his back.

It was right in front of the stand, and must have looked awful! 

Referee Mike Greenhalgh blew his whistle and came running towards me, while the few hundred people in the main stand screamed “Ref!, send him off!” 

It was bedlam, but as I looked up, I saw my mother running down the steps to the front of the stand.

She got to the bottom tier, then looked back up at the screaming crowd, and shouted: “He didn’t do it purposely! He didn’t mean to do it!”

I felt so guilty, but I never loved her more than I did at that moment!