Another Serious Post: A Much-loved Cousin who was “Football Crazy”

I had a long and sad journey to make yesterday as my 56-year-old cousin, who was diagnosed with MND nearly four years ago, finally lost his battle with that horrible “locked-in” disease. Down to the excellent round-the-clock care given to him by his mum and sisters, he outlived most other victims post diagnosis, but everyone knew it was time for his suffering to end and his friends turned out in droves to his memorial service in Aberdeen. It was standing room only and I don’t think I’ve ever been to a service where quite so many middle-aged men found it impossible to control their emotions. The main reason for this outpouring of emotion – Football.

My cousin didn’t have a glittering career or ever earn vast sums of money but he worked hard, raised a family and was a loving father, son and brother. From an early age however, his passion was football, and for nearly 35 yrs he played in the many Junior and Amateur leagues run within The Granite City. Apparently he was still playing at age 50, just two years before his diagnosis. Facebook is awash with tributes to him and of his many exploits on the pitch. He had played with, and captained, many teams over the years so knew the entire footballing fraternity and they had nothing but good things to say about him – A legend, a true gent, a prankster, a great friend, and so it went on.

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My cousin with one of the many cups he won over the years

There is a dearth of quality football songs out there, so I’m just going to go with the obvious choice, Football Crazy, a song written back in the days of yore but made popular by Robin Hall and Jimmie Macgregor when they regularly performed their version of it on the Tonight programme back in the early 1960s. I don’t remember watching this show back then (just too young), but I must have recognised the theme tune as I always knew when “Ciff” (that would be Cliff Michelmore) came on the telly, it was time for bed (we didn’t climb the stairs to Bedfordshire where I came from).

Strangely enough, last Saturday I went to our football stadium for the first time in nearly 20 years to watch the local team. DD’s boyfriend, who looks after the team’s physical (and often mental) welfare, got us tickets for the section where the player’s wives, kids and mums sit. They probably go to every home match and build up that familiarity and camaraderie from spending so much time together. I watched friends meet up for their weekly fix of football; old men turning up in their scarves who have probably been fans since they were lads; and the staff who kept everything running like clockwork – A massive footballing family. It was nice.

This week we have had the freaky scenario where two English teams who were not expected to come back with a win on aggregate, did just that – Even fans of other teams, usually fierce rivals, have come out and congratulated them on those fantastic wins. Just at the time we were supposed to have left the EU, both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are on their way to Madrid and the Champion’s League Final. There’s going to be an English winner now whatever the outcome.

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This time last week I wasn’t really thinking much about football at all, but as with my cousin, if it has played a large part in your life you could be one of the lucky ones as you are part of one big family. Many of the middle-aged men at yesterday’s service had walked, ran and climbed improbable distances and heights to raise money for a vehicle for their old team-mate. They called it the Stephen-Hawking-mobile and there were many great outings in it. There have also been fund-raising dinners for MND and the many other charities who supported him and his family over the last few years. I don’t know for sure, but I doubt very much if my old work-mates would do the same for me.

On a personal level, one of the player’s mums sitting behind me at last weeks match turned out to be a carer at my mum’s nursing home. I had thought she looked familiar but out of context I couldn’t place her. Having now met with her this week at the home, I realise my mum will now potentially be even better looked after, as I am now (somewhat loosely) attached to her son’s team.

So, a sad week for my family, but as ever at these events it was great to meet up with people whom I have been out of touch with for a long time. Plans are now being made for me to keep in touch with everyone and contact details have been exchanged. It seems unfair that people who are the healthiest, fittest, kindest and most generous can be dealt such a cruel blow, but no-one ever said life was fair.

Until next time…

Football Crazy Original Lyrics
(Song by James Curran)

I have a favourite brother
And his Christian name is Paul.
He’s lately joined a football club
For he’s mad about football.
He’s got two black eyes already
And teeth lost from his gob,
Since Paul became a member of
That terrible football club.

For he’s football crazy,
He’s football mad,
The football it has taken away
The little bit o’ sense he had,
And it would take a dozen servants
To wash his clothes and scrub,
Since Paul became a member of
That terrible football club.

In the middle of the field, one afternoon,
The captain says, “Now Paul,
Would you kindly take this place-kick
Since you’re mad about football?”
So he took forty paces backwards,
Shot off from the mark.
The ball went sailing over the bar
And landed in New York.

His wife, she says she’ll leave him
If Paulie doesn’t keep
Away from football kicking
At night-time in his sleep.
He calls out ‘Pass, McGinty!”
And other things so droll
Last night he kicked her out of bed
And swore it was a goal!

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

13 thoughts on “Another Serious Post: A Much-loved Cousin who was “Football Crazy””

  1. Sorry for your loss Alyson
    A horrible disease which takes people far too young.
    Jimmy Johnstone and Fernando Ricksen from the football community also had/have that condition so your cousin is in good company

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks – It is one of the worst as you are in effect locked in and can’t breathe, talk or eat by yourself but your brain is sharp as a needle. Didn’t know that about those footballers – He will have a fine old time with them in the afterlife football pitches.

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    2. Just read a good few articles on the connection between football, specifically heading the ball, and MND. I am starting to think my cousin was one of football’s casualties. I knew about the connection between football and dementia and have a friend whose father is in a care home probably because for many years he was the local team’s champion “header” of the ball and spent many hours practicing with an old fashioned heavy leather ball. Don’t think if someone had told him this years ago he would have given up football, but food for thought.

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    1. Thanks Rick – I wish I’d spent more time with him over the years as he was quite a guy.

      And of course you are a football/soccer fan. This song must be new to you but it was written by someone who died in 1900 so it certainly is old.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So sorry about your cousin, Alyson, and I’m sure I remember you mentioning him before. A lovely tribute to him here and a great photo. Seems we always lose the best people far too early.
    Cliff Michelmore! Now there’s a name from the past I haven’t thought of in a long while. Funny how you made that association with it being time for bed too! – so sweet how these little connections stay with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks – it was an emotional day as I just hadn’t expected to see quite so many people turn up for his service – he was much-loved by his many friends, that was obvious. Yes, I wrote about the song At Seventeen a wee while back because I’d just been to meet his sister who had emigrated to South Africa at age 17, but came back at age 60 to look after him. Also, when I wrote about the state of Maine for my American Odyssey series I featured the song King of the Road which had played at his dad’s funeral – Another chap who was much-loved by his many friends.

      Apparently I couldn’t pronounce the word Cliff when I was very young so always called Mr Michelmore “Ciff”. I must have cracked it by the time Cliff Richard started appearing on Saturday night telly though as I don’t remember calling him the same. The Tonight programme (not to be confused with the US Tonight Show) was quite avant-guard in its day but just born too late to really remember any of it.

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    1. Aw.. yes I know you do indeed. Like with you there has been an upside to this awfulness – I am back in touch with people I haven’t spent nearly enough time with for years. Like with Lyr, my cousin was someone who was universally loved by all who met him and I just hadn’t appreciated that until this week. It’s not the accumulation of wealth and power that matters at the end of the day, it’s how you have conducted yourself and the friends you’ve made along the way. His children are a credit to him so will carry on his legacy.

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