When we were wee, my brother Duncan and I played football every day.
My dad used to play amateur football (junior) and would take us to various games, Celtic, Scotland and some local junior games at St Ants and Benburb in Govan, Glasgow.
To clarify, Junior football isn’t for kids, it’s full of guys who either didn’t make it as professionals or are ex-pros from smaller teams on the way down.
Some of these guys are cynical or embittered that they never made it to the top.
So It’s a hard game, much dirtier and unregulated than the professional game with scything tackles and regular punch ups.
Shin-guards are a must.
A gum-shield would probably come in useful too.
Aged 10 and 8, Duncan and I played over at Elder Park with our pals.
Sometimes it would be a full on game, 20-a-side with jumpers for goalposts.
Sometimes there were only a few of us and we played 3 and in, taking turns to be goalkeeper.
This was Govan, you always had to be aware of some bigger guy coming along to steal your ball.
Coming home without the ball and getting a hiding off your dad for not putting up a fight means you learn fast and didn’t lose another one or not without coming back with a burst lip.
Then he’d go sort it out.
My dad was hard but fair, still is, that’s how life goes when you were brought up in poverty without a mother.
One Sunday morning, we were sitting at the small fold up table in the kitchen having breakfast. Mum was making the full Sunday morning fry up of sausages, bacon, eggs, potato scones and beans.
Dad was asking us what we were doing today?
Playing football as usual, but we were looking forward to trying out our new shin-guards.
Shin-guards? He says, looking at us quizzically. Had we nicked them or where did we get the money to buy them?
Where did you get the shin-guards boys?
Duncan and I look at each other for a moment, then blurt out from the pack of them at the bottom of the kitchen cupboard?
Mum and dad look at each other not knowing what we are referring to.
Mum opens the cupboard and lifts out the pack of Dr Whites.
They both have smiles on their faces and ask to see inside our socks which are stuffed full of sanitary towels.
Cue guffaws of laughter from our folks while Duncan and I look at each other wondering what mum had been doing with shin-guards anyway!