On the whole 1942 wasn't a great year for football. There was a war on , and people's minds were on more serious things. But for me 1942 was notable for marking the pinnacle of my career as a footballer.
I was 11 years old, a keen young goalie, and in my last year at Hilton Primary School, Aberdeen I was selected to play in goal for the school team in the first match of the 1942/43 season against Linksfield School, a formidable outfit, the previous season's league champions , no less.
Well, the large gulf in class between the two teams was swiftly translated into goals, and by half time Linksfield led 8-0. Despite the score-line I thought I had had quite a good first half, being able to draw on my years of experience in the school playground of playing in goal at "shootie-in",which is what the first half had resembled.
Linksfield scored again early in the second half, but then the goals seemed to dry up. Did they take the foot off the pedal, or were they foiled by some more gallant goalkeeping? A mixture of both, perhaps. At all events, as full-time approached, they had scored only one more goal, making the score 9-0. I felt I had stemmed the tide reasonably well, and was determined not to be,undeservedly, on the wrong end of a double-figure scoreline.
A good save in the last minute seemed to have preserved me from that injustice, but with seconds to go the Linksfield centre-forward took a slick pass from his inside-right ( a position which existed in those days), ran in on my goal and delivered an explosive shot from a few yards out. I somehow managed to get fingertips to the ball and diverted it upwards on to the crossbar from which it rebounded, ballooning high into the air and well out into the field of play. It dropped near the penalty spot, where our left-back, Davie Petrie*,commendably kept his eye on the ball, positioned himself carefully beneath it, and, as it came down, caught it.
I left the field crestfallen. Silly really. Losing 10 goals instead of nine in a schools football match is not a matter of great significance. A disappointment, yes, but not a crushing one ; a transient one, not one to stay with you all your life.
At the age of 11, when the world with all it has to offer is opening up to you, it's the kind of disappointment you soon forget. And I'm confident that - very soon - forget it I will.
*The name has been changed to protect the guilty.
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