Saturday afternoon. A football ground. Somewhere in England. Kick off is approaching; a hush has descended on the changing room and it’s just the lads and me. Or “moi,” as Arsene would say. Ivor Cliché, the gaffer. The chips are down, push has come to shove and it’s time to rally the troops before they go into battle. I speak. “Look, lads. We all know it’s a level playing field, even though we’re on hallowed turf, on home ground. But let me just say this, it’s not about fun and games. The name of the game is that we need to hang on in there. If we fail to impress, I won’t have it said that we lacked the killer instinct. If I smell a whiff of that, some of you will be in for the long walk, the early bath. Resting on your laurels is not an option. I don’t expect us to win by a ballpark figure but I do expect you to keep your eyes on the ball. Remember to touch base with each other. You’re all team players, you’re all fighting fit and we’re in with a sporting chance. With a bit of ducking and diving we’ll be able to hit them where it hurts. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. I don’t want them being saved by the final whistle or we’ll be back to square one. Make sure they’re out for the count. Needless to say, it’s a game of two halves and we’ve everything to play for but getting a result means giving it your best shot. The fans have suffered enough and I want to see them over the moon, not sick as parrots. The ball is in your court and when push comes to shove, stick with the game plan. Be quick off the mark and we’ll see off the opposition, have them over a barrel. We’re on a winning streak and if we play our cards right, we’ll come up trumps, even if the chips are down. All you need to do is to sit tight and believe that this is the only game in town and remember, the buck stops here. Now go out there and bite the bullet. Failure is not an option.” The room begins to fill with light. I can hear the roar of the crowd and then, curiously, my wife’s voice spoke to me. “Wake up it’s morning. You’re talking in your sleep.” “What?” “Never mind where the buck stops, when are you going to fix that garden fence?” “One job at a time, my little barracuda, one job at a time.”
If one of the talented Huddersfield Town Academy’s graduate players inflicts any damage on the Clarets today, a man closely linked to the Academy can be found in a theatre dressing room on Broadway, New York and held partly responsible.
Perhaps better known for sitting in his Captain’s chair commanding the Starship, the USS Enterprise as Jean Luc-Picard, the famous British actor and lifelong Huddersfield Town fan, Sir Patrick Stewart, can be found there appearing in the Samuel Beckett play, “”Waiting for Godot.”
A few years ago, as the Chancellor of Huddersfield University, Sir Patrick presented Huddersfield Town legend, Andy Booth, with an Honorary Fellowship from the University and recently named the players of the 1925/6 squad as his favourite Huddersfield side, a team that won the league that year for the third time.
Hedging his bets, he named Alex Smithies, Ray Wilson, Mark Lillis, Vic Metcalfe, Denis Law, Jordan Rhodes and, of course, Andy Booth as substitutes.
The popular actor is now President of Town’s Academy and in his youth, no mean footballer himself.
I played alongside him in a team I organised while we were both acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the late 60’s.
A muscular, bustling, full back capable of tackling opposing wingers with all the ferocity of a Staffordshire bull terrier, Patrick was a formidable opponent.
He wore contact lenses to play and brought a match to a standstill one Sunday morning by shouting, “Stop,” in that deep, commanding voice that has helped make him into such a fine Shakespearean actor.
A bewildered referee asked him what the problem was and Patrick announced that he’d lost a contact lens as he was heading the ball.
Miraculously, a search of the muddy pitch by both teams, the referee and the linesmen, found it.
Patrick spat on it to clean it, popped it back in, blinked a few times and we played on.
Not long after, his vision fully restored, he crunched into the opposition’s winger with such force that, much to Patrick’s dismay, the winger never recovered enough to continue.
Somewhere, maybe, in the video files of the BBC, a copy exists of a programme made in 1970 by the sports writer, Brian Glanville called, “One Pair of Eyes, “ which looked at the phenomenon of Sunday morning footballers.
Patrick and I kicked off a game on Hackney Marshes in London to the sound of a helicopter filming overhead, capturing a view of the 88 full size pitches laid out there, every one with a match on it. An astonishing sight but the chances of getting a hot shower at the end of the game with around 2000 others fighting for the same privilege is daunting, to say the least.
I’ve no doubt that Sir Patrick, thanks to modern technology; will be keeping his eye on today’s match, sitting alongside his co-star, the Burnley born, Sir Ian McKellen.
I once listened, in a hotel room in America, to a home game at Turf Moor, courtesy of Clarets Player, when I was on tour there, Phil Bird’s northern accent filling me with nostalgia. Wonderful.
One Sunday morning, many years ago, like Sir Patrick appearing in the Big Apple, I bought a copy of the New York Times, found the “Soccer” results (not easy) and read, “Burnley 1 Preston 12.”
I spent the rest of the day praying that it must be a misprint, hoped that it was 1-1 and by nightfall, was willing to settle for losing 2-1, anything but 1-12.
Sitting in New York this New Year’s Day, playing a role that is light years away from Jean Luc-Picard, Sir Patrick will be wanting a Huddersfield win. I can almost hear him muttering, “Make it so,” as he stares at his mobile.
In the event of Huddersfield going behind, one can only hope that he doesn’t get himself beamed down to Turf Moor during the game.
I wouldn’t wish him loose on any Burnley players. I still wince when I remember those Sunday morning tackles.
The only way to stop him would be to, “Set phasers to stun.”
Once upon a bitterly cold Christmas, not far from Turf Moor, there were polar bears prowling Burnley’s snow covered, cobbled backstreets.
Or so my uncle told me.
With gob-stopper wide eyes and shallow breath, the five year old me, claret and blue scarf wrapped round my ears, shivered fearfully inside an igloo built against our back-yard wall in the great winter of 1947.
The few tiny, spluttering night-lights in jam jars inside the igloo were small comfort, as I could quite clearly hear, on the cold, late afternoon air, the chilling sound of one (or was it two, or MORE!) giant polar bears scratching and snuffling on the frozen, snow covered, cobbles outside the entrance to my den. I was about to be eaten but worse still, I’d miss Christmas.
Rescued by my Grandma who was only a few yards away, feeding bread to some hungry sparrows, I later told her, safe in front of a hissing coal fire, how there were HUNDREDS of bears out there and one of them had a laugh just like my uncles.
1947 was a memorable winter but nowadays, like the great Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, I can’t remember, “Whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was 12, or twelve days and twelve nights when I was 6.”
Shortly after my Grandma had seen off the bears (and, no doubt, my uncle), Britain, (still an austere, rationed, country) emerged into the post-war years and the Football League returned to its pre-war divisions. First, Second and Third (North and South.)
In fact, Burnley played today’s tangerine opponents on the 2nd of December, 1944 at Blackpool in what was then the Football League (North), courtesy of an Air Commodore, no less, Bloomfield Road having been requisitioned by the RAF during the war.
By 1948, I was occasionally taken on the Turf, in spite of maternal misgivings.
There I am, a small boy carrying a large, wooden, war-time rattle painted claret and blue, alongside my Granddad who made me a stool which enabled me to gain an extra foot of height just before kick-off, peering excitedly over the trilby’s and flat caps of the 30/35000 fans that used to stand crammed in to Turf Moor in football’s post-war boom years.
Games watched through a fog of acrid, blue cigarette and pipe smoke and, at Christmas, a heady whiff of cheap whisky or brandy emanating from thousands of Thermos flasks opened at half time.
There was tea in there too but in what proportions one dreads to think. No doubt it had medicinal qualities. It was Bovril for me.
Burnley played Blackpool, home and away, after Christmas, on the 26th and 27th, 1949.
I don’t remember any snow (or bears) but Christmas it was and I’d learnt all the words of, “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,” and, “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth,” from the radio.
On the afternoon of Christmas Eve (no floodlights in those days), Burnley beat Bolton away, 1-0.
We didn’t go because this year, joy of joys, we were off for a short stay in Blackpool, where we spent Christmas Day going up the promenade on a tram, marvelling at the Illuminations, or at least, the remains of them, unlit but back again earlier in the autumn for the first time since the war.
Boxing Day saw us on a packed steam train heading for a Turf Moor over-flowing with 49,000 spectators to witness a goal-less draw.
The following day, we were back in Blackpool for a 2.15 kick off at wind-swept Bloomfield Road (Blackpool’s ground since 1900), to watch them put two winning goals past us in front of a mere 31,000.
I remember nothing of the game but I was mightily impressed by a huge advert for Dutton’s, “O Be Joyful,” ale, (brewed in Blackburn), written across the roof of one of the stands.
I would have seen the two great Blackpool Stan’s, Matthews and Mortenson in a fine side that would often finish ahead of Burnley in seasons to come.
The side that Blackpool manager, Joe Smith, was to manage for 23 years had been Cup Final losers to Matt Busby’s, Manchester United in 1948 and later in 1951, finished third in the League before losing to Newcastle in the Cup Final. They went on to win the Final, in 1953, beating Bolton 4-3 after coming back from being 3-1 down in an epic match with performances to match from Matthews and Mortenson.
Sadly, I remember nothing of those Christmas derbies but I do remember being surrounded by warmth, security and happiness.
In that respect, little has changed and if you look around the ground today, you’ll see many a child, sitting with their families, acquiring their own Christmas memories of when they were taken on to see Burnley play Blackpool just before Christmas, 2013. Even if, when they’re getting on a bit, they can’t remember much about it.
Although, they might remember that on their way home in the dark, their uncle told them that HUGE polar bears once used to pad along Burnley’s streets, particularly at Christmas time.
On the evening of the 18th of May 1882 at the Bull Hotel in the centre of Burnley, a special committee meeting of a local rugby team called Burnley Rovers was called.
The Bull was a fine establishment, its façade lit by “Old Gawmless,” the lamp in the centre of the street outside, some say because of its “dim” performance, others because it was standing in the middle of the road.
They could have chosen to meet in almost any of the nearly 200 inns, hotels, taverns and beerhouses that had grown up in the hard-working town (despite the efforts of the Temperance Movement) but they chose The Bull because it was the town’s leading hotel, known for its “magnificence” but nick-named “The Folly” by the locals because of its ambitious 40 bedrooms.
Some of the committee members would have arrived on one of the new fangled steam trams introduced into the town the previous year, hissing and clanging along cobbled streets described as, “the most heavily bill posted in the country,” passing Thomas Hoghton’s grocers shop, who advertised on his paper bags that, “Trams pass the door every 15 minutes.”
There’s entrepreneurship for you but he still hedged his traditional bets by having, on the same bag, a picture of an elegant couple arriving at his shop in an open hansom cab.
One or two of the committee might have been late, as there had been a bit of a dispute about the use of steam on certain streets and the new trams had to be pulled by horses for some of the way. If a member had walked from nearby Stoneyholme he’d have passed under the shadow of a giant, three-tier gasholder, only the second to be built in England.
Others perhaps chose to arrive by horse-drawn Cab, oil lamps winking in the fading light.
With the meeting called to order, the evening’s business began.
“It hasn’t been a bad season,” the Rover’s Treasurer told them,” And were it not for our changing facilities being blown down and the access bridge to the ground being washed away, the balance sheet might have presented a different aspect.”
There was applause and the balance sheet adopted unanimously. Two penny or three penny cigars were puffed on, purchased from Joshua Duckworth’s a couple of doors away.
Then, under the yellow light of flickering gas mantles, committee member Mr. Ernest Bradshaw stood up and spoke,
“ I move that the rugby club, in future, play under Association Football rules.”
Without more ado, for I suspect Burnley folk had acquired a reputation for bluntness even then, the motion was passed and a celebratory round of Grimshaw’s Ale was probably ordered.
A few days later, in order to forestall anyone else having the idea, the name of the new venture was changed to “Burnley Football Club”.
The club would play its first match at Turf Moor (still its ground in 2013) on Saturday, 17th of February 1883. A proud day, except that their opponents, neighboring Rawtenstall, ran off winners, beating Burnley Football Club, 6-3.
The first result might have disappointed but if there was ever any sunshine to be sought under the mill town’s sulphuric, rain-soaked skies, the Club’s committee was determined to find it.
In 1888 Burnley Football Club proudly became one of the founder members of the Football League, along with, Accrington, Aston Villa, Blackburn, Bolton, Derby, Everton, Notts. County, Preston, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Burnley. Cotton. Football.
The last two words would come to define the town, sometimes to its annoyance but more often to its advantage for decades to come.
125 years later, Burnley Football Club has an established place in the history of professional football and you can tell them that with pride, even in the Copacabana Stadium in Brazil.
I was introduced to the concept of pressure in the early 1950’s when my dad and I arrived home at the end of a cold January afternoon watching the Clarets lose one nil to Huddersfield at Turf Moor, a game they were expected to win.
Whatever pressure the players had felt themselves to be under paled into insignificance matched against the pressure that had forced the lid off my mum’s new fangled pressure cooker and deposited our tea all over the kitchen ceiling.
Pressure is a word we hear a lot of these days, which is more than you can say for pressure cookers. Ours was consigned to the dustbin.
Jamie Redknapp once said that he’d felt pressured every day as a footballer and watching his dad, ‘Arry twitch his way through a game, one might almost think it was a family trait. At least ex-player Jamie doesn’t have to face the pressure any more, unless he gets a bit tense modelling clothes for Marks and Spencer’s.
Liverpool’s late, great, Bill Shankly, a man made of sterner stuff had a different attitude.
“”Pressure is not the European Cup, “ growled Shanks,” Or the Championship, or the Cup Final, those are the rewards. Pressure is working down the pit, pressure is having no work at all.”
What he was saying, of course, is that champions are able to do what they do best under stress, that pressure is a normal part of the game. In the end it’s how a team responds to it that counts.
Often pressure is self-inflicted and is linked to two things, which at first glance seem to be opposites. They’re not; they’re just two sides of the same coin, the fear of failure and the fear of success. Both of which can prevent a team from playing to the best of their ability.
But failure as a learning process can be a great teacher. You fail, you win, you learn, you grow.
Fear of failure is a waste of time.
Fear of success is too and it can be just as inhibiting to a team. Success brings its own responsibilities and some teams bend under the apparent weight of it.
One thing is certain, without pressure there would be no rewards and over a season or two, the teams who cope with it best are the ones who win more often than they lose, who come back from defeats, who make the play-offs, or gain promotion.
They’re the ones who think they can win.
Every team that’s done something worthwhile is a team that has collectively overcome their nerves, who deal with the pressures of failure and success.
Pressure presents teams with an opportunity to excel, an environment in which preparation and training meets with the chance of coming out on top.
What’s more, the old chestnut really is true; “It’s only one game at a time.” There’s nearly always another chance.
When footballers, like all public performers, learn to rise above their fears of failure and success and as a result maybe touch greatness on match days, they raise our hearts because, in a way perhaps, they remind us that we all have a bit of greatness tucked away inside of us.
We’re all dreamers; fans, players, managers, coaches, backroom staff, even those sometimes maligned ones in the board room who are fans just like the rest of us.
We all feel the pressure as we kick and head every ball.
But what we want from our footballing heroes (sometimes unfairly) is for them to embrace the pressure and run with it, have fun even, keep tackling, keep passing, keep shooting and above all, believe in themselves.
An American coach once said that pressure is something you feel when you don’t know what the hell you’re doing.
Most players do, it’s only those twin apparitions, fear of failure and fear of success that sometimes get in the way.
Pressure? Bring it on. Enjoy it. As tennis champion Billie Jean King said, “Pressure is a privilege.”
Cricketer, Keith Miller, who in his time was regarded as Australia’s greatest all-rounder, served as a fighter pilot in World War 2, flying combat missions over Germany, was once asked a question about match day pressure.
Miller responded, “ Pressure? I’ll tell you what pressure is. Pressure is having a Messerschmitt up your arse. Playing sport is not.”
(Published in Burnley Football Club’s match day programme, 26th February 2013)
Friends in the North.
Shakespeare in Lancashire.
“What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen, what old December’s bareness everywhere”.
December 1580 and Lancashire shivers under an icy mantle of bitingly cold, bleak weather, an east wind bringing plummeting temperatures and blizzard conditions.
After the day’s heavy snowfall, the late afternoon is clear and frosty with big stars beginning to shine over the silent, white fields.
Candles flare in the windows of Rufford Hall, a large timber framed manor house near Ormskirk, home to the aristocratic Hesketh family.
It is Christmas Eve and the great house is being made ready for celebrations that will last until Twelfth Night. The kitchen is a hive of activity, oxen slowly roasting on revolving spits, hand turned by perspiring, red-faced servants. On the Hall’s stone flagged floors, the long oak tables are ready for the feast and behind the exuberantly carved wooden screen at the rear of the hall, the players can be heard tuning voices, violins, virginals, flutes and tabors ready for an evening’s entertainment of drama, music and dancing, singing, tumbling, dumb-shows and noise, duels and wrestling, of pageant and poetry, of witches, fairies, ghosts and goblins.
Outside the house, the tenant farmers and their families, whose livelihoods depend upon the Lord of the Manor, Sir Thomas Hesketh, move slowly through the white landscape, sometimes stopping to beat their hands on their chests and stamp their feet in an effort to keep warm. Luckier ones, wearing every item of clothing they can find, huddle together on carts pulled by shire horses crunching through the snow, their warm breath condensing into icy droplets as they haul logs destined for the open fire of the Great Hall.
Icicles hang inside the Manor’s bedrooms but the “Dyninge chamber” must be kept warm for the coming celebrations.
On the low-lying fields, once marshland, a shepherd huddles in a rough shelter watching over his master’s flock.
A red nosed milkmaid slithers and totters along carrying pails of frozen milk to the kitchen.
Crows perch silently in the bare trees and herds of deer, unable to forage, clatter gingerly across the hard ground towards the house, hoping to be fed scraps by hand from wicker baskets held by excited, pink faced children.
In the 16th century Britain was experiencing a little “Ice Age,” when even the widest rivers froze solid for weeks on end and became venues for, “Ice Fairs.” Tented villages to have a grand day out at before returning to the warmth of the great Hall to be entertained by the players and the musicians at banqueting tables groaning with festive fare.
Then as the night grew on, clustering together for warmth and companionship round the open fire, not daring to venture alone up the dark staircases and along the dimly lit passageways. Spooky places, whose atmosphere could creep into one’s “sinful” heart and fill it with a mixture of apprehension and terror. A state easily achieved when the Catholic concepts of purgatory and hell were held to be absolute truths and drummed into you in childhood
A Tudor house like Rufford—now open to the public and owned by the National Trust—is bound to accumulate its fair share of “ghosts” and things that go bump in the night and the Old Hall is no exception.
A door that will never keep open or shut, the sound of a spinning wheel, an axe, a cry, a sigh, a footstep or, worse still, a rattling of chains.
A “Grey lady”, haunts Rufford. Nay, even Gloriana herself, Queen Elizabeth the First has been known to make a bejewelled appearance. There have certainly been enough creepy carryings-on to attract the producers of the paranormal TV series, “Most Haunted.”
Now, whether “Spirits” are doomed to walk the night, bringing with them airs from heaven or a fiery blast from hell, is a matter for conjecture.
Certainly, if you’re inclined to believe in these things, hanging about at cock crow on Rufford’s mossy lawns only to hear sounds of lamentation and regret as hordes of wandering ghosts troop miserably home to their wormy beds, is probably not a good idea.
I mean, how many hard luck stories are you prepared to listen to?
Personally, I wouldn’t mind my having my ear bent a bit if I could be absolutely certain of cracking a mystery that has haunted me for some time. A sensible spectre might be able to solve it once and for all. Male or female, I don’t really mind. In any case, gender might not matter once one has shuffled off this mortal coil. I don’t think I’d be too scared. In fact, I wouldn’t mind if my informant had a certain presence, no self-respecting ghost should be without one but I don’t want to waste time having to put up with a load of sorrowful, self accusatory wailing and remembrance of things past, when I have a couple of simple questions to ask before Aurora’s beams start to tint the topiary squirrels on Rufford’s elegant lawns and the ghostly wandering turns into a stampede as the moaning Minnies all rush home before sunrise.
“Rufford Hall, your starter for 10. Were you alive and around the old Hall in 1580? A thumbs up will do, please don’t nod your head, it might have been removed in the 16th century and could easily fall off again.”
If a quivering grey thumbs-up is offered, then on to the second question.
What used to be called, the $64,000 question until “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” came along.
“Did William Shakespeare really live and work at Rufford hall?”
“No, no. Shake—speare. William Shakespeare. Became a playwright and…. please stop worrying about the lengthening shadows and what looks like a tint of orange beginning to kiss the dew drops.”
“Shakeshafte did. William Shakeshafte. I used to call him little Willie, really annoyed him. I always found him a bit sensitive. Wrote sonnets, that kind of thing. Not very good in my opinion. He was here all right, friends in high places, if you know what I mean? Him and, Fulk Gyllome. Good actor, Fulk, couldn’t tell him from a woman once he had a dress on. I wonder what happened to him? Look, I’m sorry but I must dash, I’ve got to be under six foot of loam in the next five minutes or the wife will be giving me the cold shoulder. Shakeshafte, that’s who you need to be looking for. Merry Christmas to you. It’s back to darkness and the burning lake for me. At least it’ll be a lot warmer than here. Lancashire, eh? Why couldn’t I have died in the Bermudas? Anon, anon and all that. See you sooooooon!”
It’s at this point that I normally wake up in a cold sweat.
As you can see, the question is, was it the young William Shakespeare who lived and worked at Rufford Hall in 1580 or was it William Shakeshafte? Aye, there’s the rub must give us pause.
He could, just as easily, have used dozens of other variants of his family name. The Elizabethans weren’t as pedantic as we are about spelling and regional variations abound as they wrote out of the sound of their own dialects.
He could have been, Sakspere, Schakosper, Schackspere, Saxper, Schaftspere, Shakstaf, Chacksper or even, Shasspeere.
In Stratford alone, documents of the period show twenty different and separate spellings.
If you haven’t come across the story before, here are the bare bones of it.
It would appear that the 16-year-old Shakespeare, whose family had fallen on difficult times, almost certainly linked to their Catholic connections, was recommended by his Stratford schoolmaster, John Cottam, a Lancashire man from Tarnacre, to teach or help teach the children at Hoghton Towers, a fortified manor house near Preston, ancestral home of the noble Hoghton family, probably as an “usher,” an assistant.
That the young Shakespeare was a teacher of some kind is affirmed by the 17th century gossip, John Aubrey, who wrote, “Shakespeare had been, in his younger years, a schoolmaster in the country.”
Aubrey claimed to have heard this from a man whose father, a well-known actor, had worked in Shakespeare’s own London Company in Shakespeare’s lifetime.
Leaving home at that age might well have been an emotional experience, reflected perhaps in a scene from, “Two Gentleman of Verona” where Launce, laying the dust with his tears, describes a tearful family farewell that had his grandma and his mother weeping, his father wailing, their maid howling, even the cat wringing its hands.
Another member of the Hoghton family he was to join up north was called, Alexander and lived at nearby Lea Hall.
Alexander kept a company of players and in his will left his stock of “play-clothes” (costumes) and all his musical instruments to his brother, Thomas or, “If he did not choose to keep players, to Sir Thomas Hesketh of Rufford Hall” and he added, “And I most heartily require the said Sir Thomas to be friendly unto Fulk Gyllome and William Shakeshafte, now dwelling with me and either to take them into his service or else help them to some good master, as my trust is, he will.”
Hoghton also left 40 shillings each to Gyllome and Shakeshafte, a considerable amount, perhaps £5000 in today’s earnings.
Could Shakespeare really have lived and worked in Lancashire before he became famous in London?
The answer is more than likely, yes.
Many scholars now agree that there is a strong case that the young Shakespeare, using his grandfather’s surname–common at that time in Lancashire—and his family’s Catholic connections, lived, worked and travelled around the county, first as a schoolmaster and then probably as a player, starting at Houghton Towers, moving on to Lea Hall and Rufford and later on joining the household of a greater and more theatrically influential family, the earls of Derby, one of whom, Lord Strange, kept a company of players whose skills were to take them to London.
It is at least possible that this youthful acquaintance with Strange’s professionally ambitious players was made in the north of England by 1581.
It is certainly true that the principal players of Lord Strange’s Men, as they were known, Will Kempe, Thomas Pope, John Heminges, Augustine Philips and George Bryan, later formed the core of the London company which the mature Shakespeare would come to be associated with, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.
Intriguingly, there still exists a copy of “Holinshed’s Chronicle’s” a history book used extensively as a source by Shakespeare in some of his plays, that is annotated in what looks to be his own handwriting. A book that was jointly owned by the Hoghton and Hesketh families.
Young William’s stay in Lancashire proved fruitful over the years. They probably didn’t call it networking then but that’s what he seemed to be doing, benefiting from his Catholic connections.
The Rufford link pops up again when the highly successful Shakespeare and four colleagues started to build the Globe Theatre in London. Acting as an important trustee for them was a goldsmith by the name of, Thomas Savage. Savage was not only a native of Rufford but he was related, by marriage, to the Hesketh family.
By 1582, the 18-year-old Shakespeare had left Lancashire and returned to Stratford where, on a summer’s day he met a farmer’s daughter, “more lovely and more fair,” perhaps? The 26 years old, Ann Hathaway. By November they were married. Six months later, their daughter, Susanna was born.
One would like to think that they were able to wet the baby’s head by using some of the 40 Lancastrian shillings lovingly left to young William Shakeshafte by Alexander Hoghton, one of his many friends in the North.
In 2008, much to my surprise, I was asked if I would be interested in becoming the Chairman of Leeds United and invited to a meeting in London where tentative discussions would take place before the moneymen became involved.
As fate would have it, I was otherwise engaged, or I might have found myself playing the role of Leeds Utd Chairman, Manny Cussins in the film of David Peace’s excellent but controversial book, “The Damned Utd,” based on Brian Clough’s stormy manager ship of Leeds in 1974.
Manny, a Leeds businessman famously dispensed with Cloughy’s services after an acrimonious 44 days.
As it turned out, the part of Manny went to Henry Goodman who, as far as I know, has no interest in football whatsoever.
Not that that would necessarily disqualify him from running a football club in some quarters.
Not at Burnley, of course, where who’ve been blessed over many years with chair and board members who are fans as well as executives.
As an actor, I’ve had several brushes with football over the years.
In 1957, in my Burnley AmDram days, I played young footballer, Percy Brown in Glen Melvyn’s play, “The Love Match.” It’d earlier been made into a film with comedian, Arthur Askey.
In the late 60’s, I was cast as Irish football hero, Harry Heegan in an RSC version of Sean O’Casey’s 1927 anti-war play, “The Silver Tassie.”
Alongside me were Patrick Stewart, a Huddersfield fan and a young Helen Mirren whose appearance as a nurse caused many a male heart to beat faster.
Patrick and I were members of an actor’s football team at the time. Our moment of glory coming in a cup final played out on Wormwood Scrubs in London, under the shadow of the prison walls, which we won 2-1.
The opposition were the cast of, “The Changing Room,” David Storey’s fine 1971 Rugby League play which takes place before a match, at half time and after the final whistle.
This called for a lot of uninhibited disrobing on the part of the all male cast, a display of masculinity impossible to avoid in London’s small Royal Court Theatre.
A female critic noted that she was surprised to notice that there weren’t any Jewish Rugby League players.
Shortly after, I nearly found myself in football management again having to discipline Vinnie Jones in the 2001 British prison football film, “The Mean Machine.”
The part of the prison governor finally went to David Hemmings and I never got to shout at Vinnie.
One of the earliest football films (1939) is, “The Arsenal Stadium Mystery,” a murder story starring several Arsenal players of the time in non-speaking roles although their manager, George Allison, did get a word or two in.
The film was adapted from a novel. As indeed was a favourite football movie of mine, “Fever Pitch,” starring Colin Firth.
Nick Hornby was the writer, adapting his own book for the screen and again it involves Arsenal, concentrating on the 88-89 First Division season when the Gunners beat Liverpool 2-0 to win the title.
Hornby was of the opinion that most football fans spend their lives in a state of terminal disappointment, a shrewd insight.
Interestingly, the scenes of fans on the Highbury terraces were shot at Fulham’s Craven Cottage.
Dramatic license is also exercised in the 1996, “When Saturday Comes,” which has a “young,” Sean Bean being signed on by Sheffield Utd.
“Young” Sean was apparently 36 when the film was made.
Sean eventually became a director of his beloved “Blades,” but he was back on the terraces when Burnley beat them at Wembley in the 2009 Play Off Final.
Other football films?
Well, there’s the 2002, “Bend it like Beckham,” made for $6m but grossing a match winning $76,583,333 and making an unlikely footballer of Keira Knightley.
There’s, “Escape to Victory,” (1981) with the footballing talents of Michel Caine and Sylvester Stallone, mercifully “doubled” on the pitch by Ipswich Town’s, Kevin Beattie and Paul Cooper.
There are plenty more, just Google, “Football Films,” you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
A favourite of mine is “The Cup,” a 1999 comedy directed by a Tibetan Llama called Khyentse Norbu involving two young, football crazy, novice Tibetan monks who desperately try to get a television for the monastery to watch the 1998 World Cup Final.
It’s a delightful film and every time I watch it I’m reminded of what I really like about the beautiful game.
I did get to Leeds Utd eventually.
Not as chairman but in an attempt to have a knee problem sorted out by the genial, Alan Sutton, one of Utd’s most experienced physios.
“I’m sorry to have to tell you, lad, he said gently,” But your footballing days are over.”
“Fortunately for me, Alan, “ I said, “Actors, unlike footballers never have to retire. Not as long as we can learn our lines and not bump into the furniture.”
Well, I could become a pundit. I mean, how hard is that ?