Eerie reminder in sunken eyes
ARRY ROBERTS is our friend, is our friend, is our friend … there are times when you understand why some people, even now, dislike football and, in particular, football ‘supporters’. The tribal pride I have shared since the 1960s, of being ‘Shelf Side Tottenham’ (as opposed to Park Lane Tottenham, the cheerleading end behind the goal, or the Paxton, the other end who often need a gee-up from the rest of us to get in on the singing), does turn to embarrassment at the extremer forms of abuse, to which I usually feel unable to contribute. Hearing the Harry Roberts song, to the tune of London Bridge Is Falling Down, was perhaps the first time I became aware that the High Road was further than I thought from High Wycombe. It was probably only a small group of yobs taunting the mounted policemen, and I may have only heard it once or twice, but I have never forgotten the shocking, brutal chill of it: “… ’Arry Roberts is our friend, he kills coppers.” And it all came back with the pictures in the papers of the man who shot dead two of the three policemen murdered near Shepherds Bush in 1966 and who, at 72, is now seeking release from prison. The grainy, black and white image, with the swept back, wavy hair, and the hollow, sunken eyes, is eerily reminiscent of the mugshot of Moors murderer Ian Brady, jailed for the killing of three children in the same year. Roberts’ notoriety must have lasted, because I did not make my first pilgrimage to Tottenham until three years later, and if anything in 1966 had cut away at my childhood innocence it would have been the Aberfan school disaster, when more than a hundred children of about my age died beneath an avalanche of coal-slag, from an unstable tip. Forty-two years is probably plenty of punishment for anyone, he’s nearly as old as my father, and is hardly likely to be a threat to society, so I don’t suppose I will be particularly bothered if he is released. But I can’t say I’ll be particularly bothered if he stays locked up, either.