ADAM CAR­ROLL-SMITH gives us a taster of his new book, pub­lished by Pitch Pub­lish­ing...

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - CONTENTS -

The joy of football on the ra­dio

MY first ra­dio was a Sony Walk­man. I got it around my ninth, maybe tenth, birth­day. It was shiny and black with a mess of small but­tons on the front, like Darth Vader’s chest panel, only with bet­ter AM/FM re­cep­tion than he prob­a­bly got.

Along the left-hand side were a se­ries of tiny switches, and on the back, a belt clip. I ac­tu­ally used the belt clip a lot. I thought it made me look cool. And still do, as it goes, be­cause it did.

Belt clip aside, I loved my Walk­man be­cause of its abil­ity to defy my pu­ri­tan­i­cal bed­time. Back then, lights out for my brother and I came at seven o’clock; half-past on a good night. And not be­cause we lived on an 18th-cen­tury work­ing farm and there was milk­ing to do early next morn­ing ei­ther.

As far as I could tell, there was no rea­son, be­sides my par­ents’ self­ish­ness. Now that I have chil­dren of my own, I get it: chil­dren are tir­ing, and par­ents need some qual­ity time alone to tidy up toys, eat in si­lence, and watch a TV pro­gramme with a mur­der in it.

Grow­ing up, I was lucky enough to have one of those combi TV-and-video sets in my room, and my first in­stinct was to try and watch that once my mum and dad were safely de­posited back down­stairs. But switch­ing it on was a noisy op­er­a­tion. The power but­ton made a loud plas­tic clang when you pushed it in, and an even louder one when you re­leased it. If there was a tape in the ma­chine – and there al­ways was – it made a pained whirring noise; a sort of wind­ing heave like the sound an old ro­bot with a bad back would make if he was try­ing to lift his ro­bot grand­child, and the ro­bot grand­child was just far too heavy and his lift­ing tech­nique was all wrong.

All that racket was enough, nine times out of ten, to give away my covert in­ten­tions. On the tenth time, the best I could do was watch with the sound off.

My de­sire for a Walk- man was borne of ne­ces­sity, in the first in­stance. And for­tu­nately for me, my par­ents are won­der­ful and gen­er­ous and kind peo­ple so they in­dulged me, and bought me one.

Snug be­neath my du­vet, I would pull my ra­dio and spongy head­phones out from un­der my pil­low and lis­ten in the dark, the only light in the room com­ing from the small red bat­tery in­di­ca­tor LED on the front of the ra­dio. My favourite thing to lis­ten to was football, prin­ci­pally the com­men­tary was al­ways so busy and ur­gent, while I was hor­i­zon­tal; that while the match was all noise and light and colour, my bed­room (to a pass­ing par­ent at least) was quiet, dark and still.

Most of all, I liked the fact that lis­ten­ing to a match on the ra­dio, alone in my bed, it was pos­si­ble to feel in­ti­mately in­volved and in­cred­i­bly close to the ac­tion – to re­ally pic­ture what was hap­pen­ing – de­spite be­ing in my py­ja­mas, in the dark, hun­dreds of miles away. It was the first time I re­alised that ra­dio sport, at its best, is tele­por­ta­tion.

I don’t re­mem­ber in­di­vid­ual games, be­cause most of the time, the teams play­ing were unim­por­tant: it was en­ter­tain­ment enough to re­move my­self to the se­cret world of ad­ven­ture that Five Live – and it was al­ways Five Live – opened up. My in­ter­est in football as a pre-teen boy was so to­tal that I was con­tent to have any con­tact with it what­so­ever. I would have lis­tened to non-league football through the fuzzi­est of re­cep­tions if it meant stay­ing up later, and be­ing able to imag­ine two teams in di­rect com­pe­ti­tion.

These, then, were the for­ma­tive mo­ments in what is now a lengthy re­la­tion­ship. And it is un­ques­tion­ably rel­e­vant that what I can re­call now, so many years later, is how it made me feel. I was, I think, quite an at­ten­tive lis­tener back then: I was hun­gry for fact and de­tail and trivia.

I needed play­ground am­mu­ni­tion – knowl­edge about play­ers and teams I could drop into con­ver­sa­tion with my equally football-ob­sessed friends. But noth­ing of the sort stands out. I can­not re­mem­ber, even vaguely, a defin­ing mo­ment of com­men­tary that elec­tri­fied me in my bed and had me kick­ing the sheets in ex­cite­ment. And yet it does not seem to mat­ter in the least. Lis­ten­ing to ra­dio football stim­u­lated the cre­ation of vivid im­ages in my head and that, in it­self, was ad­dic­tive.

Look­ing back, my par­ents must have known. Some nights I fell asleep with both the ra­dio and my head­phones still on. And yet they never once picked me up on it. I guess they prob­a­bly thought my late-night ra­dio ac­tiv­i­ties to be quite a harm­less sort of re­bel­lion against their au­thor­ity. I imag­ine they reck­oned against it be­ing the sort of thing which could snow­ball into a wor­ry­ing ob­ses­sion. On re­flec­tion, I think they mis­judged it.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.