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An Old Farts Tale

By Brian Groves

Bailes said to me that if he had to have an Old Fart write a piece for the Website he might as well have the oldest Old Fart of all-me! This is not to say that I am the Oldest Old Fart in the club, its just that fifty years ago, I stood on a rugby pitch behind Trentham Hotel and was one of those anxious young men who wished to uphold the honour of Longton against Trentham RUFC.
It was not Old Longtonians first match ever, but it took place in the clubs first season. That season began in 1951, but the match in which I took part took place in 1952. Perhaps you have noticed that that I have not actually said that I played in the match. True I wore a black shirt with a white collar with white shorts and football boots. If we had programs in those days, I would have had my name against the figure 15, but as to playing in the game, you know I cannot remember actually touching the ball.

The point is that upon that day I was playing Rugby Union football for the first time. Old Longtonians happened to be a player short and in the previous match played at Meir Airport, I had gone to see my friend, the Late Ted Ellard play either against Newcastle OB or St Joes or whatever. Now I had in my teens, before National Service, played soccer as a goalkeeper and kicking out of hand was one of my strong points and after watching for 10 minutes, I came across a spare rugby ball and decided I would give the said ball a going over.

 

At first I wasn’t at all confident as the ball was not round but was oval, and I expected the ball when kicked, would go off in any direction except the one I intended. But miracles miracles it behaved itself and then an even greater thing happened. I tried a drop goal and it worked first time. I tried another and another and another and they all worked. Suddenly I was hooked. This stupid game my mates played was not so stupid after all. I must have kicked ten drop goals that afternoon. This is not to say that I actually kicked them over the posts, but if post had been there, they would have gone over I am sure.
However going back to the Trentham match, I have already said that that soccer wise I was a goalkeeper, and the Longtonian skipper told me rather hurriedly that my position that my position at fullback was something akin to a goalkeeper. In an attempt to show him I knew something about the game I was about to play, I said “Do we play a sort of coarse rugby?” Reassuringly he replied “Good God no we are not that good. I was told that if Trentham hoofed into my half, I had to run like hell to get the ball before Trentham did, and then hoof it back Trenthamwise. I was looking forward to having a great match. Visions of my running around the cabbage patch a Twickers with a red rose on white shirt flashed before my eyes.

What a let down it turned out to be. Me being a goalkeeper at heart never left our 25 throughout the whole match. The Longton skipper had told me that we were not a very good team, but believe me Trentham were awful and Longton seemed pretty good to me. A combination of the British Lions and the All Blacks. The whole game was played in the Trentham half. Longton won three nil, scoring a try in the second half. The skipper failed with the conversion. He apologised to me for not bringing me up to take the kick, saying I looked quite comfortable leaning against the post. I had an urge to strangle him there and then , but having taken account of his height and width, I concluded that discretion is the better part of valour. But it would have been nice to have touched the ball once!