One of my 65th birthday treats last week was to go to Northampton’s Derngate Theatre to see the pop musical Sunny Afternoon. As a fan, and with a personal history which involved a few drinking sessions with The Kinks’ drummer Mick Avory (he drank in my dad’s pub in West Molesey, Surrey), I was excited to go – and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Of course, the birthday being the one that it was and The Kinks’ era being when it was, nostalgia kicked in big time. Sleeping that night took some time, as I constantly roamed the thoughts and memories of the early sixties which refused to take a back seat in my tired but over-active mind.
My earliest football memory immediately struck home: going with my Dad to Wembley, April 1960, to see one of the last of the examples of playing football for fun. Kingstonian was playing Hendon in the FA Amateur Cup Final with 40,000 ardent fans from South and North London respectively. The legendary Johnny Whing headed Ks into an obviously deserved lead (obvious in my memory anyway). Hendon fought back but all was well as Ks held on to the 1 goal advantage – even with 4 minutes to go – except that was when Laurie Topp and Terry Howard became Hendon’s heroes. Their two late goals stole the cup from my newly-found, and from that point onwards, much-loved local football club. Little did I think then that the Ks would still hold a place in my heart 57 years later. I was devastated then, as an 8 year old, when they lost in that fashion. I am similarly devastated, now, as I hear of the crisis facing this famous old club who lose possession of their rented ground at Kingsmeadow at the end of this season. I’ve just read an update from club directors and, given that fans gave, in effect, a vote of confidence to the board recently it’s surely up to every Ks fan to hold the directors to account, certainly, but also to get behind them. I won’t pretend that as a distant fan I know the political workings of the club but I do know that it’s too famous and long-standing to be allowed to whither without a real fight.
Back to the sixties and by 1963 football gained a rival, though somewhat reluctantly. While I was pleased that I was a beneficiary of the flawed 11+ system, the thought of going to a school which combined red and grey striped blazers, bright red caps and only the sport of hockey for two of the three terms each year, filled me with dread. As it turned out, I loved the hockey if not the sneaking around my neighbourhood with a hockey stick sticking out of my bag. In other respects, my French teacher’s 4th form annual report pithily and probably most accurately described my academic success at Kingston Grammar: ‘I tell him he’s lazy – he doesn’t agree.’
Certainly, the sixties stayed with me. Although my football allegiance moved along the A307 towards, initially, Fulham, then more fashionably to Chelsea, I never forgot the Ks and still watched them whenever I could. Johnny McCormack was the James Dean figure of Richmond Road in the sixties, sulkily lurking close to goal, and scoring loads (he also taught Maradona the illegitimate skill of holding your arm close in front of your head to score ‘hand of God’ goals, though John rarely got away with it in the games that I watched).
Hockey became my participatory sporting love, playing the game from the age of eleven until I was in my fifties; and The Kinks, alongside The Beatles, nurtured a love of popular music that epitomised the swinging sixties in England. Ah, happy memories!