Archive | May, 2015

The Addams Family v The Munsters

25 May

 

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Are you ready children of the night for a little “family” entertainment? Then come with me into the old dark house, through the creaking door, watch those cobwebs now dearie, as we turn the clock back to 1964 and the old television flickers into life thanks to the sudden electrical storm raging above the rickety rooftop…

Two strange families emerged onto our TV screens that year and battled it out to the death for our affections. Who won? Well that’s up to you to decide, I will provide you with the evidence my children but tis you who decides the Crypt Champions.

The Addams Family

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Gomez the father of the family is a smooth suited cigar loving millionaire who was a mean sword fighter. He loved to dabble on the stock market but he also liked to blow up his model train set frequently with massive explosions. His one true passion though was for his wife Mortica, the black dressed vamp who would send Gomez wild with passion when she spoke in French. These two liked nothing better than to dance the tango. She was the matriarch of the family. Mortica also loved gardening and would cut rose blossom heads off just so she could admire the thorns. These two hated sunshine but would describe a wet stormy day as “beautiful”

Uncle Fester is the uncle of Mortica and he was a very manic man always up to mischief. With his bald head and sunken eyes he loved to perform his trick of making a light bulb light up by placing it in his mouth. Grandmama is the mother of Gomez. She is a scraggy haired old witch who likes nothing better than mixing spells & potions. Next up is Lurch a shuffling 8ft tall butler who has more than a passing resemblance to Frankenstein’s Monster. Lurch tends to groan a lot and is not the chatty type, His catchphrase being “You Rang” every time he answered the door. Thing was a disembodied hand that would appear from all sorts of containers and unusual nooks & crannies. He loved to answer the phone and would often appear to light Gomez’s cigar. Cousin Itt was short, covered completely in long hair and spoke in a high pitched gibberish way that was impossible for normal humans to understand, although all the members of the family could all understand Itt. Puggsley was Gomez and Mortica’s eldest child. Quiet and thoughtful he spent a lot of his time building engineering projects, collecting road signs for his bedroom, and feeding his pet octopus Aristotle. His younger sister Wednesday liked to play with dolls, well she liked to guillotine their little heads off particularly her doll Marie Antoinette. She also liked unusual pets especially her spiders. Her best friend was the butler Lurch.

Addams Family Actors 

Gomez was played by John Astin born 1930. Once married to actress Patty Duke. Now teaches method acting.

Mortica was played by Carolyn Jones born 1930 died 1983 (Colon cancer) once married to film maker Aaron Spelling. After the Addams Family her acting career was sporadic.

Uncle Fester was played by veteran actor Jackie Coogan born 1914 died 1984 (Heart Disease) Coogan was a former child actor who made his first appearance in silent movies as an infant. In 1921 he starred in “The Kid” with Charles Chaplin. The following year he wowed audiences with his performance in “Oliver Twist” He was a huge child star and merchandise featuring his face included chocolate bars, peanut butter, toys dolls & records.

He was a big earner as a child accumulating as much as $4 million dollars. Sadly for Coogan his mother and stepfather took the money. He sued them in 1935 but he only received $126,000. The court case did produce a new law to protect child actors “The Coogan Bill”

Once married to Betty Grable.

Grandmama was played by Blossom Rock born 1895 died 1978 (Natural causes) Rock was the elder sister of singer/actress Jeanette McDonald. Her Addams Family role was her best known.

Lurch was played by Ted Cassidy born 1932 died 1979 (complications following heart surgery) Cassidy also played the part of “Thing” He was 6ft 9ins tall… Appeared in a few early Star Trek episodes also did voice overs for it. Was a radio DJ for a while and later was the  narrator in the opening scenes of the TV show “The Incredible Hulk”, he also did the growls of the Hulk.

Cousin Itt was played by Felix Silla born 1937 only 3ft 11ins tall he was officially classified as a dwarf. Born in Italy he went to America in 1955 with a touring circus, Silla being an accomplished tumbler, trapeze artist & bareback rider. He moved into movies as a stuntman often playing children in films such as “The Towering Inferno” He married another “little” person, Susan and they have been married since 1965. They have two children.

Puggsley was played by Ken Weatherwax born 1955. Weatherwax won the part despite 500 other kids auditioning for the place. In 1967 when the show was dropped he went back to school. He had a short stint in the Army before moving back in to the film business as a studio grip were he has remained ever since.

Wednesday was played by Lisa Loring born 1958. Loring’s best known role was as Wednesday. After the Addams Family run ended she appeared in several TV shows before working in the Porn Industry as a producer. She then got involved in drugs and her life went into a downwards spiral. Thankfully after rehab she got her life back on track and today often attends Addams Family conventions.

Addams Family Trivia 

Their home address was 000 Cemetery Lane.

It took Carolyn Jones two hours to get made up as Mortica, her wig was made of human hair.

Ted Cassidy played “Thing” sometimes using his left hand to see if anyone noticed.

Gomez & Mortica were the first married couple on American TV implied to have a sex life.

Gomez favourite food was eye of newt.

The sign in the front yard said “Beware of the Thing”

We saw Gomez kiss Mortica up her arm but never on her lips.

The family’s pet lion was named “Kitty Cat”

Mortica had a man eating plant named Cleopatra.

The Munsters 

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Hermann was the dad in this family. He was obviously the star of the show, 150 years old and like Lurch another Frankenstein monster clone. He was prone to tantrums often resulting in him stamping his foot like a petulant child and when he did the whole house shook. He was always scared or worried.

Slightly camp he worked as a gravedigger for a funeral parlour. His true love was Lily his wife of 100 years. She liked to cook unusual meals and when she did her housework she would spread rubbish about the house and her vacuum cleaner worked in reverse blowing dirt out, she was very proud of her unkempt house. Grandpa was the Dad of Lily. Like Lily he is from vampire stock, seemingly Jewish he turns into a bat when he is in a huff. He loves to experiment in his basement lab building mechanical devices such as a robot or making spells and potions. Marilyn was the daughter of one of Lily’s sisters. Why she ended up living with her Uncle and Aunt nobody knows. She is the one “normal” person living in the house though the family think she is ugly and she feels the same way about herself because she never seems to keep a boyfriend. Little does she realise it but her male admirers run away because of the rest of her relations. Last but not least is Eddie the little werewolf son of Hermann & Lily. Eddie like to hide away in cupboards and when he is not hiding he can be found helping Grandpa in his lab. He is a good student and is often seen doing school homework. His pet dragon Spot lives under the stairs and is seldom if ever seen. Eddie does have a bad habit of howling like a wolf at night though.

The Munsters Actors

 

Hermann was played by Fred Gwynne (Born 1926 died 1993 pancreatic cancer) Gwynne was an excellent character actor. Standing 6ft 5ins he was a perfect choice for the role of Hermann even though he had to wear boots with another 4ins insole. He had already made a name for himself with the excellent TV show “Car 54, Where are you?” which ran from 1961 to 1963. He served in the US Navy in World War 2 and after the war went to Harvard where he majored in English. His first source of income was as an illustrator but he made his film debut as a thug in “On the Waterfront” His last film appearance was as the Judge in “My Cousin Vinny”

Lily was played by Yvonne De Carlo (Born 1922 died 2007 aged 84 heart failure) Born in Canada her Father left home when she was only 3 and her Mother worked as a waitress to make ends meet. She was determined that Yvonne would have a better life and enrolled her in a dance school and drama classes. When Yvonne was 15 they left for Hollywood but she never made the breakthrough and so they returned home. In 1940 she tried again and did manage to get small unbilled parts in films. In 1945 she made her first starring role in the picture “Salome, Where She Danced” She played alongside top stars such as Burt Lancaster and her finest film moment came in 1956 when she played Moses wife in “The Ten Commandments” In 1964 she took the part of Lily primarily to pay medical bills for her husband Bob Morgan who was a stuntman and had been hurt filming “How The West Was Won” They divorced in 1968.

Grandpa was played by Al Lewis (Born 1923 died 2006)  Early in Lewis’s life he had tried all kinds of jobs, working as a private detective, teaching, writing, circus performer to name just a few. In 1949 he turned to acting and joined a drama school were one of his classmates was Sidney Poitier. He eventually worked on Broadway before making his TV debut with “Car 54, Where are you?” alongside Fred Gwynne. After the Munsters he made many TV and theatre appearances throughout his life. He was also a Basketball scout and owned several Italian restaurants named “Grandpa’s”

Marilyn was originally played by Beverly Owen (Born 1939) but she left after the first 13 episodes. Owen disliked her role in the series but her contractual obligations meant she had to accept the part. She left to get married and took to playing live theatre. She was replaced by Pat Priest (Born 1936) Her mother was a big wheel in American Government and once served as United States Treasurer. Priest had a very privileged lifestyle and with her good looks even won the local beauty pageant   Encouraged by this she took to modelling work and appeared in commercials. This brought her to the attention of the Munsters crew who were desperate for someone to replace Owen. Sadly after the Munsters she found work hard to come by, the ultimate insult being considered too old at 30 to play the part of Marilyn in the film “Munster Go Home” though the rest of the original cast appeared in it. She finally retired from acting in the 80’s and now restores and sells homes in Idaho.

Eddie was played by Butch Patrick (Born 1953) He made his acting debut aged 8 in 1961. While living with his Grandma he was summoned to Los Angeles to audition for the part of Eddie. After the Munsters he appeared in small parts on TV and in commercials.  In 1971 he hosted a Saturday morning kids show and was back in the limelight for a while but it didn’t last long. He quit show business to become “A hellraiser” and the world forgot about Butch Patrick for a while. Eventually the money ran out and he had to do odd jobs around the country to survive.  He formed a band called “Eddie and the Munsters” and released a single entitled “Whatever happened to Eddie?” the record caused MTV to create the “Basement Tapes” so that unsigned bands could parade their talents in the media. His main source of income nowadays seems to come from personal appearances. You can book him for corporate events, birthday parties, Halloween etc. You can even email him at bp@munsters.com

Munsters Trivia

They lived at 1313 Mockingbird Lane

Someone in Texas has built a replica of the Munsters house, they live in it.

The original house can still be seen in the series Desperate Housewife’s.

They had two custom cars the “Drag U La” and the “Munster Koach”

The Raven in the clock was voiced by Mel Blanc.

So my pretties who is the winner in this ghoulish game? I’ll let you decide, I love them both dearly but Hermann is my favourite character, Fred Gwynne played him to perfection.

Well bye for now my little werewolves and if you are out and about in my neck of the woods do call in for a bite. Goodnight.

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Tony (Transylvania) Topping

 

 

The Lift

18 May

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In the early seventies the Latics players were much more approachable. I’m not saying that today’s players are aloof or unfriendly it’s just that you don’t see the majority of them away from the confines of the football pitch.

In our non-league days the players were much more accessible, this was because many of them worked and lived locally. In those days the players were only part time and had to work to supplement their income. Many of the players came to live in Wigan temporarily and one in particular played an important part in my teenage years.

His name was Jim Fleming, he was from Scotland and he was a very good footballer. Jim was an inside forward (ask your Dad) who was comfortable on the ball, had great vision, a superb passer and he also possessed a powerful shot.

He was a kind and unassuming man who always had time for a chat and he played an integral part in that great Gordon Milne side.

Like me he lived on the Worsley Hall council estate, five minutes away from our house, and he worked at the Heinz factory. On many occasions he would be on the same bus as me and I would always try and get a seat near him to see if I could pick up any Latics gossip.wigan-11-1280px-600x400

Jim lived in the flats overlooking the Laithwaite Park football pitches. For my mates and I these fields were Wembley, Old Trafford, Anfield and yes good old Springfield Park. We played there every night during the summer until it was too dark to see the ball and they were great times.

We always made sure we played on the pitch nearest to Jim’s flat window and sometimes we would spot him standing there watching us play. This was when we went into overdrive, trying overhead kicks, diving headers and all kinds of flashy elaborate moves. If you happened to be keeping goal at these moments you suddenly started making the simplest save into something that would score at highly in the Olympic diving competition.

When we thought we had done something particularly impressive we would look up to him like gladiatorial combatants seeking their emperor’s approval and Jim would smile and appropriately give us the thumbs up.

Now and again we would go up to his flat and knock sheepishly for a bottle of water, and Jim or his wife would always laugh and bring us a bottle. We didn’t really need the water it was just an excuse to engage the great man in conversation and it was on one of these occasions that he invited me and my mate to watch the Latics team training on the following Tuesday evening.

Well Tuesday night couldn’t come quick enough and we set out that night with our pads and pens ready for autographs, chattering away like excited magpies. It was September and the nights were beginning to draw in now, up ahead the Springfield Park floodlights shone like beacons to lead us on. We stopped en route to buy some “Spangles” and packets of chewing gum that we would nonchalantly offer to our footballing heroes. spangles

We made our way down First Avenue and started to cross the car park when suddenly the area was plunged into darkness! Making our way to the ground through the gloom we reached the players entrance just in time to see them leaving. In our excitement at being invited we hadn’t listened to Jim’s instructions properly and had got the time mixed up.

With our heads drooping we started to trudge back across the car park when Jim spotted us and shouted us over.

After we explained what had happened Jim asked us how we were getting home, on being told we were walking it he said “I’II get you a lift”.

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Minutes later we were sat in Derek Temple’s car! Yes the Derek Temple! Ex England International, former Everton player and scorer of the winning goal in the 1966 F.A, Cup Final. Jim sat in the front with Derek while we sat in the back with another Latics legend Billy Sutherland, a Scottish fullback and one of the hardest players ever to represent Wigan Athletic.

Dropping us off I ran into our house and excitingly told my Dad of my adventure with the great Jim Fleming, he of course took it all in his stride and said “I see him everyday working at Heinz”.

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Now you can’t say that about Simon Howarth can you?

Tony Topping Cockney latic 25 February 2002

Once upon a time at Wembley…

11 May

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The best Fairy Stories begin with Once upon a time… and finish with a happy ending; this one is no different…

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Once upon a time a young lad and his Dad travelled to the big city to see their team in the third round of the FA Cup. It was a cold and misty day that ended in a narrow defeat for their heroes but nevertheless a day to be proud of. Later that cold January evening the father and son watched their team on Match of the Day in front of the glowing fire, their faces flushed with pride. The date was 3rd of January 1971 and the game was Manchester City v Wigan Athletic…

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Time travelled on and the boy became a man with children of his own. His team had grown with him and now stood face to face with the giants of football on a regular basis but major success still eluded them. The boy’s father sadly died but not before he had seen the team he loved reach the heights of the Premier League. It was a league they would struggle in and it needed every last drop of strength and determination just to survive. Darkness surrounded the home stadium, grey clouds gathered, jostling for position to see the teams fall from grace and detractors cackled with glee like gargoyles hung from ancient walls.

Then began a quest, a golden quest that scattered the clouds and stone faces far and wide, teams were slain and the prize was in reach. Only one team stood between Wigan Athletic and immortality, that team was Manchester City…

Two vast armies assembled and travelled southwards for the final and the northern clouds followed them there, laden with rain and ready to christen the victors at the culmination of the game. Wembley way was awash with people, two rivers of humanity that flowed to each end of the stadium. Friendships were renewed, strangers were embraced, photos for the family album taken. Flags carried aloft punctured the air like battle ensigns and faces painted with war paint ran with the rain.

At last we entered the great arena, friends once again embraced, what will be will be, enjoy the day, don’t get trounced, mantras to calm the nerves on our special day.

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Manchester City the richest club in the land strode upon the lush green turf like they owned it, swaggering, confident and giving barely a second glance to their poor relations warming up in close proximity. The two sides disappeared to the dressing rooms. Players from around the globe sat and listened intently as an Italian and a Spaniard implored them to win England’s most treasured trophy.

Out in the arena the Cup Final hymn brought back memories of loved ones and tears were shed by many not for the last time on this momentous day.

The game began and the confidence began to drain from the team in light blue as the men in black eagerly hunted them down like wolves amongst a sheep’s pen. Trapped and harried into corners they gave the ball away timidly and Wigan took control.  As the first half drew to a close the nervous mantras began again; Just keep the ball! Get it away! Get in the corners!

Half time, we look good, we look confident, what a save by Robles, should have had a penalty. More smiles, we have got to half time and not been breached, more photos, some of the scoreboard, 0-0, never thought that, keep it for the album alongside you and Bobby Moore’s statue. Memories still good before the probable happens but I still BELIEVE. The flag blowing from the top tier reminds me of this and PEMBERTON BLUES reminds me of home and the thousands watching on television in my town. Meanwhile millions across the globe settle down for the second half.

It carries on in the same vein, City pass, pass, and pass again searching for a weak spot in our fragile defences armour. We draw them in, and then attack them on the wings, McManaman torments them like a matador until an Argentinian bull loses control and crashes into him. Red card and City down to ten, Wigan smell the blood and the victory. City confused retreat towards their goal as a black tide threatens to engulf them. Last minute passes with a penalty appeal but only a corner results. The clock ticks past 90mins, Maloney swings the corner over, Watson glances it toward goal and Hart is helpless. Four minutes later and the cup is ours…

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Hearts burst with joy, the players dance a jig of delight, strangers embrace once more, and friends who have previously only shaken hands now hug and kiss the top of rain sodden heads. Miles and miles of smiles, looks of disbelief, some people sit in shock while others shake them slowly back to their feet, unable to take in what they have just witnessed.

I look sideways down my row of red seats and see a friend in tears, he is overwhelmed by what he has seen, we all are. I see my youngest sister and she comes down to tearfully tell me that my Dad did it for us, now it’s my turn to cry. I’m hugged and told “You’ve won the Cup, you’ve won the Cup!” the lad has tears in his eyes, he supports Bolton and his joy is genuine.

The players go up the steps and a moment I have only seen on television happens before my eyes as the cup is raised to roars of approval. And I know you are watching up there Dad, you and all the other supporters who couldn’t be here, your tears of joy fall from the skies and land upon that famous silver trophy.

And I think back to the start of this Fairy Tale, a boy and his Dad on a cold winter’s afternoon over forty years ago, proud then and proud now. And you who were here on this wet day in May will never ever forget the time you saw Wigan Athletic win the FA Cup.

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Tony Topping

 

The Tommy Lawton Story

8 May

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In 1947 Britain was still recovering from the scars of the Second World War and it was proving to be a slow healing process. The winter of that year was one of the worst ever; 14ft deep snowdrifts were recorded, icebergs were spotted off the Norfolk coast and to make matters worse the country was in the middle of a fuel shortage. Factories closed and people were urged to go to bed early to keep warm.

In the June of this year the weekly milk allowance was cut to 2.5 pints a week and newspapers were reduced to 4 pages. In September meat rations were cut once more, holidays abroad were stopped and motoring for pleasure was banned.

The people needed distractions to make this gloomy period more acceptable and many of them turned their attention to football. The game boomed and football stadiums were full to capacity and in some cases dangerously over their safety levels.

In November of this year an event took place that would be unthinkable today, and was just as shocking 60yrs ago, an England International in the prime of his life, aged just 28, signed for a struggling 3rd Division club.

The club was Notts County and the player was Tommy Lawton

Tommy Lawton was born in Farnworth nr Bolton Lancashire on October the 6th 1919.

A promising young footballer he won a trial for the England schoolboys and scored a hat trick in the game. Sadly the F.A. showed the same foresight they employ to this day and they decided not to pick young Tommy for their squad.

Disappointed but not disheartened Lawton continued to work hard and his fortitude was rewarded when he was snapped up by near neighbours Burnley on leaving school. He signed amateur forms for the club and made his debut aged just sixteen against Doncaster Rovers. A week later he sensationally scored two goals in a win against Swansea City, and a star was born.

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Burnley knew they had a precocious young talent in their midst and on his seventeenth birthday they were delighted when Tommy accepted their offer of a professional contract. In his next game he celebrated his full time status with a hat trick against Spurs.

The Burnley fans took him to their hearts but sadly for them it was to be a short lived stay at Turf Moor. His exciting displays brought him to the attention of the bigger clubs and on New Years Eve 1936 he signed for Everton for £6,500 which was a massive amount of money in those days especially for such a young player.

Everton played the young Tommy alongside the legendary Dixie Dean and the experience he gained from this period was invaluable. Dixie had scored a record number of league goals, 60, eight years earlier and Everton saw Tommy as a natural successor. The massive pressure of being groomed to replace a legend didn’t affect Lawton and he flourished at Goodison.

The England selectors who had considered him not good enough as a schoolboy awarded him his full England cap just after his nineteenth birthday in a game against Wales at Ninian Park. In a 4-2 defeat Tommy scored with a penalty and did enough to impress the selectors that they picked him again for their next game a 7 – 1 victory over Northern Ireland. Tommy didn’t score in that one but endeared himself to the England supporters by heading the winner in a 2 – 1 success over auld enemy Scotland.

In that same 1938/39 season he scored an amazing 34 goals as Everton were crowned league champions. Tommy had all the attributes that a centre forward needed and more, he had two good feet, was quick, and had an excellent shot. But his most deadly weapon was his fearsome heading ability. He had it all and nothing could stop him, or so it seemed.

Events in Europe intervened and the tidal waves of war were about to sweep Tommy Lawton and millions of others into a maelstrom that would change their lives forever.

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Tommy signed up and joined the Army and he was assigned the role of Physical Training instructor. He continued to play in morale boosting unofficial England games throughout the war. After the war he was demobbed and now a free agent he decided not to return to Everton but instead signed for Chelsea.

In 1946/47 he picked up from where he had left off and scored with alarming ease, he did in fact break the clubs scoring record with 26 goals in 34 games. But the lad from Lancashire never really settled in London and upset with how the club was being run he requested a transfer.

Football clubs in this era were all powerful and the players had little or no power over decisions taken by their employers. Tommy Lawton’s punishment was banishment to the reserves though England continued to pick him.

In November 1947 a telephone call out the blue from 3rd Division Notts County produced a series of events that had the newspaper hacks of Britain typing furiously at their desks. Arthur Stolley manager of County was previously employed as a masseur at Chelsea and he had become good friends with Lawton. After an argument with the Chelsea chairman Stolley left his position but asked Tommy would he consider joining him if he found another club. Lawton agreed that he would but thought nothing more about it

Other clubs in the 1st Division alerted by the news attempted to sign Lawton but he was true to his word and signed for Notts County on 18th of November 1947.

It was an amazing coup for County, imagine today a fit and in form Wayne Rooney dropping down two divisions to play for someone like Wigan Athletic.

His arrival at County soon paid dividends as 10,000 extra people attended their next home game. Lawton was brilliant in the air and he formed an instant understanding with inside forward Jackie Sewell, a small fast player who would feed Tommy with superb crosses.

Attendance figures were smashed during that season but sadly through their poor start prior to Lawton’s arrival they only managed sixth place at the end of the season.

In the next season County smashed in 102 goals but their all-out attacking style inevitably led to defensive shortages and they finished a disappointing 11th.

In the following season 1949/50 they finally found the right formula and clinched promotion to the 2nd Division. They still managed to fire in 95 goals and Lawton scored 31 of them. The icing on the cake that season was the fact that County sealed their move up a division with a 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest on Easter Monday, Sewell and Lawton destroying their old adversaries.

Unfortunately the following season the deadly partnership was broken up as Sewell moved on to Sheffield Wednesday for a record fee. Lawton himself moved on in 1952 joining Brentford as a player/manager. He had scored 103 goals in 166 appearances for Notts but rumours of dressing room upheaval led to him leaving the club he had grown to love. He had still been an England regular despite his drop down the divisions, a remarkable achievement.

He struggled to combine the player/managers role at Brentford and left to join Arsenal. In his last hurrah as a professional player he scored 15 goals in 38 games over two seasons.

He moved on to non-league football and enjoyed success as player/manager of Kettering. He sealed an emotional return to Notts County on the 7th of May 1957 when they appointed him manager. Sadly though the season was a nightmare and resulted in relegation. Tommy was relieved of his duties and later said “It’s a time of my life best forgotten”

He stayed on in his adopted city and ten years after his managerial stint he was again recruited by County as their chief scout. 18 months later he was again deemed surplus to requirements when new manager Jimmy Sirrell disbanded the scouting system.

Tommy disappeared completely from the scene and suffered financial hardship, barely scraping a living. His life like so many others who played at the top level in his era was worlds away from the pampered millionaire players we have now in the Premier League. He lived in Nottingham in a simple council house and would probably have died there too had it not been for a local news camera crew who filmed him at home.

I watched this short film as a young man, and though not too familiar with Tommy’s story back then, I was shocked that someone who had played for his country and been a legend in football should be treated so shabbily.

Thankfully more influential people than me saw this film, and the local paper gave him a weekly column which gave him some recompense. More importantly his old club Everton saw fit to reward one of their legends with a testimonial in 1972.

He died in his adopted city on 6th of November 1996 aged 77. One of his last official appearances was to open the Tommy Lawton bar at his beloved Meadow Lane in 1995. His ashes are housed in the National Football Museum.

 

Tony Topping

 

Suicidal in the Supermarket

7 May

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If there’s one thing guaranteed to drive me round the bend it’s the weekly “big shop” well to be more precise it’s not the shopping but the other humans grazing along the aisles that do my head in. I tend to do my food gathering at Morrison’s in Chorley mainly because its one of the cheaper stores and I’m not exactly flush with money but then again I’m keeping my head just above the Lidl line.

Anyway off I go every Sunday morning to worship at the altar of consumerism and almost without fail I find something to vent my spleen at, it’s a wonder I have any spleen left!

My bile starts to rise on entering the car park and finding that the nearest available space to park is three mile from the store and in between a 4 x 4 monstrosity and a builders wagon complete with wheelbarrow. After squeezing in the gap I find myself a trolley and release it from its umbilical cord by inserting a pound coin then make my way through the revolving doors into the store itself.

Every week, and I mean every week, the bloke selling double glazing, A.A. membership, new kitchens or family portraits attempts to engage me in conversation. And every week I politely refuse his offers of 4 windows for 3 etc, I even get asked again on my way out and have come to the conclusion that I must have gullible written across my forehead. If I ever get an incurable illness I am going to order all their available products safe in the knowledge that the smug buggers will never get a penny, although I must admit it would be a hollow victory, me being dead an all.

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Just inside the store and to my left is the “restaurant” where you can grab your tray and have your Sunday dinner. I have dined here on many occasions but it’s a bit like being in a goldfish bowl, every time you raise your head from your roast beef barm joe & chips someone is looking at you, invariably it’s a couple of fat salivating gargoyles in matching trackies.

 

I decline a meal and head into the store proper. First stop Fruit & Veg which always leads to an early log jam as every Tom, Dick & Harriet suddenly turns into Percy Thrower, pinching and prodding pears, sniffing and squeezing strawberries and tossing and turning turnips. Onto the bread aisle and it’s the same here, sniff, squeeze, scrutinize sell by date.

Nearly all supermarkets are set out the same way, you go down an aisle turn at the end and then up the next one and so on. Even a lab rat can perform this simple task, but no my fellow trolley trash decide to go across aisles, miss some out, go back on themselves and generally get in my way. I grit my teeth and persevere, even keeping calm when I have a collision with someone turning back into the aisle I am leaving.

The next row gives me nightmares; it’s the one containing washing powder, washing up liquid, detergents etc.  This is where people stop and stare at products for minutes on end, their eyes glass over as they ponder which powder will bring their y fronts back to their original virgin white, clean their oven with one wipe and shift the 5Ib block of lard they poured into their u bend.

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Moving on through the rest of the store I soon come upon something that is to me the ultimate sin in a supermarket… the trolley left on its own! It’s been dumped albeit temporarily whilst its owner meanders about somewhere else, and it’s blocking my path. A quick glance around and if no ones in sight I will push it with all my might and send it spinning down the store leaving it to crash and burn in the beans section. But being the coward I am, if the owner is in sight I will gently push it to one side and smile, but in the dark corners of my mind I am hitting him repeatedly over the head with a stale baguette.

Finally I reach the land of Ambrosia, the chocolate & crisp aisle. Heaven must surely be like this (Well with a couple of buxom nymphs thrown in as well) and my half empty trolley soon starts to fill. I even have to ditch some veg to make more room, carrots or Crunchie? No contest…

At last my food foraging is over and I make my way to the check out. As I wait in the queue my eyes glance over to the spot were all dignity is lost. I try not to look but the temptation is too great and like Lots wife I risk a peek. If a stack of shelves could have a malevolent glare then surely that stack would be the “Bent Bargains” corner.

Nobody but the desperate visit this place with its battered boxes and tins, its soda stream refills and its leaking cat litter. But in amongst all this flotsam and jetsam shines the odd diamond and today is no exception, it’s an Easter egg. The box is damaged and some of the wrapping is missing and there’s a hole gaping in it but its half price! Okay so it is June but half price! An internal struggle between my sensible gene and my irrational gene ends with sensible the victor and I check out egg less.

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The “Big Shop” is finally over for another week and I arrive home in good time for Super Sunday on Sky Sports. The game is a dull affair though and my mind starts to wander and I think to myself “If that Easter Egg is still there next week I will definitely get it, definitely”

 

Tony Topping