In the beginning...
My earliest recollection of
kicking a football is against the wall of The Hobmoor, the pub opposite my Gran and Granddad's home in Fast Pits Road, Birmingham. I must have been
about 7 or 8 and Dad and Granddad were usually "propping up the bar" inside!
Granddad (George Cockerill) was a
scout for Birmingham City Football Club and in his day had been a pretty mean
footballer himself. He had great dreams for me, possibly arising from his
own thwarted career. In 1913 he had been offered a place at Preston
Football Club however he was a young married man with his first child (my
mother) on the way and Gran refused to move the 100 or so miles away from her
family. One can only speculate on the path his life might have taken had Gran been a little more flexible.
I didn't play organised
football until attending Bierton Road School at the age of 11. Until
then games were slap-dash affairs with assorted kids from the neighbourhood. However, Granddad had spent many years of one-on-one
coaching and I was consequently picked for the school team almost
immediately. During my early days football for kids was very
different from today. World War II was in full swing and resources
were scarce. One resource which was non-existent was rubber bladders
for the heavy leather footballs. We learnt to be quite resourceful
during the war and soon found that pigs bladders worked nearly as
well...with a little tinkering here and there!
On 2 January 1946 I played
in a schoolboys match, Surrey vs Birmingham & District, at Selhurst Park. We drew 1 all. Members of the Birmingham & District team included
Derek Pace who went on to play for Aston Villa and A. Sneddon who went on
to play for Coventry City. Part of a newspaper review of the match,
headlined Good Football in County Game, reads
Smith put Birmingham
level before half time. The visitor's other winger, Nutt, took everybody's
fancy. His ball control was quite in the [Stanley] Matthews
Bullet Smith played with me
at at Bierton Road School.
On 11 May 1946 Bierton Road
School played in the final of the Birmingham Schools Cup at Villa Park
against Handsworth Technical School. Bierton Road won 3-2. Captain of the Bierton Road team was George Allen who went on to play for
Birmingham City. Bullet Smith was also part of this winning team.