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Jumpers for Goalposts: Happy days as a young Sunderland fan!

Remember when we used to play footy in the streets with jumpers for goalposts? It was tough but did we have fun? You can bet your life we did. Happy days.

Playing In Street Photo by Haywood Magee/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

I’m sure a lot of you of a certain vintage will be familiar with the phrase ‘Jumpers for goalposts,’ but I have to say it’s a while since I heard anyone using it. Well it was until last week when it popped up during a discussion about a previously proposed Government initiative to reduce the level of childhood obesity by creating streets where kids could play safely.

A worthy cause no doubt but without wanting to fall out with anyone over political issues (which obviously would never happen in this country, would it?) I’m of the opinion that however well-intentioned, the scheme might be actually getting modern day youngsters out in the streets or onto the fields may prove to be a monumental task.

I just have this scene in my head that when little Johnny asks his mates if they fancy a game of footy their first instinct is to pile into his bedroom and plug in the nearest games console. I’m generalising, of course, but seeing groups of kids kicking a ball about nowadays isn’t something we see often enough and it’s a real shame because when I was a kid it’s all we wanted to do from getting up to going to bed.

Coronavirus - Dresden Photo by Robert Michael/picture alliance via Getty Images

To be fair to the current generation, the nearest I got to technology was probably a record player which nowadays would be a vinyl turntable with USB port (Ooh get me, eh?) or a portable radio which gave you perfect sound as long as you were able to perch on the top branch of a Giant Redwood tree, standing on your head with both trouser legs rolled up to the knee.

In other words, it wasn’t great, so the only alternative was to make our own entertainment and football was the most popular choice.

We just seemed to have a sixth sense because as soon as the sun came up (yes, despite rumours saying otherwise we did actually have sunshine in Easington Lane) the gang would meet up in the usual place and the fun would begin.

There was a sort of pecking order and the nipper who owned the most decent ball was everybody’s mate, so he was treated with what passed for respect. In other words he didn’t get his lugs flicked or receive any form of harsh treatment in case he took the huff and stormed off with his ‘get out of jail’ card.

Next in line were the kids who were actually rich enough to own jumpers (aka goalposts), which, to be honest, tended to have as many holes as your average net, but we didn’t care because they were there to serve a purpose not provide the luxury of warmth.

Then there were the rest of us, a real life version of The Bash Street Kids, just glad that we had something to get up for.

Football In Street Photo by Haywood Magee/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

We’d play all day and all night if we had the chance and looking back the reason we didn’t seem to suffer the same obesity levels as modern day kids was probably down to a combination of constant exercise and a habit of having selective deafness as your Mother tried to get you in for meals.

I mentioned the sun earlier, but it was exactly the same whether it was rain, hail, or shine because we got so filthy the only way we could be recognised at times was by the colour of our eyes or dental checks - and now I think about it we were probably the inspiration for TV programmes like CSI and Silent Witness.

I’m pretty sure there must have been occasions when some hideously manky urchin has been dragged kicking and screaming all the way home, chucked straight into a hot bath (in the posh houses only of course, the likes of me were hosed down) only for the angry mother to discover that underneath those layers of mud and slime it wasn’t her little Johnny but one of the scraggy little gits from the council estate who was so dirty he’d probably been exposed to (and built up an immunity) to every conceivable disease in history.

It was tough but did we have fun? You can bet your life we did. Happy days.