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GUY HENDERSON: Skullduggery by Windy Dennis

By Herald Express  |  Posted: January 31, 2013

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I'LL be honest. I would have kicked Charlie Morgan, and I would probably have booted him again for good measure. Charlie Morgan is the Swansea City ball boy who acted as a human shield during a football match the other night.

With the clock ticking down and Swansea's opponents Chelsea increasingly desperate for the goals which would have saved the day in the two-leg cup tie, the ball bounced off the field behind one of the goals and rolled in Charlie Morgan's direction.

The 17-year-old ball boy, son of one of the richest men in Wales and self-styled social media 'king of all ballboys', was seen on TV to drop on the ball and shield it from Chelsea's Eden Hazard.

The Chelsea star's impatience got the better of him and he fired a kick in the general direction of the ball, apparently trying to release it from its position underneath Master Morgan.

The television pictures do not show with any accuracy exactly where Eden Hazard's boot connected, but the ball was freed and young Morgan was left aggrieved and in apparent pain.

The Chelsea player was duly sent off the field for what the great Eddie Waring would have described as an early bath, while young Morgan was catapulted to the kind of instant stardom so readily available in these days of social media.

To be fair, the Morgans have no interest in pressing charges and immediately their son's social media activities were curtailed.

But that didn't stop it becoming the biggest story of the week in the tabloids and on TV.

I will confess here and now, and it may be of some comfort to the beleaguered Morgans, that I have been party to much the same thing myself as this young man did, albeit in a less public arena.

And I have very nearly done what Eden Hazard did, too.

Football at its grassroots level has always been home to skullduggery and shenanigans both on and off the pitch.

At Brixham United we had a committee member, a gentleman of great distinction in local football circles, who was showered with honours by the local football community and who was also an expert at wasting time when the occasion demanded.

Brixham were playing in the Western League at the time, and we used to go along and watch them.

The football was good, and the coach trips to away matches were the stuff of legend.

One wet Saturday afternoon at somewhere such as Radstock or Bristol Manor Farm, where the locals didn't take too kindly to a coachload of scruffs from Devon turning up and taking the points, our brave boys in blue were defending a single-goal lead going into the last few minutes.

We were standing, as was our preference, behind the goal being attacked by Brixham in the second half.

From memory, we would have comprised me, Mark, Nobby, Shane, Jay, Davey, Charlie, George (not Charlie George) and Windy Dennis, whose nickname needs little explanation.

Suffice it to say that the seat next to him on the coach home was not greatly sought-after.

The purpose of this behaviour was to create a kind of six-man 'kop' behind the boundary rope towards which our players could focus their efforts.

We would move at half-time, pausing for industrial-strength Bovril and a bag of crisps from whatever refreshment shack had been set up, so as always to be behind the goal our players were attacking.

We reasoned that they would be motivated by playing towards their devoted followers, blue and white scarves knotted at their throats, Bovril and crisps in hand.

The other purpose of this was to sledge the opposing goalkeeper.

At its crudest level, comments would be passed on the ability, parentage and girth of the opposing keeper, although if you did that, you had to be quick on your toes at the final whistle, when the keeper might be moved to come around the posts, over the rope and discuss matters with you at a more personal level.

On this one occasion, we had been joined by the gentleman of distinction for the closing minutes of the game, and the ball duly rolled out of play beside us.

"I'll get it," the gentleman of distinction announced, and as the home goalkeeper seethed in rage and frustration, he sauntered through the wet grass to get the ball.

Eventually, after what seemed like an age spent ferreting around in the undergrowth, he returned with an innocent smile on his face and rolled the ball — not threw it — to the furious goalkeeper.

The smile was so innocent and apparently genuine that the angry keeper couldn't possibly say anything.

Sure enough, the clock ran down, the referee blew the final whistle and Brixham United won the match.

As the home goalkeeper angrily snatched up his spare gloves and cap from the back of the net the gentleman of distinction turned to us and said with quiet wisdom: "You see lads, you have to learn to run fast slowly."

As a player, I would have seethed and raged just like the goalkeeper did, and I would probably have taken matters into my own hands and tried to get the ball back any way I could, just like Eden Hazard did.

But young Morgan might be comforted to know that even though his actions on behalf of his team were captured on worldwide TV and became a global sensation overnight, he wasn't doing anything Windy Dennis and his pals hadn't done in the name of footballing skullduggery on the damp municipal fields of the west country many years before.

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