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Two Rooms And A View: 44 - A Talkative Personality

...Throughout the town's schoolboy football matches, many of the players were supported on the touchline, and sometimes on the away team coach, by their enthusiastic fathers. I wasn't but, unknown to me, Jimmy Owen may have been in the crowd. Sadly, I don't know to this day if my father ever found out about his only son playing for South Shields Schoolboys....

Robert Owen recalls playing schoolboy football for his home town team.

To read earlier chapters of Robert's absorbing life story please click on Two Rooms And A View in the menu on this page.

The talkative personality of the town's schoolboy team was undoubtedly a small multi-skilled inside forward from Westoe School. His name was Joe Woodcock. Unknown to us, our life paths were to cross many times during the coming years.

Throughout the town's schoolboy football matches, many of the players were supported on the touchline, and sometimes on the away team coach, by their enthusiastic fathers. I wasn't but, unknown to me, Jimmy Owen may have been in the crowd. Sadly, I don't know to this day if my father ever found out about his only son playing for South Shields Schoolboys.

Years later, when having a political discussion with somebody at work, he found out that I had played on the left wing for South Shields Schoolboys. His reaction was, "Never! You were on the wrong wing you would have made a better right-winger than Enoch Powell!"

It was the mid-fifties before Shields Schoolboys had any major success in the English Cup. Michael Byrne (1984) describes the success of the town team in the 1955/6 season, by reaching the last eight of the national competitions, and how High School lad John Talbot, captained England against Ireland in Belfast.

The following season, the team progressed to the sixth round in the same competition before losing to Manchester Boys. I recall both games at a very crowded Simonside Hall, the then home of South Shields A.F.C. I believe that the Schoolboys hold the record of highest attendance at the town's former ground.

One school game I do remember during the 49/50 season, for non-football reasons, was when we travelled to Boldon. I believe it was the last match of the season and a title decider. The team and reserve were instructed to meet Jack Shipley at the top of Stanhope Road bus stop to get the 9.20 a.m. No 62 bus to Boldon for a 10 a.m. kick off. Most of the team lived in the nearby area and getting there for that time was not a problem. I lived about two miles away and unfortunately, somehow managed to miss the trolley bus that would have got me there on time. After the Boldon bus had left, I knew there was not another for half-an-hour, so I did some quick calculations. The Boldon ground was about two miles away and it would take the bus nearly ten minutes to get there. If I waited for the next bus, I might be too late for the second time in the morning. The thought frightened me and stimulated a quick decision; I started running.

With a full haversack on my back, I quickly jogged along Boldon Lane, passed where I was born, and on to Whiteleas and the open country. Over the railway bridge and running to the crossroads, I turned right and there was the school on the left-hand side of the road. Not having a watch, I didn't know the time but I had beaten the next bus and must have completed the two miles in less than 20 minutes. On arrival, Jack Shipley sarcastically commented, "You'll be nicely warmed up for the game now!"

Boldon School always had an outstanding football team and 1949/50 was no exception. Bob Dawson, their centre-half and captain, went on to play for South Shields for many years. A year younger than all of us was Albert Franks, a half-back who played for Newcastle United from 1953 to 1963. It was a terrific game and if I remember correctly, we drew and shared the championship.

Jack Shipley was at Stanhope before I started and was still there many years after I left. Many former pupils will remember him as an enthusiastic football and gym teacher, but in my opinion, he was also excellent in the classroom. Others may remember him for his liberal use of the slipper the only one in the school!

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