The Sage had a deep mistrust of newspaper men. Rumour had it that he had even refused to watch the Pathe newsreel of Yeovil’s victory over Sunderland at the Gaumont, on account of the fact that the flea pit had once shown Citizen Kane. I never got to the bottom of it but it was something to do with the Western Gazette and a falling out over the spelling of his name for the runner up spot in the Yeovil and District Chrysanthemum competition.
However I am sure even he would have smiled a beam of green and white delight at the thought of his words having reached the nation yesterday – albeit in The Times that, ‘jumped up Tory Rag – good for nothing ‘cept the backsides of they posh Bath Supporters.’
The article implied the Sage was a bit of a misery and whilst I admit he was drawn to the darker side of football philosophy, I feel a duty to put the record straight. Underneath the frustration, there was a green and white heart of hope. So last night, I padded out to the back shed and found a programme that has lain buried in the depths of the old cardboard box. The programme for a match that even now makes my fingers tremble as I type these words – Stafford Rangers, 1972, the Semi-Final of the F. A. Trophy. The last time we saw the gates of Wembley, only for them to be slammed shut in our faces.
The world was in turmoil, tears cut down my face, as I raced past the onions and smashed through the chrysanthemums. I kicked the shed door open. The Sage looked up from his seed trays.
I pulled the wooden draw open, took out the box and opened it. There they were my Yeovil Town subbuteo team. Tiny plastic figures lovingly painted in thick globs of green and white airfix paint. I looked at them. A tear dropped on Len Harris. I picked him up and hurled him into the carrot patch. Ron Bayliss followed, Chris Weller careered off towards the potatoes and Tony Clarke (who I doubted was now ‘for England’) hit the parsnips. The Sage watched silently puffing on his pipe, as one by one the team was scattered across the Pen Mill allotment.
Now there was only one left.
I picked up Johnny Clancy.
‘Johnny Clancy going to?’ said the Sage, placing his pipe on the fruit box.
‘Not Johnny Clancy,’ he pleaded.
‘They lost,’ I yelled. ‘They took us to the gates of Wembley and lost.’
For the umpteenth time, since I had got back on the coach from that Oxford hell, I dissolved into a blubbering mess. The Sage popped a seed into the tray,
‘And how long are you gonna remain bound up in the chains of defeat?’
‘Four nil, Sage. I’ve had it. I’m gonna to follow a proper team.’
‘And what might that be?’
‘A First Division team. They’re all Southampton supporters up at school now. They win stuff.’
‘Oh son, you’re young to the ways of the world. Put away that wet Weymouth face and move on. Have I taught you nothing? Why do we love this game that rips us apart and sends us to the dark corners of our souls?’
‘I don’t care.’
‘Because with every defeat comes the dream of victory. Yes, all my life I knew that places like Wembley were not for the likes of us but I allowed myself to dream. Always allow the dream to shine a little bit of hope. And you know, son, even given the pain of this defeat, which has wrenched our Huish hearts in twain, I would not have missed the chance to dream.’
He covered the seed with a rich clump John Innis Number 1.
‘One day it will happen. May be not in my lifetime, but one day.’
He poured water across the dark earth from an old tin can.
‘Dream of they twin towers, all a flutter o’ green and white. And a song of Somerset voices thronging up Wembley Way.’ His eyes began to glaze. ‘Guided by some mighty invisible green gloved hand.’
He patted the soil gently.
‘And they golden gates will open and we’ll walk into that promised land and Yeovil, yes our little market town will take its place, for one brief shining moment, amongst the Stanley Matthews and the very Gods of this world.’
For the first time in a couple of days I smiled at the ridiculous thought.
‘Don’t be afraid to dream,’ he rebuked. ‘Even the likes of us. Not this season no. Maybe not next, maybe not for a hundred years. But hold on to that faith son. Because it’s the dream, not the wakening that drives us on.’
I stared at Johnny Clancy.
The Sage pulled out a note from his pocket. ‘Here’s ten bob son, want to get yourself up Templemen’s and buy Southampton? Red and white in’t they?’
I shook my head. I put Johnny Clancy carefully back in the box.
Back to Top of Page