The Greatest Game
I grew up in a house that lived and breathed football. My late father was a football journalist and writer who reported on games – local, national and worldwide.
He wrote around forty books – including a number of very successful books on soccer which demonstrated his deep understanding and love of the game.
Amazingly I was never taken to a football match. My father said it was because he sat in the press box where children were not allowed. At least, that’s what he told me!
I remember dad going to Switzerland for the World Cup in 1954 and coming back with a Swiss doll for me plus a miniature football which had been autographed by all of the England team. I wonder what happened to it?
To my father’s dismay, I grew up completely uninterested in the game of football. I became fed up with boyfriends introducing to me to their friends as “Ralph Finn’s daughter!” However, I do have copies of most of my dad’s books and have tried to obtain the ones I don’t own from second-hand bookshops and Ebay.
I think this is the complete list:
World Cup 1954
Spurs go Marching On
Spurs Again, The Story of the League Cup Season
My Greatest Game
Arsenal: Chapman to Mee
Champions Again – Manchester United, 1965
England World Champions 1966
London’s Cup Final 1967
History of Chelsea
World Cup 1970
Going through my father’s papers I found that he had written a memorial to the footballer Leon Joseph who died in 1983. My dad’s eulogy is now going to be part of the display at the forthcoming football exhibition at the Camden Jewish Museum.
I also found this extract from the BBC Sport Website (2008) from an interview with Paul Trevillion, the author and illustrator of the “You Are The Ref” cartoon which appeared in the Sunday People.
“The reason I’m so proud of You Are The Ref and why it means more to me than anything I’ve ever done, is because it is a great memory of a great friend and a great journalist. In 1952 I worked for the Lilywhite monthly magazine. Ralph L. Finn was the editor and a terrific national journalist who took me under his wing, gave me lots of valuable advice and was instrumental in the start of You Are The Ref. To please Ralph, more than anything else, I came up with Hey Ref! In 1957 it was published in the Sunday People and that was the birth of You Are The Ref. It’s been going, in one form or other, for the past 50 years.
Every time I draw YATR I can hear Ralph saying to me: ‘As long as football is played, nobody will know all the rules, because in one form or another, new rules or adaptations are written almost every new season’. He was right then and he is today. The strip is a great memory of Ralph, whose epitaph was: ’You must learn to kick with both feet, punch with both hands and play to your utmost ability the greatest game of all – life’.”
The legacy my father gave me was a love of literature, particularly poetry. I am very proud of all that he achieved. I just wish that he had taken me just once – to a football match!
© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems