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For he’s a jolly Goodfellow . . .
10:05am Friday 1st August 2008 in Backtrack
JIMMY Goodfellow, and if ever a bright-shining example of name and nature it is that one, has retired after almost half a century in football. It got off to a flyer.
He was just 20, an apprentice draughtsman at Vickers naval yard on the Tyne, when he scored Crook Town’s first goal at Wembley in the 1964 Amateur Cup final against Enfield – “a header, too,” he says and searches anxiously (and vainly) for the picture with which to prove it.
His scrapbook, however, does carry an eight-column headline wrongly attributing the goal to Matt Lumsdon.
Clearly the press box couldn’t believe its eyes, either.
By way of double celebration – and there were, he concedes, a good few beers – his beloved Sunderland clinched a long-awaited return to the top division by beating Charlton Athletic that same afternoon.
The players ran barefoot around Roker Park.
Generally taciturn manager Allan Brown forecast that Bill Shankly’s Liverpool, the first division champions, would have to watch out the following season.
So they would, but it was Man United who took their title. Liverpool finished seventh, Sunderland 15th.
No matter that it was just about the only medal he ever won, that his only England amateur call-up was as a reserve, that his near-500 Football League appearances were all in the lower divisions – “ a non-running, nontackling, non-heading midfielder” – Jimmy’s is a story of a lifelong, lasting love affair and he’s never going to hurt the one he loves.
“That’s my whole life,” he says succcinctly. “Jimmy Goodfellow, footballer.”
His last three decades have been spent living near Newport, south Wales, mostly with Cardiff City though with an unenchanting little spell as physio at Lawrie McMenemy’s Sunderland.
Though Newport railway station’s bilingual, he isn’t.
His Wearside accent’s unmolested, his Welsh extending little beyond yakky da – he can’t spell it, either. “I still have to mouth the national anthem,” he admits.
It’s in Newport that we meet, the smashing Sylvia laying lunch on the best table cloth – Welsh lace, probably – her husband of 42 years replete with memories and good nature.
Each Friday evening he still plays five-a-side, couple of pints afterwards, no plans to hang up his trainers. “Just because you’re nearly 65,”
says Jimmy, “is no reason to give up on football.”
HE was born in Hendon, Sunderland, attended Hendon Board School – as did Raich Carter, 30 years earlier – signed for Newcastle United N’s when Sunderland showed no interest.
“I don’t tell many people that,” he says. “Fancy me wearing a Newcastle United shirt.”
Rejected in turn by Newcastle, the medical perhaps finding unsuitably striped eyeballs, he signed as a 17-year-old for Consett, then in the North Eastern League, joining Crook shortly before their 1962 Wembley appearance.
It was an interesting, though by no means unique, example of a good player moving from a “semiprofessional”
to an “amateur” club. “We got our expenses,” says Jimmy, and says no more.
His first game was at Stanley United, the dear old Little House on the Prairie, the mid-March pitch resembling a cross between a Napoleonic battlefield and a high-Himalayan horse track.
It was there that he encountered Doug Raine, and where Duggie made his mark.
The late Doug Raine, Stanley’s right half, was a Crook council binman and formidably ferrous footballer. “People still ask me who’s the hardest man I ever played against and even after all those years in the Football League there’s only one contender. I still have the scar on my ankle.”
There’s a picture of that match, too, black and white and bled all over. Young Goodfelow’s four yards out.
“I should have scored,” he supposes.
The 1964 final was Crook’s fifth, all victorious, and a fourth winner’s medal in 11 seasons for Jimmy McMillan, the outside left – “greying a little but otherwise unmarked by time,” the Northern Echo observed.
The teams were presented to Mr Angus Ogilvy, the programme cost a shilling, the Royal Artillery band played The Gay 90s with neither nudge nor wink.
Enfield scored after ten minutes, both Crook’s goals coming after the Middlesex side’s ‘keeper had gone off with a broken arm.
“They’ve given Wembley spectators more cover,”
wrote Ivor Broadis in the Sunday Sun, “but they can’t keep the injury gremlin out.”
“OK,” says Jimmy, “so the header was past their outside right.”
The only problem with Crook was that, despite George Wardle’s innovative coaching and man management, the team was picked by a cloth capped committee, a dozen or more of them.
“George wanted you to play, let you play, always said that a midfielder should be standing still in good space.
They could have that on my epitaph.
“He was a brilliant man, but was always going to resign about not being allowed to pick the team. I loved Crook, great people right down to the tea lady who gave me extra sausages, but it was so frustrating that you could be dropped by a committee.”
Then one day he got a call from Bishop Auckland – “I always remember it was at work” – inviting him to redirect his left-hand drive bubble car a few miles down the road and to join the implacable rivals.
“Who picks the team?”
“I do,” said Lawrie McMenemy, and Jimmy’s never been back to Crook since.
He played a season with the Bishops, helped them regain the Northern League title, agreed to join Port Vale – then managed by Stanley Matthews and his former Blackpool team-mate Jackie Mudie – on condition that they found him and his bride-to-be a house.
Even in World Cup year, even in the singing sixties, there were plenty who warned about the precariousness of professional football.
“It was a choice between the Football League or forever looking out of the drawing office window at the wrong river,” he recalls.
“Besides, how many ships are they building these days on the Tyne?”
He is unable, however, to make the veteran Bishops’ annual reunion on August 22. “It’s five-a-side night, isn’t it?”
AFTER three years with Port Vale– “Jackie Mudie was brilliant, Stan Matthews different” – he joined Workington. Though perennial strugglers, he believes that they played good football.
Sylvia followed faithfully, already appointed Compiler of the Scrapbooks. She was from Fulwell; now, married 42 years, they’re the Sunderland Welsh and won’t be returning north. Nothing, he says, would have been possible without her.
Thereafter he had five years at Rotherham, the most memorable moment perhaps coming at Roker Park. “I’d gone to see the physio, something wrong with my ankle, when Sylvia went into labour in the car outside.
“I knew the physio and would have been delighted for Clair to be born at Roker Park, but I don’t think Sylvia thought that way at all.”
After a few final games with Stockport County – “Mike Summerbee talked me into it, I shouldn’t have let him” – he answered a call from Len Ashurst, the former Sunderland defender, to become his assistant at Newport County.
When Ashurst became Cardiff City manager, his mate followed, eventually becoming team boss himself.
Sacked, he had a year as Plymouth physio, then accepted McMenemy’s invitation to return to Wearside.
“We thought we were going back to Sunderland for good.
The house here was nearly sold, the people had been round to measure the curtains, but things were getting a bit rocky and it wasn’t working out.”
McMenemy wasn’t best pleased. “Let’s just say it wasn’t an easy transition,”
Bluebirds’ manager Frank Burrows asked him back to Ninian Park as physio. “They couldn’t get rid of me,” says Jimmy.
In 1998 they gave him a testimonial, against Manchester United – “Jimmy is one of the nicest people in football,” write City chief executive Joan Hill in the programme.
Its cover had pictures of the beneficiary in playing days, as a member of the Cardiff backroom staff and – looking a bit like Sir Ian Botham, underneath the mortar board – on the day of the conferment of a Master of Philosophy degree for his work on the effects of weight bearing on bones.
“I believe in putting my time in,” he says, manifestly.
Latterly he has been working mainly with the youngsters, rejoiced when Cardiff reached the FA Cup final – “we had a lovely day out” – has nothing but warm words for Wales and the Welsh.
Yakky da? “Oh aye,” he says, “certainly.”
SO what of the querulous old pro, the hardened-mien streak, the grizzled eye and grumpy quote? There’s none of that with Jimmy Goodfellow, no rheum at the top, no unhappy ending.
“I remember all those years ago back in Hendon, my dad saying the game was done with,” he says. “That was when they paid Johnny Haynes £100 a week.”
It’s much changed, of course, but he supposes the biggest transformation of all to be in the quality of pitches – in every sense down to the grass roots. “The effort and knowledge which goes into it, even in the local leagues, is amazing.
“St James’ Park used to be terrible, Middlesbrough among the best. We won’t even talk about Stanley United.”
If players are greedy, overpaid prima donnas – and those are the terms in which the question is put, certainly not answered – then who can blame them, he says, for taking what’s on offer.
If FIFA wants to restrict the number of overseas players, then it will be the fans who suffer. If you need six degrees to be a sports therapist – the term he prefers – then that can only be for the general good.
It is, in any case, far removed from the little feller on the force-eight bench, towel round his neck and hope in his heart.
“I’ve really no regrets, except maybe for wearing that black and white shirt. I wouldn’t do anything differently. There are still people in football I wouldn’t even open the door to, but most of them are great.”
In retirement, Jimmy will continue to scout for Cardiff, anticipating a fresh role with familiar enthusiasm.
“Football’s like having a baby. The first bit’s meant to be pleasurable, the next nine months can be a bit rough at times, but you always hope for a bit of joy at the end.”
Sylvia offers another lager, smiles like she’s heard that one before, says nothing.
We’re chatting away for four hours: they really are nice guys, this Mr and Mrs Goodfellow.
AND maybe Jimmy Goodfellow shouldn’t read this bit – Tuesday’s column posed an interesting question: if two points were awarded for every FA Cup final win in the competition’s history, and one to the beaten finalists, who’d be fourth behind Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United.
It was, of course, Newcastle United, those Wembley defeats in 1998 and 1999 edging them ahead of Spurs and Aston Villa in joint fifth place.
Let’s today stick with the Newport County set, and a three-parter: who scored six times for Newcastle United in County’s record 13-0 defeat in October 1946, which Trimdon lad was one of the club’s most successful managers and – just eight years after they’d reached the European Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-final – who replaced them in the old fourth division for 1988-89?
Welsh rarebit, the column returns on Tuesday.