Our latest writer to feature in the My Hero, My Inspiration series is Alan Biggs.
Alan, in his own words is a football writer and broadcaster. He's worked for BBC national radio and TV plus national newspapers. Also a lecturer and an author of, "Confessions Of A Football Reporter ... another Biggs at Large", and "Laws Of The Jungle : Surviving Football's Monkey Business" with Brian Laws. (see links at bottom of page for ordering details). You can currently hear Alan on your Saturday afternoon tv as he work's for Final Score and also writes a weekly column for the Sheffield Telegraph newspaper, among other things).
One of my earliest memories is of my dad making the odd mystery disappearance on a Saturday afternoon. He would go off to something called "football." It meant nothing to me - and my mum didn't seem all that impressed either! As a pre-school toddler, there was nothing to bring this thing called "football" into the house. Televised sport was pretty rare in those days. Not that this mattered as we were among many families without a TV at that time.
|Leicester City 1 Manchester United 3|
Later, during dad's disappearances, I would become aware of words such as "Arsenal" and "Highbury", snatched from conversations on his return. Where was this mystical place that would lure him northwards from the Kent countryside? Then, one day, a box with a glass screen arrived and was placed in the corner of the living room. Not long afterwards, Dad sat me down to watch "football" on it. This was Manchester United versus Leicester City in the FA Cup final of 1963. Dad wanted Leicester, as underdogs, to win. By the time it became obvious they wouldn't, I lost interest and left him still sitting there, engrossed in the game.
But his persistence with me paid off - even if it took a 175 mile uprooting of the family to finally kindle the great sporting passion of my life. You see, where we lived near Sevenoaks there was no football focus for a young kid. I don't even remember it being talked about in my early days at school. All that changed very rapidly in the winter of 1963-64. It was because John Biggs's job with the Post Office transported him, my mum (Iris), younger brother (Graham) and myself all the way up to Chesterfield in North Derbyshire. The town had a league football team, albeit in the bottom division, and suddenly the game came alive for me.
|Bramall Lane : Three sided|
Mind you, I'm not altogether sure Dad was thrilled with the prospect of swapping Highbury for Saltergate! But dutifully he took me to a few games in the old Fourth Division. The bug bit and just twelve miles to the north lay the great city of Sheffield boasting not one team but two. Both were in the old First Division at that time as well. Early excursions with dad to see United and Wednesday in front of what seemed to me to be vast crowds - and were in some cases - remain the most exciting football memories of my life. Bramall Lane came first, being the closest geographically, and I could only imagine this other place called Hillsborough which I'd heard was much bigger than its three-sided rival ground and had a majestic backdrop. The name "Wednesday" also had a certain charisma.
|Sheffield Wednesday 0 Manchester United 0|
Dad picked a corker for one of my first Hillsborough games. This was Sheffield Wednesday versus Manchester United, complete with Best, Law and Charlton. I remember standing low down on the Kop and looking up at the vast cantilever North Stand, which was unique in its time, filled to capacity. It's majesty was such that it was hard to keep eyes on the pitch and shamefully I have to admit that, had I been reporting that day, I would have got the score wrong! The game was still 0-0 when Wednesday forced the ball into the net at the Kop as full-time approached. It was bedlam, complete uproar. I became temporarily separated from Dad in a crowd surge and only rejoined him at the final whistle. "Great win for Wednesday," I said. "What do you mean, son?" he replied. "The goal was disallowed!"
Manchester United meant a lot to Dad actually. In 1958 he'd been at Highbury to see them play their last game on English soil before the Munich air disaster. It finished Arsenal 4 Manchester United 5 (see link below for match report). "Munich" was another word I heard frequently at home in my formative years. For all of his love for Arsenal - passed on from his own father - my dad was never less than fair in the way that he viewed the game. He was always gracious to opposing teams, showing the sort of etiquette more commonly associated with cricket, which he also loved as a supporter of Kent. I like to think that I have carried his sense of decency and fair play into my work.