Toon Poetry ANGELS PLAYING FOOTBALL ! Some weeks before he died in 1988, the legendary Newcastle United footballer Jackie Milburn was sitting in his Ashington home with a grand-daughter on his knee. Outside, there was thunder and lightning, which frightened the wee girl: ‘What’s that noise?’, she asked her grandad anxiously. ‘Don’t worry’, ‘Wor Jackie’ replied, ‘It’s just the angels playing football.’ It was this incident which inspired the following poem, given added poignancy by the placing of an Alan Shearer shirt on the Gateshead Angel’s prodigious back by local fans before the 1998 F.A. Cup Final! ! ! 18 Sprinkle my ashes on St. James’s Park, Fragments of goals on the grass. Hear the Gallowgate roar in the dark. All of my dreams came to pass. ! Pass me my memories, Pass me the days, Pass me a ball and I’ll play: ! Play with the angels, Play on their wings, Play in the thunder and lightning. ! I leave you these goals in my will, Snapshots of me on the run. I leave you these pieces of skill, Moments of me in the sun. ! Pass me my memories, Pass me the days, Pass me a ball and I’ll play: ! Play with the angels, Play on their wings, Play in the thunder and lightning. By Keith Armstrong THE PLAYERS WITH THAT PIGGYBACK ! COMMON TOUCH I love the players with that common touch, ’Jinky’ Jim Smith's nutmeg in his own box, Albert Scanlon on the Coast Road bus, boots wrapped up under his arm, on his way to the game, players with that common touch. John McNamee swinging from a Roker cross-bar, Mirandinha in his wooly gloves. Gascoigne chewing on a Mars Bar before he takes a corner, I love the players with that common touch. As a postman, I once delivered packets to John McGrath's door, predicted the score as he patted my head, another player with that common touch. Alan Suddick pulling shorts down in the wall, the triumphant leaps of Martins and Lua Lua, I love the players with that common touch. Bobby Mitchell smiling behind the Lochside bar, the human decency of Frank Clark. VEITCH ! ! (in memory of Colin Campbell McKechnie Veitch, 1881- 1938) ‘One man that has a mind and knows it can always beat ten men who haven't and don't.’ George Bernard Shaw ! Football brain, you thought with your feet, treading the boards in a dynamic theatre of passing action. A winning way, love of the glorious day and a sense of history from Heaton Park to socialism. Your story, from the pulsing Tyne to the Geordie trophy room, keeps us hoping on Gallowgate, alive with dignity and strong respect for the ideal of community and the black and white love of fairness. Battling away, in a skilled midfield and in the stinking trenches, you fought for your troubled lilting city and all of those who ever kicked a ball in its intimate soulful avenues. My father took me piggyback to the people's game. I felt the surge of the Gallowgate end beneath me like the sea roaring off Tynemouth. I sensed the solidarity of those football-mad days and my little heart swelled with a Magpie pride. Black and white love came to me early, inherited down life's straining seasons. The throbbing crowd lifted me over tough shoulders, the passion surging with me to the front where I could share the yearning dreams for just a little glory. Those terraces lit up, made the blue star glow. We young and thirsty Geordies learnt quickly to get drunk on the back of flowing football. ! Colin Veitch made a total of 322 appearances for Newcastle United, scoring 49 goals. He captained the United side which won League Championships in 1905, 1907 and 1909, the FA Cup in 1910 and were FA Cup finalists in 1905, 1906, 1908 and 1911, and also represented England on 6 occasions.