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Hughie Gallacher: The football I've seen I.
Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2022-04-15 14:18:53
Data providers: Isaque Argolo.
Hughie Gallacher | 14/01/1936
EPT THOUSAND pounds sterling — 525.000 francs — such was the price paid for my first big transfer, across the Scottish border, by Newcastle United.
It seems huge.
Now, at 32, with the better part of my footballing career behind me, I would gladly give five years of my life to be able to get my hands on half that sum.
When, at 22 and full of promise, I arrived in the South to seek my fortune "with my feet", I discovered that if I was worth such a considerable transfer, it was mainly because of my friends. Indeed, my football story will be, to a large extent, the story of my friends.
Some are now famous, others have fallen back into obscurity, if not worse; one at least, died as a result of an accident in the field.
Without them, you would never have heard of Hughie Gallacher.
I wrote to one of them as soon as I was asked to write these lines. She was always my best friend: she's my mother.
Here is what the one who has guided me all my life replied: You just have to tell this story your way, Hughie. My favorite are the memories of the old days in Bellshill, where you and "little" Alex kicked a ball of paper along High Street. It was terribly hard on your shoes, but you looked so strong and happy, you know! But will your gentlemen from the newspapers ever be interested in these little details?
The "little" Alex my mother speaks of is, after her, my oldest friend. You now know him as Alex James, one of the best insiders who ever played football.
It is thanks to a battle, which we both won, that we bonded. We liked school poorly, he and I; and one morning I was running towards the old and sad school building when I met Alex.
The bell has finished ringing, I shouted as I caught up with him, how about a little vacation? Are we skipping school?
We disappear together down the street, heading for the fields, behind the town. We didn't have a clear conscience, and we didn't really know how to spend our time. We were not yet ten years old.
It ends in a battle.
Eventually, we made ourselves a beautiful soccer ball out of paper and string, all taken from a nearby dump.
Almost as big as a real balloon, this sphere was much heavier.
Our jackets and caps marking "the woods", the game began with a goal.
After ten minutes the mark was formidable: a dozen or two on each side! But then came a dubious goal! I discussed. Alex pretended to be a referee, at the same time as the opposing team! You can imagine that my team attacked his, and that the referee got involved!
At that time, we were rivals for a spot on the school team.
The "Bellshill Academy" was then famous for its football and could well afford to do without both Alex James and me.
The next day, we both bore traces of the battle.
The director of Bellshill Academy stared at us, and then told us: I was going to put you in the team for the big game on Saturday, but I changed my mind, because I see that you had your football content yesterday!
We looked at each other. Thus we suffered in a new way from the consequences of our escapade.
In our mutual disappointment and shared rage we formed a friendship that has lasted ever since.
A few weeks later, just after my tenth birthday, we were both incorporated into the team.
Alex was playing inside right, and I was slipped into the team because my brother, the usual goalkeeper, was sick that day.
So I took his place and, as I stopped all the shots, I was promoted to goalkeeper, and my brother had his place on the field. As soon as possible, I followed him there, as a centre-half first, then left insider, then centre-forward.
Before I left school, I became captain, and I believe that at that time we could have presented ourselves against a good civilian team. Besides Alex and I, we had Willie Charmers now playing with Bury: the other eight were just as good as the three of us, if not better.
Honors come early.
I left school shortly before the end of the war and immediately entered a munitions factory.
When it closed in 1919, I became a miner.
Endless hours which, in the darkness of the mine galleries, hardened my muscles and gave me the resistance necessary for great football.
I'm only five feet tall, but when I'm charged at the same time by a strong pair of backs, as sometimes happens, it's still usually the old miner from the banks of the Clyde who does the best.
I made my real debut in the football career with tough teams of minors. From the Atthonrigg Thistle I moved on to Bellshill Athletic.
Some matches of that time were tough, but, despite bumps, always played without malice.
The same cannot always be said of great football, you will see.
I was seventeen when I joined the Athletic Club. I hadn't been there for three months when I was approached one afternoon by the secretary. He seemed very lively: You've been selected to play in the Scotland Junior team against Ireland, Hughie!" You have to do this, man. This will be the start of great things for you.
How would you have felt yourself if, at seventeen, you had been asked to play for your country?
I played the big game as a centre-forward. I was very moved, I had stage fright.
Anyway, after a good start, I narrowly missed scoring, twice, and that pissed me off terribly.
Just before half-time, Ireland scored.
So they played defensively, waiting for the final whistle. All the while the memory of missed opportunities tormented and discouraged me.
Five more minutes; three minutes; two minutes.
It's about time
The referee was looking at his watch and was already grasping his whistle, when the ball bounced two metres in front of me and eight or ten metres from the Irish goals.
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