I thought of Gary Imlach the other day.
Gary is a peerless award winning journalist. His colleague Ned Boulting wrote in his book that Gary “has never knowingly let a cliché pass his lips” I first came across Gary probably 30 years ago when he used to present the Channel 4 American Football coverage from the US. Then he went on to present the Italian football and then for the past 15 years or so the Tour de France. Indeed for a long time I used to wonder why he was not allowed in the UK.
Randomly I thought of Gary while we were scattering my Mum’s ashes. Gary wrote a book over a decade ago about his dad. Called “My father and other working class heroes” it won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award. The premise of Gary’s book was that his Dad was a famous footballer but that Gary never really asked him about his career and what it was like being a footballer in the 50’s and 60’s. It was the custom for a footballer, even a First Division one, to take the bus to the game and mingle with the fans on their way to the match. In my Dad’s case it was the underground.
But you can almost feel the pain in his writing of ‘Why didn’t I ask him what life as footballer was like?’
You see when my Mum died I only found out at the funeral that she missed being killed by a German bomb by a matter of yards.
Mum and Dad met in the war when they were both working in the old Supermarine factory at Woolston in Southampton building Spitfires. At a certain point the section that my Mum worked in was moved from one part of the building to another. The next day in a bombing raid half the factory was destroyed, including the section where my Mum had worked until the previous day. 92 people lost their lives.
I really regret not knowing about that. Not asking my Mum “What happened?” Not asking my Dad “What was it like to play against Manchester United in front of 82,000 people at Maine Road in 1947” (Still a league record attendance) “What was it like to play in Brazil in 1949[i], or Moscow in 1954.”
I could go off into a thesis about how communication is two way. But it comes down to one thing.