John Vane: Roy’s Summer of Sport (Saturday 23 June 2012) Malcolm Allison

John Vane: Roy’s Summer of Sport (Saturday 23 June 2012) Malcolm Allison

Nerys believed that Brian was Don’s secret lovechild and that Gwen had agreed to raise him as her own. She’d shared this conviction with Roy when slightly drunk at the Welsh Valley wedding of Gwen’s brother Keith’s son Bryn.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Roy had said. “We’d know.”

“How would we know?”

“Well, look at him.”

“You can’t tell from that,” said Roy, who was not unlike his sister in appearance, but very different from Brian.

“He was born before they were married,” Nerys said.

“No he wasn’t.”

“Have you seen their marriage certificate?”

“No. Have you?”


“So how do you know?”

“I hear things.”

“Who from?”

“Here and there.” Nerys’s eyes had roamed meaningfully across the reception gathering.

“So what if he was born before they married? It doesn’t mean he isn’t Mum’s.”



‘So what?”

“So, where’s the real mother?”

“Dead, probably.”

“Oh, come on!”

“Why is your middle name IIltud?”

“It was Mum’s dad’s name?”

“So why isn’t it Brian’s middle name? After all, he’s her first born son, supposedly.”

“But Brian doesn’t have a middle name at all,” Roy had protested, feebly.

“If anything that proves my point,” Nerys crowed. “Mark my words, Roy, our dear daddy has a big skeleton in his cupboard.”

Roy tried not to pay much attention to his sister’s theory at the time – Nerys had always been melodramatic, a trait Don had attributed to her “Taff streak,” just to annoy Gwen. He tried not to pay much attention to the theory now, although this was starting to be difficult.

He returned to sifting through his memento boxes. Most of their contents were ledgers, dockets and receipts going back to the mid-1950s and relating to housing projects in the New Town. They were intriguing, but their volume was daunting.

Roy decided to save them for another day and went back to the eerie but more inviting attractions of his Crystal Palace hoard, which was mostly from the mid and late 1960s and tailed off in the early years of the ensuing decade, when other things, including adulthood but also golf, had begun competing for his time.

Refreshing his memory from the web, Roy recalled that his reducing interest in Palace had foreshadowed the club’s startling decline. They’d been relegated from the old Division One in 1973, despite recruiting Malcolm Allison as coach towards the season’s end. Roy, a diligent virgin revising for his A-levels at the time, had been jealously, disapprovingly and acutely aware of Allison’s charisma, fat cigars and adulterous affairs with bunny girls.

The club had plunged again the following year, yet Allison had survived that tumble too and became a Palace hero thanks to an FA Cup run to the semi-final. Roy had been enthralled and scandalised to read of soft porn actress Fiona Richmond joining Allison in the players’ communal bath, a plunge witnessed by the News of the World. Richmond was a vicar’s daughter. This seaside postcard fact had made Roy’s pulse race faster still.

Don had denounced Allison as a Flash Harry with too much money and mouth, as he did all football personalities with cockney accents from that time – “characters” like Rodney Marsh, David Webb and Terry Venables, who Don had scorned with unremitting zeal throughout his “El Tel” phase at Barcelona and even his later achievements as England manager.

The weight of these memories hung so suddenly heavily on Roy that he could hardly lift his gaze from his laptop to witness Spain press and pass their way to quarter-final victory over France. He tried imagining the ethos of the Allison era dropped into the present day, and took one more online glimpse at “Big Mal”‘s shark smile and Richmond’s blithely bobbing breasts, feeling a pang of loss for a fantasy life he’d once craved but always known he’d never live.

All previous instalments of Roy’s Summer of Sport are HERE.

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Categories: Culture, Roy's Summer of Sport

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