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Chesterfield Alan Biggs

Childhood memories

I’m not entirely sure but I think the first ever football match I went to was Chesterfield v South Shields in the FA Cup in 1964/5, my Dad took me and I seem to recall it ended in a 2-1 victory for Chesterfield. The family had moved up to Chesterfield in 1963. I don’t recall a great deal about the game other than a player called Dave Blakey who was a centre half for Chesterfield and wore enormous long baggy shorts. This was the era of more skimpy shorts starting to appear around that time, so those great long shorts stood out! The second game Dad took me along to was the next round of the cup when we played Peterborough, we lost 0-3 and Derek Dougan scored a hat-trick.

My early memories of first becoming aware of football when I was very young and we were living down South. Dad would leave the house around lunchtime on a Saturday and not come back till late evening. My Mum would tell me he had gone off to watch the football. He would go to Highbury to watch Arsenal, as his Father had before him. Family legend has it that football killed my Grandfather as when he got older, he would often be ill during the week, but come Saturday would make a miraculous recovery to be fit enough to head along to Highbury to stand at the Clock End, however during a particularly nasty bout of flu, he once again headed off to the football, only for it to be his last ever ‘public duty’ before passing away at the age of 70.

Football and cricket were my main interests. I had a cricket bat that I would write names of favourite players on it; Fred Truman, Colin Cowdrey & Ted Dexter. My Dad was a big cricket fan, he was a Kent fanatic. I remember being so impressed when he told me he had been walking along the road when Colin Cowdrey had driven past, Dad had waved to him & Colin had waved back!

I was still a bit young to really appreciate football but in 1963 when we moved North, Dad sat me in front of the TV to watch the FA Cup Final between Manchester United and Leicester City. I think United won it 3-1 but I lost interest sometime around half time. My Dad never pressed me to support Chesterfield, but once I been to watch them that was it, I’ve supported them all my life.

My first ‘heroes’ were Ivan Hollett, a lanky striker who had a trick we called ‘the Ivan shuffle’. He was mainly an aerial striker, as most were, but he was a great header of the ball but he’d do his trick on the touchline, despite not having much pace it would get him clear of the defender. What really endeared him to the crowd (and me) was when he scored, which he did regularly, he would walk into the back of the goal and grab the net with both hands and raise his hands up with the net. I’d stand behind the goal and it was just a great celebration, which the crowd loved. Another of my favourites was striker Ernie Moss.

Around this time I used to pressure my Dad into taking me to Sheffield to see a match. Bramall Lane was the closer of the two grounds in Sheffield to us so my first match I saw in the city was Sheffield United versus West Ham United. It was a landmark game for Joe Shaw, it was either his 600th or 650th appearance and I remember the West Ham team lined up to applaud him on to the pitch. West Ham had great players including Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters. For a while they became my ‘second team’, which was a little disloyal to my Dad, but they really captured my imagination. As did a couple of Sheffield United players at the time; Mick Jones and Alan Birchenall, who were very good players. Jones was more of a central striker/target man, but it was Birchenall who really grabbed my attention, he was such a zestful player, he would rampage alongside Jones.

 

Becoming a sports journalist

Writing about sport was a hobby to begin with. Each time I watched Chesterfield play I would head home and write a report on the match, just for myself. I’d put a headline over it and the score line. I had a big folder and would cover the whole season. I made a year book and got to show the club’s Chairman, which as a result of that, made my first ever appearance on the radio. I’m quite sure nowadays this would be of no interest, but when I was seventeen, I contacted Radio Sheffield about the yearbook about Chesterfield. Those were different days and clubs didn’t have such things, so I got invited along and headed to the studios with my Dad. I remember hearing it go out on the Saturday and shaking my head in disbelief. I enjoyed writing the reports and enjoyed the experience of the radio interview. To be able to go on to do this as my job was a dream.

I now have the pleasure of working part-time as a lecturer on journalism at Sheffield Hallam University. Whenever anyone asks about how to get into the industry, and this is most pertinent for younger kids, is to go along to matches and write reports, as I used to do. There are thousands of people trying to get into the industry and many people who can do the job, so you need something special to stand out and that should be the passion to do the job, the determination to do the job and then interest in sport. I look back on what I used to do when writing those reports and realise it was something I took great pleasure and satisfaction in.

Alan Biggs @AlanBiggs1

Read Alan's Memories of 1966 here

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