Words: David Marples
In an otherwise unremarkable portacabin that doubles up as the bar, function room and trophy cabinet for Carlton Town FC on a balmy June evening, history pervades the place like an energy field, surrounding those present and binding them together.
A huge slab of important history stands in the room addressing those present with tales of encounters with George Best and Brian Clough. The man speaking is also a significant part of Nottingham Forest’s history himself – woven into the fabric of the club and its supporters for evermore.
The man speaking scored a famous hat-trick for Nottingham Forest in an epic quarter final tie against Everton in April 1967 – a game akin to Bob Dylan’s ‘Judas’ gig at the Manchester Free Trade Hall a year earlier or to The Sex Pistols’ last ever gig at Ivanhoe’s nightclub in Huddersfield on Christmas Day in 1977.
Seismic events in history are measured not by the amount of people who were actually there to witness them first hand but by the amount of people who claim they were there.
Ian Storey-Moore is the man speaking.
One man amongst the small audience listens intently, hooked on Storey-Moore’s every word. He applauds loudly – louder than anyone else – when the speaker picks up the microphone. He even hails the speaker as the greatest footballer he has ever seen play. He is a fan boy of the highest order: although a grown man he is currently a wide-eyed child meeting the idol who adorned his bedroom wall.
This fan boy isn’t like the rest though: there’s something different about him. This man too is a monolithic embodiment of football history.
This man is John Robertson.
Earlier in the evening, a man approached Robertson and explained that he had something to give him. Not a picture or a shirt for signing to be framed and hung but something far more significant – something that quite possibly should be sitting in the middle of a gleaming display cabinet in a Nottingham Forest museum (if only there were there such a thing). Heck, it wouldn’t look out of place as the focal point of the National Football Museum.
The Scot stares down at the small book placed in his hands just like he will do so later at his boyhood hero. He stares in awe and wonder as he slowly turns the pages; each turn briefly looking up at those surrounding him, his eyes twinkling with delight. Each new page transports him back to a time when he was king – teasing, twisting, slaloming past defenders and more often than not, being the recipient of congratulations from his teammates, being hugged and squeezed while sporting the most impudent and cheeky smirk on his boyishly handsome face.
He’s there again as he stares at each page – right in the thick of it, gliding across a bog of a pitch or standing stock still, arms aloft having just scored the winner in the European Cup Final or even enjoying a laugh with his best mates at the back of a bus.
Robertson is leafing through his old passport that accompanied him while he travelled the world back when he was king.
Occupation: Professional Footballer.
Each page is packed with visa stamps.
There’s the time he went to Saudi Arabia for that exhibition match.
There’s the time he went to Menorca on that pre season break.
There’s the time he went to Portugal for that friendly.
Each stamp elicits a memory, an anecdote. His eyes twinkle as he recalls details and patches it together.
And there they are.
There’s the time he went to Munich and assisted in winning the European Cup.
There’s the time he went to Madrid and won the European Cup.
The stamps are there. Rocks of certainty in an ever-shifting world.
Our thanks go to Mick Garton of MSR newsagents and Carlton Town chairman for his generosity and for hosting the Ian Storey-Moore evening. Carlton Town is a wonderfully friendly football club where you can go to watch football and enjoy a pint of Castle Rock ale. Get yourselves down there some time.
MSR newsagents on Radcliffe Road stocks issue of Bandy and Shinty.