For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been into football.
So my newest work focuses on The Beautiful Game and is a hybrid between an original and a print.
I’m hand painting and embellishing each piece based on the individual requests of each client – who can choose their preferred team colours on the child’s shirt and on the scarf, a favourite player number which could be your age, birthday or anniversary date and name on the back of the shirt (it could be any first name, surname or nickname).
It’s the perfect, highly personal gift for any football fan, one that will be treasured for many years to come.
My first kicks
One of my earliest memories is playing with my Dad, kicking a brightly coloured beach ball that he had bought for me. It was exciting how high I could kick it, even though I was so young.
When the Rag & Bone Man came around to the village where I grew up, I would always hand him whatever old piece of clothing I could find and would be offered either a toy windmill or a balloon.
The choice was easy, for with a balloon you could take it home and play slow motion football in the hallway of the house. I’d pretend to be one of my football heroes, re-enacting a great goal that I’d seen on TV.
I would also play with a friend, using opposite doorways as goals, playing in earnest until the balloon burst! We’d then have to go outdoors, play at the side of the house or on the football pitch down the road.
My father, who was known as Big Alec, was passionate about football. He managed the local team for the under 11’s to the under 16’s and was the local referee for all the matches that were played in most of the leagues in Ayrshire.
He even had the referee’s strip and a chrome whistle with a wee rubber ball inside.
So football was well and truly drummed into me as a child and was the only game that we took seriously.
Apart from kicking a ball every minute of the day, if we were any good, we got the chance to play for the school team or for one of the local sides that were managed by keen Alex Ferguson wannabees in the surrounding villages.
I played for the under 13’s up to the under 16’s at Dundonald Football Club. We were managed by a mountain of a man called Big Hughie Philips aka – Big Shug.
Shug weighed in around 30 stones, had Freddy Mercury teeth and always dressed in one of those green ex-army jumpers with the khaki-coloured elbow patches.
As big as Shug was, he could run. Our team tactics were to follow big Shug as he ran along the touchline waving his arms and shouting “attack, attack”, then he would run in the opposite direction shouting “get back, get back” – with the whole team following.
At 45 minutes each way, with a stop at half time to suck on a slice of orange, we were all knackered and usually on the losing side.
Looking back, I wonder if it was a cunning ploy by all the parents, paying big Shug to tire us all out.
Visions of victory
I have a fond recollection of a tournament that was held in Kilmarnock, where we played 5-a-side against all the other teams in the area.
By some fluke we reached the finals – against the Kilmarnock Youth Team.
That fluke was a goal scored by yours truly.
The ball bounced off a teammate and landed at my feet. I was too tired to run back in defence, so found myself in the opposing teams half, facing the keeper with no one else near me. I kicked the ball as hard as I could, it hit the crossbar and landed at my feet again. I welly-ed it a second time, this time it hit the post and again landed at my feet. I belted it a third time and watched it sail past the keeper as he went in the opposite direction.
My goal led us to the final with Kilmarnock Youth Team who towered over us. I’m sure they were twice our age and had their birth certificates altered. Needless to say, we got hammered that day.
As runners up, we all trouped up to meet the then Kilmarnock football team manager and shake his hand and then watch the victors hold the shield high above their heads and parade it around the park to the applause of the crowd.
My father was quite disgusted by the tournament organisers, as no one got any medals for taking part, so the next day he went a bought all of our team silver medals for coming so close, yet so far.
My footballing days are well and truly behind me, and now I marvel at the skill of today’s teams.
I will always be thankful for the happy memories that playing the game gave me, and to celebrate the joy that football bring so many of us, I’ve decided to release this series of special edition original/prints entitled The Beautiful Game.