Me holding the almost microscopic 1968 Charmouth Subbuteo League Knock-out Cup trophy.
My earliest memories of subbuteo stem from watching my dad practising with his original 1940s card teams. That would have been some time in the early 1960s. However, I didn’t actually start playing the game until 1968. We were living in South Australia at the time and the old 1940s teams, balls and goals had long been consigned to the rubbish bin. My friends and I were all fanatical Australian football devotees, and in what in retrospect I can see was most probably an attempt to seduce us with the delights of ‘the world game’, my dad ordered a subbuteo table soccer set from England. Within weeks, the game was the talk of the neighbourhood. My mates and I all loved it, but as for the sport of which it was the alleged replica, forget it. In my own case, I did not develop an interest in soccer until after we had returned to the UK and the game was more or less rammed down my throat. To this day, however, I much prefer subbuteo to ‘real’ football (and Australian football to both).
The Charmouth Road Subbuteo League ran for two complete seasons, 1968 and 1969, and at various times during that period a total of eleven different people took part in some way, including a token girl (who was actually quite good). The first season had five members, with a sixth joining in for the cup competition. These were:
|Aloysius Bouwmeester||Leeds United (league only)||From The Hague in Holland. Played with his middle finger. Lost interest in subbuteo midway through the season when he discovered girls.|
|Charlie Brown||Manchester United||An avid Glasgow Rangers supporter, so don’t ask me why he chose to represent Manchester United.|
|Bernard Devaney||Liverpool (league only)||My dad, and the only member of the league with previous playing experience. Renowned for moving the goals when under pressure.|
|John Devaney||Everton||At first I played with my middle finger, like Aloysius, but I soon saw sense, changed to my index finger, and my form improved.|
|Alf Pearce||Plymouth Argyle||Our next door neighbour. A Cornishman, Alf had briefly played football professionally for Plymouth Argyle until he suffered a career ending injury. He was built like a heavyweight boxer, and before I got to know him through playing subbuteo he used to scare the life out of me.|
|Michael Keenan||Notts County (cup only)||In later life he dabbled in politics, and was at one point mayor of the Adelaide suburb of Unley.|
Given his previous experience, my dad was always going to win the league, but he didn’t have things all his own way, and by the end of the season all of us were capable of pushing him. My results against him were a case in point. In sequence they went 0-9, 1-7, 4-4, 2-2, 2-1. The final league table read as follows:
Despite my mixed fortunes in the league I did manage to get my hands on some silverware by winning the inaugural knock-out cup competition in a field weakened by the absence of my dad, who had left home to work interstate. Drawn against Notts County in the semi final, I won 3-0 and then came from a goal behind to beat Plymouth Argyle 3-1 after extra time
Season two was less memorable for me than season one, perhaps because, like Aloysius, I had dicovered the delights of the fairer sex. With my dad still working interstate the way was clear for Plymouth to claim the championship undefeated, while I suffered the indignity of finishing last. I rediscovered my form during the end of season cup competition, however, which I won thanks to a 4-2 defeat of Alf’s Plymouth in the final. A few weeks later my dad returned home and we left both Australian shores and the game of subbuteo behind, at least for the time being.
Action (or, in Alf’s case, ultra-complacent lack of action – no blocking flicks back then) from the 1969 Plymouth versus Everton Cup Final.