Ian McMillan: Cardigans, crabshells or pork pies for goalposts?

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We’ve all heard that lovely phrase “jumpers for goalposts”; it rings with nostalgia for a time before sport got corrupted by dirty dosh and you could go and see Barnsley FC (or the Yorkshire team of your choice) and still get change out of a tanner to buy a cuppa or a couple of new strikers. These days it’s “pound coins for goalposts” and the goalposts reach high into the sky.

In the past my grandson Thomas and I have played football on the Top Field because everybody should have Top Fields in their lives, or Big Fields or Bottom Fields, and we put jumpers down for goalposts in a kind of knowing and ironic way because that’s the kind of granddad and grandson we are. Because I’m an older and hopelessly untrendy man I sometimes put a cardigan down and because my grandson is a younger trendy boy he puts a gilet down. Gilets for goalposts; that would be fancy football. Cardigans for goalposts: that would be a kind of slow football played to a backdrop of wheezes and hacking coughs.

Recently, on a seaside cottage holiday, Thomas and I played football in the tiny back garden and we were about to put jumpers down for goalposts on the first evening when we noticed the crab shells; loads of them by the back wall, lovingly collected by the cottage’s previous occupants and graded by size and colour, no doubt by a little boy called Horatio or a little girl called Desdemona.

“Crabshells for goalposts!” we shouted simultaneously. The great thing about crabshell goalposts is that when you make a diving save and land on them they shatter like stale crackers and make a very satisfying crunching sound. Let’s face, it, if you land on a goalpost-jumper it just makes a noise like a cotton bud gently entering an ear. Older men in waistcoats and those trousers that are so high up they make Simon Cowell’s look like hipsters could have flat caps for goalposts. If you could keep the animals still you could have whippets for goalposts. No whippets were harmed in the writing of this column, by the way.

Bakers could have curd tarts for goalposts and butchers would have pork pies, with specially strengthened crusts to stand up to the kinds of free-kicks that can explode a crabshell (and unravel a jumper, if it comes to that) from fifteen yards out. Candlestick makers could have… well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? That’s right: flameproof jumpers for goalposts.

Coppers could have truncheons for goalposts apart from plain clothes coppers who would have rhubarb sticks. Well, they look like rhubarb sticks until you try and bite one. That’s right: truncheons in plain clothes. You could have Yorkshire puddings for goalposts, hard as your Auntie used to make; you could have parkin for goalposts, hard as your Auntie used to make; you could have fruit cake for goalposts, hard as your Auntie used to make. Let’s face it, you could have your Auntie for a goalpost: she’s harder than any of that wood they make real posts from.

Time for one last game before bedtime. Where’s my crabshell? Where’s my Auntie?