If truth be told, I’m not a great one for the trappings of the British establishment. The whole honours system and such like rather passes me by; it just doesn’t seem relevant to the world that I live in. However, every now and then, I come across someone winning some honour or other which brings a big smile to my face.
This week, Monty, James Montgomery was awarded a British Empire Medal. I’m not sure what a British Empire Medal is or what you do with one, but I do know who Monty is! Jimmy Monty was the Sunderland goal-keeper while I was growing up. By many reckonings, he was the best keeper never to be capped for England. In the 1973 cup-final, he pulled off one of the greatest double saves that you are ever likely to see (and we went on to win).
One Saturday evening in the late 1960s, our family were visiting Seaburn beach in Sunderland, when we saw Monty and some of his friends playing crazy-golf (football players lived lives of wild excess in those days). I ran to the car and found a scrap of paper and a pen and joined the queue of small boys collecting autographs. I don’t know what happened to the scrap of paper, but I distinctly remember Monty being polite and patient despite the fact that we must have ruined his quiet evening. I also remember that he spoke just like me; he was a Sunderland lad, with a local accent.
I don’t have a deep or meaningful comment to make on this. I’m glad Monty got his award, he was an important figure in my childhood and a thoroughly nice bloke. I’m also just a little sad that the days when local football clubs had local players and truly represented their areas have vanished. No doubt the Premier League is a much better spectacle than the old first division, but I find it hard to care as much as I once did.
I’m just getting old.