Hunter Davies

Hunter Davies is known to many as a not too serious minded football columnist in both The Guardian and The New Statesman. As an elder statesman of UK literature he has an impressive back catalogue of work that would take forever to list. So to pick a few for a briefer than brief summary:-

* In football he wrote, ‘The glory game’, the fly on the account of life at Tottenham Hotspur. Davies worked as a ghost writer on the autobiographies of Paul Gascoigne, Dwight Yorke and Wayne Rooney and has written numerous other football related literary works

* Away from football he is the only authorised biographer of The Beatles and also wrote, ‘The Creighton Report‘, and ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush’. Davies did further ghost writing on the biography of John Prescott, and is the author of what seems like a zillion other titles.

He is well known to many bookish football fans and others for his support of both Carlisle and Spurs. Less well known is that he spent part of his childhood growing up in Dumfries and his first team was Queen of the South. Here are a few extracts of his words and memories.

“I was born in Johnston in Renfrewshire [also the home town of Tommy Bryce MK II], not far from Glasgow, and both my parents were Scottish. My father came from Cambuslang and my mother from Motherwell.”

“Then for a while we lived in Dumfries. This was during the war and my father was working at an RAF maintenance station. The local team was Queen of the South. My hero became Billy Houliston, an old-fashioned, bullet-headed, barge-the-goalie centre-forward who played for Queen of the South who got three full caps for Scotland.”  Houliston in total collected 9 Scotland appearances at different levels scoring eight goals.

“I used to cut out my heroes from the Saturday afternoon football papers and stick them in a scrapbook. This was at the end of the war, when our baths were still full of coal and we ate clogs for breakfast, and you couldn`t get glue, so my mother made me a homemade paste with flour and water. My football heroes would go in the scrapbook, all wet and soggy and pathetic, and next morning, miraculously, when the pages had dried out, the players would emerge stiff and erect, almost three-dimensional, as if coming back to life.”

“I lived in Dumfries for four years. Queens having got to the Scottish Cup semi-final for the first time in 58 years, I remember the last one well [in 1950].”

(Sean O`Connor jumps on the shoulders of goal scorer John Stewart in the 2008 Scottish Cup Semi. The Aberdeen player in the distance has a background like Davies of growing up in Dumfries, internationalist Barry Nicholson)

“By the time I was eleven, we had moved to Carlisle. It’s just over the border in England, but I remained passionate about Scottish football. Oh, the agonies I went through as a little boy, listening intently to the radio to hear the annual Scotland–England game. I desperately wanted Scotland to win, not only because I supported them, but also because I could boast next day in the school playground.”

“When we moved to Carlisle I still read The Broons in the Sunday Post and listened to Tammy Troot on the Scottish Home Service, and every May I’d suffer a little heart-attack because I used to get so excited about the Home Internationals.”

“I collect Scotland-England programmes. I wish the Scotland-England match was still played. I support Scotland at everything but I don’t hate England. I support Spurs but I also watch Arsenal. When Spurs are boring - a fortnightly occurrence - the crowd sing Stand up if you hate Arsenal. I turn to my neighbour, a retired accountant, and say, ‘I’m too old to stand,’ and he says, ‘I’m too old to hate.’”

Davies` views on the likes of Ivor Broadis, Bobby Parker, Chris Balderstone and Les O’Neill would make interesting reading. All three played for Queens and Carlisle. Broadis also had a spell during the war with Spurs after which he played for England three times against Scotland among his 14 full international caps. The multi talented Balderstone of course was also an England cricket international.