4th August: Well Played Jess, Well Played

I don’t know how old we all are? Every week as we take to our little field of dreams and hold on to our youth in some way we put these advancing years to one side: the aches, the pains, the ailments, the visits to the physio, the multiple strappings, the gaffer tape, the advice not to play, the impending pringle sweaters and the inevitable arthritis and rounds and rounds and rounds of “do you remember”. In there will be the fisticuffs between the two Steves, the mysteriously disappearing and reappearing Phantom Darren, I’m hoping a few mounds of my teddy bears will make it in annals, Paddy’s tackling and other faces that have come and no longer play: Brian, the wing wizard and even ones I do not know; and now Jess.

Even now there are ones amongst us that never knew Jess and that seems unthinkable. Jess: our founding father, our chairman, six foot and many inches, our gentle but giant of a man, dressed normally all in black, like our footballing Johnny Cash, swopping a killer guitar for an incinerating shot, blistering, bottom corner, reliable Jess, broke my hand in two places with that shot, my pay off for the audacity of trying to stop it once. Jess: for years I never knew his actual name, only Jess, then one day he introduced himself as Rob to a newbie, confused the proverbial out of me “Rob? Rob? But I’ve been calling you Jess for years?” Yes, that’s my name, so is Rob. “You can’t have two names, I can’t handle two names.” He just laughed, made a joke about a simpleton Wednesdayite and said, yes you can Steve. Jess: who never collected subs, or paid them on time: who was the perfect fit for the Chairman’s sheepskin coat, fedora and chunky jewellery. Jess, who hated being in goal but not as much as Richard Wills or Mark. Jess, the Unitedite, the founding father, a footballer, a father, a husband, our friend: for those who didn’t have that privilege of lining up with him is all you ever need to know. Oh, and Jess, a good man.

So I don’t really care how old we all are. I do know that Jess was about ‘our’ age and having to write this now mean that’s it is simply too soon, so that’s all that matters: it’s too soon.

So here’s to you Jess, a peaceful and safe onward journey and god bless. Go get those nets prepared up there for us and whilst you do, we will have a game down here in your name, and as always, well played mate, well played.

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