An Extract From The Book: Jimmy Spence 8th Of June 1974 By Kelvin Rush.
Saturday the 8th of June 1974 would be etched in the memory of Jimmy Spence for the rest of his life. As midnight approached, he was sat up in bed wide awake and couldn’t get to sleep. His mind was racing uncontrollably in umpteen directions, and his emotions were a tangled maze of bewilderment and confusion. Once again, he was experiencing really strange, unexplained feelings inside his body. Rushes of warm, tingly, pleasurable feelings suddenly appeared from nowhere. Jimmy Spence was on the roller-coaster ride called ‘Puberty’ and he couldn’t get off.
One girl in particular made his whole body shake with excitement, sending his mind and imagination into overdrive. Her name was Julie Richardson, and although he didn’t know it at the time, she would become his first ever crush, bringing with her immense pleasure and unbearable heartache. Jimmy was eleven years old and had never kissed a girl. Up until recently, he’d never shown any interest in girls, and whenever girls were mentioned in conversation, he would either change the subject or remain silent. But that all changed on Monday the 3rd of June 1974, at precisely 3.19pm. From that moment on, Jimmy Spence’s life would never be the same again.
Jimmy lived at 34 Mountfield Drive, Kimberworth in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. He lived in a three bedroom council house, with his twin sister Melanie, his mum Carol and dad Brian. He went to Redclose Junior School. The school was situated right in the heart of a council estate, and the 450 pupils came from lower, working and middle class families. The school catered for boys and girls aged 6-11 years old. Every Monday afternoon at 3.00pm Jimmy had a games lesson on the school field. The lesson was shared between class nine and class ten. Jimmy was in class nine and Julie Richardson was in class ten. The boys played football while the girls played hockey.
At exactly 3.10pm the boys did a lap around the football pitch to warm up. Jimmy was one of the fastest runners in his class. Simon Cook was the fastest, followed by Peter Riley and then it was Jimmy. Although it wasn’t a race and only a warm-up lap, that didn’t stop the three of them trying to beat each other and finish first. It was also a good reason to show off in front of the hockey girls. Simon Cook was in the lead, closely followed by Peter Riley. Jimmy was then slightly ahead of Johnny Simpson. The four of them were several meters ahead of the remaining pack.
They’d ran over halfway around the football pitch, when a dramatic incident occurred. Jimmy was just about running flat out, trying to keep up with the front two. He was getting out of breath and looking a little ragged. Then all of a sudden, an object that seemed to come from nowhere, came hurtling towards him, and hit him right on the head. He collapsed in a heap on the floor, as if he’d been shot. Seconds later he was out cold.
Simon Cook and Peter Riley carried on running, while Johnny Simpson, (who almost fell over Jimmy) stopped to help. Mr Brown the PE teacher, saw the incident and ran at full pelt straight across the football pitch, like a world class sprinter. Considering he was at least three stone overweight and a forty-a-day smoker, it was a miracle that he didn’t collapse in a heap. By the time he reached Jimmy, there was a large crowd around him. All the boys were there, apart from Simon Cook and Peter Riley. They were on the finishing straight, battling it out to see who came first, unaware of all the commotion.
As they both crossed the line, with Simon Cook just in front, they soon realised that something wasn’t quite right. They were shocked to see a large crowd gathering on the opposite side of the pitch. They both ran over at great pace to see what was going on. The hockey girls were there with the hockey coach Mrs Cartwright. Mr Brown was breathless, as he bent down and crouched over Jimmy, who was flat out on his back.
‘What on earth’s happened?’ he said, (his voice noticeably trembling).
‘I think he was hit on the head with a hockey ball sir!’ shouted Billy Ellis.
‘Is he dead!?’ screamed Johnny Simpson.
‘Of course he’s not dead. Can’t you see him breathing!?’ said Mrs Cartwright. She was knelt down on the floor next to Jimmy, and began rubbing his hands and hair gently, willing him to open his eyes.
‘Has anyone rung for an ambulance?’ asked Mr Brown. Mrs Cartwright nodded her head.
‘Yeah, I’ve just sent Sally Scrivens to the headmaster’s office to ring for one.’ Moments later Jimmy’s foot twitched slightly.
‘His foot’s just moved miss,’ said one of the girls. Fifty pairs of eyes locked onto Jimmy’s size seven Adidas football boots. ‘Which foot was it?’ asked Mr Brown. ‘I think it was his right one sir,’ replied the girl. Fifty pairs of eyes then locked onto Jimmy’s right football boot. Then the girl changed her mind. ‘Oh actually, I think it was his left foot….. Or was it his right?’ Then suddenly, a few of Jimmy’s fingers began to wiggle, and seconds later his eyes flickered, before opening very slowly and precisely. ‘Where am I?’ he croaked. ‘Did I win the race?’ Everyone burst out laughing.
Jimmy was all confused. Firstly, he had no idea why he was laid on his back with a throbbing head. Secondly, why were all these kids stood around staring at him? Thirdly, why on earth was Mr Brown hovering over him with a worried look on his face? And finally, and most confusing of all, why was Mrs Cartwright knelt down next to him rubbing his hands and hair? ‘Yav been whacked with a hockey ball Jimmy! Yav got a right lump on ya head!’ shouted an over excited Martin Day. Jimmy had an enormous lump the size of an egg, right on the top of his forehead. ‘Wow…..! look at the size of that!’ screamed Tommy Platt. ‘I’ve never seen one that big before! Does it hurt Jimmy!?’
Jimmy couldn’t see Tommy Platt in the crowd, but he recognised his high-pitched girly-like voice. ‘Yeah it does a bit Platty, and av got a right headache anall.’ Then Simon Sparrow (known as Birdie, who was the joker of the class), offered up his usual dollop of not so witty humour. ‘I’m surprised the hockey ball is still in one piece Jimmy, considering the size of your head.’ A ripple of laughter seeped from the crowd. Jimmy’s eyes zoned in on Birdie, who was stood right in front of him, wearing his usual all white Leeds United football kit.
‘Yeah, very funny Birdie, very funny pal,’ said Jimmy a little annoyed. He was used to Birdie’s silly jibes and jokes, and most of the time he was entertaining, especially when they were in boring lessons like maths and history. However, sometimes he was a pain in the backside, and this was one of those occasions.
— Not only was Birdie the joker of the class, he was also renowned for telling a good yarn or two. One of his best ones was when he told everyone that Billy Bremner (the famous Leeds United captain), had signed his football shirt. According to Birdie, he went to the 1973 FA Cup final at Wembley, between Leeds United from the first division, and Sunderland from the second. Sunderland (who were the big underdogs), won the match 1-0 with a goal from Ian Porterfield in the 32nd minute. It was the first time in 42 years that a second division team had won the FA Cup final at Wembley.
Birdie told anyone who was daft enough to listen, that he ran onto the pitch at full-time and got Billy Bremner to sign his Leeds United shirt. However, after being cross-examined by several of his classmates, his story unravelled quicker than a ball of wool used by Granny Clitherow (the world’s fastest knitter, who could knock up a cardie in just under an hour).
Firstly, spectators weren’t even allowed on the pitch at Wembley, and the very few that managed it, were quickly wrestled to the ground by police officers or stewards, and either escorted from the ground or arrested. Secondly, most of his classmates watched the cup final live on the telly, and no one saw any supporters on the pitch, and certainly not an eleven-year-old kid.
Thirdly, the signature on his football shirt didn’t look anything like Billy Bremner’s signature. Martin Day proved this beyond any reasonable doubt, when he brought a damning piece of evidence to school with him. It was a copy of the popular weekly football magazine SHOOT. Inside on page eight was a big story on Billy Bremner, and his midfield partner Johnny Giles. The pair were seen as world- class players, and played a major role in the team, when Leeds United were crowned Division One champions in the 1968-69 and 1973-74 seasons, under manager Don Revie. The magazine article included an extensive interview with both players, with a signed photograph.
Martin Day arranged a meeting with a few of his classmates (including Birdie), to present his evidence. They met up after dinner at the far right corner of the playground, next to the tennis courts. They all sat down in a circle, determined to find out the truth once and for all. Birdie carefully arranged his Leeds United shirt on the floor, proudly displaying the Billy Bremner signature on the front. There was intrigue and anticipation, as Martin Day pulled out his rolled up SHOOT magazine from his trouser pocket.
He looked all serious and detective-like as he began waving it around in the air. ‘Right then,’ he said. ‘This is the piece of evidence that will prove to the jury without question, that the signature on that shirt is fake.’ (I think he must have been watching too much Columbo on TV.) He then unravelled the magazine and opened it up on page eight. The blood seemed to drain from Birdie’s face, as he caught sight of the signed pictures of Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles. Martin Day placed the magazine on top of the football shirt to compare the signatures. They didn’t match.
The Billy Bremner signature on Birdie’s shirt didn’t look anything like the one in the magazine. No one was surprised. It was obvious to anyone with half a brain cell, that Birdie must have copied the signature and signed the shirt himself. ‘As you can all clearly see!’ shouted a victorious Martin Day. ‘The signatures look nothing like each other! I therefore conclude that Birdie is found guilty of lying and misleading his classmates, and should be punished accordingly!: I propose he’s sent to Coventry for a week! I rest my case!’
Birdie seemed to have shrunk to the size of a pea, as all eyes were scorning down on him. As usual when his back was up against the wall, he came out fighting. ‘Just a minute,’ he said. ‘Hold ya horses, not so fast. How do you know that the signatures in the magazine aren’t fake, and the one on my shirt is genuine?’ All the boys cracked up, as Birdie was shot down like a German Messerschmitt bomber in the Battle of Britain.
‘Don’t be daft Birdie!’ said one boy.
‘Yeah, get a grip Birdie!’ said another.
‘Why would they be fake!? They’ve been signed by the players themselves, you idiot!’
‘Keep digging the hole Birdie,’ said Martin Day. ‘A few more shovels should do the trick.’ Birdie’s defence was collapsing faster than a paper house in an earthquake, but still he continued…..
‘Look lads, I’ve honestly no idea why the signatures don’t match. Maybe Billy Bremner has two signatures, one for the magazines and one for the fans. All I know is my shirt was signed by Billy Bremner.’
Just as more bullets were about to be fired in Birdie’s direction, he was saved by the dinner lady, who rang the bell to end the dinner hour. ‘Right we’ll continue this later,’ said Martin Day. All the boys rose to their feet and headed back to class still hurtling insults at Birdie, who was desperately pleading his case.
The final nail in Birdie’s coffin came the next day. Jane Simpson revealed she’d seen Birdie at the local park on the day of the FA Cup final. She was in class twelve and was friends with his sister Angela. She’d watched the cup final with her dad on telly, while her mum took her little sister into town shopping. Her sister had been invited to a seventh birthday party the following weekend, and she went shopping for a new pair of shoes and a new dress. They returned back home just after the match had finished.
Jane Simpson took her sister to the park shortly after. It couldn’t have been any later than 5.30pm when they got there, as they only lived two streets away. She saw Birdie on the field playing Keepie-Uppie, (the game where you keep the football up in the air, using your feet, legs, chest, shoulders and head). She even remembered that his best score was 26. She shouted over to him to say hello, and to ask where his sister Angela was, but he never responded.
So unless Birdie flew back from Wembley stadium in a rocket, there was no way he could have been at the FA Cup final, let alone get Billy Bremner to sign his football shirt. As it turned out, he didn’t even know that Wembley stadium was in London. No wonder people called him Billy Liar.
That was it….. Birdie’s fate was finally sealed.
An Extract From The Book: Jimmy Spence 8th Of June 1974 By Kelvin Rush.