With most of the country shut down from the impact of the weather there is little City news. Today I'm going to ask for your indulgence. Soccernet asks me to write about City and the Premier League. It also gives me the opportunity to share some other thoughts occasionally. For those of you who only are interested in reading about City today I look forward to discussions of Vieira tomorrow. For the rest I hope the following maybe jogs you into making a call or a visit.
Andy Marshall died a couple of days after Christmas. You don't know him. I was at school with Andy. I want to call him a friend but that's not accurate. Neither is pal. I think it is fairer to say he was one of the lads, part of a camaraderie born of team sports. Andy's game was rugby. For 5 years we were team mates. Two of the players on that team, John Stabler and Paul Whitelock, went on to play top flight rugby for West Hartlepool. Andy was a big and bruising ginger headed number 8 with as I recall muscles on his muscles. If John was all guile and skill as the scrum half and Paulie was a ruck dervish as a hooker it was Andy that stood out with great fluid runs out the pack daring some poor fool to step in front of him.
School in those days was a little different. Only 18% nationwide went to college and in Hartlepool you were lucky if 1 or 2 from your school year went to University. Assembly line teaching at its worst. For most it was leaving school at 16 and trying to figure out what you wanted to do. For me it was simple; get out of the town as fast as I could and I left for London. At the time Hartlepool had an official unemployment rate of 42%. Andy stayed as did a significant number of others. For a year or so afterward the holidays would draw folks home and you would say hi and hear an occasional story.
Andy was the first to get engaged; it didn't last but we got some funny stories out of it. And then as you do, we scattered. Once in a blue moon I'd return to visit family, but other than a couple of close friends I lost touch with nearly everyone I went to school with. Ironically facebook has brought me more into contact with old class mates in the past year than the previous thirty.
Sad to say I couldn't tell you a thing about Andy. The funeral notice in the local paper says he was married with four kids. A friend of the family who let me know says there are also a couple of grandchildren. What Andy did for a living, which team he supported, what he liked and disliked are a complete blank. But then to me Andy is still 18, really just starting out, the last time I bumped into him in a pub.
That's one of those little secrets you don't find out until you are an adult. You may grow up on the outside but inside you still see yourself as 18. The body will give subtle and sometimes not so subtle reminders that this isn't the case. However the passage of time rarely registers. It's just a couple of years since we were in school even as our own kids reach that age giving lie to the feeling.
There's a sense of melancholy to me. While the US has a well established tradition of school reunions that hasn't been the case in the UK. I have occasionally given thought to the idea that such a gathering would be nice to see while knowing that it would destroy my mental image of numerous contemporaries who haven't aged a day in my mind since I saw them last. Andy is forever young. I have no frame of reference other than what I recall. Maybe it's better that way.
Andy's funeral was today. He was 46.
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