Alan's early playing days

Alan’s early memories of playing knockabout Rugby League games with a makeshift ball place him in illustrious company. The future Labour MP Jack Ashley remembered playing rugby with a piece of sack which was tied up with string in his hometown of Widnes during the 1920s. Sometimes this type of informal match could also be played on a more organised footing. In his autobiographical book Loitering with Intent:The Apprentice, the actor Peter O’Toole wrote about his childhood in Hunslet when knockabout matches were played between sides from the local streets. He played for Raggy-Arsed Rovers against teams such as Chip Shop Wanderers and the Silly Army and remembers how;

Two or three matches between teams from various clusters of streets were played simultaneously. One sometimes found oneself straying into others’ matches. Goalposts were a premium. If the pair had already been snatched, often as a player’s younger brother, ‘our kid’, would find himself elected as a post. Kit was irrelevant. A familiar figure with the ball, you supported him; an unfamiliar, you downed the bastard.