Rumours of his death were greatly exaggerated... it was my funeral the day I found out the 'late' doctor I mentioned in my book was actually still alive/ Dave Thomas column

Some time ago I wrote about a trip to the Cup Final in 1962 with a school pal called Ed Cockroft.

Monday, 15th November 2021, 12:30 pm
Dave Thomas writes about his embarrassment at discovering someone who he had mentioned in a book as being dead, was actually still alive!

It was a memorable weekend even though we lost.

Soon after that, we left school, entered the world of work, or in my case college, the years went by, and it was not until October, 2018, that we met again.

Ed had a Huddersfield supporting nephew who brought him over for the game against Huddersfield at Turf Moor. What a dire game it was. You could count passing moves on the fingers of one hand. Stringing three passes together was just too much.

It was Huddersfield that played the neat 'tippy tappy' football, crisp and sharp and rattled up the shots and possession. Meanwhile Burnley humphed and hoofed and somehow managed to fashion a 1-1 draw.

The highlight of the game was the final whistle. If memory serves Huddersfield went on to be relegated that season or the one after.

We’d arranged to meet afterwards, 55 years after we’d last met, and this grand re-union took place in the Hare and Hounds in Todmorden, a place I heartily recommend. It was the football that had sparked this meet-up and it is in things like this that there is a significance and a meaning to the game.

The full story of our trip to the Cup Final is in No Nay Never Volume 2, a lengthy chapter in a compendium of Burnley features about great players and games. Forgive the plug, but there are still copies available if you contact me on twitter @Rodleydave.

The chapter is ‘A Schoolboy’s Tale’ and in it I’d written at some length about how we had stayed in London with Ed’s brother, a doctor in a London hospital, in his tiny flat, sleeping on the floor, and then on Saturday night he’d treated us to a meal at the famed Simpson’s restaurant in the city.

It was my first taste of 'fine dining' as snooty waiters in long white aprons hovering over you and watching your every move. You were almost afraid to eat in case you dribbled.

Remember I was just 16, a spotty youth from the north, unprepared for the sophistication of London dining.

I blotted my copybook, in fact, when the sommelier had offered a taste of the wine to Gerald to sniff, slurp and spit; and me, at the opposite end of the table, knowing no better, stuck out my glass and said “yes please I’ll av some of that.”

The sommelier stared in horror. Oh, the shame. I swear the whole restaurant came to a standstill and faces turned to look at me. Today you’d just shrug it off and say “what the hell, I’m from the North.”

Anyway: in NNN Vol2, I had written that Gerald was now dead. I was sure as apples is apples that he was dead.

Inevitably, as we dined on pie, veg and chips and gravy, at the H and H, his name cropped up.

“Er no he’s not dead,” said the nephew. “He’s my father and he is 81 and alive and well.”

My mouth dropped as did my knife and fork with a clatter. How could he be alive? I’d written that he was dead, deceased, six feet under. Fallen off the perch like in that John Cleese parrot sketch in Monty Python.

My mouth closed and my senses returned. I retrieved my knife and fork from the floor, After the shock and embarrassment had subsided, what could I say? “Good Lord,” I said. “That’s amazing. Tell him I’m so pleased he’s better.”

Sometime later during a Burnley FC Supporters Club weekend trip to London, for an Arsenal game if memory serves, we took a long walk from the hotel into the city centre and passed by Simpson’s restaurant. When once it has seemed so huge, grand and awesome to a young lad, now it seemed so ordinary and normal.

I stood and stared from across the road. I swear I caught a glimpse of myself all those years ago, inside, holding up my wine glass and saying “yes please, I’ll av some of that.”