The fan - Hunter Davies loses arm control at a footie auction
When I was 18, Mum binned my scrapbook and let out my half of the bed
My first conscious memory in life of a big football game was Moscow Dynamo against Glasgow Rangers. They arrived in Britain exactly 60 years ago, in November 1945, to play four friendly games. They were the first Russian club to come here, and the first of our postwar foreign visitors. The whole country was fascinated. They seemed so exotic, as if they had come from outer space to lighten and brighten our dull, deprived, depressing postwar days.
I was nine at the time and living in Dumfries, and I read every word I could about them, cutting out their photos and match reports and sticking them in my scrapbook. I used a home-made paste of flour mixed with water. It made their faces and bodies horribly soggy, but overnight they would stiffen, and next morning they would be sticking up on the pages as if they had come back to life, turning almost three-dimensional.
Everyone was amazed and amused when, before their first game, against Chelsea, the Russians presented bouquets of flowers to the opposing players. They were so embarrassed, didn't know where to look. Real men - in fact, any men - in the postwar years would rather be seen dead than holding a bunch of flowers. Almost as shaming as pushing a pram or changing a nappy.
Over 85,000 at Stamford Bridge saw a 3-3 draw. They then played Cardiff City, whom they stuffed 10-1, but most of the Welsh team had come straight out of the pit before kick-off. Back in London, they played Arsenal at White Hart Lane; Highbury had been taken over for war purposes. Dynamo won 4-3 despite Arsenal fielding our two Stans, Matthews and Mortensen. There was such a thick fog that, in the second half, Dynamo supposedly played with 12 men, unseen by the ref.
Their final game was at Ibrox against Rangers - the one I was most interested in, being Scottish. Over 90,000 saw a 2-2 draw.
The Russians brought some dodgy-looking security men and probably a few spies, using the tour for propaganda as well as football purposes. They also brought their own food, knowing we were still eating rubbish wartime rations. My mother used to give me mashed parsnip, swearing it was bananas, which I believed, never having tasted or seen a banana.
Oh, how I wish I still had that scrapbook. My mother threw it out when, at 18, I went off to Durham and she let out my half of the bed, which I shared with my brother, to a lodger.
About five years ago I managed to buy a Chelsea-Dynamo programme, but until a week ago I'd never come across or even seen copies in any books of the other three programmes.
Then I suddenly spotted all four of them, Lot 149, in Graham Budd's latest football auction with Sotheby's at Olympia. So I went along to bid. Some stuff was fetching huge amounts, such as a 19th-century mirror from a Glasgow pub, painted with a football scene. In the catalogue, the estimate was £6,000-£8,000. It went for £14,000. Strewth. Then an Arsenal programme for their first game ever at Highbury in 1913 made £5,600 as opposed to an expected £1,500.
It was estimated that my lot would go for £500-£600. Yes, I know, madness. My hand was sweating as I held my little paddle aloft, the one you use for bidding. But I got it. Won't say what I paid, in case my wife reads this*.
Coming home on the bus, I could hardly contain my excitement. Along with the four programmes was a little scrapbook, done on a school exercise book by a Glasgow schoolboy, George Campbell. His school is not named, but in November 1945, he was in Class 4, Lower Science.
His cuttings have been immaculately stuck in, using real glue, and he's written his own captions, in ink, to the cut-out newspaper photos, which cover all four games. Clearly a very neat and tidy boy. I wonder what happened to him.
If you're still with us, George, well done and thanks. I'll treasure it for ever, as long as I'm here and following football . . .
* Ok, I'll tell you how much but keep it quiet - £580.