Friday 28 September 2012

God's Footballer

Expert Witness

The story of Peter Knowles is unique in football. At the age of just 22, Knowles, one of the finest inside forwards ever to grace a pitch, walked away from the game he loved and never came back.

Born on 30 September 1945 in North Yorkshire, his father was a card carrying egg chaser on the books at Wakefield Trinity. But as with a lot of kids, not least his older brother, future Spurs legend Cyril, Knowles played football in the Winter, cricket in the Summer.  He was spotted by amateur side Wath Wanderers who were something of a feeder club for Wolves.

In 1963, at the tender age of 17, Knowles made his debut for the Black Country side. Wolves won 1-0 away at Leicester City and in his next game, a 2-2 draw with Bolton Wanderers, he scored his first senior goal for the club. By the end of the 1966-67 season Knowles was scoring for fun, including two hat tricks against Carlisle and Derby County. Wolves were Second Division runners up and were duly promoted to the First Division. Despite being injured in that first season he still managed 21 appearances, bagging eight goals. It was at this time he got called up for England Under 23 duty: despite rubbing shoulders with Peter Osgood, Martin Chivers, Joe Royle and Brian Kidd he wasn't phased by these players from high profile clubs.

In the close season Knowles was part of the British invasion to break soccer in America. Plying his trade in Los Angeles in a FIFA recognised mini league, Knowles once agian featured heavily on the score sheet. On his return to the UK, Wolves strengthened their forward line for the 1967-68 season with the legendary Derek 'The Doog' Dougan. But despite scoring 12 times they only narrowly avoided relegation; Knowles, with one eye on the upcoming Mexico World Cup, put in a transfer request. It was rejected.

Once again Knowles spent the Summer in America, this time playing for Kansas City - where inevitably he scored a clutch of goals. But this time when he landed back in Britain things were different. Very different. While he'd been in Kansas, Knowles had joined the Jehovah's Witnesses. 'I shall continue playing football for the time being' he announced, 'but I have lost my ambition. Though I will still do my best on the field, I need more time to learn about the Bible and may gave up football.'

Notwithstanding this bombshell Wolves got off to a flying start, winning seven of their first eight games; but the eighth match in that 1969-70 season, a 3-3 draw against Nottingham Forest, was the last game Peter Knowles ever played. All dreams of ever winning medals, silverware and playing for England were extinguished there and then.

Incredibly, Wolves kept him on their books for twelve more seasons: a succession of managers still secretly hoped that Knowles would go up into the attic and fish out his boots one last time. He never did.

Billy Bragg wrote a song about him: 

Friday 21 September 2012

York, so good they only named it once

Always half full

Situated next to York Racecourse this year's York Beer & Cider Festival, showcasing beers from all over the UK (and a none too shabby 'Beers of the World' section), and the fourth festival to be held on the Knavesmire, is shaping up to be the best yet.

I shuffled along on Wednesday (Press Day) and witnessed brewers (major, micro and macro) together with sponsors, outlets (aka publicans) and end users (that's me and you) all raising a glass or two and discovering, quite literally, what makes ale real.

It was hardly surprising that Yorkshire brewers (pictured right) took centre stage; Wold Top, Saltaire, Leeds, Brass Castle, Roosters and Great Heck once again showed why many pubs in Yorkshire concentrate purely on indigenous beers. That said, it's always good to see southern brewers giving the northerners a run for their money - Brodies from east London and Itchen Valley in Hampshire were certainly holding their own.

Highlights? I can honestly say I didn't have a bad beer all day; and our programme certainly had plenty of scuffing up notes complete with footnotes and Enigma type legends. Anyway, here's my Top Of The Hops (sorry):

No.1 Knaresborough - American Style Milk Stout (7.0%). This stunning beer cleaned up on the awards front and rightly so.

No.2 Revolutions/Brass Castle - Cool for Cats (4.5%). They say sumptuous coffee porter. I concur. Probably because it's made with elements of:

No.3 Brass Castle - Bad Kitty (5.5%). My wife blamed the uneven footpath for her fall whilst walking away from the Festival. I, on the other hand, lay the blame at BK's door. A truly magnificent ale.

York Beer Festival runs 'til Sunday 22 September.

Follow them on Twitter @beerfestyork

Saturday 15 September 2012

Gilbert Green

Come 1967 it would be time to walk alone

In the summer of  1967 when Paul McCartney and the boys were off discovering India, acid and all things psychadelic, his old mucker from Liverpool, Gerry Marsden, wasn't having such a swinging time of it.

Despite The Pacemakers making history when their first three 45s went straight to Number One, the glory days were behind them. In '66 Marsden disbanded the combo and instead concentrated on the light entertainment end of the business. But when he stumbled across this little ditty penned by the Gibb brothers, Marsden got as near to putting flowers in his hair as he would ever get: it's Penny Lane and Fool On The Hill all rolled up together. And it's a belter.

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Live At The Fontana Bowlarama

The Fontana Bowlarama: where everyone's a winner

The Wanktones (featuring Ersel Wank on lead vocals and guitar) have barely recorded (they released just one single and album); they dislike the studio because they have to pay for their own beer there and think that playing the same song over and over is time wasted that could be spent back on the farm.

Over the years there have been a few changes in the lineup. Floyd Glen Burnie (The Wanderer) replaced Elmer on bass after he died trying to drive his convertible through the liquor store window one Sunday (the plate glass severed his head a la Jane Mansfield). Later on Floyd Glen Burnie disappeared after a show with a redhead driving a car with Georgia plates - he was eventually replaced by the handsome local mailman, Hooter McFeeley. The Wanktones' biggest loss, however, was that of their boyhood chum, Bo Link. Bo's tragic death on the farm upset them so much that they quit playing music for three years. Ersel felt reponsible for Bo's death, for it was he who had souped up the electric milking machine to increase the daily output from the cows.

The Wanktones still occasionally play club dates in the Washington DC area but in the past these trips have always coincided with the purchase of tractor parts. A few years ago Del Marva (lead guitar and backing vocals) bought one of those Japanese tractors and the boys haven't been to town since.

The Wanktones - Intro mp3

The Wanktones - Down the Line mp3