A prized pair of old football boots represent a bygone age of the 'beautiful game'

I bought my grandson Joe some new football boots the other day.

Thursday, 2nd September 2021, 3:45 pm
Modern football boots cost a fortune and are not a patch on the sturdy boots of yesteryear reckons Dave Thomas

He is just 14, but six feet and two inches tall with size 11 feet. With his current hairstyle he could pass for Patrick Bamford, but we won’t hold that against him.

When he comes down to see us his feet come in the doorway and the rest of him is a couple of minutes later. To get these new boots I had to take out a small bank loan.

Anyway, the whole thing was a far cry from my own first pair back in the 50s. Great clumping things they were with studs that were nailed in. They weighed a ton and you used this gooey stuff called dubbin to soften and waterproof them. They hailed back to a time when boots really were boots and metatarsals hadn’t been invented.

I bought Joe a spray to waterproof his and the tin of spray cost another tenner. No wonder that bloke who owns Newcastle United is a millionaire.

In my collection of old Football monthly magazines from the 50s there is a colour picture of Billy Gray the old Burnley player. It’s all dog-eared and crumpled, a bit like my boots eventually became.

The colour picture is one of those old black and white pictures that were then hand coloured and they look more like a painting. They were works of art and the Gray picture is one of the best.

In other mags there are other full-page, colour pictures of Burnley stalwarts like Les Shannon and Doug Winton, Jimmy McIlroy and Brian Pilkington. They are all in one of the favourite books I did a few years back, The Best of Burnley Soccer Gift Book. You won’t get one for love nor money, sold out.

If you have one, check out the pages that show the Slazenger 4-star, the finest football boots ever made it says.

Or the Stylo Matchmakers, suited to the pinpoint pass and the rocket shot.

Whenever I browse through these old magazines if I find a picture like the one of Billy Gray I’ll stop and look at it for an age. Taking in the detail, the art, the colour, the classic collared, long-sleeved shirt, claret and blue of course, the long baggy shorts and the old-style hooped socks.

But it’s the boots, the brown, leather, ancient boots that draw the eye and what magnificent boots they were. You could have sailed down a canal in them. The old footballers of yesteryear used to soak them in water to soften them. They were the sort with which you could kick down a barn door.

And all finished off with laces, half a mile long, that you had to wrap round and round the sole a dozen times before you could tie them up.

Those old Charles Buchan magazines and annuals fill two shelves in the basement. Flick through them one after the other from the early 50s to the final edition, and you have a history of football boots courtesy of all the adverts they contain. You have images of great players from Nat Lofthouse and Tom Finney through to Albert Quixall and George Best.

An old, worn, battered pair of leather boots is perched on a shelf in my office, remnants of Billy Gray’s bygone age.

Who knows how many games they lasted or who wore them? Or even how old they actually are? I look at them and wonder if they once belonged to an old pro like Alan Brown, Doug Winton, or who knows, even Billy Gray?

That would make my day.