Every week, until they let him out, Chris Williams will be writing a feature article to give fans something to read. This week he appeals to the collectors...
When I first met the current Mrs Williams it was love at first sight. Admittedly I had known her for 14 years before we started dating, but from first date to moving in together was just six weeks. Soppy as it sounds, we just knew it was right and we have been happily married for 25 years now with only three arguments in that entire time. Unfortunately two of them were caused by Peter Rhoades-Brown.
To most people our Chelsea-rejected Commercial Man is a genial and approachable fellow. But six months before I worked for the club I won the Golden Key half time lottery and was marched out on to the pitch to meet Rosie, where to my surprise (and his, no doubt) I won £700. This was amazing and I spent the second half trying to hide while the entire Osler Road stand attempted to borrow a fiver.
Now readers, I am not proud of this bit. £700 was a lot of money and when I got home I decided not to immediately share the news of the win with my wife. I WAS going to tell her, I promise, but I was weighing up what to buy to surprise her. The problem was that during that second half someone had already rung her and told her about the win. Awkward. Bit frosty. All Rosie’s fault, right?
As is the second bone of contention in this happy house. When we moved in together (me and Mrs W, not me and Rosie, we’re just good friends) we hadn’t had much time to get furniture - six weeks you see, as those of you who have been paying attention will recall. So we borrowed bowls and plates, swiftly secured second hand sofas and chairs and somehow settled down to a life of domestic bliss.
Pride of place was my Oxford United Cushion. This was maybe 50cm x 30 cm and featured a print of the 1986 team with the Milk Cup at their feet and a club badge on the reverse. For some reason it was printed on polyester which stuck to the bald patch on my already receding head. So it was fundamentally useless for its primary purpose: cushioning. But many’s the time I would nestle my weary head in Rosie’s lap and settle down to dream my dreams of all that those players achieved during the club’s Golden Years.
Gradually the print faded along with those memories and eventually I noticed that the cushion seemed to have grown legs. It would move from the living room to the corner of the study, and from there to a cupboard. One day I came home to find it had jumped in the bin, all by itself. Had it been possessed by the spirit of Jefferson Louis, always searching for a new home? One day I simply couldn’t find it at all. “I put it up in the loft” Mrs W told me. “It’s safe, don’t worry…”
In truth, I moved on. I found alternative pillowing possibilities. I gradually forgot about that cushion. But last week, like much of the nation when lockdown started, I found myself locked in the loft. We were going to ‘have a sort out’ and someone (I suspect Marie Kondo) had said to start with the loft because the rubbish is literally over your head all the time.
So I was despatched up the stairs with the stepladder to fetch the subbuteo out of the loft. It had all the accessories required for the big match atmosphere, before you ask. I found the subbuteo quite easily- my Oxford United painted team with only Les Phillips’ head missing. It was just behind five giant storage boxes full of football programmes - three of them from programmes I have helped produce, others dating back to the 1950s. I’m not a collector but people gave me them as a kid, making sure I grew up proper.
I found a box of old football shirts. A shoebox stuffed with ticket stubs. I found my ‘Beat Swindon Easily’ t-shirt. I found ‘BIlly Hamilton’s Football Academy’ game. Every now and then a head would appear through the hatch to check my progress. “I just can’t find my cushion” I would say and she would retreat with a slightly guilty look on her face- I guess she forgot which part of the loft she stored it in?
Readers, I’m baffled. That cushion seems to have disappeared.
But it did give me food for thought. Are YOU tidying up at home right now? Then can I make an appeal?
We have a club archive. We have a copy of every programme every produced by the club, but if you find a collection then don’t throw them away, donate them to Michael North who will raise funds for the cub by selling them on a matchday. It may look like junk but old newspapers, rosettes, hats, medals, t-shirts and posters are priceless to us. We can’t deal with box after box but we would love to add to our archive collection once real life returns. Right now there is no place for us to have a little museum, but the plan has always been to make one, so during this difficult time if you are sent skywards for a sort out, think of us. We’ll keep those memories safe for you. Keep them in your home for a few more weeks, then let us know.
Unless you find a 1986 celebration cushion, obviously. Send THAT to me: I’d love to have two…
Chris Williams is, amazingly, trusted with the club's communications but the views in this article are his own and not necessarily those of the club.