The Promised Land

The Promised Land

Sundays were not spent in church or in the pub. It was de-tox day for the likely lads of Moss Side. The elegant if slightly neglected Alexandra Park was ideal for a three hour kickabout shaking out all the toxins of the previous night’s excesses. The local crew, Reggae Bernie, Mike Slaven and Earl the Rasta were waiting for their weekly tussle with the rudeboys of Laurel Avenue. Mad Dog excelled on these occasions, running wildly, chasing every lost cause, to such an extent that Chrissie-boy Rowlands could oft be heard muttering ‘Oh no, there goes Sean on another excursion’. Carrying a gashed knee from an earlier feisty challenge from Gorton Garry, Earl shouted at me. ‘Hey, white boy – you bin dissing the Cheetham Hill possee?’ To guffaws of laughter. Then I spied out of the corner of my eye, Mad Dog running with the ball in the direction of Whalley Range. Here on an adjacent pitch, a young boy stood with a man I immediately recognised. He rolled the ball like a guided missile, towards his son who deftly flicked it onto his neck, gently letting the ball float down his back. His Dad barked ‘Two feet son – go to work’. At that precise moment I seized my chance ‘Mr Moses, it is a pleasure to meet you. I am Socrates and a fan of Man City, but I saw you play at Old Trafford’. ‘Thanks son’ he replied gruffly but with a kind look in his eyes. ‘Look after your knee’. With that the supreme midfield ragga icon of the eighties was gone. After the match, walking home, I reflected how during my years of watching Remi Moses for West Brom or Man Utd, we had never once seen a fancy flick or rink-a-dink trick such as the one performed by his son. Remi simply was your archetypal midfield ball-winner in the glorious days when tackling was allowed and football was an honest contact sport. Questions flooded my mind. I stopped off at Mr Singh’s corner-shop for my customary pint of ice cold milk, patched on my dettol knee plaster and pondered life. Why was his brilliant career cut short? Did he live near the Moss? Would his son make it? Did he enjoy a drink with Robbo, Whiteside, Sparky and the boys at Paddy Crerand’s Altrincham watering-hole? Truth be told, we knew very little about the publicity-shy midfield enforcer who was part of Ron ‘Bo Jangles’ Atkinson’s famous FA Cup winners. Back then the Red Devils had all the best tunes. Standing on the Stretford End one sunny day, the crowd suddenly broke out into song ‘Oh Remi, Remi, you part the waves, you part the sea. Oh Remi, Remi. Remi Moses’. The London boys would occasionally come down and play on a Sunday, right up to 1992 and I always hoped to catch another glimpse of Remi and son. However, Manchester’s Moss Side like many other parts of England after Thatcher’s failed social revolution had changed. Sadly not for the better. Teenage boys on bikes, scouts and thugs now menaced these areas ahead of the gangland drug wars to come. A war so heinous and vicious, partly caused by the Grocer’s Daughter smashing-up of old stick-together working class communities. That great social leader and man of vision, Hartley Hanley would soon appear on Granada TV exhorting his people to stop killing each other’s children. No Mr Moses had long departed and I found myself praying that in the words of Mr Ray Davies, ‘Yes, I hope tomorrow you’ll find better things’.

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