A safe pair of hands

Jim Hogg of Boynton Sports:
Jim Hogg of Boynton Sports:

UNLIKE modern Premiership footballers, goalkeeper Jim Hogg did not spend his early career in the 1950s travelling in a Bentley or Mercedes.

“I managed to get a lift back to Sheffield after playing for Huddersfield A team with a man who delivered chickens and geese for hoteliers,” he said.

Jim Hogg (far left) as the club won the  Tinsley Charity Competition

Jim Hogg (far left) as the club won the Tinsley Charity Competition

“I’d be in the back of his van with the chickens and when I got home at about one in the morning I’d smell like a compost heap. It didn’t go down well with my wife.”

Jim, now 77, was telling his footballing stories as he carried out his duties as secretary of Boynton Sports, a team he’s been a part of since 1956.

He signed on for Boynton when the regular keeper injured his wrist and in his first game for the north Sheffield club saved two penalties to help the team win its semi-final in the Sheffield Sports Athletic cup.

Jim played in goal until he was in his 40s and took over as club secretary in 1962, a role he’ll have occupied for 50 years when next season starts.

In his 60s, Jim often took his place between the posts when the team was short of a keeper, and players claim he stood in for a few minutes when a goalie was late for a game more recently – in his mid-70s. “He didn’t concede,” said player Andy Dodd.

As club secretary, Jim looks after everything from finances to pumping up the match balls. Every Saturday he turns up at the pitch an hour before the squad and helps manager Melyvn Ripley with the team talk before kick-off.

“Don’t you go shooting your mouth off,” he advised the more opinionated younger players at their ground in Ecclesfield last Saturday. “Where’s all the balls?” he added.

The match ball was actually up a tree, it turned out, after a wayward shot during the warm-up, so he even organised the match ball rescue squad.

So why has he done all this for half a century? “I don’t know,” he laughed. “I just love football, at all levels.”

He has his own views on the national game. Having a national manager who understands English wouldn’t do any harm, he noted.

Many amateur sides suffer from money problems – Jim has to find £1,000 just to cover pitch fees (sponsors very welcome, he implored).

For a time he covered fees for training sessions out of his own pocket, until he recently retired from his sales job.

Players have a hard time too: apart from paying £4 to play, a yellow card costs the player £10,and a red card £35 – a lot of money for someone who might be out of work, Jim said, compared to a player for the national side who might make £100,000 a week. “Many professional players are apart from the common man now, they’re aloof in their big ivory castles.”

During national service while stationed near Oxford, Jim had spells with Headington United (later Oxford United) when lower league football’s amateur status was keenly patrolled.

“At my first game I pulled on my sock and there was a pound note inside.”When he pointed this out, in the face of his 18 shilling a week wage for the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, the dressing room went very quiet and players warned him to keep quiet or he’d not be asked again.

His children were involved from an early age. “My wife Marion would ask me to look after them when she went shopping and my daughter will tell you how at the age of eight I put her on top of the water tank in Longley Park so she couldn’t get down while I played.”

As Jim got on with touchline duties, players sang his praises. “It’s reassuring he’s here,” said Andy Dodd. “He does a hell of a lot of work behind the scenes and the club relies heavily on him.”

“If not for Jim none of us would be playing,” said Dan Stead. “You see the effort he puts in and we try and represent that on the pitch.”

Jim has had plenty of highs and lows during his time with Boynton Sports (the name comes from three founder members living in Boynton Road, Shirecliffe).

The lowest point, he said, was the day a young player, Philip Bramhall, died after collapsing on the pitch at Longley in the 1970s, an incident very much in Jim’s mind after Premiership player Fabrice Muamba recovered from a similar on-pitch cardiac arrest this week.

Better memories are the many trophies won by Boynton.

On Saturday, though, the team lost 4-2 to Millmoor after two controversial penalties.

“Our goalie had a good game but what I learned about penalties was you have to wait until the player hits the ball before you make a move,” Jim said afterwards, with a smile. “I’d have saved them.”