Butlins Soccer Coaching – A 1970’S Summer Holiday

Steve Mitchell is on a Hi-De-Hi…

As the school summer holidays begin, I can’t help but cast my mind back to when I was a nipper many summers ago. When the bell rang on the final afternoon to signal six weeks of freedom there was only one thought running through my mind –  time to head off to Butlins and for one thing in particular, the soccer coaching. In the week leading up to the annual family sojourn, I would be meticulous that my kit was in optimum condition. Boots would be smothered in fresh dubbin, both Manchester United kits (home and away in the classic 70’s Admiral design) would be washed and pressed to perfection by my mum to ensure that even if her son wasn’t the best player in the group, for sure he would be the best turned out.


With the Hillman Avenger and later the Vauxhall Chevette, packed to the gills with essentials for a week’s self-catering, my excitement would be at an uncontrollable level which would usually result in regular bouts of travel sickness en route to our usual destinations, Pwllheli in North Wales and Filey in North Yorkshire. As we parked in the already burgeoning car park the first thing to do was to meet up with a Red Coat and get hold of the week’s programming. Suddenly it was there in front of me – Monday 10.00am Soccer Coaching with (insert name here) with the rest of the week’s times to be confirmed. You always knew that at some point during the week a top-flight footballer would arrive to assist in the coaching, before organising a 5-a-side competition on the main sports field in front of the parents and usually after the Donkey Derby. 1977 was the year that sticks out in my mind. Our coach that year was a bronzed Adonis called Barry and it was also the year we took my best mate Paul along with us. It had been a magical year, United had beaten Liverpool in the Silver Jubilee Cup Final and I had recently been presented with some floodlights for my Subbuteo set, but life was to take a dramatic turn. Barry was god to me and Paul – he was handsome, looked immaculate in his Adidas training kit and earned his living doing what we loved. But he was soon to turn Judas when on the second day of coaching he announced to our group that the two special guests later that week would be none other than Manchester City’s young starlets Peter Barnes and Gary Owen.  Paul and I were devastated but after much deliberation, decided to stay for the remainder of the course. It was the big day and it was scorching hot. Owen and Barnes were to do a little coaching with us followed by the now customary 5-a-side tournament. About an hour before the session was due to start, Paul, dad, and myself decided to take a stroll around the boating lake. As we walked along the waters edge my dad suddenly stopped turned to me and said “Well, aren’t you going to go and get their autographs?”

focus gary owen
There in front of us, stripped down to just their city shorts were mssrs Barnes and Owen. A broad grin swept across their faces as two young lads dressed in full United kit approached them.  “Can I get your autographs please?” I requested meekly, “Sure lads no problem” said the dynamic duo. With the formalities completed, we started to walk away when Owen announced “you can stay and chat for a while if you want lads”. The next 15/20 minutes were some of the most memorable of my childhood. City’s finest turned out to be top, top blokes as they explained to two mesmerised young boys what it takes to become a professional footballer. The following year we opted to return to the Filey camp. It rained for the entire time we were there, the soccer coaching had to take place on the roller skating rink as the sports fields were flooded and the guest of honour was Leeds United’s full-back Paul Madeley who had the appearance of a man who would rather have been somewhere else. The contrast from the previous year could not have been greater.

If you haven’t got the first ‘Got, Not Got’ yet then please sort yourselves out and buy it from branches of WH Smith and Waterstones or online here


About thefoxfanzine

Editor of The FOX Fanzine - covering Leicester City for 23 years... it seems longer.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Butlins Soccer Coaching – A 1970’S Summer Holiday

  1. scherben909 says:

    Never mind what it says on that focus page, Gary Owen was a Red as a kid

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s