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Man organizes soccer rematch 50 years later

He decided that the match should be replayed as a way to heal old wounds.

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(Back) Derick knight, Neil Bruce, Lloyd Fields, Martin Green, John Wakefield, Greame Jones, (Bottom) Adrian Hall, Jeoff Burry, Pete Garner, Howard Davies, David King. (Tom Maddick via SWNS)

By Douglas Whitbread via SWNS

A man organized a rematch of a school soccer match after 50 years of feeling guilty for scoring a foul goal.

Graeme Jones, 60, admitted shoving a keeper with the ball “five yards” over the goal line in the dying seconds of a match to earn a “dubious” draw in September 1972.

But the former Royal Navy training instructor said he was determined to “put right a wrong” after learning of the result's lasting “impact” on his aggrieved local rivals.

Graeme spent 18 months assembling the same line-up from the Gayton Primary School team, in the Wirral, England who took on St. Peter’s C of E School half a century ago.

And before the game on August 27, they even recreated an old squad photo that had appeared in a local paper when they were just ten years old.

Graeme’s bitter rivals went on to take a stunning 6-2 win in the one-off geriatric grudge match.

And though he was left feeling disappointed with the final result, Graeme said he could now put his “demons to bed."

He said: “We got stuffed because they had to bring on a couple of ringers.

"But my demons have been put to bed and my conscience is clear now, and we would have still lost regardless.

“As I said before if we lose, we lose, and I wanted to turn a wrong into a right."

He added: “It was very, very surreal to do the official photo as we wanted to capture it more or less exactly as it was at school, 50 years apart.

“And when we walked onto the pitch, we formed up in our original positions as well.”

Graeme, from Gayton in the Wirrall, Merseyside, said he came up with the idea for the match in 2020, during the first lockdown, after finding his old team portrait.

But when he shared the proposal with his neighbor Craig Allen - who scored the opposition's only goal - he was shocked to find there was bad blood between the sides.

“My best mate dug out a photograph, which appeared in the local paper way back in September 1972, taken before we played a game against our local rival school," he said.

The St Peters School football team in 1972. (Courtesy Alan Jones via SWNS)
Gayton primary school football team in 1972. (Courtesy Alan Jones via SWNS)

“I thought, do you know what, I’ve got bugger all else to do, so I’m going to start fishing around to find out where they are – and it just grew from there.

“But when I spoke to my neighbor, Craig, who played for St Peter’s C of E, he told me: ‘I remember that game, and I’ve never forgiven you.’

“You shoved the goalkeeper about ten feet behind the line in the corner in the dying minute, and your school PE teacher gave the goal.”

Gobsmacked Graeme was left to ponder his past actions and the years of hurt he may have caused.

And he decided that the match should be replayed as a way to heal old wounds.

He said: “I sat and considered it and thought, ‘No wonder he brought it up. I need to put right a wrong here.’

“I felt guilty about the fact that the game finished, but I wasn’t aware of the impact.

“I was a center half back in the day, and I just came up and bulldozed my way through, and Alan, our PE teacher, gave the goal. You wouldn’t get away with it today.”

“So I wanted to turn a wrong into a right, and if we lose, we lose, but it will put to bed something that I wasn’t aware of until probably 18 months ago.”

Over the next couple of years, Graeme went about tracking down every former player who’d been in his school team’s original starting line up.

He said: “I had to bully a few people into doing it. And then it was a case of 'I’ve got these guys, you’ve got to play – you’re irreplaceable, I need you there', and I got all 11.

“The opposition got a team together, but I gave them some leeway on their side in terms of age.”

A man arranged a school football match 50 years after it took place.(Tom Maddick via SWNS )
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Graeme even managed to get in contact with his former PE teacher, Alan Jones, who had awarded his team their controversial last gasp equalizer.

And he was given the honor of observing the coin toss before officiating the match for the first five minutes of play on Saturday.

He said: “I was amazed to find that Alan Jones is still alive and is fit and healthy in his early to mid-80s.

“And I said, ‘Alan how would you fancy for old times sake, you start the game off and referee, as to get you back as well, as you referred it 50 years ago, would be brilliant.’

The two teams played a 30-minute-a-side match at nearby Heswall football club's ground, with a raffle set up to help buy Graeme's old school a new team kit.

And though the team of golden oldies wouldn’t attempt another match, he said they would continue to meet up and renew their bonds following the now iconic fixture.

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