Lyn imageSome years ago, a pal of mine called Stewart was going to a charity lunch in Brighton. He was quite excited, because there were going to be quite a few sporting legend celebrities giving talks, no idea who these people were, but I do know that my friend was anticipating an excellent lunch, something very agreeable to drink, and entertaining celebrities with lots of anecdotes he could relate to.

It was to be held in the large Brighton Conference Centre, so my friend went with others via public transport, because he didn’t want to take any chances drinking and driving.

Jimmy Greaves was to be the keynote speaker. My pal was full of it a few days before, and was really pleased when I mentioned that I had a collection of fifty or so old Football Monthly magazines. By this stage these were quite collectable, featuring the stars of the 1950s and 1960s. My magazines were all in pretty good condition, no tears, no folds, no writing, I was quite proud of them, having purchased at an obscure local auction some years previously.

Lyn imageThe pride of my collection was one from 1959 that featured Jimmy Greaves on the cover.

‘I know what, I will show it to Jimmy and ask him to autograph it for you.’

What an opportunity. The magazine was worth about £20 unsigned, but with the provenance and autograph from the great man, getting on for £100. It was an opportunity too good to pass by.

There is quite a market in football memorabilia of the right kind. Soccer programmes are very common, especially those folded and notations in the margin, but what I had was of the rarer variety. I had only paid £10 for the box of fifty programmes, no-one else was interested, so the opportunity of adding Jimmy’s signature was a chance not to be passed by.

Lyn imageStewart called that morning, me proudly handing over the magazine that was protected in one of those plastic see-through envelopes that collectors keep their special items in.

He arrived to find Jimmy Greaves sitting at a table surrounded by fans eager to hear any words shared by the great man. Stewart joined the queue, taking just over twenty minutes to be in his presence. There were two minders standing alongside, to ensure that all went smoothly. This was something of overkill, because, let’s face it, Jimmy Greaves is one of the most venerated footballers ever, you just could not be nasty to him.

‘What have we here, then,’ said Jimmy. ‘Ah, don’t remember this. Let’s have a look.’ He then proceeded to read the 1959 Football Monthly from cover to cover, making extra comments about various featured players. It was quite an insight for Stewart, as well as those waiting in the queue.

‘Would you please sign the cover for me, Jimmy,’ said Stewart.

Lyn Image‘I’ll do better than that. I’ll take it for the charity auction that we’re having today. You don’t mind, do you’, he said with his trademark impish grin. Stewart would have looked really bad had he said ‘no, it belongs to my mate Harry, it’s not mine, Harry wants you to sign it so he can sell it for £100 on E-Bay.’

So it went to auction. Stewart didn’t place a bid, didn’t really dare to, up and up it went, Jimmy telling the audience how rare it was, an original, something that would be worth a lot when he was dead, the bidding finally stopped at just over £150. What a tale to tell me when he got back.

He rang me as soon as he returned. ‘Harry, you’ll never guess about your Soccer Monthly. There’s good news and bad news. Jimmy Greaves signed it, said it was really rare, should be worth a fortune with his autograph on it. The bad news is I don’t have the magazine.’

‘Eh, where is it then?’ Stewart then told me the story, how he came home empty handed, me being an unwitting contributor to the charity auction.

What made it more galling? When the auction ended with such a huge sum, Jimmy Greaves on the microphone said ‘Please stand up my friend who kindly donated this piece of football history. Give him a huge round of applause.’

Stewart got all the praise, I just got the empty wallet.