Tuesday 18 January 2011

Dave Godman

The other day I had a pub conversation about "who you know who should be given the MBE". To borrow a phrase from Sir John Stevens, Gordon Brown and others (last used last night, which got me thinking) - the everyday heroes.

Mine would be a bloke called Dave Godman. I went to a primary school in Bounds Green called Rhodes Avenue. It was a pretty decent school as they come, and I was mostly happy there. One downside was that there was no organised sport whatsoever, except for rounders in PE lessons.

Dave was dad to a lad called Joe, several years below me, and set up and ran the Football Club (ironically, Joe paid no interest in football whatsoever, if I recall). It was far and away the best thing about going to school - this would have been 1991-94 for me. Every Wednesday and Friday lunchtime we'd bolt our lunch down in record time (five minutes was considered VERY slow), go down to the local rec and have real training sessions. We had everything we could ever need: cones, bibs, and we'd all get changed into our best football gear (for some reason I had a particularly hideous stripey top and nasty burgundy jacket from a jumble sale that I decided was my training top...I've no idea why). We even started to play matches against other local schools; who could forget the first competitive game, against Coppetts Wood, which finished 5-0, shortly followed by a 14-0 win over Coldfall - a fifteenth goal was scratched from the records as we accidentally started the game with twelve men! - and the home game against Copthall, which was 19-1. Sadly, I was massively crap, and didn't feature in most games - although I played most of the return match with Copthall, by which time they'd got their act together, and held us 2-2.

It's the same all over the world, but the best players sat at the top of the social tree by default. In the year above, there was Chris Condon, a really nice lad whose mum (Clare?) used to come and help out at the training - she was quietly brilliant. Chris was probably the best player we had. There was Ankeet, a powerful full back, and of course the rocksteady central defensive partnership of Shona and Eleanor. There was Johnny, a skinny lad who always used to wear an Arsenal jacket, who I used to think was brilliant. In my year there was Dillan Leslie-Rowe, who used to play up front; Dominic Hill in midfield; and my best mate Liam Charalambou, a brilliant keeper, although he used to throw massive strops whenever he let in goals - so much so that he was eventually usurped in the first team by Harry in the year below. I also remember Jonty, who was an irritating kid, but a tricky playmaker. Then there was Duncan, who famously broke his toe midway through a match but kept quiet because he didn't want to be substituted.

The school hall, where we used to hold our meetings at lunchtime and have a team talk before the training, was a sacred place. Once the doors were shut, Chatham House rules applied. We were men in there, and everyone was equal. Petty squabbles and minor bullying disappeared ("Stop screwin' around" Dave would drawl, and we'd shut up instantly). Dave would talk tactics, and we'd hang on his every word.

But there was more than that. The school actively discouraged the Football Club. Dave used to have to jump through hoops to get permission to take us out, and the school provided no support whatsoever. None. Everything that we did was organised by Dave, with Clare's help. In the sanctity of the hall, Dave would rumble about the ruling powers and how we were always on the brink of being shut down (the Chatham House rules were just as well). For us, it was an unspeakable thought, but galvanised us together. The school  never had a good word to say about football, and never lifted a finger for Dave, but made damn sure to make a fuss when we won a match.

Sometimes, without warning, Dave didn't turn up. We'd sit in the hall with increasing frustration. No Dave. Time would go on and on, until we'd drift away in bitter disappointment. Next time he's turn up saying "Sorry lads, I had to sort a guy out who's losing his job..." Never before was someone's impending unemployment met with such a lack of sympathy! We couldn't care less about Dave's trade union work; what about football training?

Dave would sometimes play himself in training, and it was honour to have him on your team. He was grizzled with a craggy face and a cheeky smile - he seemed to be a bit older than the other dads, but it didn't matter at all. He always used to bang on about the new astroturf centre which  would be the ultimate playing surface and was just around the corner. In four years we never came close to seeing astroturf!

I wonder where Dave is now and how he's doing. I hope he realises even a fraction of the extent that we respected him - he was our idol. After school, picking up Joe, he'd be surrounded by throngs of kids wanting his opinion on the latest England squad or Spurs transfer rumour, giving out his wisdom as friendly and patiently as ever. If I ever met someone who inspired dozens of people, and made them feel better about life, an everyday hero, it was Dave Godman.


  1. I often think about Dave Godman.. but the last time I saw him was around 198o or so, when he was in University College Hospital: I thought he may have had a terminal condition. He always seemed to be driving hard to the edge.

    Here's all I know about (my?) Dave: he was a native of Hull, from a line of fishing and trawler me; early on he got into trade union work on behalf of them. For a time he was partner , maybe married, to Frances delaTour the actor; both were ardent members of one of the hard Socialist groups - SWP or similar. I met him in Reading, where I was a student, in 1970.. same age as me (25 or so, then), but with a lifetime of experience already behind him.

    Definitely one of the good guys - if it IS the same Dave ('craggy face, twinkle' etc. fits the one I knew), it's great to know he continued to inspire, organise and affect lives which others would call 'ordinary'.

    Ruth Campbell

    1. Trevor Larsen Kingston upon Hull25 February 2012 at 02:05

      Hi Ruth, I went to Scarborough Street primary/junior school in Hull with Dave Godman but I lost touch with him when I went to Hull Trinity House High School to train to be an officer in the Merchant Navy. He lived down Gillett Street off Hessle Road which was situated right in the heart of the deep sea fishing community. Incidentally, one of his older brothers called Norman Godman was the Labour member of Parliament for one of the Glasgow Constituencies for many years, I think the constituency was Glasgow and Goven, certainly, one of the Glasgow constituencies. Hope that is of some help to better your understanding of Dave Godman.
      I would be interested to know where David is now, he was born in 1941 so would be 70/71 ish today.

  2. Dave Godman - a really great father! I was Joe's teacher for a while (when he was 6!)and they were a beautiful family. He was very sick during that time with cancer and I often wonder how he managed to stay so cheerful, always there for his kids. Hope Joe is doing well too, probably grown a bit since then!


  3. We knew Dave Godman in the sixties , active in the local Labour Party - the Young Socialists, and knew members of the family: Jean , Wilf, Norman, Terry, Bernard, Lesley and the one who lived in Subway Street - a really nice guy with an arty wife but sorry can't remember their names. We left Hull in 1968 and so lost contact. Never saw him as a footballer - he was more into Vespas? We think he went to Ruskin and subsequently taught at the LSE but we may be wrong.