What's your favourite of the poems you've written?

There are many that I could pick - obviously at the time I wrote them I liked them all immensely. I like some of the longer ones rather a lot. There's a poem about a football match called the 'The Match (c. 1950)'. There are many other longer poems - I think I prefer the longer ones to the shorter. There's a poem which I'll read a little of to you now which is called 'The Goals of Bingo Boot'. I can't read it all, I would love to read it all, but it would take too long. It's simply a rich, I think, complex narrative about a little boy who becomes an astonishing footballer and a great many things happen to him.

The Goals of Bingo Boot The fans in the stands are silent You could hear the fall of a pin For the fabulous game just ended And the tale that's about to begin. In nineteen hundred and twenty-two A little boy was born His baby cot was second-hand His baby shawl was torn. He had no teeth or teddy bear His hair was incomplete But he was the possessor of The most amazing feet. When Bingo Boot was two years old He chewed his little crust His poor old dad was on the dole His poor old pram was bust. Yet Bingo wasn't worried Though his baby feet would itch And he could hardly wait till He could stroll - out on the pitch. In school young Bingo languished At the bottom of the class His ball control was good It was exams he couldn't pass. His little pals all shouted, 'Foul!' And tended to agree If only teachers tested feet He'd get a PhD. And all the while in streets and parks On pitches large or small Without a proper pair of boots Sometimes without a ball! With tin cans in the clattering yard In weather cold or hot Young Bingo shimmied left and right And scored with every shot. His poor old mum scrubbed off his floors His poor old gran did too The pantry was an empty place The rent was overdue. Then Bingo had a brainwave Shall I tell you what he did? He sold himself to the Arsenal For thirteen thousand quid. The first game that he ever played At the tender age of ten Young Bingo just ran rings round Eleven baffled men. The fans of course went crazy The fans went, 'Ooh!' and 'Ah!' While Bingo took the match ball home And bought his dad a car. Well the story goes on a good deal further than that, right up in fact to the end of Bingo's life, and even beyond it. But to hear the rest you'll probably have to go somewhere, a library perhaps or a bookshop even and get hold of the book. from Friendly Matches (Penguin, 2001), copyright © Allan Ahlberg 2001, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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