The Lost Footballer

Workmen carrying out routine maintenance at Wembley Stadium have discovered an eighty-one-year-old midfielder from the 1966 World Cup squad who didn't realise the match was over.

Rumours of a missing footballer have been circulating for some time and numerous sightings have been reported in and around the stadium over the years. By 1971 the legend of the lost footballer was already well established, with eye witnesses describing a shabby, shambling and emaciated figure dribbling in the stands or practising keepy-uppy in the car park.

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But the most famous encounter with the mysterious figure came in 1978, reported by surgeon and keen football fan Bobby Wilson. Having watched his team Arsenal lose to Ipswich Town in the FA cup final, Wilson retired to the gents for a cry, and it was here that he chanced across the phantom footballer.

"He seemed very nervous, very cautious and timorous," Wilson recalls. "He backed away when I approached, but I immediately recognised him as one of the original '66 squad because he was in black and white, which is exactly how he'd looked when I watched it on the telly."

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Despite the apparition's timidity, Wilson was able to take a picture before the figure disappeared - one of several photographs that Wilson took in the gents at that time, all of which were sadly seized by the police and have yet to see the light of day.

But although physical evidence has been hard to come by, there have been plenty of other reported sightings at sporting events, music concerts and other occasions over the years. One of the most hotly debated manifestations occurred during the Live Aid concert in 1985 when several TV viewers phoned in to say that had spotted a grubby, dishevelled figure moping about backstage, shuffling about at the back of the royal box or even, at one point, taking to the stage and singing 'I Don't Like Mondays'.

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And reports didn't stop when the old Wembley Stadium was demolished to make way for a new plastic version in 2002. Even while the new facility was being built there were numerous complaints from contractors about their equipment being interfered with and their sandwiches being stolen. Such tales were not taken seriously at the time but, following this discovery, we now know the full story: midfielder Albert Parkes, who went missing after being frightened by a police horse at half time, has indeed been hiding out at the stadium since England's celebrated victory.

Workmen eventually tracked him down by following him back to the nest he had crudely fashioned out of goal nets and old jockstraps, perched precariously in the roof beams of a subsidiary boiler house. Initially he refused to come down, but was eventually persuaded to surrender by Jackie Charlton, who convinced him that the match was finally over.

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It's all been a bit of an ordeal for poor Albert, but it's nothing near the shock he's going to get when he learns that he's still under contract and that he's going to be kicking off against Italy next month.

mystery photograph

Did this blurry 1978 photograph capture the furtive footballer prowling around one of Wembley's changing rooms? Or is it just Bigfoot? Again.

 

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