Friday, 10 May 2013

Clive - The 'Other' 1923 FA Cup Final Horse

The 1923 FA Cup Final is remembered for many things; it was the first final at the all new Empire Stadium at Wembley, 900 people were injured due to the over-capacity crowd, Bolton's second goal was given as, in the opinion of the ref, the ball had crossed the line and rebounded off a spectator (yeah, suck that one up, Hawkeye!). Finally, there was a Horse named Billie.

Crowd estimates for the day ranged between 150-300,000, despite the official figure being just over 126,000. Due to the large number of people, mounted police had to step in and at that point, Billie the grey horse (yes, he wasn't white afterall) took centre stage, herding the masses in a manner which would now be referred to as 'bossing it'.

Due to the prominent role he played, the final became known as the White Horse Final and in 2005, the footbridge near the new Wembley would be named after him after a public vote.

It could all have been so different, however!


Also on duty that day was Clive. Clive, a black horse considered himself a bit of an also ran, often literally.

In the years before that infamous Cup Final, he had tried his hand at many things...Horse Racing (or 'racing' as it was known in the equine community), which he'd found rather tiring and repetitive, a summer stint on Blackpool's sea front and finally as a labourer, working a plough on the local farm.

But Clive dreamed of bigger things! He'd seen some early cowboy films and was convinced that was where his future lay...not with a man in chaps on his back, but in the movies! He got himself an agent, which was kind of hard to do, and landed a few walk on parts in countryside documentaries, but it was all small stuff. His agent told him to get exposure, so he landed a role as the face of a joke shop. He died a little every time he saw his gurning face alongside the inevitable 'long face' pun-based caption, but it was necessary he told himself...all to the greater good.

As with all jobbing actors, Clive had a secondary job to pay the bills and his chosen career was crowd control. It was easy money. Get suited and booted and just stand around...there was the occasional Geordie trying to land a punch, but he was the bigger man...literally. In early 1923, he spotted an ad in the 'Horse Bouncer' trade publication for qualified "crowd management executives" for an upcoming sporting event. The ad stated applicants must look good in front of a camera. Clive had heard about the new stadium being built in London and put 2 and 2 together. He galloped down to the big smoke and was immediately offered a job.

The big day arrived and Clive rocked up to Wembley with high hopes. He was going to be on the news reels! Then his first disappointment landed. He'd been assigned the deputy role; the lead being taken by some poncey grey bloke called Billie, which is a girl's name, Clive muttered under his strangely fresh & minty breath.

Clive at Wembley in 1923...apparently...
Once out on the field, it was clear this was going to be a large task, but Clive knew he was up to it...and what's more, he'd already seen the film cameras. Unfortunately, so had Billie and, abusing his rank, constantly ordered Clive off to other parts of the ground, whenever they were pointed his way.

At the end of the day, a tired and dejected Clive clopped off home, downbeat, but satisfied he'd done a good day's work. When he finally got to see the newsreels, his downheartedness turned into rage. Not one single piece of film had him in it! Instead, Billie the Bastard was there in every shot and not only that, but the cameras of the day also made his coat look a gleaming white! Then the final blow: "The White Horse Final".
Clive whinnied loudly, realising his one shot had come and gone.

"Bastard"
Days after the final he went for an audition for a Lloyds Bank commercial. As ever, he got down to the last two applicants, but blew it when he failed the Polo-resistance test - the director conducted the sessions with an open pack of Polos on his desk...sadly, Clive had a reallly sweet tooth and just loved fresh, minty breath.
Sadly, his lack of self control, and a large hospital bill from the director, who lost a finger when he tried to wrestle the holey mints from Clive's salivating jaws, meant he was blacklisted in the industry.

Sure, he got occasional offers from 'filmmakers', but these always followed the same seedy path and Clive had his morals.

And so it was he saw out the remainder of the year back in Blackpool, posing for occasional photos in kiss-me-quick hats and giving rides to bored children...but even this was to be short lived...stumbling one day while giving a particularly wriggly child a ride, he snapped his ankle.

I wish I could provide a happy end to this entirely fictional story, but alas, Clive's days had come to an end...a rather sticky one...


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