RAPH THE TAFF
In 1990 Leyton Orient made their first trip to Glasgow when they took part in the Hampden Trophy.
Our relationship with them had begun through the swapping of fanzines, The Web and the Leyton Orientear, and we’d invited ourselves to London in 1988 to meet the O’s.
Nearly thirty years on and our relationship with the O’s remains as strong today as it did back in 1988.
One of the major O’s figures is Raph “The Taff” O’Keeffe who was on the first trip to Glasgow and has since helped organise the Ian Younger Sixes as well as the Chaos Cup in London. Raph has also made three appearances for the Club and scored twice which isn’t surprising for a player of such immense ability.
However, who is Raph and how did he become such top man ? In a quiet moment of reflection Raph answers a few burning questions which should provide all the answers.
You made the first O’s trip to Glasgow in July 1990 for the Hampden Trophy. An overnight minibus journey saw you arrive at our HQ at Prospecthill Circus, any memories of that ?
Thirteen or so knackered Londoners and minibus driver pitched up at Mr C’s parents in the early morning after an overnight drive. Mrs C provided tea and toast to us all in the kitchen then most people just crashed on the living room floor for a couple of hours. Tim (Le Rasle) and me were the only ones who stayed awake and we were fed plates of fruit by the real Mr C on account of its health values. The journey from the Circus to Hampden was slightly surreal as Mr C would only take one of us at a time due to fears of the Arkansas Chuggabug breaking down. On arrival at Hampden Mr C pointed out Higgy to me and said to me, “ what a wonderful boy Michael was !”
This was our fourth tournament and the first time we had “foreign” visitors and also the first time we had singing whilst our games tournaments were taking place. I take it you enjoyed yourself ?
What I remember of it, the football went as expected, we were pretty dire but the evening was outrageous. We didn’t have a clue what to expect. It was boisterous, and we got our first experience of England baiting from (what are now) the usual suspects, great timing following your defeat by Cayasso and his Costa Rican compatriots, all responses delivered from behind the safety of Chappo of course. This was also the night I was introduced to Whisky by the real Mr C, “Will you take a wee half ?”, “No, thank you, I’ve got a pint”, I think it was Jazza who sorted out the confusion and thus a love affair with Famous Grouse began. I believe Graham the barman had his work cut out with people getting on the pitch, but hey ho.
Where did you stay on your first night in Glasgow ?
I was kindly put up by the Stormonths in Kirkwell Road. Totally knackered after the overnight journey and the boozy day, all Stephen and Paul wanted to do after Hampden was crash a party. We somehow managed to avoid that. When we got back to their parents one of them opened up a large booze cabinet in case I fancied another bevvy, I just wanted sleep! Great breakfast the morning after and (allegedly) a first in Stormonth family history (according to Mrs Stormonth), Stephen and Paul did the washing up.
For the next few years I stayed with Tam Moon’s family. There was only one rule, if Big Tam offered you a dram with your breakfast you said yes, if you didn’t have a whisky neither could he (house rules I suppose). I wasn’t sure if young Tam was pulling my leg the first time, but there was a small jug of water on the table next morning, and sure enough, the offer of a dram. It has to be said it goes very well with a Full Scottish! The one person who didn’t quite get what was going on was young Gavin Bacon, who on being asked if he wanted a “drop”, replied “No, actually I’m a student”, only came to Glasgow the once.
I’ve also stayed at Tricia and Mr. C’s a fair few times, and at Ann and Jazza’s. The first time I stayed at theirs they had a teenager, three young’uns and still invited a bunch of drunk Londoners back, I couldn’t last the pace. The last time was out in East Kilbride when Paul and Sean McNeill were pratting about on the Trampoline at four in the morning, resulting in me going to hospital with Jazza after he bounced off onto the paving surrounds, But it was okay, neither Sean or myself was injured, and Jazza couldn’t feel a thing.
In recent years I have been a guest of John Drennan in what is unkindly referred to as the 70’s house. It is a work in progress and, as everyone knows, John goes at his own pace. Sixes Sunday at Mach’s have resulted in gallery trips, seaside jaunts and country walks. Just like going to Aunties.
In 1991 we travelled down to London for the CHAOS Cup and you were the man in charge, how did that happen ?
I chatted to Dave Knight (the original Leyton Orientear editor) and some of the team about it after our trip to Glasgow. A smaller tournament with QP, Posh, Notts County and ourselves seemed to make sense, so we got it together. In later years we followed your lead in changing to Sixes with loads more teams, that was like herding Frogs.
Your love affair with all things QP and Scotland had really kicked in by then and you decided to travel with us to Merthyr Tydfil as we went to acclimatise before their Sixes the Saturday after the CHAOS. This even saw you make your debut for us in a midweek friendly against Merthyr ASDA at Blaendowlais, and it was a scoring debut ! What do you remember about that night ?
It was the middle of summer and I was freezing my bits off. The temperature was about 20 degrees lower at the top of the hill. The goal was a bit of a scramble, but they all count. I can’t remember where we went after (Park View?), but we were certainly pissed, stating the bleedin’ obvious, we might have been half cut before the game.
You were still a regular at our tournaments, now a Sixes competition, and you were also making trips north to watch the occasional QP game. Any memories of these games ?
My first match was a fairly uninspiring game against Arbroath at Hampden. The trips to Cliftonhill were more entertaining, the charity walk from Hampden when a couple of you decided to stay in the pub to watch the Rugby rather than go to the game. Higgy winning the 4-3 game against the Dirty Rovers by chucking the ball back quickly at a throw in which resulted in a goal; the Fishwife; Big Owen’s. Higgy again, nearly getting ejected at Forfar for assaulting an advertising hoarding; his inability to go past the Clyde Supporters club without going into total meltdown. Then there was the 5-1 gubbing in Dingwall in minus temperatures, still, a great day, and Ross County giving us the unsold pies for the journey home, nice gesture.
In 1995 you came up for the weekend to stay at the Duror Hotel, owned by Donald Campbell, Mr C’s brother, and made another scoring appearance in a 5-0 win over Appin at North Connel, is it true you scored without touching the ball ?
Not quite, as the laws of nature require some sort of contact with the ball to alter its course, or in this case, to make it curl around the keeper (almost). The less said about the bling obsessed defender the better. My reward for this wonder goal? Being very physically congratulated by Jazza and Tubsy.
Two appearances, two goals, and then you retired from playing but remarkably you were asked to play for QP in 2002 against the O’s at Hackney Marshes and even more remarkably you said yes. Was it the chance to play in midfield that persuaded you out of retirement ?
No, I’m just stupid (and happy to wear the Hoops). That said it was easily my favourite ever game. Dreadful pitch, everyone hungover, but a great spirit about the team, everyone giving their all. I got loads of encouragement throughout the game we won 2-1 then back down the Pub. I ended up having a great time, although I suffered mightily for the next three days
You also retired as organiser of the CHAOS, when did that happen ?
One day when I was sober, enough was enough.
Still a regular visitor to our Sixes you decided about ten years ago to help out and be the “fixtures and results man”, were you drunk when you decided that ?
Having stopped playing it seemed like a good idea to have something to do during the day to keep away from the bar, being T.I.T.S. (Tournament Information Technical Supervisor) seemed like the answer. Having done it for a few years, and heard the same question 10 times a minute it then seemed a better idea to be at the bar (although I got sacked/forcibly retired, before I could officially resign).
At long last you’ve managed to stay in the bar at the Sixes, along with many sensible Legends, I take it you are happy to relax and enjoy the company after all the years of organising you have put in ?
Everything about the question is correct apart from, ‘Sensible Legends’ ? Legends, yes, sensible? Since when??