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Should the League 2 season be suspended?


1980s: Flying High
1980s: Flying High

Way Back Then

By: Chris Smith
Date: 22/11/2010 (Last updated: 05/12/2010)

I WAS fairly confident about the year ahead. I had come through the toughest year of my University education and could pick all the subjects I wanted to do. I had come through a tough financial time and was saving like mad during the summer to fund the football trips and the weekend atrocities although the football turned out to be a football atrocity in its own right.

It was even quite a nice summer. England had bowed out in the quarter finals of the World Cup without losing a game but had lost ambition instead. There was great football and Italy tonked West Germany in the final. I even had a small football bet with a lad at work and got predicted the correct score. Bloody Nora, I’m obsessing about correct scores now.

We even had pleasant weather. I had a deep dark tan as a result of falling asleep in the garden for an hour late one Saturday afternoon having guzzled a bottle of vodka with a housemate watching some dull game on the telly. If I didn’t know the link between sunburn and alcohol, I did now, but didn’t peel and thought I’d top it up in the back garden during those blissful Saturday afternoons of the recuperation period called the close season.

Despite this, I was gagging for a fix. The first competitive match I went to was away at Sheffield United in the Football League Trophy, which replaced the Group Cup we had won the previous season. We won 3 1 and there is a picture of the bottom half of me in the Grimsby Evening Telegraph. The rest is missing as I was in mid bounce. Good old British Rail ran a special for this and I was becoming an old hand at the one hour swill in the White Hart prior to catching it. It wasn’t the brightest PR idea from BR as we arrived on a mid August Saturday at Sheffield station, with the roar of Town fans alarming the poor holidaymakers trying to catch trains to the West Country. We then played at Lincoln in the next round of the Trophy in midweek. BR again did the honours and we completed the round robin series with a 2 0 win over Scunny although it wasn’t enough to progress. Meanwhile and I’m not sure which order the games came in, we had a few Lincolnshire Cup games to take in. I got the footie special (!) to Scunthorpe with other junkies and saw a one all draw in a game memorable only for Scummy to try and come up with a song only for our lot to reply with "Sing something simple you simple t**ts" We gave it a run out at Shrewsbury last week. Our interest in this competition ended with a four nil belting at home to Lincoln and a bus driving through a puddle just rounded off the soaking from a cloudburst. I was a bit miffed by the score. I always want to see Town win their games, whether it is a pre season friendly or not. And for those who berated our fans for raising concerns about our performances at Corby et al pre the 2008/9 season and who said you couldn’t read to much into these performances, hello and as I write this we are third bottom with five games to go. For sure, these results aren’t the be all and end all but most of the players looked as though they’d get out of breath waking up let alone do anything else.

After all this, it was the big one and Leeds United at home in their first game out of the top flight on a bank holiday weekend in an error of planning not seen since H*ll was first mooted as a possible settlement. Needless to say it all kicked off on the Friday night and finished early on Sunday morning. The Yorkshire mob carried on where they left off at West Brom when their relegation was confirmed the previous season. I knew I’d forgotten something else positive from the 1981/2 season, conveniently forgetting that I used to follow their results as a kid who knew no better. To be fair, I’ve worked with quite a few Leeds fans recently and they are okay....for Yorkies that is. Compared to H*ll they are passably human. Sorry, I jest. I had a good time at a home game there a few seasons back and really enjoyed their company. This would have been unthinkable in 1982 where the question I was asked in 2008, "Who do you support then?" would have been the precursor to a good kicking. (They asked as I was sat among a group of season ticket holders where one of their number hadn’t renewed). Great lads, I have to say I wanted their team to win for them. They didn’t because football teams don’t do me favours; I’ve learned that much in thirty odd years.

I’ve read the book by Caroline Gall, Service Crew, and have to say it is quite accurate about events apart from the bit where I single handedly stopped their mob storming the Pontoon taking out the main man with my little finger. That is how I would like it to have been anyway. They piled on the pitch from the newly opened Findus Stand and tried to invade the Ponny but were pushed out by the surge of fans from the back. I think one was castrated by being trapped on the top of the fence whilst his mates tried to pull him to safety and the Ponny were trying to pull him down to finish him off. I just tutted as I did in such situations wondering why the youth of today had to be like that. Well, I would have if the youth had been involved. I’d been in my normal space, realising that I didn’t recognise who many of those by me were. The thing is they weren’t Leeds and not for the first time, I wondered where some of these folk surfaced from. To be fair, I was glad we had quite a feisty support and can only imagine what it was like to be invaded by that lot and not be able to offer any resistance. We equalised through Kevin Kilmore and it ended one all. The Leeds fans kept up a chant of "We are the Champions, the Champions of Europe" for what seemed like most of the first half which I was impressed by despite myself. Their numbers, about 8,000 and singing made me realise that we weren’t quite in the same league as them when it came to stature. This was oddly enough, quite a shock. Any doubt about them being absolute psychos was dispelled by their round of applause and cheering response to the home fans’ renditions of the Yorkshire Ripper chants. The Osmond stand had the kicked out as a final insult and Town ended up footing the bill for £5000 as the Leeds declined to take responsibility for their club’s fans. Strange that, Leeds lacking PR especially as they have been renowned for their charisma and business acumen ever since...One of my current travelling companions, Chuckler, didn’t believe me when I said that the travelling fans had adapted the Steve Miller "Abracadabra" song to "We’re gonna stab ya" until he asked some Leeds fans of that vintage whether I was telling the truth.

Scary stuff but armed with my summer earnings I treated myself to a supporters coach trip to Carlisle who had just been promoted to Division 2. We endured a bit of the usual crapola about how they were going to do to us what Leeds had done. Something like "Leeds took the Grimsby and so will we". Anyway, when we had stopped laughing and had our consequent hernia operations, we settled down to the game. Incredibly, it was goalless at half time despite both teams having dozens of chances. Carlisle took the lead after the interval and their fans adjacent to us were having a pogo and giving it large (why, I don’t, tut!) Not much! Fortunately, Kevin Drinkell immediately equalised from about 40 yards and it was hilarious to realise that the first that the locals knew about it was our exaggerated celebrations. Shame we went 2 1 down but we equalised again and won 3 2 just to rub their little rural faces in it. Two penalties as well.

We passed coach after coach of Newcastle fans who were supposed to have taken 14, 000 fans to Bolton. It was an exaggeration but impressive all the same. It has just reminded me that in the eighties, the media surrounding Wednesday and Newcastle were always whipping up obviously vastly inflated figures about how many were going wherever. Don’t ask me why.

Continued in Part 2

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