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Bramall Lane
Bramall Lane

A Trip down Bramall Memory Lane - Part 2

By: Chris Smith
Date: 16/09/2009 (Last updated: 13/12/2009)

WE didn’t meet in 1983/4 but met again in the league in 1984/5. I was an old hand now at getting steamed in the White Hart next to Grimsby Town station before boarding the football special which had started to go via Retford rather than Donny. I think I could do about 5 pints of Dry Blackthorn cider in an hour at this time which wasn’t bad as I spent more time waiting to be served than I did drinking the stuff. . It seemed that every passenger was trying to shovel as much down as possible before departure. Given that the train was supposed to be dry, there was plenty of vodka smelling orange juice in plastic pop bottles.

It wasn’t a surprise to see alcohol on sale in the away end once we had reached enemy territory, but it was a pleasant one to see that they sold cider and even more so that it was Dry Blackthorn. Cider wasn’t particularly popular in pubs at this time and was regarded as pop although I had the last laugh watching friends try to drink scrumpy at Glastonbury a few years later whilst attempting to stand up. Lightweights. In a decision more baffling than the one that saw Mike Lyons appointed as manager, I asked for a pint of Somerset’s finest and was given a plastic pint glass and er, the two half pint bottles as well. This faux pas wasn’t lost on Grimsby’s finest who also ordered cider and then lobbed the bottles into the home section. Honestly. There they are ridding the train of inefficient light bulbs and throwing them on to railway platforms to reduce carbon emissions twenty five years before it became fashionable, and then they can’t recycle glass properly. Anyone would think they were trying to hurt someone.

For the record, a Gary Lund hat trick put us 3 0 up before we gave the home team a chance and teased them mercilessly before winning 3 2. However, it was a shock to lose 2 0 at home to the later in an inconsistent but very entertaining season. Thus ended my unbeaten streak. Even worse, we lost 1 0 at home the following season. I then moved down south to get a decent job and fortunately missed the two subsequent relegations.

Fortunes had now turned full circle yet again and we were in the basement whilst Blades finally went up at Leicester in 1989/90 whilst our fans misbehaved at Chesterfield, although we were on our way up again. That was some journey up from London on the St Pancras line with Luton at Derby as well. Sheffield United were then to enjoy a spell in the top flight which then became the Premier League. I was up North for three weeks at the start of the 1992/3 and I went with my brother, Jere, to see the Blades play on a spare Saturday. I continued my curse against them by seeing Aston Villa win 2 0. I think that was the score-I had been suffering from a severe case of the DTs for some time.

Town were to meet the Blades again in 1994/5 but I didn’t see us clash again until 1995/6. I completed my unbeaten hat-trick of wins at Sheffield United, a record that stands to this day. Theirs is one of the few grounds I haven’t seen us lose at. We had won 1 0 at home to West Brom the week before with Ivano Bonetti scoring and I have vivid memories of that game but virtually nothing about completing my hat-trick seven days later. For the record, Southall and Childs scored in a 2 1 win. All I can remember is a load of us singing our heads off in the Howard pub (virtually opposite Sheffield station) although I couldn’t say whether it was before the game, afterwards or both. I was becoming somewhat bewildered by how much or little it was taking me to reach a state of inebriation and this was one of those days it didn’t take much. I was not so blissfully unaware that I was rapidly developing cirrhosis at the time and had an advanced case of it within a year.

Just as an aside, the Howard is one of those rare pubs that does fishfinger butties. Absolutely delicious. We had some on the way to Chesterfield a few seasons back. Not because I like processed food, but to keep Grimsby fans in jobs.

I’d travelled up for the opening home defeat of the 1996/7 season against Wolves and my next home game was Sheffield United in November. I was too poorly to really travel long distances regularly at the time and wasn’t rewarded for my effort when we lost 4 2. I think there was a demo at the Docks against transporting wild animals (I might be wrong, it was all that valium I was on) and some of our naughtier element were using this as a cover to shout "Boo!" at the travelling Blades coming in on the A180, or something like that. Whilst I can’t condone the behaviour, it did show a strange sort of inventiveness although you did hear some rumours about off the pitch shenanigans in those days. Some of the recent exaggerated piss-takes on The Fishy against those posters promoting football violence remind me of this.

I didn’t see the away fixture but did see Town hammered at Hillsborough in the FA Cup where a Blades fan lifted his top to show his home shirt and say "That’s all right lads, I hate them as well" on a tram full of seething Mariners fans. My, how that cheered us up-NOT! He was brave, I’ll give him that.

The article continues in Part Three.

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