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Way Back Then - Part 8
By: Chris Smith
Date: 10/02/2011 (Last updated: 13/03/2011)
I DIDN'T know it at the time, but the trip to Pompey the next week was to effectively become our annual away banker defeat. This wouldn't have stopped me as Tony was at Southampton University and I wasn't going to spurn the opportunity of a weekend piss up. The weekend was overshadowed by the Brighton bombing which nearly took out the Tory government.
Much as I despised them, I regarded the IRA even less favourably and had done since University where a few of the middle class students who could afford to play pretend politics had nailed their colours to the cause. Politics does seem to be creeping in doesn't it? Middle class w****** trying to teach me how to be a good Socialist and had probably already joined the local Tory party since leaving.
Much as I liked visiting Tony, his house just off the notorious Derby Road red light district, was wetter than a Scunthorpe supporting Mavis Riley in a thunderstorm. The combination of the damp and his attempts at home brewing meant that like a previous visit to Chatham, I was sharing the living room floor with the local slugs. Given that I hummed like a brewery each night, I had a nasty feeling that I might be awakened by one of the slitherers exploring my mouth in the middle of the night. I would therefore have to make sure that I drank enough to sleep soundly. But wouldn't that make the beer smell even stronger? That’s a bit worrying, I'd better drink even more!
We had a good slurp in Southampton before making the short train journey to Portsmouth. It looked like business as usual with Town a goal down at half time before we went 2 1 up in the second half. This was the cue for Tony to almost strangle me, pulling on my tied up scarf in a celebratory frenzy. However, the fates were not to be denied and we ran out losers-3 2. We had a bit of a crawl in Southampton later, including one pub, which, given it’s clientele at the time and the previous day’s events, Special Branch required us to provide our names and addresses.
The next game was a 1 0 home win against Carlisle followed by a remarkable 4 2 away win at Cardiff after being 2 0 down at half time. This was a bit much for my pocket after the excesses of Pompey away. The miners were still out and I was still committed to their continuing financial support.
Thankfully, we had another short trip to South Yorkshire in the league cup and a big Town following saw us battle to a goalless draw. Next up was Notts County away and the first of many good days out in Nottingham despite the results. Our 2 0 win there this Easter Monday is the only time I've seen us win in the city. Some of the Salvesens mob was up for this one, including Biffa who normally went all over the place with Man United with a crowd from the Market Hotel. As they had been frequent visitors to Nottingham when watching games at Forest, they were streetwise regarding how to get in and out of the place without being unlawfully detained by the local constabulary. The first step was to buy day returns to Lincoln and then returns from Lincoln to Nottingham. Next was to look at the bands playing at Rock City so that any questioning by the local plod would merely show that you were watching a band and lived in Lincoln and not Grimsby and what was your problem anyway? Third step was to make sure you weren't wearing any colours although most fans of my age didn't at the time. I hasten to add that I never went for all that casual look although I confess that I had been known to tuck my jumper into my jeans which was a good way of spotting the northerner down south. The donkey jacket was a bit of a giveaway as well coming to think about it. Fourth step was to leave the station from different exits or approach the main entrance by going up different stairs to make it look as though we had all come off different trains and weren't really part of a big mob. I thought I'd add a fifth step and look all academic by reading the Guardian. This actually wasn't a great idea. The Grauniad was the only newspaper that criticised the antics of the police during the pit dispute and was not very popular with the so-called overseers of law and order. As a good left wing paper, it pretty much supported the miners’ case, being an oasis of rational thought in a press that generally would have shamed a South American dictatorship.
Back to getting off the station and I've just realised that the above steps are a bit out of order because the contingency plan in case all these failed was to get off the train at Carlton, just shy of Nottingham, get pissed in the pub by the station and arrive rat arsed at Nottingham station just in case we didn't get the chance to sample any more drink there.
As it was, on this occasion we managed to get past the blue line only to reassemble opposite the station and give a very loud "THE GRIMSBY!" before hoofing it up the road to the nearest hostelry.
"Why the palaver?" I hear you ask. You have to look at the context of what was happening elsewhere. In an attempt to break the strike, the police in Nottinghamshire were stopping flying pickets from crossing county boundaries from Yorkshire. A coachload of Sheffield Wednesday fans was detained on one occasion for singing "There’s only one Arthur Scargill" on the way to or from an away game. Unfortunately, these extra dubious powers were then used to restrict the legal movement of other citizens, including football supporters, and on one occasion, some Midlands fans were detained on Nottingham station until half time at the Forest game they had planned to go to. We were going to make sure that the same thing didn't happen to us. The Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire was on Question Time that year and when his tactics were questioned by Jack Straw, his response was to stand up, point at the Labour MP and say "Now look here mister.." I rest my case. I haven't seen the programme since as it makes me want to kick the TV screen in although I was well chuffed last night when the Grimsby audience gave the panel a good going over about the current expenses scandal.
As for the game, we struggled to get a draw through a Kevin Moore equaliser against a team that would be relegated at the end of the season. I enjoyed the experience though and it was a tidy turnout from the Mariners fans.
Things got better on the following Tuesday when we caned Rotherham 6 1 in the league cup replay. A few days later we thrashed Wolves 5 1, another team who would be relegated. In the first half of the 1980s, Bolton, Wolves and Swansea would go from the First to the Fourth Division in just a few years, tied own by player contracts. At that time, it wasn't something I remember anyone gloating about but I would now as it would be just reward for the greed of the clubs in the Premier League. The following week we were at home to Fulham and went 2 0 up in the first ten minutes. As we sang "Are you watching Everton?" , our next opponents in the league cup, we thought things couldn't get any better. They didn't. We lost 4 2 and that didn't do justice to a very good Fulham side. A few days later and thousands made the trip to Goodison Park. My next door neighbour, Steve, couldn't make it and I was now sweating on a space on the coach, my least favoured form of travel as my regular reader knows. Every coach was full so I was stuffed. However, one of the lads at Salvoes, Arnie, let me take his space. Arnie was an Arsenal supporter who did go to quite a lot of Town games, but seeing that I was stuck, let me have his coach seat on the basis that I went to ore than he did. This was a truly generous gesture and thanks again mate. All I needed now was a shift swap which my workmates obliged me with.
I can't really remember the journey there and not because I'd over imbibed on the Special VAT 6% ABV cider. The events of the match take precedence in what passes for my memory now. Everton battered Town that night befitting a side that won the First Division title and Cup Winners Cup that season. Until they lost the FA Cup final the following May, Town were the only team to beat them in a cup game. In the last minute, we got a free kick against the run of play, Phil Bonnyman floated the ball to Paul Wilkinson and that was it. 1 0! We went absolutely berserk in the away end. It was one of those games that almost makes you forgive the general dross suffered over the years. I doubt I was the only Town fan who bought every single tabloid to extend the ecstasy the following day. The result was the main headline on the front page of every tabloid. Arnie told me he listened to the game in the bath and when the goal went in he jumped out, legged it downstairs and burst in the living room and told his mum who told him it might be an idea to put some clothes on. I was to reflect in the glory a few days later when regaling Don. Anch and Lou with all the details on the way to the away game at Wimbledon. I had reverted to my late shift pattern for the rest of the week and was a bit wrecked having guzzled a gallon in an hour on the Friday night after work before heading home for a few hours kip and the early train the next morning.
Another gallon plus at the Market Porter and we set off on a local train to Wimbledon to see an understandably tepid 1 1 draw. Again, the day out and the company of friends made it an enjoyable trip.
Continued in Part 9
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