Youthful memories of football crowds

Sometimes, out of a 90 minute game, it is something that takes only 20 seconds to happen that stays with us and make the whole experience special …

Watching Cambridge City

By Dave Daniel

Cambridge CityI first started to watch proper football matches when I was about 12 years old. The local team was Cambridge City who played in the Southern League which was just below the fourth division of the football league.

Promotion to the league was not guaranteed, even if you won the Southern League you still had to meet certain criteria regarding finances and ground suitability and just hoped that your application would be accepted.

City’s average crowd was around the 3000 mark, so there was plenty of room at their Milton Road ground which could take over ten thousand. The drive to Cambridge was about half an hour and invariably one of Dad’s friends, Tom Prewer, came along with us.

The entertaining Tom Prewer

What I remembered most about Tom was the way he would eat. The entire lower part of his face would move in the most exaggerated way, almost going around like a washing machine, so much so that when he was eating I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

Tom’s other attribute was that he was great entertainment at the games. He would take off his cap and throw it on the ground, always say something outrageous and constantly berate the players. This was in contrast to my Dad who stood through it all rather stoically, hardly saying anything.

I am certain that the other spectators who were around us, always took up the same position as they knew that Tom would be there. They got twice the entertainment.

The backing of the home crowd

Manchester United crowdA few years later I was going to Ipswich Town who were in the first division of the league and played at Portman Road, which had one of the best playing surfaces in the league. It was here that I became enthralled with the crowd’s behaviour, especially behind the goal where the serious and committed supporters stood. The singing, chanting and gestures were all made in unison.

I often found myself watching them with a sense of fascination, sometimes missing the action on the pitch. How could a group of thousands all of a sudden become one? I also realised that the home crowd were a powerful force in, not only supporting their team, but also intimidating the opposition and this is an accepted part of the game experience.

I remember Alan Shearer going to Old Trafford when playing for Newcastle United. He would be serenaded by the Manchester United fans with a rather different version of “Daydream believer” by The Monkees.

Alan ShearerOh Alan Shearer

How does it feel

To be a sad Geordie bastard 

In a shite football team. 

Not exactly Rodgers and Hammerstein but still pretty good!

Summerbee makes a spectacle

Another game I saw at Ipswich in the early seventies was the visit of Manchester City who had a great team at the time with the likes of Mike Summerbee, Tony Book, Francis Lee and Colin Bell. It was a night game and I just loved the atmosphere, the floodlights and the ground had a bit of evening dampness which always made for some sliding tackles and crisp fast passing as the ball whisked across the grass.

Mike SummerbeeSummerbee was tussling for the ball near the corner flag, only a few metres away from me. He lost possession and conceded a corner much to the delight of the crowd around me who made it clear to him what they thought about what had just taken place.

He turned to walk away and after a few strides he pulled down one side of his shorts to briefly expose one of his buttocks. Of course he got even more stick from the crowd who erupted with laughter.

Fair to say that throughout these exchanges he gave as good as he got.  He was an England international at the time and being a young fella, I was astonished and excited by all of the banter and hilarity of it all. Nowadays he would have been suspended and the whole thing would have gone viral on YouTube.

Special memories

Nothing lasts forever, but we do have the memories of these occasions and they stay with us. Sometimes, out of a 90 minute game, it is something that takes only 20 seconds to happen that stays with us and make the whole experience special, out of the ordinary.

More on that next time. See you then.