We used to shiver you know. A few of us (and they know who they are) used to stand on the corner of the street in the Winter actually huddling together for heat. Whitmore Reans. The first day we moved in there was a battle between some Pakistani Clans which boiled over into a twenty a side war with swords, axes, shields (no joke) which ended up in people on the floor and over fences and lots of blood. It was a rough place only a few steps away from the Molineux. I though it was hilarious and it kind of set the scene for many years of the same thing. Reans had an aura about it, slightly evil with a good backbone of pure madness. We leaked into the environment of Molineux. It was light, the floodlights then would give you a tan they were that bright. The people would course up the alleys to the ground after parking in the dark streets around it. People from out of Reans with cars that were shiny and new.
Of course being so close to Molineux and not being able to get in was a serious thing, but we were resourceful of course. There were ways to get in and all around the ground ten minutes after kick off the plans would spring into action and the spots we knew would be observed for Coppers on the prowl. You see in those days you wouldn’t get a fine or a leaflet, maybe a talking to. You would get a punch in the lip and on occasion you would get whacked with a truncheon. Now there were a few reasons to get in there. One was it would be warm in the stands we chose. North bank and Southbank. The press of people in their generated a bit of warm. Secondly after the final whistle you would be hands on knees picking up the odd 50p or 10p that had fallen from pockets during goal limbs. That was good, it mean’t a bag of chips and a pickled egg, maybe a can of pop from Nicks on the Newhampton road, maybe a go on the Space Invader blobbing lasers at the hordes of aliens. Trying to see through the nitty heads of your mates craned around the screen to watch, offer advice, tactics, skills.
Yes, the ways in. There were a couple but the best one, the one that had a low risk of pain and death was turnstile jumping. In those days the turnstiles were operated by an old fart in a flat cap who would take your money then press down with his foot to unlock the turnstile. Click.Whirr. Snap.Click. There was a gap, not so much underneath the thing but above it. Now you always had a Copper or two standing behind the turnstile entrances in the Southbank. Two normally. Watching for drunks and the pleasantly inebriated. But often they would be walking around. We would stand with our backs against the huge concrete wall at the back of the stand waiting. You had to get the moment right, the perfect second, the opportunity to go. Waiting for the courage and the bollocks to do it. The Cops would have to be inside of the entrances far apart. There had to be no one in the way. You had to sprint fast, aim yourself. Get the speed right because you would run as fast as you could towards the turnstile, dive over the top and get right over the turnstile like a dart, roll, avoid the two cops and leg it as fast as you could through the loiterers and up the steps, turn right or left hearing the abuse from the two cops chasing you and sidle your way as fast as you could into the bodies, the beer smells and the odd cloud of stale farts. Away from the cops. You were rammed in there, pushing through, small and lithe. You would get right into the crowd and you were safe, warm, watching the footy.
There was a second way into the Southbank too. The Great Wall of the Southbank in Molineux alley. I’ve mentioned it before I think. It was easy forty feet up and the crap bricklaying had bowed the wall out a little, the pointing needed doing, the frost had got at a few bricks, there were minor footholds and handholds and we used to stand there looking at these holds and grips for hours debating the best way to get in, to climb. Of course the first eight or nine foot was pointed and smooth, nothing to grip except smooth normally wet brick. You had to get a body. Some drunk late comer to the game, a lad. Older lad who would cup his hands for your dirty foot and he would bunk you up so you could get the first tentative foothold, the first fingernail in the crap powdery cement and you would hand there like a fucking spider trying to work out where to go next. The target was maybe twenty feet away. It was a piece of weather worn two by four that had been nailed into the crumbling brick and had stringy rusty barbed wire around it. You extend a hand and grab a hold, now you can move your left foot to the smooth but lumpy bulge of concrete. Grip it with your foot and easy yourself up to the next hand hold, a gap in the brick, shove your fingers in and have a quick look up and down the alley for the Old Bill. Nobody there, your mates would be giving you shit for not getting up there fast enough but that drop was big and those slabs were unforgiving. But you were there and you could hear the crowd inside and smell the stale beer piss from the toilets on the other side of the wire, you heard voices and you were close. Extend the right hand and get your fingers under that rotting two by four and pull up again, your foot slips and you nearly go. But that wood holds good and you can get your other hand up and tentatively grip the top of the wall. This was the point where you would get either a truncheoned hand and fingers and a big drop that would spangle pain (if you were lucky) all over your body. Or you could have died I suppose. It was a big drop. But often there would be a tattooed hand, a meaty fucking adult hand that would grip your wrist and pull you through the wire. Maybe they would catch you as you dropped into the bogs with the black painted wall and the simple open drain that clogged up with fag butts and litter. The piss would be a few inches deep sometimes and you would either drop in it and stink of piss all day or you would twist in the air and land on your feet splashing piss over everybody. ‘For fucks sake’ and ‘Oi you little bastard’ and you would be off again into the madness of the stand, and we had just scored but you just missed it.
In those days of course there were hordes of kids trying to get in to watch the match. Watch Doog and Waggy and all the names from the seventies. We were there to experience the madness everybody else did but were ostracised simply by the fact we didn’t have the money. But with had the balls and the temerity to go for it, to take risks and risk life and limb to get in there. I still see people from those days who were the same as me, leaky shoes, last years fashions, dressed in stuff from jumble sales and from older brothers. Handed down scruffy bastards. Now these lads have done well for themselves. They have great careers, wives and kids. They dress in lovely smart clobber, they can afford a pie and a drink in the ground. We stand around now and moan about our lives and the way we are playing that day. Sometimes we stand around and are amazed at our play. But if you look real close at them they still have that stare. That temerity to ‘get in’. It’s a stare that takes chances and has made us into the people we are. But you know when I put that Season ticket in the electronic slot thingy. I’m always amazed when it goes green, always amazed as I walk through into the throng behind the Southbank half expecting a Copper to put a hand on me and throw me out.