The North Bank

Hotspurts again and Mumo. Haven’t we suffered enough? These results sting for sure but I feel unattached to the politics around them now. It’s Wolves time again and strangely I am at the Corner of the North Bank and John Ireland stand. Because I’m hunting for something again, some attachment before I go in. Some dude from the USA wants to get the South Bank experience and is up for a ticket swap. He has North Bank tickets. He is a nice chap, he buys some prints off me on the Wolves car park but I am hardly listening to him. I’m just looking at how huge the North Bank is now. It’s massive. So I saw tickets and off he goes but I have an hour to spare. So I sit down and just look at the outside of the ground and watch the people milling around. There is a lot of people in the shop. Many smart people going into the corporate posh bit of the North bank. They don’t look happy though. It’s like they are being forced to attend. I am on me tod again. I kind of like just milling around outside and watching people do the Wolves thing. Inside the ground, inside the bowels of the North Bank you can’t smell piss and cigarettes any more which is a good thing, I think. It’s all pretty sterile and clean. Not too clean mind but a bit bright and clean if you know what I mean. I but a Pie and a pint of Carling I think. I don’t drink as a rule but one wont hurt too much. I sip and nibble while watching. Nobody says anything. A Steward asks if I’m OK. I must look lost and confused. I am I suppose. This is not my stand, not my people really. It’s quite civilised and nice.

It’s not cold but I am shivering a bit. The sound system inside is farting some unlistenable music with some shouty stuff too. But I am right there again, 1978. Same scenario really but the ground is looking crumbled. Plants grow out of the cracks in Molineux street. Algae grows on the yellow gloss that has been splattered across the rotting wood that pretends to be gates and entrances to turnstiles. The cement is falling out of the bricks. Graffitti everywhere here. Not sprayed from a can but painted in the yellowing remains of a tin of white gloss paint left over from another domestic revamp. The graffitti is simple and uncomplicated. ‘Fuck Spurs’ painted over ‘Wolves Spurs’. ‘Kick to Kill’ and ‘We will fuck you up’ or ‘Leeds will die’. All lovely and welcoming. But there is a match on back in 1978 and who knows who it was we were playing. We didn’t care. I was probably 12 years old and already a little bastard in the making. Cast your eye upwards to that little piece of half rusted angle iron sticking out of the wall. As I sit now, we sat back in 1978 because that was our ticket. That little bit of metal. Wolves would hang on a piece of wood with hooks and on that wood was little slide in numbers. You looked at the number and ripped the appropriate ticket out of your season ticket book. But we didn’t have season tickets. We didn’t have tickets either. We didn’t have money to get in.

Already, in Molineux alley we had tried to scale the wall that backed onto the toilets in the South Bank. You hang around and find some likely lad, a grown up, a youth, anybody that could give you a bunk up to where the wall was starting to bow out. To find a small crack that was just big enough for a childs hand, a small hand to just cram in so you could get the worn out sole of your pumps to grip the crumbling brick. Then your right hand would grab the piece of rotten wood screwed to the wall. Grip it hard because the fall was a good fifteen feet by now but a shuffle, another chink in the brickwork and you were nearly there. three or four feet above was a tangle of barbed wire. But there was also the wall of the urinals. Get up there and you were in. The teams were out now. The crowd inside was vocal and it sounded alive and you wanted in. Shuffle grab, climb, scrabble up. Get a hand on top of the wall. There was always some half pissed bloke willing to pull you over, to get you in. Sometimes you would fall in the puddles of piss, sometimes there would be some twat who wouldn’t help you up. Sometimes there was a Copper. Whack. A truncheon across the fingers. Yes, he was there. The pain was horrible. You wanted to drop but it was thirty feet down. So you swallowed the pain, tried to get that mangled hand to grab hold of things, you slip and you slide and drop. Smack onto the concrete of Molineux alley cussing the Copper, all the names under the sun. People walk by and laugh. Your mates are sad and don’t help. They want in and are not worried about injuries from Cops. It’s the normal state of things when bored Cops would roust you in the darkness and give you a Fat Lip for ‘Ron’ or a knee in the balls. There breath would stink of beer. They had been in Dunstall road Police Station club. Had a few before the match. My fingers stinging. So we would walk around the ground. Stragglers running up to the turnstiles. Operated by Old Blokes with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths collecting coins, notes, tickets. Not looking up. But foot operated turnstiles that clicked and clanked as another Punter paid their money.

I’m chuckling to myself outside in the present. I painted Molineux alley not so long back. A Dad and his Son walking up to the match. Not for me though. No adult took me, none of us had parents that took them to the football. Times were tight, strikes, no money, no attention really. We were the Wolves Orphans. Round to the North Bank and that piece of metal. You see if you were limber enough you could cram a foot in the wall after a run up and jump, grab the iron and pull yourself up. Get a foot in there. Balance like fuck, grab the top of the wall. Clamber to the top. Just pop your head up and have a look see if there were any Old Bill about, hand still stinging. The crowd erupts, something happening for sure. The cigarette smoke curling around the edges of the roof and dissipating into the weird light from the floodlights, into the sky and gone. So I look. No Coppers, thread a leg through the barbed wire. A bit catches your jumper and pulls a thread out but that’s ok as it’s got holes in anyway. Thread yourself through. On the other side some Asbestos roofing. The floodlights above are like giants. Slide down gently, nonchalantly, like you do this every week. I am in. Run into the bowels of the Northbank past bemused Wolves fans. Up the stairs. The pitch, everything in colour. How green and brown is that pitch? The players shirts Golden, glowing. Football. ‘Ooooh’ the crowd goes. Dougan shot. Everyone claps. You look back see who else has got in. Flared trousers, Solatio shoes, the odd skinhead, the odd Boot Boy. No one yet. Football.

‘Fucking hell Coady’ someone murmurs behind my seat after Spuds score a goal. I watch the football but I am dispassionate about it for a change. Observer rather than an active participant. I feel crumbly like the old Molineux walls. The graffti scrawled on me by half pissed tattooists long ago faded and illegible. The wounds I got here still ache a bit sometimes. I can only breathe through one nostril because I have a piece of nose bone blocking the other one. I’m an anachronism like the old ground but I am planted here certainly. Underneath the branding and the shine the murk still settles and the old Ghosts still wander underneath.

2021. I don’t have to try and climb in anymore. I have tickets. I painted it of course. Art when you look at it hanging on a wall is mostly just seen, observed but rarely looked at. I know every part of that old Molineux because it was my playground and football became something that broke up the monotony of those days, something exciting. I knew every pothole and every brick nearly because my childhood involved finding ways to get in, to watch. In those days Molineux was sinking into the ground, becoming part of the geology of that place. Pieces of roof were green with vegetation. Pieces of cladding were falling off. If it was metal it was rusting. If it was wood is was rotten, if it was concrete then it was crumbling. Gone were the fifties when everything was clean, maintained and cared for. It was a jewel Molineux, world famous. But this? Today it still looks a bit mouldy. Algae is growing on the steel of the New Stand. The concrete is crumbling in places. There is graffiti too but now it’s symbols, scrawled names we don’t know or understand. Tags in spray paint or marker pen. People still mill around but it is sterile milling. No one seems to talk any more. Heads down and get in, watch the match, get out, cross it off the list.

Please enjoy this art, it took a long time to paint. Four weeks I think between other projects. Every slash of colour and sweep of a pen a memory for sure. Perhaps a longing too for simpler times. I will whack this up at a high price for the simple reason I love it. It brings out memories I had lost for a while and makes them fresh. If I sell it I will buy that printing press I need because I haven’t finished with the Molineux yet. You may look at the price and gasp a bit but I don’t care. I see a Steve Bull print has just been flogged for 500 quid. I have been told another of my paintings of Molineux I never shared has been obtained for £1500. I want this printer, I want the memory of Molineux here to make more beautiful things. Ah the madness of it.

Click on my shop link for details Petalengros Gallery and Shop – SOUTHBANK RESISTANCE (


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