Thursday, 11 February 2010

Brighton & Hove Albion (part 1)

Setting Sons - Our Price at 9

- click on photos to enlarge image -

I spent the years 1986 to around 1992 watching Brighton and Hove Albion pretty much every week home and away For most of that time the team was pretty mediocre with a few highs but probably more lows but that wasn't really the point. I was reminded of those days recently when Albion were drawn away to Aston Villa in the 4th round of the Cup and a flurry of emails between old friends brought back a lot of memories. Hopefully this will capture a few of them.

Brighton have always drawn support from all over Sussex and the members of the ERS hailed from points as far afield as the jewel of the south coast (Littlehampton for anyone who was in doubt) to dowdy Crawley suburb East Grinstead. The usual routine in the immediate aftermath of an uninspiring home defeat went something like this:

"You're not going to Barnsley next week then"
"No bollocks am I".
"No me neither"

By Tuesday you were starting to think about it. By Wednesday you would go "if Merlin's going" and by Friday train timetables had been researched (no internet for us in those days boys and girls) , comedy hats had been made and most of the work day was taken up exchanging phone calls with the well known instruction "Our Price at 9". I wonder if the good people of Our Price appreciate what a big part their small rather nondescript looking shop at Victoria Station played in our lives back then? As well as providing commuters with somewhere to buy Rick Astley cassettes (cassettes!) it was always the meeting point for the boys from Angmering/Littlehampton , Lancing , Horsham and East Grinstead who all travelled up to London on different trains but always independently observed a solemn little ritual. Just after the train pulls out of East Croydon station the home of hated local rivals Crystal Palace looms into view out of the windows on the right hand side. As subtly as possible so as not to offend fellow travellers a one fingered salute would be delivered in the direction of the Arthur Wait Stand whose nasty red and blue frontage peered unattractively over the roofs of the delightful streets of Selhurst. With this little formality taken care of the day could begin in earnest.

One of our favourite ways to pass the time on the journey north was with a harmless game or two of "pass the pig". Someone , probably Harry who was the inspiration for the Jay character in the In-Betweeners , had acquired a pack of barely legal pornographic playing cards depicting deprivation on a scale that can only be hinted at here. The two of clubs featured a vicar's wife and a rutting pig but that was only half the equation.

A quick trip to the buffet car supplemented the various tinnies we already had with us (usually a selection of lager , bitter , cider , pale ale) with other ingredients which could be anything from worcester sauce , miniatures of whiskey and creme de menthe and canned britvic pineapple juice to produce something we knew as "the rancid cocktail". The object of the game was that whoever was left holding the aforementioned card had to drain the glass. Occasionally our best laid plans went tits up. Memorably a fellow fan known to us as Percy who nobody ever saw sober would happen past our table somewhere around Rugby and neck the pint in one gulp proclaiming it to be "not bad that".

Somewhere along the line our happy little band developed an obsession with pants. It might have started with the Felix character out of Viz , or not , but the point was that wherever the Albion were playing a pre-match trip had to be made to the club shop to acquire said article. A few days after a particularly uninspiring and cold 2-1 defeat at Oldham Athletic a very surprised Albion midfielder by the name of Adrian Owers received an envelope in the mail containing a very classy pair of blue edged white nylon ladies knickers with the legend "I scored at Boundary Park". I like to think Adrian was the John Terry of his day in the clubs of Brighton and that said article was donned by a French lingerie model of the time for him. That would seem only fair for rifling in our consolation goal that day. On balance though probably not.

Those "I scored at Boundary Park" pants sported by Julian Simpson.

Oldham v Brighton on the plastic back in February of 1989 (1989!).

Greeno, Danny, Big Deaks, Paul from Woking, Clarky and Ju at Stoke City for the last game of the 1989 season.

Danny, Merlin the Pig, Ju and Greeno at Elland Road in April 1989.

Another bemused recipient of a bizarre package was ex-Sheffield Wednesday goal machine Gary Bannister. After a heavy Friday night in Brighton EFW's very own Danny Last and his flatmates had the brilliant idea of unscrewing the banister from the stairs of their home and sending it north asking for Gary to sign it. To GB's undying credit said article arrived back in Brighton a few days later autographed and with a personal message saying "Here you are then you sad lads".

We liked to keep it real and always do something to pay tribute to wherever we were going. So it was one October day in 1987 when we pitched up in Grimsby complete with boxes of fish fingers and packets of Fisherman's Friends. One of our group wore waders and oilskins especially. In those days the away fans were housed in a small terrace at the side of the pitch and so it was that "hometown boy" was warming up in front of us waiting to come on as sub to make his Mariners debut. His sprints and star jumps were mimicked by a couple of our group accompanied by frantic shouts of "Oi mate. Mate. Mate". I was mentally pleading with Cleethorpes youth not to turn around but sadly he couldn't resist and the last thing he heard before trotting out to make his debut were the words "Who the f*ck are you"? Needless to say he didn't have a stormer.

Wherever we played and win lose or draw the day always ended in the Stage Door pub close to Victoria Station where more beers were necked before we all headed back home to our own parts of Sussex. For me that usually meant a lazy Sunday and a lunch time game of darts and a pint with my Dad. For H it once too often resulted in an unfortunate confusion between the exact location of the toilet and his parents' bed. Legend has it his Mum's parting words as he left home (recounted on a subsequent trip to much hilarity) were "____ (name withheld to protect the identity of the innocent) I love you because you're my son but I hate you for what you are"!

Mad Jock, Timmy Krispies, Danny, Fenners, Paul from Woking and Ju.

Fenners, Nick, Danny, Paul from Woking, Howard and Ju celebrate another defeat.

Kev, Danny, Clarky and Ju en route to Sheffield United.

Big Deaks, Danny, Clarky, Paul from Woking and Ju in the away end at Bramall Lane, September 9th 1989. We lost 5-4. (5-4!).

Bangsy raises a can. He once slept at Lancing station overnight to ensure he didn't miss the train. He was a true legend.

Somewhere along the line it all came to an inevitable end although we all still met up at the bottom of the North Stand , right behind the goal , for home games. Looking back I don't think we were ever aware of a sense of "this is the last season and the grown up world beckons". It was probably better that way. Paul Weller , who at least in my mind , is a total genius wrote a song back in 1979 called Burning Sky which seems to sum things up quite nicely. It's in the form of a letter to friends and includes the lines:

"In any case it wouldn't be the same
Cos we've all grown up and we've got our own lives
And the values that we had once upon a time
Seem stupid now cos there rent must be paid
And some bond severed and others made"

Weller goes on to say how he has to admit "we had a laugh but that's all it was and ever will be".
I thought of that again as I sat in an office in Florida reading emails telling of a January 2010 day out in Birmingham and it all came flooding back. We definitely did have a laugh but I think it was much much , more than that. And happily not all those bonds have been severed. Well not totally anyway.

I hope that about 20 years on from our little adventures there are groups of fans like us somewhere. These days of course you probably don't need an Our Price because you make all your arrangements on Facebook and with your iphones and the price of a rancid cocktail has probably gone up a bit but apart from that I imagine it's all much the same.

Everybody welcome. Well sort of...

Tony Rochdale blows us a kiss. You could write a book about Tony Rochdale.

Good luck to you lads and lasses wherever you are. Enjoy it while it lasts because to quote another Weller classic "we seemed to grow up in a flash of time as we watched our ideals helplessly unwind" Some of us keep in touch to this day and all too briefly a Saturday at Villa Park gave us a taste of when Saturday's Kids were as Thick as Thieves.

Thanks a million to Ian Clark for the words and Julian Simpson for the photos.

- Feel free to comment below -


Jason Fenner said...

Happy days would go back to that time again if I had the chance. Great memories. Some very young faces in there as well.

Julian said...

21 years ago..more than half a lifetime. Memories that will live forever and adventures you couldn't make up. Top words from Clarky.

Nick W said...

Nice work Ian and Ju, I went all misty eyed reading that.

Mark R said...

LOL, love some of those pictures. Wish I had a camera with me back in the late 70's and 80's at away games - there are not many pictures about!!!

Danny Last said...

Can we be retrosepctively arrested for admitting that most of those train journeys were untaken on a family railcard. Apologies to British Rail.

Back in 1989, 24 photos would be enough to last a whole sesaon. Nowadays, I take more than that on a lively pre-match session in Maidenhead.

Thanks again to Clarky and Julian for bringing those memories flooding back.

Maybe, we will add some more in the coming weeks. That day out at Sheffield United in particular is worthy of a few paragraphs.

Anonymous said...

Great days and amazing haircuts-did anyone beat the 'tinnie in a locker' record of 88 at Port Vale-December 1990?!!

Jordi said...

Great piece Dan, very recognizable. And you're right, Weller's a genius.

Danny Last said...

@Jordi - It was a great piece mate but I can't take any credit for it as it was crafted by the fair hand of my mate Ian Clark who now resides in the US of A.

@Anon - 88 Tinnies in a locker at Port Vale in 1990!? Beer must have clouded that memory, do tell....

Anonymous said...

You mean Ian used to have hair? That truly is amazing!

Ian said...


Json Fenner said...

I think the 88 is some what behind the 120 we managed to store in the left luggage locker at Plymouth around about the same era. All I must say were bought before 11:00 O’clock in the morning and before the 3 hour 45 minute in the pub before the game. How our livers never failed in them days I will never know.

Unknown said...

Brings back so many memories of following Reading around the country in our Div 3/4 days.People ask why do you support a team like (insert your team here) and I say if you have to ask you wouldn't understand. Screw the PL give me Crewe on a Tues night in FEB!