I can remember being very excited and nervous the first time I found out I was going to a football match. I was so nervous that I almost told my Dad who was taking me that I didn’t want to go. It was pure chance that we could go. My uncle’s Father in law was ill and so was his mate. They always went but rather than let their season tickets go to waste he offered them to us.
We were to be perched up in the main stand of the glorious County Ground in Swindon. Swindon were a team on the rise. Led by Lou Macari they were headed for their second greatest success after winning the league cup in 1966. They were on their way to be Fourth Division Champions with a very distinctive style of play that was very popular back in the 1980’s, the route one, long ball game.
There was only three people Macari wanted to see on the ball. This was the Goalkeeper Fraser Digby hoofing it down the field for big centre forward Dave Bamber to knock it on to the nippy Jimmy Quinn who’d go one on one with the opposition keeper and score. Or get a corner and then score, they were very good at corners were Swindon. In those days Sky pundit Chris Kamara played for us. I say played, as a mid-fielder he rather just watched the ball sail over his head. As I say the long ball game was very popular back then.
I’d dabbled with liking Liverpool as a kid as they were the most successful team at the time but otherwise I’d not really attached myself to anyone. The trouble is when you do “imprint” yourself on a team that’s it. You can’t chop and change, you’re stuck with them for life. It doesn’t matter that they’re not successful or ever actually achieve anything they are your team for good and generally ill. Anyone who switches allegiance is a fraud. I was lucky that my first game was a win.
I don’t think I’d seen that many people (you could get about twenty-five thousand in back then with terraces) in one place before. I can remember going through the turnstiles thinking they looked like some medieval torture device. Then I was in and my Dad led me up the stairs and out into the stadium. I’ve been to the old Wembley with its twin towers and the Millennium in Cardiff but if I close my eyes I can still remember that moment. The wall of noise the sudden expanse of space and the pitch. The Town end behind the goal giving their all (its where the hooligans were) and the uncovered Stratton bank (still uncovered to this day and for the brave and stoic fans). They beat Mansfield 2-0 and I had found my team.