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Dec 13

BADDIEL AND SKINNER AND THE LIGHTNING SEEDS – “Three Lions”

Popular131 comments • 8,689 views

#740, 1st June 1996

3LIONS On Public Enemy’s Fear Of A Black Planet, there’s a track called “Incident At 66.6 FM” – a 90-second cut-up of derisive, racist radio commentary on the band that brings you-the-listener right up to speed on why they felt besieged, and puts you on their side for the fightback. The first thirty seconds of “Three Lions” pull off a very similar trick for a rather less radical cause: England fans. It’s a compact, adroit bit of pop scene-setting. In the background, the low swell of a stadium rousing itself for battle. In the foreground, critics officiate at a funeral. “I think it’s BAD NEWS for the English game…not CREATIVE enough, not POSITIVE enough… we’ll GO ON getting bad results…”

Wait, though – even as these suited vultures gather, we hear another voice – lone and thin, but firm and honest, singing a song that is halfway to a prayer. “It’s coming home, it’s coming home… “ Against the ranks of pessimism, cynicism, analysis and fact, against their own better judgement, the fan can’t help but believe. Football is coming home.

It’s a magnificent bit of manipulation: the marketer in me swoons in admiration. The rest of “Three Lions” develops the theme but all you need to know is in that intro. Who, on hearing it, wouldn’t be on the side of the fan’s simple faith against the doomsayers? In half a minute “Three Lions” defined the English game’s sense of itself for the rest of the 90s, and the 00s too – sentimental belief against obstinate fact, with the former winning the moral victory every time.

Like all football number ones, “Three Lions” is an artefact from a changing game. Plenty of middle-class Brits had always liked football, but Italia 90 had cemented that audience as the game’s great new revenue stream, World Cup-weaned fans who liked heartbreak and tears and big stories with regular helpings of ‘glory’ and ‘passion’. At the club level this breakthrough demographic were well-served by Man United’s ascendancy and the Premier League’s early boom – but at an international level the development had been held back by the woeful performances of England ever since 1990.

Here was where “Three Lions” was truly clever. It didn’t just strike a chord with the new football market, it provided them with an invaluable primer on how to feel about England and history. The song – and I write as a part of that market – is a bluffer’s guide to fandom, an off the shelf attitude to the England team, a way of buying into history and resolving the anxiety of newbiedom – all thanks to the four toxic little words at the song’s heart.

Like all great marketing insights, “thirty years of hurt” is immediately evocative and immensely flexible and extensible. Like many, it’s also meanly prescriptive, telescoping the many possible conflicting feelings about crap performances – like anger, amusement, resignation, or sheer apathy – into one selfish, petulant word. Baddiel, Skinner and Ian Broudie sing “hurt” like they mean it – their performances are so sincere it’s almost mawkish: football fans as sad, big-eyed pups. But however they meant “hurt”, it was also a summary of the entitlement the English media began to show about international football – the shimmering history of the game since 1966 reduced to a barren stretch in which “we” didn’t win anything.

The cavalier treatment of history is characteristic of Sky-era sport – but it resonated more widely. “Three Lions” fit its pop moment as well as its football one, landing at a time when a chunk of Britain’s music talent seemed fixed on play-acting the 60s. “Three Lions” is a superior Britpop song, whatever else it is – too earnest and not as sharp or funny as the genre’s best, but Skinner and Baddiel’s rough voices have a folksy conviction and charm which a lot of minor Britpop bands lacked, and the Lightning Seeds could always sell a sappy tune.

Back in 1966, pop and football had little enough to do with one another. But in nostalgia’s lens the heights of pop creativity and England’s footballing powers had become linked, part of the same golden dream. So in the magical working that was Britpop, the Euro 96 tournament could be a sympathetic ritual replay of 1966 – and the climax of “Three Lions” comes when the singers unite on a line that seems to move beyond even prayer and into spell. “I know that was then – but it could be again.” At that moment the song stops, and it’s as if Baddiel and Skinner (and us, if we want to join in) have their eyes squeezed tight shut, willing time to unravel and the world to rewrite itself around our glorious past.

The song starts up again. The moment passes. Our brave lions (etc) go out on penalties against “the Germans”. The cycle continues.

POSTSCRIPT (A bit of Meta-Business).

In 2008 (42 years of hurt! And counting!) I wrote this: “I occasionally think of Popular as a three-act story: this [The Sex Pistols’ “God Save The Queen”] is the end of Act I, the false start of the second great age of singles, which was also the world that shaped me as a listener.” And this, for what it’s worth, is the end of Act II.

The relationship between the Pistols and this song probably seems rather obscure. It is rather obscure, if only because “Three Lions” is the product of a pop culture where the legends of punk had become part of the mainstream context of everything. “Three Lions” is in no sense a punk record. But the three men who made “Three Lions” were shaped by punk’s consequences, and so was the world it was released into. Broudie was a player on the Liverpool post-punk scene. Baddiel and Skinner were second-generation inheritors of “alternative comedy” and its sometimes conscious application of punky ideas and salesmanship to stand-up. The positioning of “Three Lions” – a more alternative, more authentic football single than previous official FA product – is classic indie ju-jitsu marketing, and as such also inherited from punk. Assume the underdog role and never let it go – even when you’re Number One.

“Three Lions” frames the problem of English football in a way that would become increasingly familiar. Football had lost its way, lost its hunger and passion and cheek, but with those it could go back to the golden age. It was an alluring story – and it was also the way Oasis had framed the problem of English pop. “I know that was then but it could be again”. This was one of the fatal promises of punk, or at least punk as the culture came to remember it – punk as a giant reset button on a stagnant scene. But once you had shown there might be a reset button, the lure of pressing it again became far stronger. Once you admit the possibility of going back to basics, moving forward, and working with what you have, becomes a lot harder. And the alternative – Jules Rimet still gleaming, England still dreaming – grows more and more seductive.

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Comments

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  1. 61
    D.C. Harrison on 6 Dec 2013 #

    On the surface, this single was made for me. I loved football as a kid to the point of obsession. I could recite every FA Cup final result since 1945 (most of the scorers too), and my weekly fix of Eric Cantona on Match of the Day usually got me through the horrors of the school week.

    I’d caught Fantasy Football League very early on – perhaps the second episode, I remember they created the guy who ran on the pitch when Everton equalised in the 1966 cup final and was rugby tackled by the copper. I recognised David Baddiel from “Newman and Baddiel in Pieces”, which I also loved. From the early days, I seem to recall a lot being made of Frank Skinner looking like QPR/Sheff Weds flyer Andy Sinton.

    On top of that, the Lightning Seeds made both the first single (‘What If…’) and album (that ‘Pure’ compilation of their first two albums) that I bought with my own cash. I didn’t really enjoy Britpop at all, but Ian Broudie seemed a bit set apart from all that for reasons that only became clear as I learned more of his background. He’d done the rounds alright – and his work with Paul Simpson as Care deserves far, far more attention (as does most of what Simpson has ever done).

    So, despite this combining both my favourite comedians and band, I wasn’t initially taken in. The early nineties had put me off England: Taylor picking total cloggers ahead of brilliant talents like Waddle and Beardsley. When I first heard the song, my sulky 15-year-old self dismissed it, and when England struggled past the Swiss – a game notable only for Shearer breaking a barren spell for the national side, I think – I figured it would be Euro ’92 again.

    The Dutch game changed that. Sheringham and Shearer looked the ultimate strike force, Gascoigne playing like it was 1990 again. By the time of the semi-final, I was converted and was singing it along with everyone else, just like with ‘World In Motion’ six years earlier.

    I suppose the crunch moment was in (I think) extra time against the Germans, when Gascoigne just (just!) failed to get his foot to a cross across their area. If he’d not lost his cool in the 1991 FA cup final and snapped his leg, would he have still been quick enough to get it? But he didn’t reach it, and that was that, much as when Waddle smashed the post around the same point in 1990. I’m not sure if I’ve cared for the national team to any degree since, nor do I think anyone involved in this song has done much to hit their own peaks again. The video was quite fun, though.

  2. 62
    thefatgit on 6 Dec 2013 #

    #60 Collapsed Lung’s AA side. Everybody remembers the Partridge-inspired song from the Coca Cola advert. Nobody (including me) remembers “London Tonight”.

  3. 63
    Mark G on 6 Dec 2013 #

    #59 you are quite right, I had my timing out by 2 years. Sorry bun.

  4. 64
    Chelovek na lune on 6 Dec 2013 #

    #61. Ah, Care, now they were very fine.

    One of their more melancholy numbers from their splendid (in fact, in places, stunning), and much overlooked album “Diamonds and Emeralds” – “Sad Day For England” – could lend itself to football usage, too, in the post-lad era than hadn’t yet arrived when Care recorded it.

  5. 65
    Erithian on 6 Dec 2013 #

    “I’m sick and tired of explaining the offside rule to girls called Fiona with red crosses painted on their faces singing about thirty years of hurt” – a Scouse England supporter in summer ’96. My own feelings were that Fiona and her like were perfectly entitled to learn about the offside rule, and the new audience was very welcome just as long as the people who’d been there all along weren’t forgotten – those who’d stood by the game in the dark days. I’ll leave you to judge whether that has happened in the past 21 years or so.

    For those of us born in the early 60s, for whom 1966 and all that was tantalisingly around the corner of our memory, Euro 96 was something to relish. And as an activist in the Football Supporters Association I was happy to play my part. A week or so before it kicked off I helped to organise a five-a-side tournament between supporters’ teams representing as many of the competing nations as we could get together. It was a great success, and hearing players walking off pitches chatting in Bulgarian or Russian just heightened the anticipation of what was to come. And the opening of “Three Lions”, that simple, gentle crescendo of “It’s coming home…” conveyed that anticipation so perfectly.

    The FSA ran a set of Fans’ Embassies in the host cities, information centres for visiting fans from all over Europe. The London Embassy was a small disused office space off Piccadilly Circus, which we decorated with football memorabilia and advice leaflets until, in the words of one journalist, it looked like a cosmopolitan teenager’s bedroom. While setting it up in advance of the press launch, I was sticking posters on the wall, listening to Test Match Special on headphones, when one of our first visitors – a young Chinese woman – walked over for a chat. I stuck my headphones round my neck and talked for a while, then her friend, carrying a TV camera on his shoulder, came over to join her. There wasn’t a point at which they stopped and said “let’s do an interview” – I just gradually realised I was being interviewed, with the headphones still around my neck. They thanked me, signed the visitors’ book saying they were a crew from Chinese TV and told me the interview would be seen by about 50 million people.

    Our duties ranged from advising a trio of tipsy Czechs in plastic bobbies’ helmets where they could catch a bus tour, to providing updates on the Arndale Centre bombing in Manchester which took place the day before Germany played Russia at Old Trafford. One of my colleagues in the London Embassy was an old buddy I’ll call simply Dave, who supplied the office with a telephone answering machine which still contained a message to his daughter from a friend – we’ll meet the daughter five times on Popular and her friend three times, all bunnied!

    Working the Embassies was a brilliant way to experience the tournament – seeing England through visitors’ eyes and seeing the new audience sharing the excitement. Never more so than when I met Matthew. He was a visiting American who, God knows how, had picked up a ticket for England v Spain (his first ever football match) and had a few questions – so he came into the Embassy and said “That flag the England fans were waving, with the red cross on the white background – what is it?” Being an American, he was unafraid to ask what might seem daft questions: “… so is there, like, a league of football in England?” – “That song about Jules Rimet – was he the guy who scored the winning goal in the World Cup Final?” In the end I just got him a beer and sat down for a chat about football culture and he went away highly satisfied with his journey up the learning curve.

    And we did plenty of media. A couple of times I went over to the Sky studios near work to make salient points about the supporter experience (did one interview with Robert Elms!) and sound suitably euphoric about that England-Holland game. On the day of the semi-final Sky asked me if I could get to Wembley for an interview the following morning and they’d pay for the cab. After our defeat, feeling totally drained walking through the crowds heading for Trafalgar Square, I got home knackered wondering how I’d get up in time for the cab, only to find that Sky were on the phone again, saying that now England had lost they didn’t want to bother with getting me to Wembley, but did I happen to know anyone who had Gareth Southgate’s phone number? That’s showbiz!

    As a postscript – we put together a compilation of people’s experiences of Euro 96, and our prize contributor was Marco Bode, a member of the German squad. He related how he had found himself singing along with “Three Lions” while warming up on the pitch, and how the German squad had sung the song on the coach en route to Wembley for the semi, so they’d totally adopted the anthem well before winning the tournament – “was there ever an anthem better suited to a tournament?” he said. He also mentioned – and whether this was just for the benefit of an English audience I’m not sure – that he was next up to take a penalty for the Germans in the shootout after Southgate, and his mind at the time was all over the place. “I’ll put it to Seaman’s left – no, top right corner – maybe I’ll just dink it…” There’s a fair chance he’d have missed.

  6. 66
    D.C. Harrison on 6 Dec 2013 #

    #64

    Could be an apt song given the group England just got!

    And yes, “Diamonds and Emeralds” is a brilliant album. The reissue from the mid 90s had Broudie, enjoying his prominent on the cover with poor Paul Simpson banished to the distance. He never did seem to get the breaks that a lot of his fellow Liverpool scene alumni did.

  7. 67
    Kat but logged out innit on 6 Dec 2013 #

    Inspired by the general mood of cheerfulness in the air (at school and at swimming club) after England’s win against Spain, I finally plucked up the courage to pick up the phone and ask out Adam P after a 6-month long crush. He said no, I was MORTIFIED, we carried on talking about the football awkwardly for another 15 mins. I lost interest in both Adam and the game of football shortly afterwards – I couldn’t quite find it in myself to get excited about France ’98 after that.

  8. 68
    MBI on 6 Dec 2013 #

    Ouch. Get ready for another couple years of hurt.

  9. 69
    nixon on 7 Dec 2013 #

    #60: bafflingly, the BBC used Beethoven’s Ode to Joy as their theme for Euro 96 (maybe someone either conflated the EU with UEFA or just didn’t think through the right wing tabloids’ reaction to using a piece by a German composer – the Mail mocked up a picture of LvB in a Germany shirt) and I *think* a tie-in single edit charted?

  10. 70
    Mark G on 7 Dec 2013 #

    Well, they used Beethoven’s 5th as an intro for the BBC News during the 2nd World War, so he had previous.

  11. 71
    bob stanley (@rocking_bob) on 8 Dec 2013 #

    “So sincere it’s almost mawkish: football fans as sad, big-eyed pups” Tom Ewing on Three Lions: http://t.co/w443RTPnv9

  12. 72
    Kat but logged out innit on 8 Dec 2013 #

    #62 I bought the single of Eat My Goal and confirm that I never listened to London Tonight. Sorry, Ant…

  13. 73
    Jimmy the Swede on 9 Dec 2013 #

    # 65 – That’s a wonderful account of a grand event, Erithian. I’ll look forward to learning more about this in another place or when we next meet. Very belated congrats for a brilliant effort, buddy!

    As for the WC draw for next year, Oh, Mumma!!

    And as for The Ashes…

  14. 74
    hardtogethits on 10 Dec 2013 #

    Firstly, congratulations on an excellent review Tom – did enough to demonstrate that there is a wizard behind the curtain, without actually peeling back the curtain. I found it really stirring, I was on my feet ready to applaud the announcement of a “Ten from Tom”, when I saw 6. Oops. Didn’t see that coming. Better sit back down.

    I was more seriously puzzled by the notion that “plenty of middle-class Brits had always liked football”. Maybe because I choose to dwell on the words “plenty” and “always” – but here they haunt me, honestly. I have mulled those over for a few days, wondering whether to make a contribution (and obv indeed prob inwardly hoping someone else would make my point for me).

    See, I think football was generally disliked or ignored by the middle-classes until 1990. Some blurring of the lines occurs because mobility BETWEEN the classes (if we accept that such a thing can happen) became more common, more possible, more talked about. But football WAS a game for the working class. A book’s worth of writing, easily.

    However, dwelling on the prevailing attitude is beside My Point, and to some extent it may undermine it, because I accept others may disagree with it. My Point is that if ENOUGH (ie “plenty”) of the middle-classes had had a more tolerant, understanding or even positive view of football, I think the events of 15 April 1989 at Hillsborough wouldn’t’ve happened. I know I’m not alone in that view.

    In many ways of course the post-Hillsborough middle-class interest has served a greater good. But of course, the bunnied number one from the end of 2012 is a horrible reminder that football never really was liked by enough middle-class people.

  15. 75
    nixon on 10 Dec 2013 #

    #73 I have only hazy memories of going to football in the 80s, but… We were a working class immigrant family living in Cheshire, but my uncle was a commercial traveller and spent lots of time in London – he latched on to Spurs as his team and used to bring me back programmes and scarves and similar tat. When I was old enough he started to take me to games, but my parents insisted I get a seat rather than stand on a terrace. The White Hart Lane crowd was always split along class lines – very broadly, I remember the people in the West Upper seats were exactly the same people who are there now, solidly middle-class stalwarts of London Jewish community, polite and restrained. The people in the Park Lane and Shelf terraces were the noisy ones, and it was made clear to little me they were the “wrong” kind of fans, oiks spoiling for a fight – but we needed them for atmosphere, even though they weren’t like “us” (the the irony escaped me at the time). It’s not that middle class people didn’t like football, it’s not that it was some working class paradise later parasitised by wealthy Johnny-come-latelies, it’s just that the attitude seemed much like the contemporary concert attitude towards moshpits and crowd surfers. What did change after Hillsborough and Italia 90 and Sky was the co-opting of all prior football history, the claiming of a legacy, and the notion that 40 years of going to matches “in the old days” meant 40 years on the terraces standing in a fug of smoke and piss, when that wasn’t the whole story.

  16. 76
    Steve Williams on 10 Dec 2013 #

    In his autobiography Frank Skinner talks about going to an England training camp and playing this to Terry Venables, who tapped along to it with his car keys and then proclaimed it as “a real key tapper”. Then they played it to the players who were having lunch and couldn’t care less, apart from Gazza who grabbed hold of the CD player to play it again. Skinner says that the players listened to it on the way to the matches but before one of them they forgot it and Gazza refused to get off the bus until someone found a copy and played it. As Skinner says, “I know he’s got OCD, but I was chuffed”.

    Skinner also said that in many ways he couldn’t believe the song had got to number one as David Baddiel was the worst singer he’d ever heard.

    I remember Radio 1 playing this for the first time, Dangerous Dave Pearce played it whole standing in for Chris Evans and I thought it sounded bizarre. Euro 96 was probably the end of Chris Evans’ imperial phase on Radio 1, after this it all went downhill with the notorious Scotland trip a few weeks away, but it was very exciting at the time, it really felt like the zeitgeist, and I remember on the day of the semi-final that Simon Mayo’s Golden Hour was 1966.

    I would go along with the “end of an era” idea because Staurt Maconie once suggested that Britpop as a cultural force, alongside Cool Britannia, began at 6pm on Monday 14th August 1995 when Blur vs Oasis got on the news and ended at 10pm on Wednesday 26th June 1996 with that penalty miss. He’s probably right.

  17. 77
    Lazarus on 10 Dec 2013 #

    #73/74 has anyone mentioned prawn sandwiches yet?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fvjk47UORFs

    Nice explanation of offside at 3.30.

  18. 78
    Tom on 10 Dec 2013 #

    #73 an excellent comment, and yes, I edited and re-edited that phrase. Because, obviously, to the extent that I’m a fan at all, I am a middle class post-90s football entryist. So I have no first-hand idea about the audience composition before the “Premiership Era”. I think in previous football-related entries I parroted the line that football had very little middle-class fandom pre-1990 and commenters objected so in this one I was careful here to try to suggest that while they weren’t a majority they weren’t unrepresented either. But I may have phrased it too hard in the other direction.

    #75 There’s a kind of proto Art Brut thing going on with the singing. I rather like it.

  19. 79
    Andrew Farrell on 10 Dec 2013 #

    I think Cool Britannia probably has to last as least until Champagne Supersocialism at #10 with Noel and Tony.

  20. 80
    Tom on 10 Dec 2013 #

    Wasn’t the whole point of that that it was late doors bandwagon-jumping – the point everyone knew the thing was dead rather than the point it actually died?

    (We’ll cover the rebirth of British politics under Call-Me-Tony in due course I guess but one of the weird things about l’affaire Cool Britannia is that for a few weeks the Labour Party were cooler than any of the people they wanted to chum up with – the thing about the champagne do is that it exposed NuLab, not the singers, as naff.)

  21. 81
    Erithian on 10 Dec 2013 #

    For middle-class (or higher) football fans, take a look at “The Soccer Syndrome” by John Moynihan, a set of essays on the game and its fans first published in 1965. A well-heeled crowd gathers in a King’s Road pub after a Chelsea match, and among the celebs the jazz singer Annie Ross pops in saying “it was a groovy game”; two chaps go to a West End restaurant after the 1963 Cup Winners’ Cup Final and deploy oysters in the formation of Spurs’ forward line to recreate moves; a young man has the break-up conversation with a girl on a Paris café terrace, the heartbreak eased considerably by the fact that she’s sitting with her back to the café TV showing Pele bossing the 1958 World Cup Final (very Hornbyesque, that one); and the story of the Chelsea Casuals, the Sunday morning team formed by old Carthusian Brian Glanville featuring actors, artists, journalists and graduates.

    Of course Charterhouse and sundry other public schools were in at the birth of the game (the word “soccer” itself being a public school invention), and in the 50s the dominant teams in the Amateur Cup were the toff Pegasus side of Oxbridge Blues and the decidedly non-toff Bishop Auckland.

  22. 82
    Erithian on 10 Dec 2013 #

    – indeed Nixon’s words at #74 about the relationship between the West Upper and the Shelf are strikingly similar to Moynihan’s: “Those supporters who “let their voices roll” are the ulcerated hard core with whom an ordinary, shy spectator feels no real bond or brotherhood, only a condescending admiration from afar.”

    Ha, I like how Nixon is associated with 74 btw…

  23. 83
    thefatgit on 10 Dec 2013 #

    I’m guessing that football fanzines like “When Saturday Comes” and “The Onion Bag” emerged around the time actual social mobility became a thing, ie. working class students with some passion and creative flair, unengaged in music fandoms; punk/indie/rock (anyone ever produce soul fanzines? I’m not sure they were a thing…) begin to write about what they know and importantly, live and breathe which is football, but rub alongside music writers and ideas cross-pollenate. David Stubbs was a WSC contributor, I believe. What I’m driving at is a kind of pop-cultural feedback loop where old…(old? Let’s say established) fanzine writers like Danny Baker and Danny Kelly pick up on their footy-obseessed kindred spirits and help bring smart footy writing into a kind of mainstream, middle-class friendly FourFourTwo style coffee-table format. Where the “Beautiful Game” is celebrated alongside the gritty reality of grass roots football (FFT’s Marine Life column as far removed from the glamour of the Premier League as you could get).

    #74 There were similar divisions at the old Stamford Bridge. Most of our more wealthy, middle-class season ticket holders occupied East and West Stands. Ordinary members, West Stand benches by the corner flag entered from “Bovril” gate or from the Shed if you had a member’s pass. Benches/”Bovril Boys” almost interchangeable with the Shed’s “oiks”. Shed End terracing was almost entirely full of the kind of people Ken Bates wanted to hem in with that notorious electric fence, except they weren’t all nazi-saluting knuckle-draggers, just ordinary working class supporters. And yes, most of the chanting would emerge from the Shed first. North Stand terraces were delapidated and barely used by home fans, usually where the away support were congregated.

  24. 84
    glue_factory on 10 Dec 2013 #

    Re: soul fanzines, I only ever remember it as a proper, available in Smiths, magazine but according to Wikipedia Soul Underground started as a fanzine.

    And I guess the early, pre-Balearic issues of Boy’s Own could count as a soul-fanzine (as well as mentioning football a bit)

  25. 85
    Mark M on 10 Dec 2013 #

    Re 73: Previous Popular discussions about the middle class and football:

    http://freakytrigger.co.uk/ft/2009/09/the-crowd-youll-never-walk-alone/

    and:

    http://freakytrigger.co.uk/popular/2010/01/the-housemartins-caravan-of-love/?cp=0

  26. 86

    […] And Popular on Three Lions […]

  27. 87
    Jimmy the Swede on 10 Dec 2013 #

    # 82 – It’s curious to hear the Git’s views on Stamford Bridge back in our day and the fans who occupied each part of the ground, because my own path (as a lifelong Blue) has been most odd. When I first went there as a teenager in the mid-seventies, I tended to go alone and stood on the North Stand terraces. Despite the close proximity to the away supporters, this was strangely a relatively safe area, as nearly all the knuckle-draggers were either in the Shed or trying to break in to the away section from the Eastern side of the ground. I then had a spell of treating myself to a seat on the West Stand benches, which as Git says, you accessed via the Bovril entrance at the Shed end. Initially, you paid a 50p transfer fee, probably about a fiver today but then later you simply waved your member’s pass and in you went.

    In 1978, I started work and I splashed out on a season ticket in the Upper tier of the East Stand and remained in that seat (and travelling also to most away games) until about 1984 when a new guy turned up at work with whom I immediately clicked. He was four years older and as well as sharing musical tastes, he was a Shed Ender. And this is what is really strange. From the East Stand seated gentry, I suddenly became one of the great unwashed. Even I realised at the time that the idea was to do this the other way round. My colleague John and I became major buddies and by the end of the nineties, he and I, along with a handful of other Shed mates plus the actor Clive Mantle, were sat in the Matthew Harding Stand, which was ironically in exactly the same spot where the old North Stand Terraces stood. I had come full circle but as is usually the case with me, in a rather bonkers way.

    I’m very much an armchair fan now. But at least I can truthfully reply to the jeering question “Where were you when we were crap?” with “On the footy special up to Wrexham on a Tuesday night in November, since you ask!”

    Happy Days.

  28. 88
    Cumbrian on 10 Dec 2013 #

    86: “On the footy special up to Wrexham on a Tuesday night in November, since you ask!”

    YES! Those suicidal away trips on weekday nights that knacker you for work/school the following day were always the best. I once went to Shrewsbury on a Tuesday night in December – a damn long way from Carlisle. Only about 60 people made the trip, basically the hardest of hardcore fans. Weirdly, the atmosphere was better than if we’d taken a couple of hundred away and diluted the feeling a touch.

  29. 89
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 10 Dec 2013 #

    [Insert Gay Meadow joke here]

    yr pal Lord Sukrat whose gran lived within shouting distance of same

  30. 90
    Jimmy the Swede on 10 Dec 2013 #

    #88 – Ah, Gay Meadow! It was situated right alongside the Severn, of course. And Shrewsbury FC had some salty old boy in a boat, who set sail on match days to fish the ball out whenever it was hoofed out of the ground. Alas Gay Meadow is no longer but it’s another ground I myself went to about thirty years ago. Can’t remember the score but we were probably stuffed.

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