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Author Topic: Matchday routines  (Read 1858 times)

Online dave.woodhall

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Matchday routines
« on: December 17, 2020, 12:36:03 PM »
I get the impression that not many Villa supporters now live within easy walking distance of the ground, so being the superstitious lot that we are I expect most have a tried and tested routine before setting out in order to ensure a successful outcome.

Back in the dim and distant days almost beyond recall I used to set off for the ground precisely one hour ahead of the kick-off with the intention of walking from home to Witton Square in under fifteen minutes. I was always looking out for well-known supporter Brian Tuby on any passing outer circle bus, where his routine always involved occupying the front seat downstairs directly behind the driver.

Whereupon we would meet outside Buckley’s newsagents shop probably to discuss the journey to the next away match before going our separate ways. Me to my seat in the stand, he to stand in the corner. Initially by the players entrance to the field (you can occasionally see him in old photographs when the teams took the field) and later underneath the scoreboard at the Aston End. Not, I thought, the best view of the game but as a consequence less crowded when there were crowds about.

At the final whistle, after the BBC changed the time of Sports Report from 5.30 to 5 o’clock there was a mad rush to catch the waiting buses in Brookvale Road in order to guaranteed being home in time for the first reading of the results. Buses were lined up and left as soon as they were full and wobetide anyone who tried to jump aboard at the open back deck once the conductor had put the chain across

Then, having to miss Sport in the Midlands on the home service in order to dash to the newsagents to grab the Birmingham Sports papers. Circa 6.30 the blue mail van invariably arrived first then came the scramble when the Sports Argus arrived. The secret was to beat other ‘competitors’ so as to grab the bundle of newspapers from the van driver. To do so meant getting a guaranteed place at the head of the queue of the crowd lined up outside in expectation.

Incidentally it was a quirk of the location of the BBC radio transmitters that Norwich and Ipswich were guaranteed a match report in the Midlands programme.

A Saturday away match meant a totally different routine. Firstly on the Friday evening I would get off the homeward bound bus at Witton and call in to Buckley's to get the programme for the next day's reserve match. This not only to ensure actually getting one but also to ensure it was kept in pristine condition. I would buy eight programmes, having no difficulty selling the excess seven at cost to regular travellers who came to rely on me.

If travelling by excursion train from New Street I would leave home precisely one hour before the scheduled departure time. But not before playing a 45 rpm disc, trumpeter Teddy Buckner blasting out the Battle Hymn of the Republic, a signal that I was about to leave the house. My only excuse for this recording was that it became a sort of antidote to the Spurs glory, glory hallelujah. It did not inspire all that many victories.

Having survived on my mothers cucumber, cheese and tomato sandwiches for some time in lieu of school dinners I wanted something different to take away and so a malt loaf became my staple and reliable fare, accompanied by a one pint bottle of the delicious orange juice that the milkman used to deliver.

Safely bussed to New Street station with up to half an hour to spare the next problem was to buy a ticket. The uninitiated used to queue at the main ticket office in Stephenson Street (so why was it called New Street Station?)  Along with other travellers long queues used to form to those in the know would use the diminutive booking office off Queens Drive – the horse road that used to go right through the middle of the station (Forgive the term ‘horse road’ but my grandmother always referred to it as the ‘horse road’ and old habits die hard).

So no difficulty buying a ticket so off to find the train. Follow your nose was the best advice. The train invariably consisted of ten coaches.   I always travelled in the back coach so that people in search of the reserve programme would know where to find me. On one famous occasion a grand total of sixty supporters travelled to Burnley – never a popular destination – spread out over those ten coaches

Three friends and I used to be probably the only card school of the train who did not gamble for money. We played a game which we may even have invented ourselves which could last for quite some time and the only joy was the joy of winning.

If the train was headed for Lancashire it always went Walsall and Cannock Chase and invariably took precisely one hour to reach Stafford. This could be followed by a circumnavigation of Manchester, which accounts for some of the lengthy journey times shown on the advertising leaflets which I always retained for posterity.

But were who were four and occasionally a few more subsequently got together to play as a team of our own on Sunday afternoons and joy of joys went on to win a cup at St. Andrews. We were a bit miffed that until then the said final had always been played at Villa Park but that year the ground was required by some itinerant Spaniards, Argentinians and Germans so St Andrews was considered a worthwhile consolation

But, subject to delays – and sixty minutes stuck in Lime Street tunnel waiting to get into the station comes readily to mind - we generally arrived with two or three hours to spare. This meant arriving at the ground in good time to see the team arrive on their Flights coach. More often than not this had to be parked in a nearby street where supporter Mr Forster (nobody used his first name) took it upon himself to guard the vehicle against any hostile natives – though in fairness I do not ever recall ever see in any threat to the well-being of the vehicle.

Initially the players would always acknowledge the supporters before dashing straight from the coach into the dressing rooms before re-emerging with the all important contraband – the visiting teams complimentary tickets. I am delighted to say that thanks to Peter McParland in particular I was generally the recipient of one of these precious tickets, except in the north-east, where every player from that area seemed to have an armada of local friends with first claim on other players' largesse. It has to be recorded that complimentary tickets were not always what they were cracked up to be, most old fashioned stands had pillars and they were often what are now described as restricted view tickets

The players did not waste their energies in pre-match routines but would stay outside chatting to all and sundry and signing autographs until with precisely thirty minutes to go to kick-off someone would mysteriously give a signal and they would all disappear inside. There was seldom any rush on the part of the spectators to do the same.

The same cannot be said for after the game when it was never a good idea to hang around outside the ground in a strange town not quite knowing which bus to catch and quite where. British Rail had a habit of allowing just about one hour between whistles – referees and guards.

John Russell

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Re: Matchday routines
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2020, 07:46:10 PM »
Another fantastic read John.


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