Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Date: Wednesday 3rd November 2010

Set Pieces

Ratbert recalls the horror of travel to Wanderers' matches.

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1st January 1970

Travelling to football is where the political buzzword ‘integrated transport’ comes into its own. You can drive, get the train, a ‘special bus’ or even a coach if the game is a long way away. I’ve been on everything four wheeled to football matches and every single mode has its pitfalls and choice moments.

Take the 1995 League Cup Final. Bolton and Liverpool fans were always going to be on the same train south and I jumped aboard at Stafford, which is where I was based at the time. It was standing room only, and the songs and banter were in full flow. There was an air of tension given what was to come, but few could have guessed that one thing would soon unite us... literally. I can’t remember exactly where it was an idiot resplendent in Manchester United away shirt boarded the train but he spent the next hour or so of his life being mercilessly abused by both sets of fans. Either he did it deliberately as some kind of wind-up, or was just a cretin.

Driving to games inevitably means road works on the M6 (for me at least) and a race against time to get to the kick off. One Friday we played Blackburn and I left Birmingham at 4pm, confident I’d make it to the Reebok in good time. However the chain of cars started in Cheshire and didn’t stop on the M60 or M61, and the road rage rose and rose. Which was silly, as what could I do about it? I finally arrived ten minutes into the match, having been forced into the furthest car park from the ground. It was then I found that my ticket was for under the scoreboard. There I was, with boneheads in the away end and boneheads surrounding me. We lost 3-0. It was not a happy experience. 

I decided to go to West Ham one year and took the most roundabout route to the East End of the metropolis possible. A three hour trip to Victoria coach station, then the tube, then the horror of West Ham itself pre-kick off. It’s no wonder they take an over-inflated pride in their team down there, as there’s bog all else to take pride in. After going all that way for a 2-1 loss, I came back via the Docklands Light Railway instead. I liked that, at least.

There are many more stories like this and if I can think of making them readable, I’ll do this properly.

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