Before I start regurgitating stuff I’ve done in the past, I want you to understand that, A, They were a long time ago, B, There’s no photographic or video evidence, (Something of a relief in all honesty) C, Anyone mentioned, was just as daft as me, and D, I will deny everything. Hope you enjoy it and don’t hold anything against me.
8/3/80 Shrewsbury Town v Blues, Gay Meadow Division 2, Where It All Went Wrong.
I’d been taken to Molineux in the away end with Liverpool twice and been dragged, without any resistance, down St Andrews 4 times by my Brother. This was the first away game with Blues. Back then, I’m ashamed to admit, I was a glory hunting Liverpool fan, (I was only 11) I hero worshipped from afar, as they monotonously steam rolled their way to trophy after trophy, hoovering up any snippets of information on the well oiled, red machine I could find. This was in the days well before Sky television was just the result of someone’s traumatic nightmare. Sky Sports, the evil media monster, not even a cute, but strange looking reptile looking thing, hatching out of its shell. The back 3 pages (5 on a Sunday) of tabloid newspapers, (my arms weren’t long enough for the fullscap ones, and the words were even longer anyway), Shoot magazine, religiously bought on a Thursday, and Football Focus, with a craggy faced, Bob Wilson, on Grandstand, on a Saturday, was pretty much it. Sunday School put paid to watching Star Soccer, a tyrannical (Well I thought so at the time) Mother, wouldn’t allow me to stay up to watch Match Of The Day, on a Saturday, let alone, the mystical Sports Night on a Wednesday. Those days were certainly different. I digress, we lived in Bridgnorth, with no British Rail station, axed by the butcher, Dr Beeching, the Severn Valley Railway heritage line only stretched to Bewdley in those days, it was bus or walk for us. A trip to Birmingham entailed a bus to Wolverhampton and a train from there to Brum, Shrewsbury was just a bus ride, but one we hardly took, both Wolverhampton and Kidderminster were closer, and both were preferred to the snobbish county town of Shrewsbury, we even preferred to get the bus to Wellington, than Shrewsbury. Shrewsbury Town had been promoted as champions the season before, Blues had been relegated, with Wolves, Baggies, Coventry and them lot (even as a Liverpool fan, I didn’t like them) still being in the First Division, Shrewsbury Town was the nearest away game along with Leicester City. Me and my Brother Les, (short for Lester, as in Piggott, something he hated being associated with) caught the bus from Bridgnorth High Town to Shrewsbury, I can’t remember what time we caught it, or even what time we got there, but Les hadn’t an earthly idea where the ground was, and how to get there, so I know it was early enough to have time to play around with. I remember walking round, trying to catch a glimpse of something that looked vaguely like a route to the ground, I was 11, I couldn’t drink, (well not legally anyway) we couldn’t go in a pub. I think Les asked someone for directions, as from being lost, we headed back into the centre of town and down the Wyle Cop. I remember the hoards of Blues fans on the English Bridge shuffling over the bridge towards the floodlights, turning into a mass of supporters towards the ground, inching our way to the away terracing. It was a sea of baked beans, (Skinheads were the youth movement of the day) with their polished Doc Martin’s and braces, I was expecting most to head for the home entrance, which I could just make out, I was hoping, as inching forward in the mass of humanity wasn’t comfortable, something quite alien to a naive 11 year old. Nope, every now and then, a lone person would snake their way through to the home turnstiles, but the rest just pressed on. It was then as we neared the main entrance to the ground, that the inching stopped going forward, and lurched to the left, the driver of the Blues team coach that day, deserved some kind of award for delivering his human cargo, without injuring or even killing someone. This was where I wish I could go back with my phone of today, as I would’ve got Les to try and film it all. I was too small, and most of the footage would’ve been of the back of the person in front. I was catching glimpses of stuff. I wasn’t quite close enough to touch the coach, yeah, you’ve guessed it, arms were too short, but I remember the astonished expressions on the faces of manager Jim Smith’s and captain Archie Gemmill’s as they saw us all, further back on the coach, a luxury one, with tables, something I’d never seen in real life, was a card school consisting of Mark Dennis, Kevin Dillon, Keith Bertschin and Frank Worthington, all with a look of shock, even Worthington who had been around, put his cards down to watch. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was getting hooked, we inched round the now empty coach to the away end, where I honestly thought, once through the turnstile, we’d get a respite, how wrong I was, it was worse, we were crammed in, with more joining us. I couldn’t see much, unbeknown to me, that view would diminish. It was all we could do to keep on our feet, as the crowd swayed too and fro, it’s something you don’t get to experience at football anymore, something that when I went to see the Stone Roses at the Etihad a couple of years ago, I experienced again, when they came on stage, and everyone surged forward, youngsters half my age lost their footing, I noticed it was us old ‘uns, grabbing them and pulling them back onto to their feet, happy days. They must have shut the turnstiles with many Blues locked out, I’m not entirely sure what happened outside, or inside, but the wall at the back of the terracing was pushed out and everyone outside, pushed in, the swaying stopped, whatever position you found yourself in, was how you were stopping, the body heat was intense, the pressure was making it hard to breathe as it was, the heat was making it unbearable, fans were doing anything to escape the crush, I couldn’t understand it, but I was getting a pins and needles sensation, as fans clambered onto the roof of the away end, and scaled the one floodlight stationed in our end, someone shouted with all their might ‘Over the top you Blue boys’ and immediately, fans at the front, climbed the fence surrounding the pitch, grabbing and pulling up fellow supporters behind them. I know there must have been more, but I don’t recall seeing many police, looking back, I don’t think they’d been adequately trained to deal with a situation like that anyway, any resistance from the police, was ignored or dealt with.
Yeah there was a game, I didn’t see any of it, I caught a glimpse of Frank Worthington coming on as sub, and seeing the top of the side netting ripple after he’d hit it with an attempt, but that was it. The only other things I remember from the game, was watching more and more fans climbing the floodlight pylon to get a better view and fresh air, (oh to have been able to take a photo of it) till there were precariously right at the top, with every available bit of stanchion space taken from top to bottom, and after several requests for the Skinheads on the roof to stop jumping up and down, (knees up Mother Brown was a popular terrace song at the time) an impassioned plea exclaimed that the roof was liable to collapse, it seemed to do the trick, as the Skins sat down for the rest of the game. Oh and we lost 1:0. That’s Blues, not Liverpool.
Coming out of the ground, picking my way through the bricks that made up the wall, was easier than getting in, I remember pouring over the bridge and finding the bus station fairly easily, Shrewsbury Town produced a newspaper as their programme, and although he got one at every game he went to, my brother possibly doesn’t realise that the newspaper/programme in his possession for that day, is probably worth more than the rest of his collection (and there’s a few in it) put together. As we waited for the bus back to Bridgnorth, there were a few jubilant Town fans around, some were on our bus, but they hadn’t just had my experience, my Liverpool supporting days were numbered, I may still have been one, but I was gutted watching and listening to the happy Shrewsbury fans, I had felt part of the family with Blues, a sense of belonging, something I hadn’t in the away end at the Molyneux.
FOOTNOTE:- I’ve since discovered that the pins and needles sensation that I experienced in the ground, is actually the first indication of crushing, I was being crushed to death, so thank you, whoever you were, for shouting ‘Over the top you Blue boys’, and also, it had been claimed by many Blues fans that were at the game, that there were, roughly, 8,000 Blues fans at the game, with around another couple of thousand that decided to just stay in the town centre and drink in the pubs, as all fans do, we tend to see our clubs support as second to none, so exaggerations are abound, years later, and with no prompting on my part whatsoever, I got chatting to a Shrews fan that had been at that particular game, and he confirmed the 8,000 figure. The official crowd was given as 14,801.