Steve Mitchell’s latest contribution to the ‘Got , Not Got’ blog…
It was around September 1984, a new school year had started and all of us fourth years looked forward to more mind numbing lessons at Deincourt Comprehensive. Maths had always been a feared subject of mine, impossible equations given to us by teachers who looked like they had just walked off the set of the Open University but in 1984, all that was about to change.
All the talk in the common room was of a new maths teacher, Mr Taylor. He was different from the other teachers, he had a swagger about him, was good looking and most of all, he loved his football. Now our school was based in Chesterfield and some of the lads in our year were now regular match goers down at Saltergate, all wanna be hooligans but if truth be told the first to “do one” if the aggro came on top.
This season was special for the Spireites, for the first time in years we would have two derby days against the sworn enemy – Derby County. The Rams decline had been meteoric and apart from the odd pre-season friendly punch up (which was conveniently disguised as the Co-Operative Trophy) the Saltergate boot boys had been starved of any armed combat with their Baseball Ground buddies for many years.
In the build up to the home tie, excitement had reached fever pitch in the classrooms at Deincourt, made all the more intriguing when we discovered that Mr Taylor was in fact a season ticket holder at the Baseball Ground and would be present in the visitors section on Saturday. Suddenly maths became cool, we could discuss tactical formations as well as equilateral triangles. And then the big day arrived.
Back in 84, a juvenile ground admission ticket entitled the bearer to stand at various locations within the stadium so, if Chesterfield attacked towards the “away” goal at the Cross Street End in the first –half, we would all pile round to the Compton End (side terrace) to get closer to where the inevitable action would be. This terrace had the usual no mans land in the middle as it was shared between the two sets of supporters and on this day, the visitors section was heaving.
Before kick-off, rival fans engaged in the usual pie throwing competition and the police who were stood inside the empty pen, sensed that trouble was not far away. Within minutes of the start, the gate separating fans had been ripped down and Derby supporters were trying to “take our end” ( a regular pastime of 1980’s football) in stepped the local constabulary to calm things down as the offending troublemakers were pulled out of the terrace one by one.
What happened next was one of those “I was there” moments as me and my mates saw, to our total astonishment, none other than Mr Taylor being dragged around the perimeter of the Saltergate pitch restrained by two of North East Derbyshire’s finest. The man was now elevated to god like status amongst the fourth year football fraternity and I’ve no need to explain to you what double maths was like the following week.
When they put seats in the Compton End shortly before the old ground was pulled down, the memory of seeing the man who was employed to try to give you the best start in life being escorted to the local nick was a telling reminder of how football used to be. I didn’t write this particular piece to promote football hooliganism, I wrote it because I’m proud to have lived in an era when the beautiful game still belonged to the people (even mathematicians).
‘The Lost World of Football’ is available now in branches of WH Smiths and Waterstones or can be ordered here…