The Liverpool boys are in Town.
Posted by Mottman on July 4, 2004, 05:01:48 PM
Early 90s, I’d landed on my feet big time! I was actually being paid to go to the away games to watch the tricky Reds. The EEC in their ultimate wisdom had deemed that under Health & Safety regulations each coach taking people to the match had to have a courier on board to sell snacks and tins of soft drinks. In the past you had been able to take alcoholic beverages on board, but not no more, the Police would either arrest anyone who was bladdered or sometimes turn the coach around and send them back home. That would do for me, I could do that, and I’d get paid £20-£30 to sell a few bits and pieces – easy money!
I didn’t miss an away game for five or six seasons and these were happy days. As I hope you would expect we also had a few scams up our sleeves to ensure we milked it as much as possible. One of my mates Jimmy was a part-time coach driver, he was a huge Evertonian with a heart of gold!
I worked in the Triad building at that time, and had a mate in the canteen who gave me a “special” vend card so that I could get drinks and snacks out of the vending machines free of charge. Each day I’d get into work with this empty black Puma sports bag. Several trips to the vending machines ensured that on leaving for home it contained 20–30 cans of Coke, Fanta and the like. We built up a decent supply and used these as another source of income on the away trips.
Formby Coaches and Barnes Coaches were the two main companies we worked for. What we used to do was to get picked-up at whatever meeting place, and put this huge cooler box on the two seats directly behind the driver’s seat so that no one could use the seats. Sometimes we’d have a discussion with the trip organisers. They wanted us to put the cooler box in one of the overhead lockers so they could get two more supporters on board. We’d argue that it was dangerous getting the box down during a trip. In most cases we won our discussion. It didn’t matter anyway it was just part of another scam.
Days before any away trip the tour organisers would ring Jimmy up to confirm the details with him, where and when to pick up the coach etc and if I was available and tell him where he was to pick up the supporters. More importantly this was the time Jimmy collected the coach log book (more about that later).
So we’d go to on our merry way to collect the people; St. John’s Lane (by the Old Haymarket) in Town or Priory Road by Stanley Park were the usual contact points. We’d meet up with the tour organisers who would tell us how many people were on our coach, pass on relevant paperwork, where the police would stop us to give us an escort into each town and city etc. The organisers would actually check the passengers who had booked tickets (not me) - this was just too easy.
“All aboard the Sky Lark” for another trip and another chance to have a laugh and a joke following those Red men. After leaving the organisers, and half a mile or so down the road, we’d stop at a pre-arranged point and pick up 2 or 3 of the lads. The cooler box was immedaitely put in the overhead locker, and the lads were sorted for seats. None of the paying passengers ever complained as we had a surprise for them too (and another money earner for us!)
As I said before, you couldn’t take ale on board. Well we all know that the people like a bevy an' that so we figured that a couple of cans each wouldn’t do no harm. The lads we’d pick up had the alcohol supplies with them, usually 30–40 cans in total. Jimmy or I would get on the microphone and say what was available. We enforced a strict policy that empty cans were put in a black bin bag at the front of the coach; we didn’t want the police to send us back home. They never did!
We never ever bothered about buying tickets for the away games, we got ours for free from the club we were playing - this is what happened:
We’d get a police escort with the other Liverpool coaches into the place where we were playing, drop the supporters off and tidy the coach up a bit. All the coach drivers and the couriers would get together - those who didn’t want to go to the games usually boarded one coach with all the curtains drawn and wiled away the time by watching porn movies. Those of us who wanted to go to the game would walk up to the ground, clutching the coach log books and the coach driver’s licenses. We’d head straight to the ticket office and introduce ourselves as the Liverpool coach drivers. Easy! Not a lot of people know this but every club kept an allocation of tickets as a “thank you” for the drivers and couriers for bringing the away fans to the game. We’d collect our tickets, more often than not we’d have four or five tickets each then head back to the coaches to hand back the log books and licenses.
As we walked back to the ground we’d sell the tickets face value to any ticketless Reds. Sometimes we’d sell every ticket we had then go to our end and make ourselves known to the police. Now the police didn’t know we had an allocation of tickets from the club so they always said “Pop over the turnstile and get yourselves sorted lads". Sometimes they would take us into a stand and we’d sit with the home supporters. Other times if the Reds had travelled down in numbers and our section was sold out we’d stand in the “no man’s land” area between the away and the home supporters. Sometimes the coppers would bring us cups of coffee and butties at half time, free of course.
Only one away ground didn’t look after any of the drivers or couriers and that was Tottenham Hotspur. We had a scam for them as well.
Come Wednesday or Thursday before a Saturday away game at Spurs, we’d get headed paper from the coach company and pretend we were the manager of that Company. We’d type out a letter to the Spurs ticket office manager and say that the company's coach drivers are refusing to travel down to London because they had to pay to get into the ground. We also explained that the coach company office fax was broken and that the fax was sent from the Triad building over the road from the shop (it wasn’t of course, but Spurs would not know that). We’d keep an eye on the fax machine waiting for our answer. Now then the threat of 40-odd scousers not spending their hard earned cash on match tickets must have touched the heart of some unsuspecting Spurs person. A fax was received apologising for the policy that they operated, but more importantly they promised us free match tickets upon our arrival. The Spurs ticket office was telephoned and confirmation that everything was in order was relayed.
We got down to White Hart Lane and made ourselves known to the name on the letter: “please follow me this way Gentlemen, your seats are ready for you”. We follow this young lady only to be escorted into an executive lounge, free beer and scran plus one of the very best seats in the main stand. On that particular occasion the Reds won 3-1 with goals from Ian Rush (2) and Peter Beardsley. Life was good!
When we stood in the no-man’s area with the police either side we'd always stay to the very end of the match but didn’t hang around once the match was over. After all it was our job to check the supporters' coach tickets for the journey home. Sometimes the local coppers would put us in a meat wagon and drive us back to our coaches; the cattle market at Newcastle and Man U spring to mind.
If we didn’t make it back before the supporters Jimmy would check the tickets anyway, I told you he was a good skin. So good that he’d restock our supplies of booze for the trip home while we were at the match to ensure everyone was in high spirits and that. Because we (the couriers) were the contact point with the police, neither of us would have a drink before a game but on the way home, now that’s a different story.
More often than not, we’d get home with £80.00 each in our pockets, it was easy money, and I’d slip the missus a few quid; with young mouths to feed every penny helped.
Here is one of my favourite away games from that period.Chesterfield V LiverpoolLeague Cup 2nd round 6 October 1992
After a disappointing 4-4 draw at Anfield played in front of 12,533 loyal supporters, the 2nd leg was played mid week at Saltergate in Chesterfield.
We’d picked up this right motley crew from St John’s Lane together with some normal people early afternoon and headed to the land of the eighteen inch flares and platform shoes. We knew this was gong to be eventful occasion, something was in the air as the “Townies” started rolling spliffs and handing them around to all and sundry.
A tape of Neil Diamond's "Red Red Wine" was put on to get everyone in the mood, and the coach bounced along its merry way towards those dark misty Yorkshire moors. We’d sorted the lads out and the normal scams were in place. We stopped off at a service station and got rid of all the empty cans, had a freebie meal by showing the driver's log book and made our way back onto the coach.
We were four short when, here we go, the four of them come legging out of the service station with stashes of goodies. We shot off like a bat out of hell as nudie books were passed around for those who wanted to have a gander. Packets of ciggies were given to us as a thank you for making a quick exit and for being alert to what they were up to.
We knew the police would stop us as we were told before hand to stop at a particular motorway junction on the M1 so they could give us an escort into Chesterfield. We managed to find the rendezvous and parked up. The mixture of ale and whatever they were smoking had certainly revved up some of the lads as they were in fine form as the Yorkshire police searched the coach for ale and that.
It was like a scene out of the Predator II movie, the bit where the Jamaicans open the limo door and clouds of smoke billow out. The coach and all of its occupants were well high on fumes from some exotic plant grown in a far, far away country.
A policeman asked to use the coach microphone; he welcomed us to Yorkshire and wished us a safe and pleasant stay in Chesterfield. He then asked if anyone had any knives or hammers on them, because if they did he would take them with him and no questions would be asked. A lad at the back stood up and said “No mate, we are Liverpool FC, we don’t need that, we have these" (clutching both fists and putting them in the air). I didn’t like the Yorkshire plod, they always gave us a hard time. I wondered if this was the Bill who threw me out of Sheffield United's home end in 1974 for having a key ring as an offensive weapon?
The baiting of the police was a funny experience as the bleating of sheep filled the night sky. To be honest the police took it all in a good manner, even when one of the lads says “How many pairs of wellies do you wear out each year”. Judging by the copper's eyes you knew he had heard this before from some other scouse wag. “Ewe watch what your saying” this one retorted as he walked away smiling. A sea of V’s waved happily behind his back.
Anyway, we waited for a few more Liverpool coaches to arrive and managed to persuade the feds that it was time to make a move. We hit the land of the crooked spire and were escorted past the ground and parked up about a mile away in some really posh lane. Why we parked in this place I have no idea, it was like something you see on the television. I half expected to see Felicity Kendall cutting the grass or polishing the cat. It really was that posh, front gardens immaculate everything top notch! In hindsight they shouldn’t have parked us there. That was their fault not ours, and they would pay the price for this later.
We emptied out of the coach, the night air filled with every conceivable Liverpool Football Club song. It was surreal, we didn’t belong in this place. A small welcoming committee of Chesterfield's finest waited at the top of the lane but they very quickly made their escape. We held back and let everyone go on their merry way as we had our own plans afoot.
Ticket office found, log book and licence shown, six £8 Cross Street stand tickets each (visitors section) were picked up. Back to the coaches to pass back the book and licence and to find a boozer. Cocking our heads aside, we quickly heard the lads giving it loads, yep they had found a boozer and the taste of the amber nectar had loosened their vocal chords. Happy days - time for a few ales and to sell on some of the spare tickets. Job done, time for the ground. It was like being a space traveller going back in time, this ground must have been modelled on Woodison and then some. Near enough everything was made of wood, roof, floor the lot. You had to stand downstairs on this little concrete concourse to have a smoke.
The attendance that night is recorded as 10,632. I’d estimate that at least five thousand Scousers made the trip to the land of the wool. “Scousers here, scousers there, scousers every fucking where” the ground reverberated with the well known battle cries that we all know and love. Sitting in the stand that night was a funny experience. We tended to stand with the lads, but that night we went posh and sat with the suits.
So its 4-4 from the first leg and away we go again. I’m not sure of the timing but early on Chesterfield scored, 5-4 to them. The ground went ballistic, well the home support did anyway. We were sat right next to the home supporters, a small unpoliced wooden partition separated us from them. Two 16 year old Chesterfield skinheads sat next to us. Both wore more badges than Liverpool’s very own badgeman could ever dream about. A few lads made their way across to the home section and the skinheads very quickly made the wise decision to run away to the safety of the Chesterfield Kop which also housed a sizable number of Liverpudlians.
Shortly after that the Red men picked up the tempo and we eventually finished the game winning 4-1 with Don Hutchison, Jamie Redknapp, Mark Walters and Ian Rush scoring late on in the game. To be honest some of the football we played in the second half was some of the best I’d ever seen - the Tricky Reds were absolutely fantastic.
When we left the police presence outside the ground was immense, probably one of the biggest turnouts we’d ever seen. Hundreds of them, some with dogs, some on horseback. A police helicopter hovered high above the ground, its searchlight scanning amongst the throng of Liverpudlians.
“What’s all this about” one of the lads says to this copper. “Whilst the game was on a number of houses and shops had been broken into and a considerable quantity of jewellery had been taken. We're trying to track down the culprits”. We walked back to the coaches knowing that most of the stolen goods would be well on its way to Liverpool sitting comfortable in the boot of some stolen top of the range Merc.
It was total bedlam at the coaches, no one had a clue which coach they had arrived on. In time we boxed it off and sorted our lot out. The police wanted us on the road and out of town as soon as possible – you could tell they had had enough of us and that the antics from some of the lads hadn’t gone down too well with them.
The huge police escort took us right out of Chesterfield, helicopter in tow and all manner of vehicles flanking us either side. The trip home was quieter than expected, and we didn’t stop off at the same service station, looked and learnt you see.
We dropped people off wherever they wanted, we looked after our own you see, not like some coach drivers. Made it home around three in the morning, stopped at the top of ours and counted up how much we had made. What with one scam and another we had managed to make over £200 each (I split everything 50/50 with Jim).
In time Jimmy left the Giro and set up his own haulage company in Warrington, last I heard of him he was doing very well for himself.
Top man – and happy times
The Liverpool Boys are in Town!© Mottman 2004
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