RAWK Advent Calendar #4. WahOOey's trip away.

Posted by Hinesy on December 2, 2015, 10:52:44 AM

When Wah00ey sent this to me, I replied saying it was a great piece but about a Home game not an away. He replied saying it was a bloody long day away from home for him ;D , it's a great tale and worth putting into this year's Advent Calendar. Enjoy.Hinesy

It’s Wednesday 14th March 1990, about 8.30 am.  I was 20 then, living in a small, single room with a bed and a sink (for pissing in) in a hall of residence at Portsmouth Polytechnic (now University).  I’d worked for a couple of years before deciding to do a degree so I had managed to save up and buy a car which bestowed on me a certain level of (shallow) popularity, particularly on the wettest or windiest of days when lectures were in New Milton on the other side of the city.

I’d made a fairly big group of new friends, although I had spent the first few months of the previous term dragging my mattress up and down the stairs of the halls to a rather stunning girl’s room and had apparently been the envy of most of the other males in my block, and indeed that fresher’s year.  That had all finished rather abruptly (I got binned off) and so I was in a phase of concentrating on doing just about enough studying to keep myself educationally afloat whilst running and playing football as much as I possibly could to maintain a trim figure given my significant drinking habits at the time.  I’d made good friends with the lads on my course, one of whom lived on the floor immediately above me in halls. 

He was (and still is) Craig, he hailed from Coventry and was a big CCFC fan, living off their recent glories of 1987.  Oh, how we heard about that.  And still do.  That morning, whilst we were busy consuming as many boiled eggs as the hall catering staff would let us get away with, we were discussing the football fixtures of the day.  I honestly can’t remember if it was me, the Liverpool fan from Kent, who suggested it, but someone came up with the bright idea of driving up to Anfield for the FA Cup Quarter final replay against QPR that evening.  A drive of some 255 miles that should take about 5 hours or so, in my T reg moody beige 1978 957cc Ford Fiesta.  It was a Wednesday which meant an afternoon of sport so we didn’t even need to skip the hour or so of lectures we had that morning, we could leave at 1pm and be there in plenty of time.  Craig immediately said yes, along with two other lads whose names escape me now, so we convened at my car early that afternoon ready to commence the journey.  This was the sort of spontaneous trip to a football match that you could make back then, tickets were available on the day and the Kop wasn’t seated so you always had a decent chance of getting in.

We met up in the car park early that afternoon, each put a fiver in the petrol whip, filled up the tank, bought some sarnies, crisps and other shitty food and off we set.  I think I only had about 3 cassette tapes in the car at the time so we listened mostly to the Fine Young Cannibals, “The Raw and the Cooked”, an old compilation tape of mine with some Depeche Mode on it that nobody else liked and the ubiquitous student favourite Simon and Garfunkel’s greatest hits album. 

I was staggered by the excitement level in the car of 3 non-LFC fans, this was a big thing.  A trip to Anfield was a huge event for anyone in those days.  We had the second biggest stadium in the country behind the Mancs, who had not won the league for 750 years or so, and the fabled noise and singing of the Kop was something to be anticipated.  I’d been to many Liverpool games by then but most of them had been aways in London or even Brighton.  I’d been to Anfield a few times, including a day trip for the 9-0 Palace game with a car containing four Palace fans the previous September, but had always been in the main stand.  This would be my Kop debut.

The journey was epically long, it took us 6 and a half hours to get to the ground, my arse was sore from the seat, my left leg almost numb from clutch-pumping, and we were going to miss kick-off. There had been traffic everywhere from the word go.  The A3 north was not the dual carriageway it is now, there were only 3 lanes each on the M25 and M1 and it seemed to take forever to reach the ground once we’d made Liverpool itself.  We managed to find a parking spot fairly easily though, somewhere like Davy Street or Adam Street near the Kop, where some very kind local young gentlemen offered to look after my car for a fiver.    As we ran towards the ground we laughed and told them they could effing have it for that, it was worth less.  I remember it being unbelievably cold that evening, although it’s probably more likely that we were dressed entirely inappropriately in t-shirts and trackie bottoms.  We made the Kop no more than 2 minutes before kick-off, pushing our way along to as much of a central spec as we could get, before the flags came out and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was belted out.

Now my mate Craig had played football to a decent level with Walsall and could possibly have gone pro as a goalkeeper.  He’s not the sort of man to show an awful lot of emotion, although he is a bit of a nutter, but that rendition of our anthem brought tears to the eyes of a staunch Coventry City fan (there were tears of laughter a few years later when we returned to Anfield to see Coventry inflict the most ridiculous of defeats on us during the same weekend as the Grand National was bombed off but that’s another, more painful story!)  He still talks about it now.  The other two guys were stunned as well, we talked about it for many weeks after the event. 

After about 2 minutes, Beardsley put us in front and it stayed that way to the very end in what was not a particularly exciting match.  We would go on to lose to Palace in the semi-final that season as they got ample revenge for the 9-0 of the previous September.  The only other thing of real note that I remember from that match is Craig, during possibly the only quiet period of the game in the Kop, belting out a rendition of “Play up Sky Blues.”  I was petrified when he started singing but the lads on the Kop around us all laughed and took it in the spirit it was meant.  Some even clapped.  Only Craig could get away with this.

If getting to Anfield had been a lengthy test of our endurance then getting home would prove to be much, much worse.  It took so long to get out of Liverpool, and I did probably get lost a bit in those days before mobile phones and sat-navs – we had no map in the car, we were just following sign-posts - that I remember it being 11.30 or possibly 12.00pm before we got as far south on the M1 as Keele Services.  I then had a bit of a brainwave as my best mate from school was in his final year at Keele and, if we could find him, we could maybe kip on his floor.  If I carried on driving we would not get to Pompey until 4 am earliest and, for want of a better word and being the only one insured to drive my car, I was fucked.

So we turned off and found Keele University.  How we found my mate’s accommodation I’m not sure – I had no address for him with me at the time.  We must have asked at a reception somewhere and someone had been able to look it up somehow but anyway, there I was at some time after midnight knocking on this door in what seemed like the middle of nowhere and Russ himself opens it.  I’ve never forgotten his face, what the fuck was I doing there entirely unplanned, unannounced and seemingly utterly randomly.  In we went, cheese on toast was soon knocked up and then we had to sleep – Russ was only a weeks away from his finals!  I slept on the carpeted floor in his room whilst the other three kipped on the concrete kitchen floor in what was described later as the coldest night the three of them had ever experienced.  Colder than a witches tit, apparently.

We made it back at around 11am the following morning, sadly missing a couple of hours of lectures as a result.  I say sadly, but I don’t think any of us really gave a toss.  We’d had a bit of an adventure, the sort of thing that’s difficult to do nowadays.  It’s more difficult to get tickets for a start, almost impossible on the day unless it’s for a really drab match or you’re getting one off a tout.  It’s more difficult to get lost too, and the availability of mobile phones would mean we could probably have phoned ahead to make certain we could stay in Keele that night.  Plus, I’ve pretty much no doubt that that Fiesta would not have pass a modern MOT test!

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