Do You Remember The First Time? (Part 2)

Following on from Part 1 – The Singing Civil Servant

Rather than tales of Keeble, White and Allchurch (although he did love Milburn), I grew up in a house filled with Sinatra, Jack Jones, Dean Martin and Matt Munro (always a queue for the bathroom!). Not a professional singer grant you; Dad combined his moonlighting with a clerical job at the Ministry, as it was called back then – more Singing Civil Servant than Singing Detective, although he had marginally better skin – but not an ardent football fan either. Don’t ask me where I get it from.

So I will have gone along to my first match with a school friend unless Dad had been ‘paid off’ at the club the night before and decided to turn his back on the music business once and for all. If I had to put money on it, I’d claim that our 1-1 draw with West Ham in the 1973/74 season was the first match I attended (at 9 years and 163  days) and, although I couldn’t swear to it, I’d say Pat Howard played for us and Pat Holland for them, as I was struck by nothing more than the similarity of their names.

I don’t recall the stats or the match incidents. Again, the record shows, I took the blows on January 19th 1974, 15 weeks before the Cup Final, Supermac scored for us and I was there with 27,216 other hardy souls but, as I was only 9 years old, it was the sounds and the smells which struck me and stayed with me. The heavy, iron turnstiles, the long winding climb up the Gallowgate steps towards the deafening noise, passing the overpowering stench of those toilets along the way – toilets thankfully from another time, a time when Health and Safety were two words as far apart in our thinking as they were in the dictionary.

Then the mass of smelly blokes reeking of Tartan or Brown Ale, the lush, vivid green of the pitch, the rusty old West(wood) Stand and finally those magnificent Black and White stripes, black shorts and the classic hooped socks.

They say you never forget the first time. They are right.