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Opinion

Derby County away (via Nottingham…) in 1988 – How it was, when it was

4 weeks ago
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We’d been waiting ages in the burning sun for the coach to appear and had just about given up, when it eventually lumbered into view.

Within a few seconds of clambering aboard, I wished we had given up.

My instincts are rarely wrong and it felt like this particular outing was going to be lively from the number of lunatics on board. Let’s just say it was standing room only on the way down…but with plenty of spare seats for the journey back home.

Nottingham was our destination that bank holiday Sunday in April 1988, before making the short journey to see NUFC play Derby County the following day.

Once in Carlton (a suburb to the east of Nottingham), where the whole bus were staying in an upper room above a local pub, we set about exploring the other bars in the vicinity and after swilling a fair few, we eventually headed back up the hill to where our overnight accommodation was located. So far so good and after a restless night on the floor surrounded by 40 other blokes, one of whom that intermittently broke into a rendition of ‘tell Laura I love her’ long enough for it to be more than a tad irritating, we eventually came to, hungover to hell and to be informed the police were downstairs, wanting to interview everyone.

Unbeknown to us, a fair few from our party had kicked off with the locals the night before and were already behind bars. Anyway, we all had to account for our movements and thankfully, our stories were corroborated and no further action was taken, although those who had been lifted were subsequently jailed for the curious offence of football related violence.

To be fair to the lads that spent time at her majesty’s pleasure, most of them weren’t football hooligans and of those that I knew, it was more a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The serious characters had actually behaved themselves!

Anyway, after the bloke who’d organised the trip had somehow successfully haggled with the Nottinghamshire police and convinced them the rest of the party were good lads, the coach was given a blue light escort along the A52 into the city of Derby and on to the Baseball Ground, where the downside to our new found notoriety was that we gained admittance a full three hours before kick off.

No more drink, which given the hangover I wasn’t that disappointed, but it was clear that the Derbyshire constabulary who at some point along the way had acquired custody of us, wanted a dishevelled bunch of hooligans off the streets as soon as possible.

As for the on-field antics that day, I know we lost. I think the score was 2-1 to Derby County.

My abiding memory was of my mate from Derby swinging on the fence like a madman after their goals. He was down visiting his folks for the weekend and took in the match. He later denied he’d been there, but he was, unlike a fair few who we’d travelled down with.

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