People On The Pitch #7: Everton vs Southampton, FA Cup Semi-Final, 14/04/1984

Last time out, for People On The Picth #6, we went back to 1981 and took a look at the “self-destruction” of Stadion Galgenwaard, carried out by it’s own home supporters of FC Utrecht. Now we’re skipping ahead a few years and heading across the Channel for a classic English FA cup-tie on supposedly “neutral” ground.

Intro:

The 1982 children’s book “Vlad the Drac”, by Ann Jungman – in which two young siblings befriend a miniature vampire whilst on holiday in Romania and smuggle him back to England – contains a chapter where the dad of the family brings son Paul to a football match. When they return home, Dad is furious and Paul is bloody and beaten. It turns out that Vlad snuck along too and had incited a terrace riot; first by using racist language directed at a bunch of Scotsmen, then with provocative chants such as “Up The Arsenal” and “Chelsea Forever” (we can only assume they were at White Heart Lane), before knocking a coppers hat off in the resulting fracas, for which Paul was nearly arrested.

All is eventually forgiven. But the point is that hooliganism and general crowd trouble were such common facets of life by the early ’80s that they had made their way into children’s literature. Of course this manifested at the stadiums with the erection of often ineffectual containment fences in most grounds, to keep the action from spilling onto the pitch as it so often did. But as we hinted back in People On The Pitch #5, there was a notable exception to this as one big club refused to compromise the integrity of their ground with the unsightly railings.

The club in question was Arsenal and their stadium Highbury, the venue for a 1984 FA Cup semi-final between Everton and Southampton.

Background:

Highbury was a regular host of FA Cup semi-finals in the late ’70s and early ’80s, along most regularly with Villa Park and of course Hillsborogh. While Highbury’s pitch was vulnerable to encroachment from the stands, the lack of fencing did prove beneficial for the safety of the supporting body as a whole.

This was particularly evident at the 1981 semi-final between Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Hillsborough, at which overcrowding caused a near-fatal crush in the Leppings Lane end.


The dangerously full Lepping's Lane end at Hillsborough during the 1981 FA Cup semi-final between Tottenham and Wolves.

As the 1981 FA Cup semi-final went on, the uncomfortable tightness of the supporters in the packed terrace could be seen in the background.

Supporters were forced to scale the parameter fence to safety, and at half time many were moved to another section of the ground.


Spurs supporters forced to escape the crowd crush during the first half of the 1981 FA Cup semi-final.

Catastrophe was avoided for now and the game ended 2-2. The replay was moved to Highbury which negated this element of danger, as even if overcrowding had been an issue there was no such risk of the supporters being caged in to a confined space.


The 1981 semi-final replay at Highbury, showing a packed stand but a lack of fences.

During the following two seasons, Highbury hosted an ’82 semi-final between Queens Park Rangers and West Bromwich Albion, and Brighton & Hove Albion vs Sheffield Wednesday in ’83. Both were of course festive occasions with classic cup atmospheres and included minor pitch invasions for the victorious fans both years in QPR and Brighton, two sides with relatively small support bases.


QPR fans celebrate reaching the 1982 FA Cup final with a handful of supporters on the Highbury pitch.

A mass of Brighton & Hove fans in jubilant spirits at Highbury ahead of their 1983 FA Cup semi-final with Sheffield Wednesday.

Supporters on the pitch celebrate Brighton and Hove Albion's victory with players and the manager.

But the 1984 edition saw the arrival of one of the Football League’s biggest clubs in Everton, who were to take on Southampton for a second consecutive north vs south semi-final clash in the capital.

In what was an age of increasing mayhem, Southampton came into the game as one club not so famous for a hooligan problem, generally overlooked for their larger, more violent southern coastal neighbours, and bitter rivals, Portsmouth. Everton, on the other hand, were known for their County Road Cutters firm, who were among the most prominent in the country and had helped ushered in the casual era, which was at it’s peak.

Incidentally, the Cup semi was not the only neutral game played in the ground that year. QPR would again be present to host Partizan Belgrade in a UEFA Cup encounter in November, at which the near empty terraces provide another good look at the fenceless ground in it’s natural state, filled only with endless crush barriers (although a fence does the divide the stand within the terrace).


No fear of crushing at QPR and Partizan Belgrade's UEFA Cup second round game at HIghbury, 1984.

The Match:

With a festive Cup atmosphere and attendance of 46,587, we see that blue and white hats are the order of the day for many Everton fans, followed by a classic swaying mass of Southampton supporters:

The majority of Evertonians are crammed into the end behind the goal to the left, Highbury’s North Bank:

As the bigger club, there are many more Everton fans around the ground as well:

In between the blue and white caps, it is clear that we are smack-bang in the middle of the casual golden age here:

After 90 mins the score is still 0-0 and with no semi-final replays in this edition of the tournament, the game goes to extra time.

Everton manager Howard Kendall is angsty as he displays a sort of chopping motion, unlike his colleague in the powder-blue suit who seems in buoyant mood. From this we also get a look at some beautiful Le Coq Sportiff tracksuits on the Everton “bench”, which is itself a class piece of architecture:

Finally, after 117 minutes, Everton’s Adrian Heath puts the ball in the net with an awkward header. Just watch that terrace pop:

Looking closely at the above, you can see a leg coming over the advertisements, just behind and slightly to the right of the frame, kicking off the first pitch invasion of the day. Through the action replay we seem to catch the same supporter, well on his way:

Within seconds Heath is surrounded by fans and team mates alike, as off-camera many more fans enter the field:

We get another good look at the casual fashion on show with this gentleman’s fetching yellow garment:

There is also a very nice maroon/white/gray tracksuit top on one supporter, while the unabated joy on the hat-wearer’s face sums up the moment:

The celebrations continue as the commentator factually states “And the Everton fans are on the field…”, as some policemen saunter over to try and curtail the maniacal Merseysiders:

But the chaotic jubilation continues as more and more enthusiastic Evertonians rush to congratulate their hero Heath:

As the replay of the goal is shown, we get the line from commentary:

“And it’s going to take a minute or two to clear Highbury from the Everton fans who have invaded in strength.”

Even after the replay we can see that there are still supporters on the pitch. Similarly to Ion Geolgău in Pyro On The Pitch #11, goalscorer Heath now is now trying to usher fans away, understandably eager to finish the game:

From this we get a touching moment where Heath doesn’t exactly seem thrilled to have a stranger tenderly holding him by the neck, with his face millimeters away:

Again, his agitation at this is quite understandable. Speaking of understanding, the commentator then justifies the pitch invasion while simultaneously giving a green light to anyone watching at home to perform a similar action, with the line:

Well the Everton fans are now getting back behind the barriers, and in a way you can understand their jubilation when you consider how they’ve played second fiddle up on Merseyside so long.

With mere minutes to go, the Everton faithful continue to celebrate as chants of “We’re all going to Wembley!” ring out while the clock counts down:

Meanwhile all is quiet at the Clock End where the Southampton supporters are based, but a row of Police guard the pitch just in case:

At the other end the Police line up also, but ultimately helpless as many fans are just standing on the grass behind the touchline rather than back in the actual stand:

We can see one roguish young chap scurry back over the hoardings, away from the clutches of the Old Bill after an aborted attempt at standing on the field:

He’s not the only with the idea, as off camera another fan goes for a casual stroll across the pitch causing the referee to pause the game again. The commentator gives us another great line:

And there’s one fella who’s come on the field to hold things up, the Everton fans are giving him a right roasting you can be sure.

From the wide shot that follows we can see the culprit and he really looks like he’s just going down to the shops for the paper. Another fan in a classic denim jacket/jeans combo rushes on too, presumably to try to get to his colleague (or enemy, it could be a Southampton fan), but he is expertly shepherded by Everton players while the original invader struts off aimlessly with the help of a Southampton player:

The game is restarted as the commentator lets us know that the Everton fans are “are all ranked up behind Peter Shilton’s goal”. Only seconds later the final whistle blows to an all-mighty roar, queuing the inevitable mass invasion. As Southampton were about to have a thrown-in at the corner flag, we first get a marvelous close up shot as the crowd ejaculates from their tribune and onto the grass:

Note the classic casual jumper/hair cut/jeans/trainers ensemble on one fan, while the supporter beside him appears to be the same fan who was jumping joyously over Adrian Heath earlier. Also a classic advert for Bangkok:

As is common in this kind of situation, some players run for their lives but the commentator informs us that the Everton players are dancing with joy, which is nice. A wideshot shows us the tsunami of supporters and some classic graphics:

The last shots from the broadcast show the Everton fans raucously cheering their team off the pitch and surging in alarming density:

But this was of course not the end. From a news report later, we learn that Southampton fans had come on to the pitch as well and apparently about 1000 fans charged at each other with the police “hopelessly outnumbered”, as the report states:

Chaos reigned as the Police played cat and mouse with supporters where they could. Below is an admirable escape attempt:

Extra police were brought on to the pitch in an attempt to retain order:

As well as a horse-mounted unit, which eventually did force people back into the stands:

One long haired fan appeared to be wearing a flag, or piece of clothing, featuring a cannabis plant, for which he must be commended:

We learn that more than 80 were arrested and several injured. The news report ends with an acknowledgment of Highbury’s lack of fencing and Arsenal’s intention to discuss the incidents the following week, as we see more footage of roving gangs charging around the field:

Aftermath:

Arsenal’s stadium did in fact remain fence-free after this, as you will know if you remember the photo of the QPR-Partizan Belgrade game, which came later in the year. But the repercussions of what happened were felt as Highbury was not awarded another FA Cup semi final until 1992.

By that time it made no difference, as the fences were coming down in all other Football League grounds in England due to the events of another semi-final. As while Highbury had been shunned for it’s lack of human cages, another ground was rewarded for their continued use. That is of course Hillsborough, scene of the 1989 crowd cursh disaster, where cup semi’s had continued to be played despite the clear warnings we talked about above at the 1981 semi final there.

Oh, and Vlad ended going back to Romania and became a cheesy tourist attraction.

*

Youtube link 1
Youtube link 2
Youtube link 3

***

People On The Pitch #6: FC Utrecht vs PSV Eindhoven, Eredivisie, 19/04/1981

To the layman, most incidents of supporter disobedience are classed as one, mainly seen as random acts of violence and thuggery. But the reality is far deeper than this, with pitch invasions being a good example of something that can happen for several different reasons.

As you know by now, we like to cover a variety of different pitch invasion types here in the People On The Pitch series. So far we have seen some classic discordian mischief from a drunk Aston Villa fan in 1982; chaotic joy at Wales vs Scotland ’66; an après match French rugby cup final victory invasion in ’79; an après match Northern Irish cup final running battle in ’83; and more chaotic joy in 1978 northern England (a rarity). And there are more to come.

In this edition, we look at another post-match pitch invasion and the actions that follow, which to the unknowing eye would appear to be a shocking act of destructive mass vandalism and the collapse of western civilisation.

As we have established early on, the Dutch possessed one of the great crowd trouble cultures of the golden era and as promised we shall be seeing more and more of them. Hence, today’s scene is the Stadion Galgenwaard of FC Uterecht as it was in April 1981 for the visit of PSV Eindhoven.

Background:

Like most things in the Dutch league at the time, the stadium was classically quirky and unorthodox and basically like something from a wonderful wet-football dream to me. Some shots from a game vs Feyenoord a couple of months prior give a good look at the unusual architecture of the ground, which includes huge concrete slopes, a “dip” in the middle of the main stand which makes you think you’re tripping, and lots of lovely diagonal terracing.

Incidentally, that Feyenoord match above is notable for some other reasons but, since we are not behooved to linear time here in the Pyro On The Pitch dimension, we will come back to discuss that at a later date.

What’s so special then about the PSV game on April 19th, 1981, is that it was unfortunately the last time the Galgenwaard would be seen in this form as the stadium was to be rebuilt in a more modern style and reopened the following year. This would be slightly more of a big deal but for the fact that the ground, like FC Uterecht itself (founded through the merger of three other local teams), was actually only created in 1970. Even so, with the passionate Ducth football scene of the time, a large and impressive fan culture had grown around the club with the likes of PSV and Feyenoord attracting 15-16,000 and 20,000 for Ajax.

The Match:

We join the action in the dying stages of the game as a 0-0 draw is being played out. Officially approx 15,000 is in attendance, slightly less than the PSV game, but in comparison it looks a greater difference. This is particularly noticeable where the entire left concrete slope is now visible, seemingly cordoned off in preparation for the reconstruction. Perhaps terracing had already been removed leaving the slope bare, but we’re just going to assume that people had somehow been standing on the steep concrete up to this point as it would be much better. A smattering of fans still hang around the edges.

The diagonal terracing around the ground is also not full, giving us another good look at it. But just take a moment to appreciate that beautiful, classic white and black football too.

One last PSV attack comes to nothing and the referee blows his whistle to mostly jeers and whistles, as the Galgenwaard formally completes it’s duty in it’s original form.

As the players and officials shake hands, a multitude of youths (and some older people but we love youths) breach the pitchside fences and teem past. One supporter even appears to attempt a running kick towards the ref, but this was probably only in jest.

A mass pitch invasion follows and to start with, the main destination for many is the right hand side goalposts. In a scene reminiscent of Scotland in Wembley in 1977 (a game pretty much too famous to bother covering on here) the supporters swarm around the uprights and shake them.

They are swiftly joined by others hanging from the crossbar and within seconds the old girl comes crashing down.

The self-inflicted demolition of the Galgenwaard has begun. Doubtless, the goal at the opposite end is subject to similar treatment, but next we see an area where a fence has/is being pulled down and the mob are attempting to tear large sections of wooden seating out of the earth and concrete slope.

They succeed, and the result is a very satisfying wave effect.

Another section is targeted next and, admittedly after some struggle and an aborted attempted, is eventually turned over too.

Anything that can be ripped from the ground is taken and broken, or used as a battering ram, as the supporters pay homage to their “old” ground by destroying it. However, any concerned parent watching the footage may have understandably misinterpreted it as some sort of dystopian, youth uprising against modern polite 1981 society.

One concerned man, possibly a parent completely misinterpreting the situation and unaware that the stadium was to be rebuilt anyway, appears to appeal for calm and halfheartedly attempts to rebuild the stadium.

Like so many instances of 20th century life, the situation has quickly turned into a modern health and safety enthusiast’s nightmare. Indeed in the midst of the chaotic destruction some sort of disaster seems imminent – the likes of which paved the way for the overly regulated world of the future. Along these lines the “danger level” increases, especially for those outside the stadium at ground level, with the smashing of glass panes from inside one of the stands.

The “concerned parent” from earlier can now be seen concentrating very hard on repeatedly kicking down a small pile of bricks, proving my assumptions about him and his mental faculty entirely wrong.

Meanwhile, the destruction of more wooden-board seating continues in several sections with a successful deconstruction technique now established. It really really is an extraordinary sight.

As we prepare to leave the scene, we finally come back around to the now long demolished goalposts. The camera then pans to the middle of the pitch where we see the hundreds still milling about and get one last look at the glorious main stand with it’s random dip in the middle. We salute the Stadion Galgenwaar in it’s original incarnation, 1970-1981.

FC Utrecht played out their three remaining home games at the Nieuw Monnikenhuize stadium (which translates to “New House of the Monks”, excellent) in Arnhem, home of SBV Vitesse, and would finish the season in third (their best ever league position to date ) ahead of Feyenoord and PSV and behind Ajax and champions AZ.

But the main thing to take away here is that we have seen an event that, out of context, could appear to be a shocking series of mindless vandalism and destruction, but in reality is a local bonding exercise of community service and an act of charity for the demolition company who’s job was made a lot easier.

Youtube link

People On The Pitch #5: Blackpool v Blackburn Rovers, Football League Division Two, 04/02/1978

It was a beautifully dull and dreary 1978 day in Lancashire for the Division Two derby between Blackpool and Blackburn Rovers. We have dubbed it “The Battle of The ‘Blacks’ Where Neither Team Wear Black”.

The ‘burn’ part of Blackburn means stream and the ‘pool’ part of Blackpool means pool, so both names are descriptive of dark water features. The rain and mud that February day were therefore appropriate, along with the sparsely covered, windswept terraces which stood as an appropriately unglamorous poster child for everything that was glorious about old school football.

***For a fine Belfast battle covered in our previous edition of People on the Pitch, click here.***

Background:

The two towns are separated by Preston in the middle (along with some classically named English places such as Ashton-On-Ribble) and Preston North End are in fact Blackpool’s main local enemies. This rivalry apparently started in the quaint 1950’s with quaint arguments over whether Stanley Matthews was better than Tom Finney, but had sinisterly evolved by May ’78 (a sinister time) to the stabbing and death of a Preston fan during clashes between supporters of the two clubs at a Vibrators gig (a popular musical variety troop of the day).

The rivalry with Blackburn progressed similarly. In the simpler days of quaintness, the crowds at football matches looked very different to what you would soon come to expect of the terraces. This is evident by a 1960 crowd shot of Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road at a game against Blackburn where we see a selection of respectable gentleman, and even ladies, standing happily and politely:

But “the quaint” was already dead when the two sides met at the same venue eight years later. It is well known that the events of the 1966 World Cup final, where some people were on the pitch, single-handedly robbed the innocence from English supporter culture and unleashed a sort of demon that would writhe uncontrollably for the next few decades, and while most people associate hooliganism with the 70’s and 80’s, there were already many in the late 60’s who were going to games not for the football. This was certainly the case for the Blackburn supporter(s) who threw ammonia at the Blackpool Spion Kop during an October 1968 game sending several people to hospital. Further incidents occurred after the match outside the ground and the events of the day were deemed “alarming and frightening developments” in football hooliganism.

The demographic of football supporters at games changed drastically over the coming years as the presence of disaffected youth at games grew and the stern, calming older crowd phased themselves out as society evolved. It soon became commonplace for large mobs to rove through the open terraces and increasingly onto the pitch in search of adventure, mischief, trying to get games called off when their side was losing, and fighting each other. But like at the World Cup ’66 final, and the Wales-Scotland game the same year that we covered in People On The Pitch #2, some pitch invasions were just spontaneous expressions of pure joy. While our featured match contains just that rather than poisonous terrorist attacks, it also does a good job of highlighting the normality of supporter disobedience at the time.

The Match:

The first shot we get from the game shows the aforementioned Spion Kop end of Bloomfield Road. The home Blackpool supporters are on the left, visiting Blackburn supporters on the right. Although you wouldn’t know it from the footage, a roof covered a large part of the terrace further back up which may explain the open spaces at the front of the Blackpool section on this rainy day. Presumably the ammonia incident from ten years earlier hadn’t been forgotten, but enough that the two sets of fans don’t seem particularly interested in each other (although I’m sure there was plenty of unreported activity beyond our limited footage).

The first of many goals for the day, Blackpool score early on (a fine goal but since this website isn’t about the actual football, I refuse to comment on that). But the main thing here to observe is the activity in the Blackburn section, as we see a mini surge from what I can only assume was a firm of lads ether arriving late or just casually causing ructions:

After another Blackpool goal, we get a nice look at the elated abandon of some young terrace goers in the background as the players celebrate:

There are also some interesting things to note around the side of the pitch. By the corner of the ground in the Kop end there is a random alphabet which would make more sense if it corresponded to rows of seats or something, but not in a small corner of a terrace:

A magnificent photo of Blackpool playing on front of a packed Kop in the 60’s shows that the alphabet corner was in existence then, probably for many years before that, and only extends to letter P. Despite my feigned bafflement, I am sure there is a perfectly logical reason for all of this.

In the other corner of the same end we get something even better in the form of a series of luminous orange posters, advertising something called Klix System. This seems like a very modern name for a 1978 company, suggesting some sort of time travel back and forth between then and 2001. A copper dutifully stands guard:

A Google search reveals that Klix remains in existence today as a successful vending machine company who in fact still use the same font style for their logo as in 1978. Eccentric billionaire Mr Klix himself probably still laughs to himself reminiscing about the old, amateur adverting posters, which just appear as a confusing orange blur when the camera pans across that section of the ground:

But enough about unfinished alphabets and enduring vending machine companies, you’re here for some people on the goddamn pitch. By half time, Blackpool were 3-0 up and the onslaught continued as they shot into the Bloomfield Road South Stand in the second half. Unlike the Kop, the South Stand did not feature a containment fence at this time and as striker Bob Hatton scores his and his side’s fourth and victory is all but assured, some eager young supporters take advantage of this fact. We only get a brief, split second of this in the footage (as if a split-second could be anything but brief, unless you’re on acid), but we get definite person-to-pitch contact:

You’d probably feel robbed if this was all there was here, but of course there’s more. Blackburn pull one back to make it 4-1 and offer some glimmer of hope to their traveling support. This triggers some heroic scenes on the terrace including a one young man in a beige trench coat who immediately turns and sprints back up towards his colleagues:

But soon afterwards (to be honest Ive no idea of the exact time frame here) Blackpool were on the offensive again and put in number 5 to put the game beyond doubt. This time the South Stand supporters are poised to stream on en masse, or should I say POOL on, as soon as the goal goes in and do so with striking ease:

We get the beautiful image of wide eyed, supple, young supporters rushing towards their tangerine heroes with pure dopamine coursing through their brains. Several years later, many of these children would no doubt go on to be wild eyed, unfit, older supporters rushing towards opposing equivalents with pure cocaine coursing through their veins:

I’m not going to say that this was in the days before kids had video games and smart phones and such, because that’s bleedin’ obvious. But in a time before easy entertainment and general coddlement, moments like this meant something different. Just look at that joy from the lad on the left, bless (plus he’s got a nice coat on which to be fair probably also brought joy to his perhaps otherwise dull existence):

Blackburn would pull another one back through a late penalty (again, I have no actual idea of score times but it would have had to have been late in the game, right?) before the game finished 5-2 to the hosts. “Revenge for ammonia!” some may or may not have shouted, even though they had already played each other ten times since then. With countless episodes like the above at many games, ranging from innocent to devilish in spirit, it is no wonder that soon containment fences would be implemented fully in most grounds in the Football League. But not everywhere, as we shall soon see.

But the main thing I took away from this game is how good it would have felt for both players and supporters to get home and into a hot bath or shower. The thought reoccurred to me several times in fact. This would have been waiting for the players of course as soon as they entered the dressing room. But then, imagining myself a supporter, I realised with horror that this was in the days before people had power showers, or even smart phones to ring someone at home to turn on your water heating. My heart sank.

Youtube link

People On The Pitch #4: Linfield vs Glentoran, Irish Cup Final, 30/04/1983

After two fairly innocent editions of People On The Pitch (a genteel, all-British affair from 1966 and a French rugby union final from 1979 for crying out loud) we thought it was time to turn sharply back around to a more sinister sort of slant. And where better place to turn than Windsor Park, Belfast in 1983.

While the serious issues of ethno-political tensions and conflict dominated the region, it is perhaps comforting to note that members of the same community also still had time to come together in violence, divided only by what football team they supported. This was particularly evident at the 1983 Irish Cup Final.

Background:

For the uninformed, the “Irish” part of “Irish Cup”, along with “Irish League” and “Irish Football Association”, refers to Northern Ireland. This is because these institutions were founded when the whole of Ireland was still under British rule. Four-fifths of the country broke away from the UK in 1922 to form what would eventually become known as the Republic of Ireland and they would create their own “Football Association of Ireland”, “League of Ireland” and “FAI Cup”.

In the North, which was dominated by those loyal to Britain (mostly of British roots), there continued to be “Irish” stuff, but it was more like “(British) Ireland”. See the “Irishman” Denis Taylor.


Snooker player Denis Taylor.

A sizeable minority of the population in Northern Ireland however were still Irish nationalists who desired a united Ireland. In a sporting context, these folks would have been more likely to have followed the traditional Irish sports of Gaelic football or hurling. And in fact, the infamous, old “rule 27” of the Gaelic Athletic Association stated that members were forbidden from playing or watching “foreign” sports such as association football.

Despite this, there existed football clubs with strong nationalist traditions, such as the lower-league Donegal Celtic, Derry City (who would eventually be forced out of Irish League due to sectarian reasons and join the League of Ireland in 1985) and Cliftonville, who still compete in what is now known as the Northern Ireland Football League Premiership.


Cliftonville supporters in 2016.

Two clubs from a very much British tradition though are Belfast’s Glentoran and Linfield, the top two clubs from Northern Ireland, who were to meet each other in the “Irish Cup Final” of 1983. Both side’s supporters have seen trouble against “Irish identifying” clubs from both sides of the border throughout the years, but games against each other provide the opportunity to imagine a wonderful, Protestant utopia where Northern Ireland was free of the ethnic Irish and the sons of Britannia could just go back to beating the tea out of each other instead.

Indeed there had already been reports of trouble between the two at a game earlier in the season, and a fan had gotten on the pitch at a Northern Ireland vs Albania game a few days before the cup final, also at Linfield’s Windsor Park where the final was to be played.

Most information on our featured incidents comes from a news report the following night, hosted by a Northern Irish newsman (apologies sir, I do not know your name) with guests, and some of their comments are very interesting, but we will come back to that shortly.

The Match:

We learn from the report that the first spark of trouble at the cup final was just after half time when Glentoran’s goalkeeper was subject to a hail of coins, bottles and other projectiles from Linfield’s “spion kop” end.

But it’s two minutes after the game ends (a 1-1 draw demanding a replay in Gelntoran’s ground the following week) that business really picks up, as “groups of youths” (at least they weren’t gangs) invade the field from the Linfield end and rush towards their counterparts:

(Apologies for the poor video quality, turning down screen contrast helped for me)

Anything available to hand is of course thrown (quite possibly objects already launched from their rivals), but the Glentoran fans mobilise quickly and themselves have little issue getting over, or through, the pitchside fence. Engagements of combat are shortly thereafter the order of the day:

Below we see a “Glenman” (in white top) attempt a good, old kick up the arse, but it’s a swing and a miss. However, his colleague swiftly rectifies matters with an unorthodox but fine kick to the inner thigh of the same Linfield target. Sure whatever works, and yes, it is effective as the “kickee” goes down to be feasted on by the vultures:

The kicking continues for some time. But what’s also important to note here is the appearance of several pairs of black and white Adidas trainers, suggesting that casual culture had arrived in Belfast by this point although supporter scarves still seem more prevalent than in England:

Interestingly, the cornerflag is also utilised to great effect as a weapon (although it couln’t hurt THAT much), before a Glentoran fan who is wearing a scarf and hat in club colours (it’s May…), adorned in what maybe an unintentional rasta flag, and moving so slowly to suggest mental anomalies if not sloshed drunk, gets in a cowardly kick for good measure:

Aside from the aforementioned obvious casual influence on the style, the main fashion of the day was of course the skinhead-bootboy look and there are several instances on show from both sides:

But a Linfield skinhead is on the receiving end of what can only be described as an excellent double-team attack. The Glentoran supporter in white top and jeans travels an insane distance with a chair raised above his head, apparently in vein, until his colleague performs a rugby tackle (albeit maybe a foul in rugby, not sure) on the Linfield fan in suspenders who had been running for his life. At this point, the chair-man can strike in a WWF-like attack as if he always knew this was going to happen:

Again a Linfield fan is left helpless to a mass attack, but as the original protagonists in this affair they can’t really complain and they know this.

Menacing reinforcements arrive to save the day, one carrying a 2×4; perhaps the original inspiration for Haksaw Jim Duggan’s WWF character several years later to continue the wrestling theme (or the British Bulldog, considering his fetching, sleeveless, Union Jack muscle top). Humorously, among the many bootboys, the slow Glentoran fan nonchalantly walks into frame again creating a scene like an oblivious time traveler from 1973 has been transported to a futuristic, dystopian wargame, which is basically what it was:

Below we see that a Linfield man, in a suit no less, also has the cornerflag idea (perhaps cornerflags are commonly used in such instances throughout Europe, please send examples), but before he can use it to inflict pain and suffering on his fellow Ulstermen the police are on the scene to start rounding people up and give them a good tongue lashing (not in that way you filthy animal):

Finally things settle down, leaving several bodies strewn across the pitch:

Ok, maybe just the one body, but he is certainly strewn. Lastly, the police arrest some people who aren’t necessarily skinheads, but definitely some very 1980’s Northern Irish men as the pitch is finally cleared:

Back to the studio and our host makes the mandatory “they were not football supporters” statement despite later referring to them as “the fans”, before moving on to the head of the IFA Billy Drennan, who sheepishly explains that his organisation cannot make any comments because the game only finished at 5 o’clock the previous day. Perhaps this implies that he cannot condemn the violence just yet in case it is decided that it was a justifiable action, Billy boys will be Billy boys and all that.

The host next asks about the obviously inadequate fencing at Windsor Park, to which Billy responds after a pause:

“Well….You say it’s inadequate, the fencing at Windsor Park is there as a deterrent for people to come on the playing pitch. But the people get over the fence at Wembley, they get over the fence at Old Trafford…”

Basically admitting that the fence is there for show and can’t actually stop anyone getting over and there’s nothing in the world that can possibly be done about this so fuck it. Billy goes on to lament the fact that the game had been built up as a big occasion between Northern Ireland’s top two only to be marred by the trouble, and that:

“..these two clubs, they both have the same affiliations mainly, and yet a small section of each of these spectators from both clubs had to have a confrontation after the match was finished.”

So now the issue for Billy is that both club’s supporters stem from largely Loyalist backgrounds. Obviously it wouldn’t be so upsetting if one side came from the opposite side of the societal divide. He goes on:

“If that confrontation hadn’t happened at Windsor Park, it would have probably happened down the road or down the street on their way home.”

Billy actually does make sense, as if it’s going to happen (and it is), may as well let it happen on the pitch. Those who want to be involved can easily get over the “deterrent fence”, and those who don’t can safely watch from the comfort of the stands. But if only it was those damn Taigs who were getting the beating, isn’t that right Billy?

Lastly on Billy, when pressed about what can be done to prevent this in the future he basically throws up his hands and asks “What would YOU suggest?”, in a defeated manor. The hosts suggestion of “a higher fence” leaves Billy in silent bafflement:

We now turn to the stern Chief Superintendent of the then Northern Irish police, the “Royal Ulster Constabulary”, Ivan Sterritt. He states that it took his men three minutes to get to the scene after the fracas had begun and in fact praises this response time. Anyone who has been in a fight will know that three minutes is an extremely long time in that environment, but as Ivan states, the police could not have foreseen this event occurring. This displays the innocence of the time even in the midst of an explosive society.

The host in fact asks if it is policy to allow the hooligans to fight it out among themselves on the pitch away from the the general public, but Ivan of course denies this and on the subject of security arrangements for the replay in Glentoran’s Oval ground, with the hint of a smug grin states:

“Next Saturday’s replay will not be at Windsor Park and will not be my responsibility…”

Extra:

Before we leave the topic, it is slightly interesting to note the national designation of some of Northern Ireland’s clubs on Wikipedia and see how they align to their perceived political leaning. And of course, from football clubs to Wikipedia, nearly everything is political.

Starting with Linfield, the club is not listed as being Northern Irish, but based in Northern Ireland:

Looking at another Belfast club with strong British unionist links, Cursaders, “Northern Irish” is in fact used:

Some variation of the above two is used for all members of the NIFL with two exceptions. First, unsurprisingly Clifonville are deliberately classed as an Irish club, not Northern Irish:

But what is slightly surprising is that Glentoran are the other exception, steering clear of the issue altogether:

Lastly, we look at a club mentioned earlier, Derry City. Derry are the one team from across the border to play in the League of the Republic and their ground is quite close to the infamous Bogside, an area synonymous with Irish nationalism. Despite this, and actually having their team name listed in Irish as well as English, they are surprisingly described as a Northern Ireland based club. Particularly odd considering Cliftonville’s Irishness and Glentoran’s ambiguity:

Youtube Link

People On The Pitch #3: RC Narbonne vs Stade Bagnérais, French Rugby Union Championship Final, 27/05/1979

After some rather quaint and joyous pitch invasions in People On The Pitch #2, we are going in an even more innocent and novel direction here as for the first time on this site we are bending the rules to feature a sport which is not association football. Sorry for this, but it does a good job of highlighting the state of supporter culture in general in France heading towards the 1980’s, which was undoubtedly spearheaded by the football scene.

Some great footage exists of the ’79 French rugby union final, and it’s proceeding festivities. Founded in 1907, eventual champions RC Narbonne had only won the trophy once before, in 1936, but had recently been knocking on the heavy oak door of success again as defeated finalists in 1974. Their opponents, Stade Bagnérais, will probably cease to be mentioned from this point on, so my apologies to any of their supporters who may be reading but I’m already pushing it by including rugby at all so be grateful you even received a mention.

Narbonne is in the Occitanie region of France and a large contingent of their orange and black clad supporters (reminiscent of my old primary school’s sports colours) had traveled up the length of the country to Paris from their Mediterranean base. The Champs-Élysées was a natural gathering point and with the Arc de Triomphe standing prophetically in the background, some supporters are in bloody fine spirits:

Amidst much flag waving and general boisterousness one of the novel objects brought to support the team is a creepy baby doll, and one man has apparently gone to the effort of constructing and transporting a painting easel in the club colours:

Upon closer inspection, it appears as if the device has wheels and is possibly a bike or wheelbarrow, although the up-right “RCN” suggests that held in it’s intended position for use:

Some pyro in the form of a flare is released, it’s flames presumably emulating the supporters intense burning desire for victory here. As we saw way back in the bonus section of Pyro On The Pitch #2, French football was already familiar with pyro by this era and it had clearly even been adopted by supporters of clubs in other codes.

Well, I said Stade Bagnérais weren’t going to get another mention but this heroic chap has melted my heart, proudly risking his life by waving his team’s white and black isolated in the middle of a Narbonne ocean:

The next important thing to know is that some people from a running club were out running that day. Classic Paris:

Their sweet Adidas singlets with stripes running down the sides are actually well worth a closer look. And that dude just seems like a cool guy, I genuinely hope he’s doing well these days wherever he is:

Next up, in what is clearly a display of flagrant public corruption, some police officers casually receive a bribe in the form of alcoholic beverages for God only knows why:

Back to the supporters, a corteo forms and it’s off to Parc des Princes:

Now to inside the stadium, and among what appears to be mostly Narbonne supporters, we can see from a Stade Bagnérais flag here or there meaning some of them have indeed survived the Narbonne firm. With Bagnères-de-Bigorre’s population of only around 8,000 compared to over 50,000 in Nabonne, it is natural that they are vastly outnumbered. Hopefully our friend from earlier is among them:

Unfortunately for him, his team do not manage a single point on their big day in the city. Meanwhile, the Nabonne faithful savored the occasion as their side knocked 10 in on the way to victory.

And yes, the final whistle, they’ve done it! The gods of victory have smiled on the Narbonnese this day and in a moment of spontaneous group ecstasy, many of their fans cannot help but to storm the playing field. Complete with flags and banners, it makes for an impressive visual:

The heroes of the day are swamped and suffocated beneath a loving swarm of orange and black:

To top off the afternoon, the “trophy” (which is mostly a wooden board, but a handsome, presumably sacred wood) is presented and paraded around with every fan trying to get at least one scintillating touch:

And soon after, large mobs begin to quietly and politely leave the field:

And there we have it, people on the pitch at a rugby match. The end? Yes, it is most likely we will never feature rugby again. And we definitely will never feature Stade Bagnérais again, although they/he have undoubtedly earned a place in the Pyro On The Pitch Hall of Heroes if ever such an institution should exist.

Youtube Link

People On The Pitch #2, Wales vs Scotland, European Championships Qualifier, 22/10/1966

Today we go back to a simpler time in football, a time filled with gentleman and happy children and when pitch invasions had more of an innocent, joyous vibe to them before becoming sinister in the 1970’s. One of the most famous early pitch invasions from this time was of course at the World Cup ’66 final between England and West Germany, when Kenneth Wolstenholme uttered the very same name of this feature.

But here we focus on a game from a few months later between the top two nations of the island of Great Britain (and indeed the United Kingdom), Wales and Scotland.

The game in Cardiff was both a Euro ’68 qualifier and a British Home Championship ’66/’67 game, as in a move that would definitely not happen today UEFA had ingeniously decided to combine this and the following ’67/’68 edition as the UK teams Euro qualifying group. As an interesting side note, because of this you can see some of the same games listed differently depending on which competition you’re looking it, as Northern Ireland was called as such in UEFA competitions but still referred to as “Ireland” sometimes in a UK context.

Euro version:

British version:

But enough of that nonsense, on to the big match you say. As it was the first fixture in the group anticipation was high and from the very first shot we can see some materials being thrown towards the Ninian Park pitch:

The earlier referenced Wolstenholme is again on commentary and mentions early that the two teams are wearing black armbands to commemorate the Aberfan disaster, which had only happened the day before a half an hour away. There were 144 deaths in the hellish catastrophe…

…and it is an incident well worth a look in to for those fascinated by the dark edge of the poorly regulated 20th century world, of which football was a part. If such a disaster happened today the game would nearly definitely have been called off and Wolstenholme comments on how the crowd isn’t as high as it might have been as “alot of people in Wales have no heart for football today.” As this is said and a minutes silence is about to take place, a car casually drives down the sideline as if it’s the most natural thing in the world:

Finally on to the game itself and at certain points we can see that plenty more paper-like material has been thrown from the crowd, creating a nice messy look:

Some of the easily removable, larger bits are just left there, perhaps considered a natural extra obstacle to challenge the players rather than something that shouldn’t be there, as we’d see with pyro in later decades:

It was a chilly, wet day and smartly some fans would refrain from throwing their newspapers on to the pitch and instead use them as a sort of make shift hat. Fashionable? No. Practical? I mean I can’t imagine news paper keeping you warm and dry but it was all they had back then:

And then on 76 minutes, yes, he’s scored, a goal for Wales. Instantly a string of youths begin pouring out of the crowd in raptures, mining disasters now the last thing on their minds:

This triggers a spontaneous encroachment from all sides of the ground as Wolstenholme exclaims “I’ve never seen such an invasion!”, displaying the innocence of the time:

He soon begins to worry that “if the Welsh fans soon don’t get off the park they might well see the game abandoned.”

Eventually the pitch is cleared and the game goes on with the Welsh in good spirits. But that is not all, as in the 86th minute the Scots scramble in a goal to equalise and not to be outdone, a pitch invasion follows from the visiting supporters. From the below gif we can see that it is not just youths as an older, balder gentleman can be seen cumbersomely making his way out of the enclosure and over to congratulate the players. Who knows how much whiskey had been consumed that day to propel this excursion of ecstasy:

This invasion isn’t as big as that of the hosts of course but some energetic supporters even make it past the half way line:

The game ends 1-1 and we have the third and final pitch invasion of the day. As we leave the scene, Wolstenholme describes how “hundreds stream on to the pitch…impossible for the players to shake hands with each other, they just got to run for safety”.

Youtube Link

People On The Pitch #1: Aston Villa away to Anderlecht, European Cup Semi Final 2nd Leg, 21/04/1982

Imagine you’re a 16-25 year old disaffected Birmingham male on a beautiful evening in the spring of 1982. We wish we could say “so and so are number one in the charts” but unfortunately that was this song which doesn’t really fit our scene at all, so just imagine some appropriate new wave/punk/ska shit playing in your head. You are in Belgium to watch your beloved Aston Villa take on one of Europe’s classic sides, Anderlecht, on the way to eventual European Cup glory. And yes, of course you are exceedingly drunk.

With all that in mind, the events that unfold are fairly easy to comprehend. 38,000 were packed into Anderlecht’s “tight English style ground”, known at the time as the Émile Versé Stadium. While there was a separate official Villa supporter section, a large number of Villa fans ended up sharing an Anderlect home terrace behind the goal. Of course this was not accidental (allegedly some supporters had traveled over the previous weekend to secure batches of tickets for the terrace) and for the time period and the parties involved, it would have been extremely suspicious if some sort of incident HADN’T occurred. Comparing camera shots, we can see that early in the game somewhat of gap has already appeared on the terrace suggesting disturbances:

Duly, business really picks up mid-way through the first half as the camera shows clashes between Villa supporters and both the home fans and police. Commentator Martin Tyler remarks that there were also “problems” before the game had started.

Play goes on for a few moments before we see the young man that you are still imagining you are from the first paragraph, and the main subject of this first installment of People On The Pitch here at Pyro On The Pitch. Perhaps overcome with the ecstasy of youth and the novelty of the occasion, he has spontaneously used the ongoing chaos as an opportunity to exit the supporter’s enclosure and in fact enter the field of play. As he triumphantly lays down at the 6 yard line, the referee blows his whistle to temporarily suspend the sports game.

If you look closely, you can see that in addition to his fine burgundy polo top, he also has a black jumper in hand which he drops beside him on the pitch. This was a mistake and he would never see the jumper again, as police are swiftly on hand to apprehend the casualistic ruffian and several of them rush him away along the pitch. But the discordian moment has had already made it’s mark on the parchment of time.

Leading the pitch invader away proves harder than the police had imagined, resulting in a Christ-like fall:

The poor lad seems to have suddenly lost all energy and simply cannot move another muscle. Humorously, the rest of his journey from the pitch is provided at the expense of King Leopold himself as a result, much to the delight of the home crowd:

Meanwhile, Villa goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer, among other players, naively appeals for calm as trouble continues behind his goal:

Riot police stream up the terrace to try and separate the groups of fans while another separate regiment of authoritarians make their way onto the pitch, who’s uniforms suggest they are not exactly prepared for physical confrontation.

The home supporters respond to the situation with the topical chant of “Argentina! Argentina!”, referencing the Falklands War as a sort of verbal retaliation as the fighting continued:

In a trademark British display of willful ignorance, the commentator mentions that it is “impossible of course to say who started it”. The fact that the rest of the Villa supporters were apparently chanting “You’re the shit of Birmingham” to those behind the goal was perhaps evident enough.

Some unfortunate casualties (literally, because casual) from the mayhem can be seen being taken away for treatment. We hope they made a speedy recovery and that they are living good lives these days.

Eventually the situation is resolved to a somewhat satisfactory degree, at least enough for the referee to resume the game:

But in one last display of the absurdity of man, we can quite clearly see one Villa supporter who has cunningly alluded the police line, who are apparently blind to his extremely conspicuously Union Jack waving:

The game would finish 0-0, enough to send Aston Villa to the final, but Anderlecht would appeal to UEFA to have the game overturned due to psychological damage of the traumatic events seen above. While Villa were punished by being ordered to play their next European home game behind doors (vs Besiktas the following September), Anderlecht’s request was denied, clearly indicating that at the time players were expected to be able to deal with your run of the mill crowd trouble as part of the job. Truly a golden age.

Youtube Link 1
Youtube Link 2