I use to make the mistake of traveling by train when I was younger. Got the shit kicked out me quite a few times. The last time was late 70s when we played Forest away. United fans went crazy throwing the Forrest fans into the river on the way back over the bridge towards the city center. Cops were not too impressed and after laying into us all, regardless of our involvement, they then forced us on to trains. Didn't matter where they were going, they just wanted us out of Nottingham. Ended up on a London express train, that was forced to stop and pick us up. Ended up getting set on by a very large number of Charlton fans, who would have thought, coming back from Blackpool I think it was, who obviously thought they would make a name for themselves. Train had to be stopped at Luton so the fans could be treated. After that, we gained driving licenses so started going by car/bus/van whatever. Gave the train a wide berth.
I think too many people refer to the prawn sarnie brigade with a bit of ignorance. I have 2 season tickets in the Stretford end, which I give to my mate's kids. My mates and me, probably about 20, then got executive tickets from the guy who owns a business backing onto OT. I think he gets them for free, but he charged us a small fortune. When we went to the home games and sat in the North stand with the executives, I would say there are at least 200, that I use to travel to away games with. Even though we haven't quite got our zimmer frames, we are not far off. When I use to go to the Euro away games, they were all there. There are a lot of the hard core from the 60s and 70s in the North and South stands. In their hearts they are still young, its the body that's the problem. I am not so sure there is this enormous amount of exec's that are largely out of town people that have no real attachment to the club. I am sure a few, but not the number people think. I don't think the youth of today have the appetite to spend the money required to travel with your club. It certainly wasn't easy in the 70s with all the union issues.
Anyway, I was at the infamous Norwich game in 77 that people talk about. Maybe my memory, but it really was a good day out, but I think the hooligan thing is widely exaggerated, if people are talking about fighting Norwich fans. It was more a case of United fans just trashing the ground, not saying that is a good thing. When the following today sing "We are United, we'll do as we want", that pretty much summed up the Norwich away day. The police were not prepared for the number of United fans, But this was not uncommon for most away grounds. When the police tried gaining some resemblance of control, with barriers ...etc,a large group of United fans started taking the p*ss, making false charges towards them and so on, the more they did it the more other fans got involved and then the bottle throwing occurred from people at the back, the setting of certain things on fire. Didn't really know anybody was on the roof until I heard it on the news. United then got a bad name for trashing places.
Spot on post Salford.
Lots of recollections from the 60s as my first game with my grandad was in 1963. He was rigger foreman on the Manchester Ship Canal and we would visit a ship before the game. Most captains knew him and they had drinks while I was taken around the ships. Walking to the ground after was a great moment of gathering, everyone greeting and talking. When I go to OT I still get that tingle down the spine. The kids area was great and always some player like Lawman or Bestie would say hello. Although in one game it was windy and we got coated in Denis spit!
The 70s were a blast - like a right of passage. I recall we charged into the Norwich end but in huge overwhelming numbers that the police couldn't contain. The lads on the roof were not alone in trashing the stand, another group was pulling the corrugated sheets from the walls. Initially I thought we were being rained on by stuff but it was the roof breaking and then a lad fell through but seemed ok. The tussles with the police got steadily worse as the game started but slowed down while watching the game. Then a rumour went around that the police were coming in reinforcements and the charges started again. Coming out from where we were there seemed to be a sea of blue, then bricks started flying, and a great roar as the fans moved forward. It all went mad and as I wrote to Moriarity we got pushed onto a train and was greeted by Tommy Doc. Years later there was a TV documentary about hooligans with films from the match showing 2-3 lads on the roof.
The game at Chelsea kicked off for us at 10.00am waiting for the Manchester trains at Euston. We got chased around a bit then the first train arrived and everything changed. Arrived at Fulham Broadway tube and it got really wild. We got into the Shed but after a few scuffles were escorted back to the rest - I recall thinking the pitch was heavy, possibly to slow us down. It kicked off a few more times and went crazy around the tube station. However, people forget there was a charity game against Chelsea a week or so later and this time we ran out of luck as we got well battered in Fulham Broadway tube station. The second division days were also wild, the first game at Cardiff was utter madness that made the headlines. The 4-0 at home to Millwall was actually very quiet given their reputation. Not the same in the return in London, we got well thrashed, and running down the Old Kent Road.
Before 1978 I missed a handful of games but later it was more difficult with being at University and playing footy for them. I would thumb a lift down to Manchester if the game was off and stay over at my grandma's. Went to London after Uni. and found I could play for a side in the old Spartan league so for five seasons I had to largely rely on TV because of training and playing schedule. In 1987 I finally got two season tickets for the Stretty and have remained there ever since. OT have tried to promote me but I have become more and more sentimental as the senility has set in. The London (Cockney) Reds manage both STs, before that the Oxford and Banbury Reds; have also travelled with the Worcester, Epsom and Hastings Reds in the past. My seats are not far from when I first took a girlfriend to a game in 1977 against Sunderland - Joe Jordan hammered in a screaming header.
Glad to hear what you say about the prawn butty brigade. During the late 80s and 90s I had a job in Lloyds of London insuring sports people. I ended up going to all kinds of sport related events where the prawn butties were piled high - like Wimbledon. At David O'Leary's testimonial I finally met Robbo, who was a hero of mine but what a boring bugger - very shy off the field. Sat at Ken Bates table for lunch before the Chelsea game when Cantona struck the bar from nearby the half way. Went to the World Cup in Italy as a guest of the Italian FA and was probably one of the few Englanders able to drink booze during a game. A friend of mine has a box at Highbury so I would go to the United games; he liked to boast that he'd captured a hooligan. He got tickets for the Charity Shield when Keano first appeared. I was nearly banned when Sharpie hammered them almost single handed in a cup game!! Afterwards I was coming down the executive steps at Highbury with my friends and could see the reds going out en masse. A load of them jeered and called me a 'Cockney cnut' and I have never lived it down since. Thanks for that lads. Finally gave up business in 1994 for my second love, after the reds that is - history.
Went to most games in the 1990s although missed the CL99, even after getting tickets, because I was a guest scholar in the USA and couldn't break it. From a distance I saw a few incidents but only one bit of mad stuff from Scousers during the Hillsborough year. Read about the "Men in Black" but thought it was all a bit surreal. My experience of games in the EPL is now the rarity of violence and was surprised about the recent Chelski incident. Went to quite a lot of games until 2008 when I became a professor and a dean so it was difficult to find time in heavy schedule. I was in the North Stand for the recent Galatasary game (2012) and met a load of golden oldies and we had a great chat. There was clearly some trace of past laddishness. Last couple of years I go when I can because of working in Germany as a historian and writer, which makes getting to games difficult. Have attended a lot of games in Germany; standing and having a beer, it's a great reminder of the 70s.
I know what you mean by the Zimmerframes, although until a few years ago I was still reasonably fit, lucky I guess. In this last summer, during the World Cup, I was diagnosed with kidney cancer, had it removed at Xmas, and so it's been watching games not far from the bed. Hence why I joined this forum and had some fun especially in the Scouses corner. They trolled me the other day, a bit like being ravaged by dead sheep. My plan is to retire, move back to Manchester, and just go to home games; been saying it for years but it never happens.