What was the first match you ever attended? Can you still vividly recall the excitement and wonder, the smells and sheer overwhelming scope of it all? Can you even remember the score?
We asked fans on Twitter and forum members from Football Ramble and Digital Spy – along with the odd journalist and professional player – to recount that magical day that has probably all but faded through the passing of time to a hazy snapshot or two.
Reading them now I’ve been struck by a couple of common themes that run through most of the reminiscences. The first is the description of being ‘hooked’ – that first exhilarating hit of an addiction we’ll thankfully never be free of. The second is a childhood fear of the turnstiles.
Beneath the shorter descriptions are two cracking accounts of supporters experiencing a live game for the very first time, from Upton Park to Burscough FC’s Victoria Park.
We respectfully recommend that you read them and as the new season fast approaches and frustration grows on your club’s inability to sign another £20m striker we all take a moment and think back to how we felt that day; when the grass was almost luminous, the noise was scary exciting, and we stepped for the first time into the place we will forever more regard as home.
Frosty – 13/11/88 – Stoke 4-0 Hull was my first game. My second was 3-1 v Man City on Boxing Day. I remember that better. George Berry and inflatable bananas!
Luke – Spurs lost to West Brom 4-3. Hoddle pinging it everywhere. I was 7 and there was the smell of horse shit from the police horses mixed with the pungent aroma of onions. The first time you see the green of the pitch….it still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I’ve wanted to be Hoddle ever since.
Andy – Man City vs Stoke in 74/75. Won 1-0 with Rodney Marsh scoring. I was sat in the Platt Lane and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Donna – Wolves v Oxford Utd. Boxing Day, 1996. In the John Ireland stand. I was 10 and a bit overwhelmed.
Andy – Everton v QPR 1993. A great start to my EFC-supporting life – we lost 3-0! But I did get a bright pink training top.
JFG – Newcastle 3 – 0 Peterborough in our 92/93 promotion season. I would have been 7 years old. My main memory is of eating Black Forest Gateau before the game as we were in the posh seats and also me and my Grandpa were the only ones who didn’t go inside at HT despite it being freezing cold.
I think Ned Kelly and Rob Lee scored for us although I can’t be sure and haven’t been able to dig out the goals since. Still got the programme kicking about at my parents somewhere. Went to a few more games that season but sat on the barrier in the Leazes end / Milburn Paddock terrace before getting my first season ticket the season after. Main memories of that was having to go to the ground daft early to pay on the gate because we were (near) selling out every game so you couldn’t be guaranteed you’d get in.
Latchy – Everton 3 Tottenham 1 1972. Hooked from that day on! Kendall got two screamers.
Conor – Ireland vs Australia, 2003. Old Lansdowne Road. Seeing John O’Shea score his only international goal….well, what else is needed?
Scott – Man city v Birmingham Sept 1996. 1-0 win with a Kinkladze last minute pen. Hooked for life.
F***face – The first live game I attended involved Xavi, Puyol, David Pizarro, and Ivan Zamorano. Have some of that (even though I had no idea who any of them were at the time apart from Zamorano). It was a group game in the 2000 Olypmics at the MCG. Chile won 3-1.
Franscar – 1988. Six years old. Night game midweek against Leeds. In retrospect I wonder what on earth my mother was thinking dragging me out in the cold at the arse end of November, midweek, to watch the dross that was being served up at St. Andrews back then. We stood in what became our ‘usual’ spot on the Kop roughly level with the edge of the penalty area.
The game finished 0-0. I remember the noise, and being allowed a burger from the burger van parked in Tilton Road that we went past on the way into the ground. I also remember not being able to push the turnstile round and a man behind me pushing it for me. The football was probably shit.
Bruno – Wolves v Rochdale on a cold Tuesday night. Boring 0-0 draw. My Dad thought I’d never want to go to a match again. He was very wrong.
Joey – Manchester United playing Wimbledon at Plough Lane. Ryan Giggs made his debut. (Editors note – I think the sex-hound made his debut against City Joey. I was there in the Stretford End after being forced to tout it with my scarf hidden beneath my coat)
Elmondo – West Ham v Liverpool 20/5/84. Last game of the season, under the floodlights at Upton Park. Liverpool won 3 – 0. I remember thinking when the first goal went in, where’s the instant replay?
Tel – Arsenal 2-0 Coventry in April 77. I was only 6 but I still remember quite a bit. I was hooked and still go even now.
Dundeeboy – A strange one December 1980. East of Scotland select (Dundee United/Aberdeen players mainly) v West of Scotland select (Celtic/Rangers) played at Tannadice in a testimonial for a player called Dougie Wilkie who was badly injured – crippled in fact – by a train crash when he was supposed to be on his way to sign for us.
Tso – Chelsea 3-1 Charlton 23/10/1982. Colin Pates scored a screamer I remember.
Plant_Pie – Chelsea v Watford 2007. Sheva scored…one of his rare few!
Rhyno – 1996 Plymouth Argyle, Devonport End on a warm Saturday afternoon vs Oxford. It finished 0-0.
Celesti – My first game was Coventry. Sadly, so was my second.
Cheesey – Warrington Town v Clitheroe, followed by Man United v Wigan a week later.
Goodwin – Aug 1974 Arsenal v Ipswich Town. First home match of the season. It was a midweek game and I was 9 years old. I went with a family friend and headed through the school boys enclosure turnstile but was then allowed into the North Bank once into the ground. Great atmosphere with the lights and my first glimpse of Liam Brady…whatever happened to him!!. Arsenal lost 1-0 but a game I will never forget. The first of many visits to Highbury.
Shaun – August 1984 – Southampton v Man Utd at The Dell. I got there late and hardly saw a thing as it was such a pokey ground. It ended 0-0.
The first match I actually saw was Sept 1984 Portsmouth v Barnsley at Fratton Park which also ended 0-0 – in fact the first 4 matches I went to all ended 0-0 and I felt jinxed.
Jrmswfc – 14th February 1981, Sheffield Wednesday 3 Oldham 0. The legendary Terry Curran scored two and also missed a penalty, I remember the first thing my mum said when we got home was “fancy missing a penalty”.
The Chimp – I can’t remember as I was too young; all I know is that it was Mansfield vs Someone or other. My dad was too tight to take me to Forest even though it’s his fault I became obsessed with them.
Whedon – Coventry vs West Ham 1993 1-1. I missed Roy Wegerles’ goal as I didn’t know it was ok to stand up when the a goal scoring chance was nigh!
Croctacus – Charlton v Chelsea 1978 League Cup. Charlton won and there was a load of trouble from the Chelsea fans who if I recall did a lot of damage at the Valley. They even tried to set fire to one of the stands.
Eugene – Gateshead vs Runcorn 95/96. A 2-0 defeat but it’s where I got the Heed bug.
Erythroleukos – For Olympiakos – My first one in the UK was a 4-0 drubbing by Man Utd in the Champions League some ten years ago or so.
In Europe – The 2005 away match at AS Roma where we were locked into the stadium from 6pm until midnight. I thought Rome was known as ‘the city which never sleeps’ (or something like). Well, everything was shut when they dumped a couple of thousand fans in the city centre at 1am.
In Greece – The 2005 derby against Panathinaikos where I caught in a cloud of tear gas. (Not nice)
By Noel Draper
West Ham v Man City 1971
It was a Saturday. A normal day for a 5 year old consisted of waking up, some breakfast and then a trip to the shops with parents before running around like an idiot until teatime and then bed. This Saturday was not a normal day. This Saturday was going to be special. This Saturday I was going to my first ever football match. I was going to see my team play live. Not on the television, oh no, but in a stadium with thousands of other people. Thousands of other people all singing, swaying, shouting and pissing down the back of the person in front.
I can still remember small bits of the walk towards the stadium. The noises and the excitement of myself and the people around me, the smell of the small vendors selling pies and chips and the pushing and shoving to get into the ground. The ground we were heading towards, which I couldn’t see yet due to my natural lack of height and the fact that it was surrounded by houses, went by the name of Upton Park and was the home of West Ham United. What I mainly remember though is the shouting and swearing in my general direction due to the blue scarf I was wearing, probably because I supported Manchester City. It was 1971. Men could shout and swear at a kid. It was expected.
We joined the huddle of men and boys (because 99% of the people I saw were men and boys) and were funnelled into, via a set of steps, a cramped expanse of concrete and barriers. It was 15 minutes or so until kick off and the stand was packed. The terrace seemed to have a life of it’s own, swaying and singing as one big mass, one big sweaty and smoking mass. I was hoisted onto my Dad’s shoulders and for the first time I saw the whole stadium laid out in front of me with the large contingent of Man City fans packed into the stand directly opposite me. How I longed to be in with them.
Suddenly the crowd erupted and my heroes, along with some other footballers, arrived onto the pitch. They looked cold and were flapping their arms around like demented penguins. They were also up the other end basking in the adulation from the away support. I had, and still have, no idea if Bobby Moore was playing that day, or if Jimmy Greaves was up front or Geoff Hurst was on the pitch. I didn’t care. The people around me seemed to but I didn’t. Colin Bell was kicking a ball not one hundred yards from me. Big Joe Corrigan was talking to Tony Book. Probably. I had no idea as they were too far away and I had a sea of Hammers arms waving in my face. The game? It was a very entertaining 0-0. Maybe. I don’t remember much about that either. Sorry. If someone could tell me the teams that actually played that day I would be grateful. It didn’t matter though as I was hooked and that was that.
The fact that I still can picture the walk I took that day, I can still smell some of the angry cockney’s spraying their spittle in my direction and I can still hear the mass of humans jostling for position before erupting as one into a very rude song is to me what football is all about.
By Stuart Saint
Burscough 3, Brandon United 0. Fourth round of the FA Vase, 1995
This wasn’t my first match, according to my dad, but it’s the first that I definitely remember being at. I remember Brandon playing in all red strips and Burscough playing in green, a complete contrast to the dull grey weather that seems to dominate the middle of every football season. My dad and granddad took me, for whatever reason, although it is likely I had been bugging them to go to a football match. My granddad took me to scores of games until his death just over a decade ago, while my dad still comes to games when he isn’t working away. Over the years, this ground has become a place where I am probably more comfortable than any other in the world, but I remember being utterly terrified by the turnstiles, and completely in awe of powerful players such as Jocky Hanson, Paul Blasbery, Tommy Knox and Ged Nolan.
Burscough’s ground is right in the middle of the village and the walk to the ground at the time is like any older stadium in England, through terraced streets and past old Victorian warehouses. A ground surrounded by its own history and community. To a seven year old, the walk to the ground, which takes about a minute, seemed to take forever, and it seemed like this match and this stadium were the centre of the known universe. There was probably only two to three-hundred in attendance, but for a child from a small village, this is an almost incomprehensible amount. The blazing floodlights, the baying crowd, the whistles, the heavy smell of pies and cigarette smoke were completely intoxicating.
I kept a programme of the game, and have done for each subsequent match, at any level I’ve attended. My first experience of a football match has, like probably every football fan, completely skewed my perception of the game. I always love a good 3-0 romp in contrast to a well-contested low-scoring draw, I always prefer floodlights and drizzle to sunshine and firm ground, and I always choose Burscough’s 1993/4/5 home jersey as my favourite ever. Burscough went out in the next round to Cammell Laird, a football club whose very name is steeped in the industrial history of Britain, and another link to a bygone age.
Nowadays, I’ve been to watch football at dozens of grounds, from grounds half the size of Victoria Park all the way up to Old Trafford and the Millennium Stadium. I’ve seen Champions League quarter-finals and Lancashire Amateur Shield matches, sat in every kind of weather imaginable and see countless promotions, relegations and cup finals, all totalling something like 250 matches. The larger grounds are always awe-inspiring and very mighty, but Victoria Park holds the two utmost distinctions to my mind: it was the first, and it is home.