‘Whatever happened to…?’ We all like to pontificate at great length about the disappearance of many things such as floodlight pylons and gruesome away ends from football grounds and it has become clear just how many staple items of our football diet have now been consigned to the graveyard in the sky. Now I’m not going to reverse down the well trodden road of stating how football isn’t as good as it used to be as it’s been done to death, I’ll simply point out a few things that have simply disappeared or become obsolete over time and I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to whether it’s for the better or not.
Yes I had one of these, purchased for the princely sum of £4.99 from Halfords on Market Street. I think I only ever took it to about two games but I will never forget the apprehension before using it that first time. However, I was pleased to find a smattering of clapping and a reasonable chorus of ‘WIGAN’ at the end. The funniest instances were always when a big assertive blast of the foghorn petered out into a whimper before the end of the traditional tune that was blasted out.
2. Crush Barriers
For a static piece of metal, crush barriers were fascinating to look at. Depending on their shape and pattern, they could look like a smiley or angry face staring back at you or if the terracing was particularly steep, they could resemble a giant game of Space Invaders.
3. Outside Toilets
A sadly missed feature from the likes of – Wigan Athletic’s old ground - Springfield Park and Rochdale. A ‘toilet’ was something of a generous description for what was usually a mouldy wall with half an upturned drainpipe running along the bottom. Fortunately if you were particularly tall, you could peer over the top and continue watching the game.
4. Manual Scoreboards
These were often rendered completely useless unless you bought a programme and even if you did, you still needed a degree in Algebra to try and fathom out what was going on. In theory, there would be a series of letters going from A to whatever letter of the alphabet they could fit on the scoreboard and a corresponding set of fixtures in the programme enabling spectators to receive score updates from elsewhere. Typically these updates didn’t involve a GPRS enabled WAP phone but a little old fella with a flat cap and a transistor radio and a penchant for getting scores horribly wrong!
No Internet in those days just bizarre nonsensical match reports cobbled together frantically minutes after the game to hit the newsstands.
5. Nose Strips
This phase must have lasted all of a month. I’m fairly certain that the first person to wear one was Robbie Fowler, closely followed by dozens of others in a craze which expanded at a rate only matched by it’s disappearance. Designed as an aid to more efficient breathing and also apparently had the side effect of reducing snoring, which must have pleased Robbie’s room mates on away trips.
6. No Man’s Lands
Some football grounds had a natural point of segregation, thereby making them easy on the eye when you watched Match of the Day later that evening. Others just didn’t look right at all, when the TV camera used to home in on goal at somewhere like Molineux or Vicarage Road and all you could see behind it was a big, ugly centre parting of the crowd with terrace solely populated by a couple of stewards and policemen with dogs.
7. Holding Back The Away Fans
It was almost standardised whether you were at Carlisle or Exeter… ‘We’ve got a message for the visiting Wigan Athletic supporters. Could you please remain in the stand at the end of the game for a short period of time after which you will be escorted to your coaches.’ The last time I recall it happening at an away game was naturally, at Cardiff a few years ago when not only did we get to applaud the subs who were winding down but Sam Hammam came over for a spot of good natured banter. The police escort only took us as far as across the road though.
8. Sock Tie Ups
Modern shin pads normally come with their own straps and socks are now sufficiently elasticated that if you asked Charles N’Zogbia for his sock ties after the last game of the season, he would probably reply with a blunt and confusing ‘Non’. Again, embarrassment time for me, as I confess to once successfully procuring former Wigan star Neill Rimmer’s tie-ups after one game during the eighties.
9. Toilet Rolls
Of course we still have toilet rolls in the cubicles provided within the washroom facilities, but when was the last time you saw one being hurled onto the pitch? I’m unsure as to whether this trend simply went out of fashion or that modern tissue dispensary facilities make it extremely impractical to relieve the Gents of loo roll in order to provide a more spectacular entrance or goal celebration for your heroes on the pitch.
10. The Football Pink
There were frequent queues outside the adjacent chippy and pie shops but there was only one time of the week where a collection of gentlemen would be crammed into my local paper shop forming a patient line. Six o’clock on a Saturday night and these sports fans were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Football Pink. No Internet in those days just bizarre nonsensical match reports cobbled together frantically minutes after the game to hit the newsstands. A fantastic read nevertheless!
And I never even found room for the old boy outside the ground with his ‘Repent Your Sins’ placard!!
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