EDITOR’S PERSPECTIVE: The first time is always the best

EDITOR’S PERSPECTIVE: The first time is always the best

By Andrew Mosley | 26/05/2020

EDITOR’S PERSPECTIVE: The first time is always the best

 

I had been excited for weeks. I had never been to a live football match, but here I was, off to watch Leeds v Liverpool at Elland Road.

It was October 23 1976 and one of my so-called friends, jealous of my planned treat, had told me I shouldn’t go as a certain Liverpool victory would ruin my day.

This particular match came to mind as TV sports channels are featuring old ‘classic’ games as a way of filling time that would normally be allocated to live action or news.

I had badgered my parents for ages about going to the game, which conveniently landed bang on my ninth birthday, and eventually they agreed.

Several weeks before I made my own match-day programme, with statistics, facts, players to watch out for etc and waited impatiently for the big day.

We didn’t always have a car and generally couldn’t afford to go to football — plus my dad played for a local amateur team most Saturdays — but we made the 25-mile journey and parked up outside the ground near the Peacock pub and chippy.

I can remember my first sighting of the crowd through the gap in the stand, the Liverpool fans already singing You’ll Never Walk Alone and a queue forming at the turnstile, but there was no concern about not getting in as they didn’t really worry about over-crowding in those days.

A visit to the souvenir shop saw me emerge with a pennant and a rosette — two bits of merchandise that have all but disappeared these days — and we bought a programme (15p and not as good as the one I had made!) and paid to go in (70p for my father, 35p for me).

I don’t think I’ve ever felt such a surge of excitement on entering a stadium since and it would not be many years until several tragedies ended standing and ushered in all-seater stadiums, the atmosphere largely disappearing with the changes.

The teams that day included such greats as Tony Currie, Eddie Gray and Peter Lorimer for Leeds and Kevin Keegan, Steve Heighway and Terry McDermott for Liverpool, and 44,696 people squeezed into Elland Road to witness a 1-1 draw, David McNiven cancelling out a Ray Kennedy goal in the 90th minute.

I couldn’t see much, squashed against my dad’s back behind a metal crush barrier, but as the last-minute cross came over he lifted me up and I saw McNiven slide in the equaliser.

I couldn’t wait to get home and tell everyone about it, including my mum, who had listened to the game while doing the ironing — very 1970s — and my brother, then a Liverpool fan, though he would deny this now.

On the Monday, back at school, I was asked to stand up in front of the class and bore everyone with a talk on my experiences — a verbal version of this I guess, but hopefully more interesting than a talk I would later give on my five favourite cricketers.

I’m not sure anyone will recall either, but if you don’t remember your first time, you sure as hell won’t remember the next few hundred as the majority of games, like days in your life, fade into insignificance.

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