MY first game, October 23 1976, Elland Road, Leeds v Liverpool, the north on edge, living in fear of the Yorkshire Ripper, people wondering if he may be in the ground; he might even be standing next to us. He could be our father, brother, uncle, cousin, son.
The papers are imploring people to be constantly vigilant. Football must play its part and the tuneless choir of home fans do so, not by lifting spirits through a rendition of Glory, Glory Leeds United or Marching On Together, but trialling a new number, a variation on an old theme, ringing out around Elland Road and piercing the darkening winter skies, offering the observation: “One Yorkshire Ripper, there’s only one Yorkshire Ripper...”
It wasn’t particularly helpful and neither was it even a proven fact at the time, there may have been more than one, and some people still believe there could have been.
But football fans never let you down, do they? They never have.
There has been a lot of talk about a united nation following England’s progress in the recent Euros but that is, of course, complete nonsense.
You didn’t have to be Inspector Morse to uncover the cracks in claims of us being a nation brought together by football.
To a degree football does connect those with a common cause but it is also a great divider, or at least a ruler in which division can be measured by.
Another example: Burnley v Sheffield United, FA Cup third round replay, January 1992, Turf Moor, a cold, gloomy stadium, a Wednesday night and the fightback is well and truly on against fascist groups which sold and distributed leaflets and magazines at grounds across the country. Burnley fans are having none of it though, they’re not being told what they can and can’t say.
Sheffield United striker Adrian Littlejohn is greeted with monkey chants and bananas are thrown in his direction (the same happened to Gladstone Small at a Headingley cricket match). He gets revenge in one of the best ways possible — no, not by educating or shooting the perpetrators, but by scoring and celebrating in front of the baying mass.
Things have moved on since then, attitudes have changed and behaviour such as that would not be tolerated in a stadium these days. Except now it takes place behind closed doors, small-minded individuals having a go on Twitter from the safety of their bedrooms while their mums make their tea.
It took a matter of seconds for them to make their feelings known as Rashford, Sancho and Saka missed their penalties in the final against Italy and they weren’t criticising the footballing skills of those who failed to convert from the spot.
You may or may not agree with players taking the knee in whatever sport you follow — many at the Rotherham v Plymouth Argyle game the other week booed as the players went down — and everyone is entitled to an opinion, but it doesn’t mean you have to hate players because they’re not white, which is pretty bloody pathetic when you come to think about it, if, of course, you are capable of thinking about it.
Many clubs, it seems, are united by name, but not by nature. They never have been.