A day and a life following the Albion – with a little help from a friend

Albion cover

IT was 50 years ago today Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play… and exactly 50 years since my very first Albion game.

Lucy was in the Sky with Diamonds, but at the end of the so-called Summer of Love I was about to begin a love affair that would give me greater highs than any acid trip.

I was a wide-eyed 11-year-old kid when a neighbour in my home village of Mile Oak offered to take me to my first proper football match, at a place I had only ever seen from the top deck of a bus on the Old Shoreham Road.

David Knott was 32, and as an Albion nut he seemed cursed to have a daughter who hated football. So I became his Saturday surrogate son, at least for the purposes of having someone to take to matches at the Goldstone Ground.

My first Albion game was on a bright and sunny Saturday, 2 September 1967; and it was a trip into dreamland as I witnessed a 1-0 home win against Bury in front of a bustling 13,413 crowd.

I stood with David near the front right of the North Stand and watched in awe as these 22 men battled it out on the sun-kissed grass.

I soaked it all in, including the fact that Bury were captained by Scottish international Bobby Collins, who was hard in the tackle and ran the show from midfield, until we scored.

Our scorer was a tousle-haired inside forward named Kit Napier. He became my immediate hero, and along with Brylcreem-blonde crowd favourite Charlie Livesey, they remain personal Albion legends.

Others in our team that day were the solid Norman Gall, John Napier (no relation to Kit), George Dalton, the emerging midfield dynamo John Templeman and two wingers Wally Gould and Brian “Tiger” Tawse, who would match Knockaert and Skalak for trickery, but maybe not pace!

So I was hooked for life and began a routine of a bus ride on the number 26 from Mile Oak to the ground for a home match every fortnight, and a Football Combination (reserve game) on alternate Saturdays – the matches when you got to talk with the keeper during the game!

Then there came the waiting-in-line at the North-West corner gates for players’ autographs after training, during the school holidays, scrapbooks of match cuttings from the Argus and the obligatory club scarf and a matching Subbuteo team.

It was an all-consuming schoolboy passion.

And a passion, which over these 50 years has endured living in Scotland, Yorkshire and the North East, the hellish fight for the survival of our club in the mid-1990s, the Gillingham and Withdean years and at last the glory of the Amex and our promotion to the promised land of the Premier League.

In 1967, England were World Champions, Harold Wilson was Prime Minister, the newest must-have car was the Ford Escort, mods still fought rockers on Brighton beach, man had yet to land on the moon and colour TV was still just a dream.

Yep, times have changed…

My return bus journey to the Goldstone in 1967 was 8d (about 3p), admission to the North Stand was 2s 9d (13p) – a lot less for the reserve games – the match programme was 1s (5p), a cup of Bovril 2d (1p) and a bag of crisps the same!

So to travel and watch my heroes every Saturday, and enjoy a half-time snack cost a stately 22p!

To put things in perspective: in 1967 a man’s average annual wage was £900, the average mortgage was £80 a year and a loaf of bread was just 5p… a season ticket to watch the English champions Manchester United was £8.50.

To allow for inflation, £1 in 1967 is worth £16.80 today, so I’ll let you do the maths and comparisons.

Now, aged 60 and sitting in front of a state-of-the-art PC with Sergeant Pepper’s playing on iPlayer, the years come tumbling back and memories of that sunny Saturday in 1967 will never leave me.

Advertisements

Half a century following the Albion

Knockhaert

THIS year I am celebrating 50 years supporting the Albion. Now with our promotion to the Premier League achieved, I thought it might be a time for a snapshot of 10 of my personal highs and lows following our team over that half century.

 

2 September 1967

The Goldstone Ground

League Division 3

B&HA 1 Bury 0

My first Albion game. I witnessed in boyish awe a 1-0 home win against Bury in front of a bustling 13,413 crowd with Kit Napier scoring the only goal. Two weeks later I was back to watch us lose by the same score to Torquay. But I was already hooked!

 

13 August 1969

The Goldstone Ground

League Cup 2nd Round

B&HA 1 Portsmouth 0

My first night game against 2nd Division giants and fierce rivals Pompey. Standing in the middle of a packed North Stand I sucked in the pungent air of cigarette smoke and testosterone. On the pitch Alex Dawson scored our winner and Kit Napier had his shirt ripped off his back by Pompey full-back Eoin Hand as he raced towards their goal.

 

1 December 1973

The Goldstone Ground

League Division 3

B&HA 2  Bristol Rovers 8

Brian Clough had just been appointed manager and Albion euphoria was at a new height… but it didn’t last long! Hot on the heels of a 4-0 defeat against Walton and Hersham in the FA Cup, we faced high-flying Bristol Rovers. Smash and Grab strikers Bruce Bannister and Alan Warboys did the damage; and 44 years later I have not since witnessed such an Albion humiliation.

 

5 May 1979

St James Park

League Division 2

Newcastle United 1 B&HA 3

I wrote about this game extensively in TAM#4. What else is there to say, except I was there, and prior to the promotion clinching win against Wigan last month, this was my most exciting moment, supporting the Albion.

 

29 November 1980

Elland Road

League Division 1

Leeds United 1 B&HA 0

I hate Leeds United and I hate Elland Road. I have so many bad memories of the place, including almost being maimed for life as Leeds thugs hurled house bricks at me and friends after a Newcastle United v Bolton League Cup replay in 1976. This game was little different as we were huddled in caged open terracing and spent the whole game trying to dodge coins and other metal objects being thrown at us by Leeds supporters.

 

10 November 1981

Oakwell

League Cup 3rd Round

Barnsley 4 B&HA 1

I was teaching in Barnsley and my 5th form class persuaded me into to going to the game and standing with the home supporters. Gatting scored for us in the second minute and I jumped around like a demented monkey. I was soon put in my place by the surrounding Barnsley supporters and the four goals which followed. I had to put up with ridicule from my pupils until well after Christmas.

 

3 May 1997

Edgar Street

League Division 4

Hereford United 1 B&HA 1

I had lived near Hereford for seven years during the 1980s and knew the town and the Edgar Street ground well; so by hook and crook I managed to get a ticket. At half time we were staring oblivion fully in the face. And we all know what happened next. The defining moment as an Albion supporter.

 

21 April 2001

Brunton Park

League Division 4

Carlisle United 0 B&HA 0

The first and only game I ever took my two daughters to. Basking in sunshine and with hundreds of blue and white balloons we watched and ate crisps as the Albion held out for drab goalless draw and promotion out of the bottom division for the first time since before Bellotti and Archer! Two years later was the last time I ever saw my daughters.

 

14 February 2004

Blundell Park

League Division 2

Grimsby Town 2 B&HA 1

This was the day we delivered a huge Valentine’s card to John Prescott’s office in Hull as part of the Falmer for All campaign. I then drove across the Humber Bridge for a routine league game against Grimsby. It was cold and wet and with no parking close to the ground I was already soaked to the skin by the time I had walked five streets and bought my first Bovril. We lost thanks to two goalkeeping howlers by our young third choice keeper Stuart Jones. This was the match where I came closest to dying of hypothermia!

 

7 January 2012

FA Cup 3rd Round

The Amex

B&HA 1 Wrexham 1

This game – and the replay at the Racecourse – will always stay with me. I developed a close bond with Wrexham FC during their battle against their asset stripping owners in 2004-05 and as a result ended up living in the town for eight years. The love and bond between the two clubs endured, and after our promotion was secured last month, I was showered with ‘well-done’ and ‘thanks’ messages from Wrexham supporters.

 

Here comes the story of the Hurricane… the man the authorities came to blame

IT’S been a few days since the death of Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, the American boxer whose wrongful murder conviction was the subject of the amazing Bob Dylan song ‘Hurricane’.
And it’s been a few days to assimilate what his death means to me as a passionate devotee of Dylan’s music.
‘Hurricane’ was the stand-out song on Dylan’s 1975 album Desire, one I have played hundreds of times and used in school lessons to highlight racial prejudice and the injustice of the US judicial system.
For me, Carter and Dylan will always be inseparable.
Rubin Carter, who had prostate cancer, died in his sleep at home in Toronto, last Sunday, aged 76.
He spent a quarter of his life in prison for three murders he did not commit. His imprisonment also ended a promising boxing career.
Carter’s nightmare dates back to the night of 16 June 1967, when three white people were gunned down at the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Paterson, New Jersey.
Moments later, hometown boxer Rubin Carter and his friend John Artis were pulled over by the police, who took the two men to a nearby hospital to see if one of the dying men could ID Carter and Artis as the gunmen. The victim did not.
Within weeks the Grand Jury investigating the Lafayette murders declined to indict either man.
But three months later, career criminal Alfred Bello, who had been lurking around the Lafayette on the night of 16 June, and was looking for leniency from police, told prosecutors he could identify the two black men as the killers.
On 27 May 1967, with no motive offered by prosecutors, Artis and Carter were convicted on three counts of murder by an all-white jury and sentenced to life in prison.
“How can the life of such a man
Be in the palm of some fool’s hand?
To see him obviously framed
Couldn’t help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land
Where justice is a game.”

Eight years later in 1975, Rubin Carter sent Bob Dylan a copy of his autobiography The Sixteenth Round: From Number 1 Contender to #45472.
Dylan visited Carter in prison within a month of receiving the book.
“The first time I saw him, I left knowing one thing … I realized that the man’s philosophy and my philosophy were running down the same road, and you don’t meet too many people like that,” said Dylan in a later interview.
And so the song was born.
Within a few days of the meeting Dylan sat down with producer Jacques Levy and the two men quickly penned ‘Hurricane’.
Part protest song, part historical document, Dylan’s eight-minute epic reads like a legal brief, as the singer punches holes in the prosecutor’s Lafayette killings case, spitting out the lyrics with passion and contempt.
After attorneys at Dylan’s label, Columbia Records, asked for slight changes in the song to avoid possible lawsuits, ‘Hurricane’ was quickly shipped out to radio, where it received heavy airplay.
Dylan also featured the song heavily in his 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour, which made a stop at the New Jersey prison where Carter was held to show their support.
The Revue, which featured Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Mick Ronson, Allen Ginsberg and Roberta Flack, went on to play massive benefit concerts at Madison Square Garden and the Houston Astrodome to raise funds for Carter’s legal defence.
After Dylan played ‘Hurricane’ on virtually every date of his Rolling Thunder tour, Carter’s incarceration became an unavoidable subject of national discussion.
It also intertwined Dylan and the song permanently with Carter’s own life and campaign.
But what it didn’t do, was set Carter free.
In 1976, following Bello’s recantation, the initial convictions were overturned; Carter and Artis were given another trial. But they were convicted and imprisoned again.
After nine years of submitting appeals, Carter’s case was finally heard for the first time in a federal court in 1985.
The judge ruled that prosecutors had “fatally infected the trial” by promoting a theory of racial revenge without evidence, and withheld evidence that disproved the witness’s identifications.
“The extensive record clearly demonstrates that the petitioners’ convictions were predicated upon an appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure,” the judge said.
The convictions were overturned on constitutional grounds and Carter was set free. (Artis had been released on parole four years earlier.) The charges were formally dismissed in 1988.
But ‘Hurricane’ wasn’t just a legal brief set to music.
It’s also a great song, a musical freight train that picks up terrifying speed and fury as it roars down the track.
In its unapologetic anger, it remains reminiscent of songs Dylan had written in the early 1960s.
Perhaps it was closest to “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” about a poor Baltimore maid who died after a rich drunken white man William Zanzinger hit her with his cane. Zanzinger was jailed for just six months.
After his release, Rubin Carter moved to Toronto and became active around issues of inequality in the criminal justice system.
He founded Innocence International in 2004 and published a second autobiography, Eye of the Hurricane: My Path From Darkness to Freedom in 2011 with a foreword by Nelson Mandela.
In 1999, he was portrayed by Denzel Washington in Norman Jewison’s film The Hurricane.
Rubin Carter remained active in criminal justice causes until the end of his life.
In February this year, he wrote a column for the New York Daily News campaigning for the exoneration of a Brooklyn man David McCallum who has spent nearly three decades in prison on murder charges.
“If I find a heaven after this life, I’ll be quite surprised,” he wrote.
“In my own years on this planet, though, I lived in hell for the first 49 years, and have been in heaven for the past 28 years. To live in a world where truth matters and justice, however late, really happens, that world would be heaven enough for us all.”
Hurricane: https://vimeo.com/53933900