Half a century following the Albion

Knockhaert

This season I am celebrating 50 years supporting the Albion. Now with our first season in the Premier League almost finished, 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.

 

 

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 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 62 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.

The Commuter

Down on Robertson Road

Where the white painted windows

Bleach in the autumn sun

The red-lipped lady steps forth

Umbrella in hand

Making her stand

On a journey she had now begun

 

Down on platform six

Where the old grey porter stands

Unsure of the line ahead

The fresh faced woman waits

Chewed gum at her feet

Waiting a seat

On a journey she always dreads

 

Down on bended knee

Where the ticket inspector calls

And the strap hangers hang

The nervous mother stares

An old man at her side

Taking a stride

On a journey with an urban chain gang

 

Down on Blackfriars Bridge

Where the swarm of people sway

And pigeons pick up the crumbs

The businesswoman now walks

Past the familiar gate

Testing her own fate

On a journey which her life succumbs

 

The Commuter

Down on Robertson Road

Where the white painted windows

Bleach in the autumn sun

The red-lipped lady steps forth

Umbrella in hand

Making her stand

On a journey she had now begun

 

Down on platform six

Where the old grey porter stands

Unsure of the line ahead

The fresh faced woman waits

Chewed gum at her feet

Waiting a seat

On a journey she always dreads

 

Down on bended knee

Where the ticket inspector calls

And the strap hangers hang

The nervous mother stares

An old man at her side

Taking a stride

On a journey with an urban chain gang

 

Down on Blackfriars Bridge

Where the swarm of people sway

And pigeons pick up the crumbs

The businesswoman now walks

Past the familiar gate

Testing her own fate

On a journey which her life succumbs

 

People Stared at the Make-up on His Face: David Bowie Remembered

“And so the story goes they wore the clothes, They said the things to make it seem improbable, The whale of a lie like they hope it was, And the Goodmen of Tomorrow, Had their feet in the wallow, And their heads of Brawn were nicer shorn ,And how they bought their positions with saccharin and trust, And the world was asleep to our latent fuss.”   (David Bowie, The Bewlay Brothers)

 

THIS morning I woke as usual at 6am and went downstairs to make a routine cup of tea before returning to bed for another personal ritual of checking the news and social media on my smart phone.

But this was not like any other morning.

Like millions of others across the world I was presented with news I never expected to happen: David Bowie was dead.

His son, film director Duncan Jones, confirmed the news and issued a statement on his social media accounts.

“David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer,” it said, asking for privacy for his family.

His son, who directed Bafta-winning film Moon, added: “Very sorry and sad to say it’s true. I’ll be offline for a while. Love to all.”

And like millions of others I was left stunned, heartbroken and gutted. I honestly thought David Bowie was immortal… he had been part of my life for 44 years.

Six hours have now passed since the shock of that news and tributes have been paid to Bowie from every corner of the globe.

He wasn’t just the Man Who Sold the World, he was an Earthling who pulled every one of us into the Quicksand of his thoughts and music.

Bowie, who had been living in New York in recent years, only released his latest album Blackstar on his 69th birthday on Friday. The album, which includes just seven songs, has already been critically acclaimed.

This one song from the album Lazarus, written, recorded and performed as he knew he was dying, is heart wrenching and shows Bowie as the ultimate artist.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-JqH1M4Ya8/

Bowie’s long-time friend and producer Tony Visconti wrote on Facebook: “His death was no different from his life – a work of art. He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift.

“I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn’t, however, prepared for it. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us.”

Friend and collaborator Iggy Pop wrote on Twitter: “David’s friendship was the light of my life. I never met such a brilliant person. He was the best there is.”

Madonna said she was “devastated” and that Bowie had “changed her life”. She wrote on Twitter: “Talented . Unique. Genius. Game Changer. The Man who Fell to Earth. Your Spirit Lives on Forever!”

Rapper Kanye West said: “David Bowie was one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime.”

Comedian and actor Ricky Gervais, who convinced Bowie to star as himself and ridicule Gervais in an episode of 2006 sitcom Extras, simply wrote: “I just lost a hero. RIP David Bowie.”

Midge Ure, who helped organised the Live Aid concert in 1985 – at which Bowie performed – told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “He wasn’t just a brilliant songwriter and an amazing creator, he excelled at everything.

“He gave us the point to run towards, we are all still trying to run towards that, everyone.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGOx0ZpMrrU/

Actor Simon Pegg wrote on Instagram: “If you’re sad today, just remember the world is over 4 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie.”

Comedian and writer Eddie Izzard said: “Very sad to hear about the death of David Bowie but through his music he will live forever.”

Chris Chappel told the BBC: “I had the amazing experience of being tour manager for David Bowie on his Glass Spider, Sound and Vision and Tin Machine tours.

“He was amongst the most charming, creative and talented musicians I had ever worked for in my 30 years on the road.

“He had a great sense of humour and was great company, never compromising his art – he was an icon.

“I’m rather sad. He touched everyone he met – he was a revolutionary of the heart and mind and never afraid of failure.”

My own love affair with David Bowie started like many of my generation, in the early 1970s with his alter ego Ziggy Stardust.

I was a 16 year-old teenager trying to find my musical muses and heroes. I had been fed a diet of Nat King Cole and big band swing by my parents throughout my childhood before discovering The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks and Marc Bolan and T Rex for myself.

I had been turned to David Bowie via his single Starman… wow, wow, wow, what a song!

Early during the summer of 1972, on the back of my first pay packet from first vacation job at a local packing firm, I bought my first proper LP, the now timeless, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.

Suddenly I was besotted with Bowie and through my local record store in Lancing ordered his back catalogue of the eponymously titled David Bowie (Space Oddity), The Man Who Sold the World and Hunky Doryall at £1.99 a time. I was listening to Bowie back to back throughout that summer and autumn. I even managed to acquire a copy of The World of David Bowie – a Decca compilation of his very early London folk work.

My father would often shout: “Turn that bloody music down”… I rebelled, after all the back of the Ziggy Stardust album cover told me to ‘To Be Playe At Maximum Volume’.

But soon I was dying my hair orange, buying USA only releases of Bowie singles – via mail order from a London based company called Cast Iron Records – and knowing every lyric of every Bowie song off by heart.

And so a year passed and at the height of the Ziggy mania I managed to get a ticket to see my idol play live at The Dome in Brighton.

As an impressionable and excited 17-year-old it was my first ‘proper’ gig. The day couldn’t come quick enough and crammed with thousands of other sweaty teenagers I absorbed every song Ziggy sang… with his edgy guitarist Mick Ronson blasting out every lick as if straight from the vinyl record I had at home.

One acoustic song (just Bowie on guitar) was unrecognisable, but completely memorable. I later discovered it to be a cover of Jacques Brel’s My Death. It has remained a favourite of mine ever since. Today, it is especially poignant.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNZStOpKI3w

David Bowie’s music (along with that of Bob Dylan) saw me through my university years: Pinups, Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs, Station to Station, Low and David Live were all immediate and essential purchases on my meagre student grant.

Then, in 1976 I managed to obtain two tickets to see Bowie again at the old Wembley Empire Pool stadium.

Silhouetted by stark white lights on the Wembley the Thin White Duke entranced me and my pal Mike as we entered his new world of electronically nuanced guitar sounds, Gitanes cigarettes and breathless vocals. Only a fan throwing a bouquet of flowers onto the stage broke the hypnosis.

Musically and theatrically it was the best concert performance I have witnessed in my life.

For anyone who has the time or inclination, the whole fantastic gig can be found in audio here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=now5JxUtoms

Only years later did I discover that this was the lowest point in David Bowie’s life. He was surviving on vodka, cocaine and raw sweet peppers amid a bleakness which lasted more than two years. But man, what a creative spirit there was.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyEIU1MoEzM

Sadly it was the last time I saw Bowie live.

But my passion never dimmed and on the top shelf of my CD rack I have every album he has ever released – plus a few bootlegs of live gigs – and he still and will always be a backdrop to my life and the key to me getting into music.

So, between All The Madmen, Song for Bob Dylan, Boys Keep Swinging and The Stars Are Out Tonight, thank you David for everything.

In his own words: “We have a nice life”. May you rest in peace.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gH7dMBcg-gE

Footnote: A sad and passing thought is of David Bowie’s sidemen and close musicians have also passed on over the past 20 years: Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder, Lou Reed, Luther Vandross, Ralph MacDonald, Sean Mayes and Steve Strange… what a heavenly band. RIP

There’s danger on the battlefield where the shells of bullets fly

grenade

MY life should have ended in the summer of 1966 in a mess of blood spatter and body parts.

Come to that, my best friend Johnny should also have perished.

But a simple twist of fate and my father’s quick thinking saved us both.

I spent six idyllic early years of my life with my family in a spacious bungalow in the new village of Mile Oak nestled on the South Downs, near Hove. These were my growing up and playing-till-the-sun-went-down years. They were blissfully happy in their innocence and the summers were never ending. The warmth of those years will always stay with me, locked into my memories like scenes from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

My mother gave me freedom to roam on the wide open hills that surrounded us, and play at soldiers, cowboys, Wild West frontier explorers or whatever fancy captured our childish imaginations.

I had three close friends at the time, the brothers Mark and Michael, and my next door neighbour, the aforementioned Johnny. We rarely played indoors and even when the weather was wet, we ventured forth either as a group or in pairs onto our natural playground. I guess in hindsight our mothers harboured few fears for our safety, as long as we were back for lunch and tea… and definitely before it got dark.

So nothing stopped us exploring a disused isolation hospital, a chalk quarry, a tumble down witch’s cottage or a former army training ground. It was real time adventure and unbridled fun for nine and ten-year-old boys.

But it was the military training ground which took Johnny’s and my fancy this warm August day in 1966.

My dad and I had discovered the site one year earlier. It was a vast area of down land once used to train soldiers during the 1st and 2nd World Wars. There was a sand-faced firing range, some dry trenches and shooting positions and acres of other terrain, still littered with rusty bullet cartridges. Most of the land had been cultivated for farming, but eagle-eyed boys and visitors could still unearth a treasure trove of old military finds.

By the time Johnny and I ventured forth on that ominous day, I had already accrued a collection of 303 rifle bullets, smaller pistol cases, machine gun shells and noses, a few old smoke bombs and three heavy artillery casings. All had been lovingly cleaned and polished with Brasso and stored in an old chest of drawers in my father’s shed.

So, with the sun on our backs, Johnny and I walked the leisurely mile to the training ground, climbing barbed wire fences and rickety five-bar wooden gates along the way.

The field before the military area had been freshly ploughed – for the first time in our childhood memories – and we chuckled with anticipation at what the newly-turned earth might reveal. There were no bullet shells (those tended to be found nearer to the firing range) but loads of heavy artillery casings and other unfamiliar iron clad artefacts, which we inspected before deciding whether to discard, hide for later, or take home.

After half an hour of searching, we were both excited by a new and very unusual discovery. We kicked the caked earth from a metal object that could have been dropped by a flying saucer. Johnny picked it up first and we both inspected it with awe. It was a grey metal oval object the size of a cricket ball with a small saucer shaped base, a handle down one side and a looped piece of wire on top. Once we had scraped away the earth, we realised it was in almost perfect condition, except for some rusting to the wire loop.

We whooped with excitement… we had found an army radio and we had to get home to clean it and make it work!

Such was our excitement, we ran back home, taking turns to carry the new find and went straight into my dad’s asbestos garage at the end of my garden.

Quickly I opened the jaws on my dad’s bench vice and gently clamped the ‘radio’ in place. Then with a can of lubricating oil and a wire brush, Johnny and I took turns cleaning the object of our affection.

After five minutes we could make out some numbers stamped onto the base. It was then that Johnny suggested we should try and extend the aerial loop at the top and look for a switch to turn the radio on. I found a pair of my dad’s pliers and began the job.

Then it happened…

I suddenly felt the iron grip of my father as he lifted me off my feet and ran me out of the garage while simultaneously shouting in a panicked voice: “Bloody hell, what have you got here, you stupid, stupid boy!” (in actuality his expletives were a lot stronger than ‘bloody’). He threw me onto the lawn of our garden before running back into the garage to grab Johnny and repeat his rantings.

Johnny and I were both crying as my dad yelled at us to get into the house quickly and not come out until he told us. As we ran up the garden path to the kitchen door, I looked over my shoulder to see dad gingerly venture back into the garage. He wasn’t there long before joining us in the kitchen.

“I hope you realise that is a bloody hand grenade you have there in our garage!” he barked at us. “And by the looks of it you have half-taken the pin out!”

Gobsmacked, we were told to go and play in my bedroom, while dad rang 999 for the police.

Within 20 minutes two police officers arrived, chatted to my dad and to me before visiting our garage. They didn’t stay long in the asbestos building before using our telephone to call for assistance.

About two hours later, around tea-time, a khaki coloured army truck arrived and two soldiers removed the grenade from my father’s industrial vice.

Later I was told they had taken the grenade – which was indeed still live – and detonated it in a safe place.

No doubt if my father had not stepped into the garage at that precise time on that August day in 1966, I would not be writing this piece now, some 47 years later. Two young lives would have ended; it would have made a hell of a mess of my dad’s garage and with the tins of paint, petrol and paraffin stored in the building, the explosion would probably have taken out half of our street.

Thanks, Dad!

Note: The old military training ground was later fenced off and cleared of any remaining dangerous hardware. Johnny and I were banned from ever visiting it again.

 

The words I was saying

I HAVE just explored the Stats section of WordPress properly and it tells me the most popular topics I have written about during the past few weeks.

So in order to boost my readership still further I am going to:

Give poppies to the ghost of Charlie Livesey, who was poetry in motion when he used to play for Brighton and Hove Albion. Sadly he never appeared in the 1984 FA Cup Final against Manchester United.

The poppies are in memory of the dead of World War 1, but not of the many poems written about that tragedy. Poems which would have graced the writing and lyrics of Bob Dylan, who has probably never had a pee at Toddington Services.

Well, let’s see if that works! 😉