“I can’t believe I missed that…” Fans recall their horrifying tales of distraction to FourFourTwo
Our coach blew a tyre
Plymouth 0-2 Fleetwood, League Two, 2013/14
Ryan Lea, Fleetwood Town fan
We called a tyre replacement company, who arrived after an hour, and we were back on the road by 1pm
It was Saturday August 10, 2013, and we had just started our second campaign in League Two. As always we were looking forward to the first away day of the season, which just so happened to be Plymouth, the pinnacle away day for any northern-based team – in our case, 325 miles.
If you can do this then you can do anything. A coach-load of fans set off from our Highbury ground at 5am and everything was going well until we got past Bristol, when there was a loud bang as we swerved to stay on the road. Tyre blowout! The coach driver managed to get off the motorway (very slowly) and pull into the car park of a pub in a small village called Worle, close to Weston-super-Mare and 103 miles from our destination.
We called a tyre replacement company, who arrived after an hour, and we were back on the road by 1pm: it was clear by now that we’d struggle to make kick-off. We were still 20 minutes away from the ground at 3pm, so everyone was glued to their phones checking for updates.
Ten minutes in, David Ball scores a worldie, the coach erupting with cheers as we all jump around. Two minutes later, Ball does it again – we’re 2-0 up in under 15 minutes. However, we’re still on the coach. We make it into the ground with 25 minutes gone, to be laughed at by our fellow Fleetwood supporters. Charming. The game stays 2-0 and after the final whistle it’s straight back on the coach for our six-hour journey home.
My dad wanted to beat the traffic
England 2-2 Greece, World Cup qualifier, 2001
Lee Warner, England fan
Have I ever forgiven him? Quite simply, no. I remind him of it regularly
It’s one of football’s ‘where were you?’ moments: where were you when David Beckham scored his last minute free-kick against Greece to secure qualification for the 2002 World Cup? My answer to this question should be: “I was in the ground, celebrating with all the other England fans.” But instead I have to tell people: “I was walking across the Old Trafford car park.”
I missed what should have been one of the greatest moments of my childhood because my dad “wanted to beat the traffic”. When the roar went up, it was the cue for what must have appeared an odd sight, as I unleashed a tirade of 11-year-old abuse at my dad. Have I ever forgiven him? Quite simply, no. I remind him of it regularly.
“Why would you have wanted to leave early?” I often demand. “What could there have possibly been at home that was more important?” He usually just looks at me glum, unresponsive, defeated. He knows he did wrong. I’ve never walked out of a football match early since.
I left the ground early to sell some fanzines
Wimbledon 0-3 Manchester United, Premier League, 1996/97
Andy Mitten, Manchester United fan
We had a new issue and Manchester United routinely took 10,000 to Selhurst Park for Wimbledon games, but we needed to beat the crowd and the final whistle to sell copies afterwards
It was the opening day of the 1996/97 season and a carload of us journeyed from Manchester to Selhurst Park. Murmansk would have been easier to reach than the deep south of London and our journey wasn’t helped by traffic and a boot-full of fanzines. Our plan was to sell them before and after the match.
All went well; we had a new issue and Manchester United routinely took 10,000 to Selhurst Park for Wimbledon games, but we needed to beat the crowd and the final whistle to sell copies afterwards. With United 2-0 up, we dodged our way out of the Arthur Wait Stand and began to scream ‘New United We Stand, out today!’ Our shouts were soon drowned out by a roar. It was obvious United had scored a third.
What wasn’t clear was that David Beckham had scored it… from the halfway line. We’d missed one of the most iconic goals of the Premier League era. The departing masses edged past talking about the wonder goal and one elated man asked: “Have you ever seen anything like that?” I said ‘no’ – because I hadn’t. Not before and not since.
French ferry workers were on strike
Manuel Steinhorst, Borussia Dortmund fan
When the radio reported Dortmund’s winning goal [scored by Lars Ricken] we celebrated in a strange way
In the last week of April 1997, we travelled to England for our biggest game in more than three decades: the Champions League semi-final second leg at Old Trafford. It was the era before low-cost carriers became commonplace and so most of the thousands of Dortmund fans who followed their team did so on chartered coaches.
One of those left Witten, a city eight miles south-east of Dortmund, a few minutes after midnight on the day of the game. There were some people who said we departed pretty late, but we reached Calais in time to catch a morning ferry to Dover. Unfortunately, there was a strike. No ferry left. We couldn’t get across the Channel. We waited for hours on end, and the mood was getting really sour.
When finally a ferry went out, it was past noon and we knew it would be close. Despite the driver’s best suicidal efforts, we didn’t make it. When the radio reported Dortmund’s winning goal [scored by Lars Ricken] we celebrated in a strange way. Somehow the goal made it even worse. We got to the ground just as the team was warming down on the pitch. It was the worst day of my life.
I thought my mum wouldn’t let me go
England 4–2 West Germany, World Cup final, 1966
Steve Holmes, England fan
I decided against buying one, not least because I didn’t think my mum would let me travel down to London on my own
I went to every match at Hillsborough during the 1966 World Cup, including the quarter-final between West Germany and Uruguay. The Germans won that game 4-0 but before the match they were selling tickets for the final. Of course, no one knew then that England were going to get there. All the quarter-final matches kicked off at the same time on the same day, so you’d have been taking a bit of a chance on that happening.
I decided against buying one, not least because I didn’t think my mum would let me travel down to London on my own on the train at the age of 14. I’ve now been to every World Cup since 1986 to watch England and the closest I’ve got to a final was the semi in Italy in 1990. I might never have a better chance.