Our coach blew a tyre
Plymouth 0-2 Fleetwood, League Two, 2013/14
Ryan Lea, Fleetwood Town fan
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
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
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
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 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.
Kolo Toure was standing in the way
Manchester United 2-1 Manchester City, Premier League, 2010/11
Hugh Naughton, Manchester United fan
The score is 1-1 in the Manchester derby and I’m sitting towards the front row. With about 12 minutes to go, the City subs start warming up in front of us as the ball is looped into Joe Hart’s box. Just then, as Kolo Toure appears from nowhere and starts stretching right in front of me, a cheer goes up, as everyone around me exclaims: “What a goal!”, “Amazing!” and “I can’t believe what I’ve just seen!”
I nod along, not quite sure what all the fuss is about; after all, Rooney had just scored a header, right? Nope, it turns out to be a bicycle kick; a goal Alex Ferguson would later describe as the “best he’s seen”. Cheers, Kolo.
I was at a wedding
Manchester City 10-1 Huddersfield Town, Division Two, 1987/88
Lance Thomson, Manchester City fan
A Division Two game at home to Huddersfield Town: it should be one I’d long forgotten by now. After all, going into the 1987/88 season – we’d been relegated the year before – it’s not a fixture I would have singled out as the one I couldn’t afford to miss. But miss it I did, all because of a wedding. I didn’t even know the people getting married – it was my mum’s friends from work. But I had to go, as no one else knew how to drive.
Still, I didn’t think I was going to miss a once-in-a-lifetime event. But as I tuned into the car radio after the ceremony, it slowly dawned on me that this is exactly what was happening. To say I was gutted as I heard goal after goal go in would be an understatement. City had just won 10-1, one of their most momentous games ever, and here I was, sitting in the car, having attended the wedding of some woman whose name I didn’t know.
A guy I met was showing me naked pictures of his girlfriend
France 0-1 Scotland, World Cup qualifier, 2007
Scott Ross, Scotland fan
In the build-up to the game at the Parc des Princes, the Tartan Army got wind of the fact that the French hadn’t sold many tickets, so Scotland fans purchased tickets online, and ended up in all sections of the ground. I was one of those who didn’t have enough ‘away points’ to get a ticket in the Scotland end, so found myself sat away from my pals next to a guy called Doogie, who was your stereotypical Scot: ginger, overweight and drunk.
After Scotland managed to get to half-time at 0-0, I got speaking to Doogie and he was telling me all about how he was going to come back to Paris to propose to his girlfriend. Our conversation stopped and started as the game ebbed and flowed (mainly towards Craig Gordon, who was now in the goal just in front of us) and as Gordon teed up a goal kick, I commented, completely sarcastically: “I bet she’s gorgeous, mate.”
Cue Doogie thrusting his mobile in my face, saying: “She is, look!” As I look down to see a naked picture of a 20-stone Jimmy Krankie lookalike, the stadium erupts and I miss James McFadden’s winner – the biggest part of Scotland’s recent football history. Doogie cuddled me and told me he loved me, and to be fair, at the end of the game, I probably would have married him.
The coach driver took us to the wrong ground
Bradford 2-0 Crewe Alexandra, Division Four, 1960/61
Don Astley, Crewe Alexandra fan
As an innocent 14-year-old I went on a supporters’ coach to watch Crewe Alexandra away to Bradford (now Bradford Park Avenue, not to be confused with Bradford City). The coach left Crewe in plenty of time, but stopped somewhere in the Pennines at a pub. Everybody got off, including the driver, and it appeared many pints were sunk. My mate and I, as the only youngsters, were bought lemonades.
There seemed no sense of urgency and we finally vacated the pub at 2pm for a 3pm kick-off. The driver then took us to Valley Parade, home of Bradford City. It was actually my mate and I who explained he was at the wrong ground. We eventually arrived at the Park Avenue ground at 3.20pm. That’s the good news; the bad news is that the score was 2-0 to Bradford. And that’s how it remained for the rest of the game. In hindsight, we should have just stayed in the pub.
The man in front of me had a massive head
Wolves 1-0 Middlesbrough, First Division, 1997/98
James Fielden, Wolves fan
The first match I was taken to was Wolves 1-0 Middlesbrough. My two uncles (Cambridge and Stafford Rangers fans) took me along and we won thanks to Robbie Keane, who lobbed the ball over Mark Schwarzer from the edge of the area. A goal worthy of winning the match, not that I knew that at the time: I didn’t see it because the guy in front of me had a huge head. I had to settle for a replay on the big TV. I’ll never forget it. It still haunts me today.
I fell asleep in the toilets
Liverpool 2-1 Newcastle, Premier League, 2013/14
Sima, Newcastle fan
It was the last game of the season and we were playing Liverpool and again rejoicing mediocrity. Tickets for the last game of the season are like gold dust for Newcastle fans, so having sourced one, I planned a weekender in Liverpool. This started the night before the game, out on the town hitting the usual scenes, crawling into bed at 4am, then back in the pubs around Anfield by 10am the following morning.
I was hyper and there was no drama pre-match. Time for the game, by which time I started to feel wobbly. I took my seat with the away fans and joined in with the chants. Ten minutes later I felt sick so headed to the loos, where for whatever reason I sat myself down... and fell asleep. The next thing I know, I’m waking up in the Anfield first aid room and I’ve missed the entire match. To make matters worse, we’ve lost 2-1 (our effort an own goal) and had two men sent off. Over £100 spent to watch the match and I missed it!
Brazilian EastEnders was on television
Corinthians 3-0 Bahia, Copa do Brasil, 2014
Fabio Murakawa, Corinthians fan
It’s something I don’t think happens anywhere else in the world: football matches being moved so they don’t clash with TV soap operas. While you probably can’t imagine Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger being asked to delay a game because it’s all kicking off between Phil Mitchell and Ian Beale on EastEnders (I lived in England for a year!), that’s exactly what happens in Brazil. All the time.
When we played Bahia, I got up to leave with many Corinthians fans in the 65th minute. The nation’s biggest soap opera was on TV earlier that evening and as a result the game had been pushed back to a 10pm start. We were 2-0 up, and if we didn’t leave now we would miss the last train. As we walked out of the ground, a roar went up; we’d scored a third. I did manage to get the last train, but my friends who stayed had to walk home in the middle of the night. All because of a soap opera.
My daughter needed the toilet
Arsenal 2-1 Sunderland, Premier League, 2011/12
Jon Spurling, Arsenal fan
“Daddy, I need the toilet” is not an unusual thing for a six-year-old to say, of course. But it’s mildly annoying when you’ve already asked that six-year-old, Phoebe, about eight times whether she needs a wee before you’ve taken your seats for a game – in this case, Arsenal at home to Sunderland.
So, just as the ref peeps his whistle for kick-off we’re fighting our way back out past the fans and heading out into the concourse when a huge roar goes up: Robin van Persie has scored with a minute gone. Bugger. It’s a fairly laboured game, but with Sunderland now level, both teams are going at one another with 10 minutes to go. Then Phoebe needs the toilet again.
Back out to the concourse. Another roar from Arsenal fans. RvP’s netted a late winner. “It was a great goal,” my helpful neighbour tells me as we retake our seats just in time to see the ref blow for full-time. “Daddy, nothing happened. Why do you watch Arsenal all the time?” moans an unimpressed Phoebe. She’s not been back to watch “boring Arsenal” since.
My brother flew in from Singapore and took my seat
Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal, Champions League final, 2006
Richard Pitts, Arsenal fan
I had travelled over to Paris on the day of the match with my dad, Keith, and tickets for Arsenal’s first Champions League final. My brother was living in Singapore at the time and was flying over to France to meet us on the afternoon of the match. There was one slight issue: we'd only been able to get two tickets, not three.
My brother, Dan, didn’t know this at the time, so he was all smiles when we met him at the Gare du Nord. I ended up giving him mine – he had flown halfway round the world to be there – so while he trooped off to the Stade de France in the early evening, I went to a pub on my own. Still, it could have been worse. I might have missed us winning the thing.
We thought we were having a baby
Leyton Orient 1-1 Brentford, League One, 2006/07
Mat Roper, Leyton Orient fan
I hadn’t missed a home game for 19 years. But when my girlfriend, who was pregnant with our first child, was taken to hospital on the Friday before the London derby against Brentford, I was obviously happy to break with tradition, as was my Brentford-supporting girlfriend.
The match was of little consequence – we were going to be parents! We got to the hospital... and it turned out it was high blood pressure. She had a comfortable night and was told she was due to be discharged the next morning. But due to staff shortages, no doctors were around to sign off her paperwork and we both ended up missing the draw in E10.
I was playing Virtua Striker
Leyton Orient 0-1 Scunthorpe, League Two play-off final, 1998/99
Si Hawkins, Leyton Orient fan
This was Leyton Orient’s first Wembley trip since we played league games there in 1930. After years of basement toil, loyal O’s fans were pretty giddy about strolling down Wembley Way, soaking up the atmosphere, then probably getting promoted. So my mini-posse set out our stall early, hit a pub in Baker Street and immediately spotted something awesome: the Virtua Striker arcade game, which was to FIFA 15 what vinyl singles are to the iPod.
A tremendous tournament ensued: thrills, pint spills, increasingly high-pitched shouting... so much so that none of us actually noticed the sudden nearness of kick-off. Leaving tragic half-pints behind, we legged it to the Tube, hurtled up an empty Wembley Way, hardly even saw the bloody twin towers, finally collapsed into our seats and were told that Scunthorpe had already scored. And that was the only goal of the game. I really wish we’d missed the rest of it too.
We were losing
Hibernian 4-3 Falkirk, Scottish Cup semi-final, 2012/13
Brian McDonald, Hibernian fan
I left the Scottish Cup semi-final early because we [Hibs] were 3-1 down and playing crap. By the time I’d made it back to Glasgow city centre from Hampden Park (about 20 minutes later) it was 4-3 to Hibs. Gutted.
I was buying tickets for the second leg
Bolton 1-0 Blackpool, Sherpa Van Trophy final first leg, 1988/89
Paul Taylor, Bolton fan
I wasn’t going to miss the Sherpa Van Trophy final second leg at Blackpool: this was Bolton’s chance to get to Wembley. So when the club bizarrely decided to put tickets on sale 15 minutes before the end of the first leg, I slunk from the Burnden Terrace and sprinted round to the ticket office for the precious allocation. At which point the old ground erupted in noisy celebration: Julian Darby had scored the game’s only goal, which I still haven’t seen. But I saw us draw the second leg, and win at Wembley.
We implemented the three-goal rule
Newcastle 4–4 Arsenal, Premier League, 2010/11
Jack McLane, Newcastle fan
You know your team isn’t very good when this rule applies to you. But as a Newcastle fan, I’m only too aware of the three-goal rule, which states that you head to the pub once you’re losing by more than two. It’s a rule I applied on the day Arsenal came to town and we were 4-0 down by half-time.
“Right, I’m off to the pub,” I harrumphed as I left St James’ Park, adding something about not coming back until Mike Ashley was out. It was from the pub that I watched Final Score on the TV: 1-4, 2-4, 3-4 and – surely not – 4-4. Newcastle had just made the greatest comeback in Premier League history and I was watching the BBC pundits describe goals I should have been watching.
That’ll teach me to leave the match early. The following week, I made sure I stayed until the final whistle: a 0-0 draw away to Blackburn.
This feature originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe!
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