I am fortunate that my job takes me to lots of exotic locations (Prague, Bergen, Amsterdam, Munich, Oslo, Nice, Paris) and now, err, West Bromwich.
The last time I was here was in October 1981 when I attended a game at The Hawthorns between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester United. The game got underway and the United fans started a chant:
Oh I do like to be beside the seaside Oh I do like to be beside the sea
Oh I do like to walk along the prom, prom, prom
And say, GO HOME West Brom
Only, ‘Go Home’ was substituted for a different, more colourful phrase in the English vernacular to the same effect.
Anyway, as the game was pretty uneventful, the United fans kept repeating the last line ad infinitum which was quite funny.
Next thing I knew, a policeman grabbed hold of me and my mate and escorted us both down the steps to the pitch, through a gate and led us away.
I was stunned into silence but my mate was more vociferous repeatedly asking ‘What had we done ?’. This was understandable as he was a Brighton fan who had just come along for something to do and wasn’t even singing.
We got led away alongside the pitch, past the United fans who applauded us (for some odd reason) and were taken to the police control room. The copper asked us for ID and took our names. He then cautioned us. We protested that we had done nothing and weren’t even singing the obscene chant.
To my amazement, the copper said ‘Yeah. I know but we had to do something to quieten things down’
Then I realised that we had been ejected from a football match because we happened to be standing adjacent to an aisle (easy access for the coppers without having to pull us from the middle which might provoke more trouble), the coppers knew we were together as a pair (and not in a larger group) and precisely because we were not the types to be cause trouble.
We were then kicked out into Handsworth Road where youths were lobbing stones into the United section and the copper warned us ‘Listen. You’ve been cautioned. But if you enter the ground again and I see you, you will be arrested’.
So we ran the gauntlet of stones back to the station. As we did so, inevitably we heard loud cheering from the away end.
We got home and were soon
safely wrapped up in our beds back in the
pub, drinking hard, regaling our friends with the anecdote in the pub as
we learned the final score. 3-0 to United.