Doug’s post about early memories of attending football matches got me thinking.

Years ago, I was a LMTB (League Match Ticket Book) holder at Manchester United and went to every home game at Old Trafford. An LMTB was similar to a season ticket but only entitled the holder to attend League Matches with no priority for FA Cup tickets.

Consequently, whenever United got to the latter stages of the FA Cup, there was a black market in the Manchester Evening News for the little numbered tokens that were printed in the matchday program. You needed a large number of tokens (including reserve games) to get a ticket.

However, my father was a bank manager and then, as now, the majority of tickets for big football matches went to corporate hospitality rather then the true fans.

So, on Saturday April 3 1976, on a beautiful sunny day, my Dad and I crossed the Pennines to see United play Derby in the FA Cup Semi Final at Hillsborough.

The tickets had ‘Exeter FC’ imprinted on the back and we were in the wrong end (Spion Kop) and all the United fans were at Leppings Lane but none of that mattered. I was so excited and nervous, I could barely converse properly.

We got into the ground early to watch the ground slowly fill up, soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the fans taunting each other. Inevitably, there were pockets of United fans scattered on the massive, steep terrace at Hillsborough.

United had a young team, managed by Tommy Docherty and were riding high in their first year back in Division 1 after promotion and Derby were the reigning champions.

Gerry Daly gave United the lead in the first half but my main abiding memory of this game was late in the second half when United were awarded a free-kick at our end. Gordon Hill stepped up and produced a swerving, curling free-kick past the despairing hands of the Derby keeper into the corner. 2-0 to United ! The ground exploded, the noise was unbelievable and the whole stadium was a moving sea of red and white.

When the game ended, United fans invaded the pitch to celebrate. Inevitably, a significant minority came to the Kop end to taunt the Derby fans. Some Derby fans responded and joined them on the pitch and the press carried pictures of the resulting ‘ugly scenes’. I can vividly remember trying to leave the ground and taking refuge in a concrete backwater as United fans started to get onto the Kop terrace and most peace loving supporters desperately tried to get away from the chaos.

All in all, a fantastic day out.