Friday 25 July ~

Mark McQuinn went to Scarborough's first match in the Football League, which turned out to be quite traumatic. From WSC 163 (September 2000)

The summer of 1987 and there was only one place to be for a holiday in August – Scarborough – for the chance to see the home team's debut in the Football League against Wolves. The night before the match, hundreds of visiting fans arrived for some serious drinking. Most seemed intent on making sure the locals knew they were big-time fans from a big-time club – just three years earlier Wolves had been in the old First Division, starting with a 1-1 draw against Liverpool at Molineux. However, that was about as big-time as it got, since they finished bottom.

The Wolves fans standing with me in a chip shop queue were wearing T-shirts, which said: "Everywhere we go, people want to know where the hell we're from." One of them thrust his chest across the counter and demanded that the server consider the statement on his shirt. The assistant, a formidable woman, maintained steady eye contact, before replying, "I'm about as interested in where you're from, love, as I am in how paper clips are made." One-nil to Scarborough, but not for long.

The next day produced a farrago of the worst aspects of English football: violent fans aware no one was going to do much to stop them, clueless policing and preposterous post-match witterings from some of those involved. Some Wolves fans, many of whom had slept on the beach, were up for trouble from the early morning. The police made no attempt to gather them into a manageable group or to move in and make arrests when fans were throwing bottles at buses, kicking cars and threatening people not wearing gold and black.

Inside the ground, Wolves fans were able to climb on to sheds at their end and use the corrugated roofs as weapons, as well as lumps of concrete and cans. From these sheds some fans made it on to the much higher roof of a stand containing Scarborough fans. Fights continued as one fan fell through the roof just before the teams came out and needed the kiss of life. The violence continued apace at half-time when a food kiosk and toilet were wrecked and the teams were unable to restart the match. Despite the arrival of reinforcements from York, which belied the claim made later that they "were ready for all eventualities" the police remained unable to get any sort of grip on the situation. Unbelievably, at the end the Wolves fans were able to rip off the guttering and part of the roof of a stand and then to part an exit gate from its hinges.

Sitting in a town centre pub after the match, most of the talk was about the violence. It took a while before someone actually mentioned that it had been a very good game. Scarborough took an early lead but found it increasingly difficult to deal with Steve Bull and were 2-1 down at the break before getting a deserved second-half equaliser. Bull played a stormer, giving the home back four no rest. Scarborough looked a good side, even allowing for the fact that they had been hyped up for their first match in the League.

Watching the news about the match, however, brought back the gloom. Scarborough chairman Terry Wood echoed Ken Bates's call for fences at football grounds to be electrified. That would have caused a great deal more serious injuries, as many fans were pushed against the fences during the trouble; some Wolves supporters climbed them to help clear debris off the pitch and to remonstrate with their own fans.

Two particular incidents stay with me. At half-time, as the Wolves players made their way off the pitch, some of their fans in front of me shouted down to them and pointed, laughing, to the end where most of the trouble had been. A couple of the younger players looked over and joined in the laughter.

After the match, as skirmishes continued in the streets around the ground, a large group of us were pushing to get on a bus. Among the crowd was a young guy doing his best to help an older blind man on board. Suddenly three men, obviously hammered, forced their way through the throng, knocking people aside. "Careful, that guy's blind," someone shouted. "So fucking what?" was the reply. It was that kind of day.

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