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Ruined in a Day

by Shaun Smith

“… One lager, one John Smiths Smooth and a canister of your finest German police-issue CS gas when you’re ready please love ….”


One of life’s simpler yet also finer pleasures. A quiet Saturday dinnertime drink with my dad with the only interruptions coming from the 12:45 kick-off Premiership game being shown on the worst big screen in the world and heated discussion of the afternoon-ahead’s racing across the bar. A chance to put the world to rights over a few pints and discuss any number of issues, topical or otherwise. Be it how vastly over-rated Frank Lampard is (something we both agree on …), classic episodes of Porridge and Steptoe & Son, shithouses who refuse to gamble on Deal Or No Deal or where the German Sixth Army got it wrong at Stalingrad (“… General Paulus needed four in midfield on a heavy pitch like that …”), there isn’t much that we haven’t got an opinion on however nonsensical. And at least I also know where I inherited my ability to talk complete and utter bollocks on a myriad of subjects. The salubrious surroundings may not be to everyone’s taste and it might not exactly be up there on the Bacchanalian Richter scale of Keith Moon, Oliver Reed or Studio 54-style excesses but we both enjoy it. And that was the Bobby Moore until our local constabulary decided to turn the estate’s one remaining drinking establishment into a concentration camp for visiting supporters/potential hooligans, rounded up and bussed in under escort from the town centre – just under four miles away …


Despite seemingly unlimited resources at their disposal, not to mention the legalese riot stick that forms  the Football [Disorder] Act 2000 on the statute book, the powers-that-be have also decided that we’ll now be the fortnightly recipients of the kind of high-profile policing normally only reserved for council estates during incidents involving petrol bombs, burning cars and baton charges in full riot gear. The question might possibly beg “why?” The nearby town centre, not to mention every pub and bar within its boundaries, is covered by the kind of video surveillance that even George Orwell couldn’t have dreamt up when penning 1984. Easy enough you would have thought to monitor and police any gangs of out-of-town ne’r-do-wells turning up to indulge in contact pursuits livelier than a game of backgammon or contract bridge with the local gentlefolk. But instead the police have chosen to shift or potentially manufacture a problem elsewhere. “Elsewhere” being a public house that requires even more in the way of resources to police it effectively. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the police goose labelled “easy overtime” needing IVF treatment to enable it to keep laying its golden eggs as the effects of banning orders and stiffer sentencing start to take their toll and arrest figures at football matches continue to drop      


Police transit vans, video surveillance vans, double-decker buses, dog vans, police horses shitting on the pub car park. It’s the new not-so-Smart’s circus surrounding the local alehouse we get treated to whenever the local Nationwide League under-achievers are now at home. Where even the simple task of attempting to put a fixed odds coupon on at next door’s bookies requires negotiating skills of ACAS proportions to avoid receiving a Section 60 notification. “Where you going?”  - “next door” - “What for?” “Feyenoord, Livorno, Schalke, Paris Saint Germain ….” – before you can add the words “in a tenner fourfold”, they’re already flapping into their radios requesting backup in anticipation of foreign hordes calling it on in Corals. But at least the staff in there are happy if no-one else is – even the most desperate of bagheads would think twice about attempting an armed blag between 11am and 3pm with nearly more plod than were present at the Orgreave picket line in attendance outside


All this effort and manpower is required to supervise, in the main, gangs of young thug-erazzi bedecked in the same unimaginative, played-out Stone-fucking-Island and baseball cap uniform now beloved of every hooligan in Europe. They might be Blackpool or Chesterfield but they could just as well be Red Star Belgrade or Basel now dressed like that. Lads with a few pints down their neck and desperate to give it the big one but, unlike their predecessors, with no-one to give the big one to. Not unless you count some Carlisle United white supremacist shouting “nigger” across the pub at middle-aged West Indian blokes far more interested in a game of cards and Channel Four’s racing coverage than handing out a deserved hiding to some disrespectful bloodclaart. That old chestnut “treat people like animals and they will act like animals” might spring readily to mind but if I were an animal I’d sue for deformation of character. Even a colour-blind chameleon - unlike Scunthorpe United - would baulk at wearing Aquascutum and Burberry together and hold its ale far better. Trying to hold a silly conversation can prove to be a tad problematical when you’ve got goons chanting “sheep-sheep-sheepshaggers” across the pub. Trying to hold any conversation without laughing your tits off because chanting goons concerned follow Oldham Athletic is nigh-on impossible. Ironic? Ask any of these whoppers if they knew what “irony” was and they’d likely think it formed part of the care label instructions on the CP Company goggle cardigan worn by their lead tenor, a young man more in need of a full welding mask rather than just goggles. That or employing an agent to secure him an endorsement deal with Oxy-10 …


So far these new police tactics have yet to be employed for a night game. As and when they are, any guest appearance by the police helicopter might actually be welcomed in some quarters. When it flew over with spotlight beam on full during a car-chase last year, half the estate thought their electric had been turned back on. Given that we’ve had more power cuts than your average Polish mining town in the past year, thanks to the expansion of an industrial development just down the road, this isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds. There’s also a yet-to-be-thought-of conundrum awaiting an answer from the Eggheads mass application at police HQ. What happens if FA Cup progression eventually provides a home draw against one of the bigger clubs with a large travelling support? Are the boys in blue and dayglo yellow really going to attempt to fit 4000-plus Scouse/Mancs/Geordies in just the one pub? And then there’s the small matter of a potential relegation six-pointer with Millwall looming ahead like a wayward distress flare on the fixture list and with all the charm of a rabid Japanese Tosa let loose at Crufts. With the best will in the world, you could hardly claim that South London ’s finest are big fans of pro-active policing and some also possess a lovingly-crafted record when it comes to public house disorder and interior renovations. Add to the mix a few disgruntled local hardmen with a point to prove and you get an inkling that it might take just a little bit more than a few nuts in dishes on the bar or even pie and mash on the menu to create the desired, friendly atmos that day …




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