My first Ejection. I wonder how many of you misread the title? If you did then you might be slightly disappointed by this article. If you didn’t, you still might be disappointed!
I’ve only ever been ejected three times in my life. The first time doesn’t really count because it was from my mother’s womb, like we all were. I don’t mean we were all ejected from my mother’s womb, that would just be wrong, I mean we have all been ejected from a womb… No, that doesn’t sound any better.
Apart from the womb, the other times that I have been ejected were from Selhurst Park and you have probably gathered by now that I do in fact mean being thrown out of the ground?
I want to begin by saying that I don’t think it is smart, cleaver or funny to be thrown out of a football ground. Least of all by the police who were somewhat violent back in the day. There was none of this human rights business when it came to attending football matches.
No, police back in those days could do pretty much whatever they liked, however they like and we had little or no way of complaining.
However, far from being innocent I was guilty as sin, it was the way I was treated that I objected to.
The First Time
Back on Tuesday 1st September 1987 we entertained Middlesbrough at Selhurst Park. We won the game 3-1 with goals by Geoff Thomas and a brace by Mark Bright. Middlesbrough scored through Bernie Slaven.
I was 17 at the time and if memory serves it was a tepid evening as I was wearing a jean jacket. As usual I stood in the Arthur Wait Enclosure, roughly 1/3 between the half way line and the Homesdale End with one of my friends.
Back then, this was the place where the atmosphere came from. The ‘hard core’ singing would emanate from the Arthur Wait Enclosure aimed towards the away fans who were in the corner. I have to add my friend and I were anything but ‘hard core’ but it was the place to be!
It was about half way through the second half, not long after we’d scored our third goal when the crowed began to sing the Hovis tune which culminated with everyone shouting the word ‘sh*t’ at the end. This wasn’t the first time we’d done that song on that evening.
My Collar Was Felt
So the song was done and the word was shouted. I instantly, literally, had my collar felt and I was yanked back. I had no idea what was going on. I was travelling backwards at some speed up the terrace of the Arthur Wait as fast as my legs would carry me.
All I could see was people filling the void of my wake while looking at me and then back at the pitch.
I reached the top of the terrace, not that I knew it at the time and was propelled back with more force.
Everything happened in slow motion from this point. As I went backwards I noticed a
copper policeman to my right just as the back of my head made contact with the wall that separated the terrace from the seats.
OUCH! I tried to put my hands up to my head but the policeman grabbed my right arm and put it behind my back. My left arm was free so that was holding the back of my head.
The policeman then began to frogmarch me along the back of the enclosure towards the Holmesdale. People who lined the enclosure and up in the seats were shouting things, things I later found out was abuse at the policeman for how he was treating me.
We got to the end of the enclosure, turned right to go down towards the pitch, along in front of the away fans and then up the walk way that separated the away fans and the middle pen of the Holmesdale End.
It was roughly at this point that I began to come to my senses and realised what was going on. I’d been under the impression that I was being helped, I don’t know why.
So now, being pushed up the steps of the Holmesdale I realised I was in trouble. I thought I was being
I asked what was going on and I was told to shut up. I asked what I had done, I was told to shut up whilst getting a little push.
It was a surreal experience. To my left were a smattering of Middlesbrough fans, not many really, telling me I’ve been a naughty boy while on my right were Palace fans telling the policeman to leave me alone.
My Particulars Taken
We reached the top of the stairs and there was a little concrete or brick structure which I was taken to.
I was still clutching my head at this point though now the policeman had leg go of my right arm and I was able to swap arms.
All kinds of things were going through my mind. What did I do? Would I get a phone call? What police station was I being taken to? What would my dad say? And so on.
There was a guy being ‘processed’ in front of me. I didn’t hear what was being said to him but he was led away and out of the room. My head was still throbbing.
“Name?” asked the Policeman sitting at the desk. I answered.
“Address” he asked. I answered.
“What did he do?” he asked the policeman who brought me up there.
“Racial incitement.” he answered.
“What?” I said. “I didn’t do anything racist!”
The policeman looked at me and said. “The Hovis tune, son. It’s classed as racial incitement. You were bating the away fans!”
I looked at him open mouthed, looked at the policeman sitting at the desk. He was writing the information down.
I thought ‘that’s all I need, being convicted of racially abusing Yorkshiremen!’
The Great Escape
“Take him out!” said the policeman at the desk. And with that the other policeman put his hand on my shoulder and led me out another door and towards a one of the gates that are opened to let the crowd out.
I was still in a state of shock. Partly from the crack on my head and partly from being accused of racism. I can remember thinking how I never once took part in the racist songs aimed at black players and here I am being done for racially abusing white people.
A smile flashed across my face when I thought that my dad would say that I couldn’t even manage to perform an act of racism without messing it up. That smile soon faded as the policeman lifted the bar, opened the gate and pushed me through it.
After three or four steps I stopped, looked up (in London you always look down when you walk to dodge the dog turds) and the street was empty. I was expecting to see a
meat wagon police transport van sitting outside on Holmesdale Road.
I heard a bang behind me and I stood there for a good few seconds before looking around. The gate was closed behind me. I was there alone. What was going on?
Should I make a run for it? No. They have my name and address. Should I wait? What, like a mug? So I turned and slowly walked up the hill towards Park Road.
I have no idea why I walked towards Park Road. In those days I travelled to the ground by bus, usually the 68 from West Croydon but sometimes the 157 from the same place. I should have turned right and made my way past the Old Stand.
As I turned down Park Road the gates were starting to be opened. They used to open them with about 10-15 minutes left to play. We used to joke that they kept the gate closed to prevent us from leaving. No, we had to suffer to the end!
So, I thought ‘fu*k it, I’m going back in!’ and went back inside the Arthur Wait Enclosure, down the stairs and found my friend.
He asked what happened to me, he just saw me disappear and didn’t know why. He didn’t see any police and the people standing behind us didn’t either. They only saw an arm reach past them and pull me out.
The game ended with a 3-1 win, our first of the season. I had a large lump on my head and a headache for a couple of days. All’s well that ends well, as they say.
From that day to this I have not heard any more about this incident and I will never know why they singled me of the crowd of a few hundred people.
Whenever I tell people about what happened they wonder why I never made a complaint. Back then we were treated like dirt and I would never have got anywhere with it.
It could have been worse had I hit a different part of my head. But I guess I learned my lesson… Or did I?
The team: Wood, Stebbing, Brush, Gray, Nebbeling, Cannon (c), Redfearn, Thomas, Bright, Wright, Salako. Sub: Barber (unused).
Next Week: My second ejection.
This article was first published in The Eagles Beak on 24th January 2017.