My Second Ejection. This is a story about being over excited and the things that it can involuntarily make you do, leaving you feeling embarrassed.
If you missed the first part of this story, you can find it here.
About a year and a half had passed since my first ejection and during that time I’d been a good boy. I was never a hooligan or a fan who went looking for trouble but at the same time I wasn’t one to go to games undercover. I’d just evolved into a regular devoted fan.
It was on Easter Monday, 27th March 1989, that Brighton came to Selhurst Park. We were on a good run at the time, climbing the table that would see us finish 3rd, eventually gaining promotion in the memorable play-off victory over Blackburn.
This game ended 2-1 to Palace with goals by Wright and Bright (pen) with Brighton replying through Curbishley (pen). The win left us in 7th place and would become infamous among Palace fans because of the 5 penalties awarded by Kelvin Morton.
Of the five penalties, Palace scored one through Bright but missed three by Bright, Wright and Pemberton. Brighton scored one through Curbishley.
The Second Time
All throughout the game there had been a fantastic atmosphere. A good Bank Holiday fixture against our bitter rivals, what could be better?
It was mid-way through the second half of the lively game when Palace were awarded the fifth penalty of the game. With the game at 2-1 and having seen Bright score one then miss one and then Wright miss one, John Pemberton took the responsibility to take the penalty.
‘Pembo’ placed the ball on the penalty spot in a confident manner and took a good few strides back to the edge of the ‘D’. Something inside knew what was going to happen.
Sure enough Pembo must have had a moment of confusion and went for a rugby conversion, sending the ball up the back of the Holmesdale Terrace.
Inevitably the Brighton fans laughed and mocked us, as they had done before when we missed from the penalty spot.
As we were being jeered by the Brighton fans a good number of people responded by either verbal responding or by ‘flicking a V-sign’ at the away corner. I think I opted for a combination of the two but certainly performed the latter, at the very least!
And this wasn’t the first time in that game. It was Brighton, we’d now missed 3 penalties so I guess I had responded in a similar manner before. I know other people had done and whatever happened a decision must have been made to take action.
A Tug From Behind
I felt a tug, not the good kind and once again I found myself travelling backwards up the Arthur Wait Enclosure steps.
This time there wasn’t as much force as before, which must have been because it was a derby game and twice as many people were in the ground.
I guess there wasn’t as much room to drag a football fan without being hindered.
This time I had a good idea about what was happening and who was behind me. As I was passing fans they seemed to be voicing their defence or support of me instead of ignoring what was going on.
I saw the friend I was standing with turn to see me depart and laugh as I went. He was standing with the me the last time it happened.
At the top of the Enclosure I was one again hurled back against the wall however this time I was expecting it and lent my head forwards so backside and back too the brunt of the impact. My head was spared and once again I was led away with my arm behind my back.
I took the same route as before only this time I was more conscious about where I was going and quickly realised that I was going to have to pass all the Brighton fans en-route to the top of the Holmesdale.
The inevitable started as I got to the end of the Arthur Wait Enclosure and turned to go down to pitch level. The Brighton fans at the front started mocking me, insulting me and so on.
I was able to look around me and was amazed that I seemed to be the only one being led out. I wouldn’t want other fans to but thrown out but I wondered why they picked me.
I think it was just pot luck and as it was just being ejected no proof was required.
Walking The Gauntlet
So we began the long walk from pitch level up to the top of the Holmesdale Terrace.
I’ve always been a fan of music, ever since I was little. I was lucky enough to grow up in a pub so the jukebox was always a fixture in my life. Back in the 70s the pub was more of a working man’s domain.
We had a Public Bar, which was a little more rough and had men enjoying a pint in their work clothes. And we had a Saloon Bar, which had carpeted floor and was the place the women sat or men with their wives.
Yes, things really were like that back then! Pubs opened at 11.30 and closed at 15.00 to open again at 17.30 until 23.00. The life of a publican wasn’t like it is today. Food? A few rolls and some pork scratchings! 🙂
I mention the pub because I was aware of the song by Stealers Wheel called ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’ long before it was made infamous by the film Reservoir Dogs.
As I was walking up the I started thinking about the chorus to that song. On the left of me were the clowns, the Brighton fans who were taking the pi*s, being abusive and some of them aiming a punch at me through the railings. I think some of them even spat at me.
The Policeman, being a sensible chap, stood to the right of me who was a joker. He was telling me to ignore them and when I told him I was being hit be said he didn’t see anything.
The Palace fans in the middle pen of the Holmesdale did what they did the previous time I was ejected and voiced their support while at the same time throwing abuse back at the Brighton fans.
I survived the long walk to the top and received some bruises but nothing major.
My Home From Home
I was taken into the little brick building again for the same routine as before. The policeman sitting at the desk asked what I’d done and my escort said “crowd incitement” which I thought was a fair reflection!
I would have thought crowd incitement was the reason was ejected the first time rather than the “racial incitement” what was quoted at the time.
In case you are wondering I hadn’t done anything racist the previous time I was ejected. All I and several hundred other fans did was hum the ‘Hovis’ tune and shouting sh*t at the end of it at the Middlesbrough fans.
I was again asked for my name and address but this time as I wasn’t suffering from near concussion and with the suspicion I was just going to be thrown out of the ground, I gave my friend’s name and address. Well, he did just laugh at me for being dragged away!
The policeman at the desk gestured at the exit and once again was led towards the big iron exit gate. It was opened and I was pushed out onto Holmesdale Road.
All in all the experience was more pleasant, less painful than the previous time. I decided not to hang around and went round to Park Road to see if I could get back into the ground.
Sure enough, the exits were open. Luckily not for the away fans!
Just as before I made my way down the stairs towards the Arthur Wait Enclosure, passing the Brighton fans who some minutes before has been mocking me. A couple right at the front recognised me, I have that kind of face.
They tried to tell the policemen at the bottom of the stairs that I had been thrown out. The policemen just ignored them and I gave them a ‘Nescafe’ hand gesture at them.*
*Back in the 80s Nescafe had a commercial where Gareth Hunt, basically, did a w*nker hand shake to transform coffee beans into granules.
I found my friend who said he wondered how long I’d be and just took the pi*s out of me until I told him I gave them his name and address. That wiped the smile off his face.
The game ended and a good day was had by all.
The team: Suckling, Pemberton, Shaw, Madden, Hopkins, O’Reilly, McGoldrick, Pardew, Bright, Wright, Barber. Sub: Burke (Shaw).
I made it clear in the first part of this article and I want to make it again, I don’t think it is funny, clever or big to be thrown out of a football ground.
Those of you who went to matches back then, especially away games, will know how we were treated. Especially notorious were the West Midlands Police for their heavy handedness and lack of intelligence.
I honestly didn’t think humming the Hovis tune would incite the crowd nor flicking a V-sign which when you compare to some of the things sung at the time is kind of trivial!
This article was first published in The Eagles Beak on 31st January 2017.