Writing – The Journey (Blog Post No 5)

Tracking the Hooligans was co-written with former BTP Assistant Chief Constable Alan Pacey and was published in January 2016 by Amberley. It details more than forty years of football violence on the UKs rail networks, London Underground, and on ferries when BTP still had jurisdiction. The activities of hooligan elements attached to nearly one hundred football clubs is covered with detailed comment from nearly fifty retired BTP officers who tell it ‘how it was’ particularly in the dark years of the 70s and 80s.
In 1972 the then BTP Chief Constable Mr Gay commented “On an average Saturday some thirty trains carried police escorts of between two to eight officers. They sometimes reached their destination with their uniforms soiled with spittle, and other filth, burnt with cigarette ends, or slashed…” This is how it was, and often still is, for a very thin blue line of officers and the book is a testament to their routine bravery.

In the early 70s as a nineteen year-old BTP officer stationed at Birmingham Saturdays had a set routine for officers. Those posted to an early turn worked 6am to 6pm to deal with home fans and incoming away fans onto New Street Station and other smaller railway stations in the region. Those on nights came on duty at 6pm to work a twelve hour shift until 6am next morning to cover for the fact that there was no afternoon shift. The afternoon shift was posted to work as ‘travelling football serials’ – one sergeant and four PCs generally policing so-called ‘football trains’ carrying up to 500 supporters with nothing but a wooden truncheon in a hidden trouser pocket for protection. Whilst the vast majority of fans would be well-behaved there was always generally a significant minority who wanted to challenge the police and were relishing a day spent hunting the opposition. With limited means of communication and no immediate prospects of getting assistance whilst on trains travelling at speed, and over long distances, we learnt the art of communication, and came to know the identities of our opponents quickly – once the shroud of anonymity is removed people tend to behave more! Back home the routine was again familiar as at 5pm on a Saturday away fans would return to catch trains and home fans would circle the station like sharks waiting for their moment to attack. One tribe defending its territory whilst other tribes sought to make their presence felt. Violence was routine and in the days of Stanley knives, knuckle dusters and ‘calling cards’ people got hurt. It was our job to stop the violence and in so doing the officers routinely became the focus of attack instead. Anyone who has worked on a railway station will know that sound is naturally amplified within the enclosed spaces – whenever the sound of a charge, usually a roar followed shouts and screams went up it could be simply electrifying. Anyone who has seen the film ‘Zulu’ and witnessed the scenes where thousands of Zulu Warriors chanted ‘Zulu’ in unison will get the idea. trackinghooligansfrontcover

‘Tracking The Hooligans’ has twenty reviews with an overall score of 4.1 stars out of 5. It is available in bookshops and on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1445651807/

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