Tracking The Hooligans


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‘On an average Saturday, some thirty trains carried police escorts of between two and eight officers. Officers sometimes reached the destination with their uniforms soiled with spittle, and other filth, burnt with cigarette ends, or slashed.’

Charting the history of violent acts committed by football hooligans on the British rail network and London Underground, numerous retired police officers offer a frightening, and often humorous, insight into how they battled ‘the English disease’. Recalling incidents of random, mindless violence, as well as organised acts carried out by some of the country’s top hooligan firms, the authors document the times where nothing but a truncheon and the power of speech stood between order and chaos.

Exploring a period of fifty years, retired officers Michael Layton and Alan Pacey pay particular attention to the turbulent and dangerous times faced by the police in the 1970s and 1980s, when hooliganism in the United Kingdom was at its peak, as well as exploring more recent instances of disorder. Tracking the Hooligans is an essential account of the uglier side of the beautiful game, and a fitting tribute to those who gave their time, and sometimes their lives, keeping the public safe


‘The story of policing football fans on the move is one that will come as a complete surprise to many students of public order policing and football safety/security. This is not an academic work. It does not set out to analyse the sociological or historical reasons why a small minority of the followers of football behave in a violent and anti social way. What is does is provide testimony from three or more generations of police officers who regularly have had to deal with policing situations not found in the routine round of policing football matches. This collection of anecdotes and case notes is an important and useful contribution to the social history of the sport – and incidentally of the railway networks. It is also a reminder of the bravery of many police officers over several decades who have attempted to keep the Queen’s Peace in difficult circumstances. This is a book that should be read by anyone interested in the reality of policing public transport. I declare an interest in so far I contributed one of the less interesting and shorter accounts in the book, but having read the rest I realise how little I know about the subject.’

‘A lot has been written about football hoolaganism- from both sides of the fence. This book reveals the unique role of the Transport Police, week in, week out with no weekends off at major mainline stations. Mobs of hundreds of baying yobs contained by a handful of officers. In many repects it is a story that had to be written. Some of it ugly, always busy, sometimes even amusing but always describing a thin blue line that was sometimes stretched to the limit. Well worth a read’