After a Twitter exchange with my friend Adam earlier today, I got thinking about football in the 80s. It really was in the mud, with the summer of 1985 particularly challenging.
Adam mentioned how he had attended the game on Wednesday with West Ham fans and how, in the 80s, it really would have been very different when travelling to and from matches. It got me wondering: what was it like back then? I picked the year I felt seemed really tough, 1985, and settled on this weekend for our trip to Wolves. Was there any hint of the trouble that plagued our national game?
Yep, there it was, right on the front page of the Echo, dated September 30th, 1985. Trouble on a train, 15 arrests. These days, I’ve been on trains described in the same way as this, and there was a huge police reaction to nothing. It seems in 1985, that was not the case.
Younger fans might be wondering what we were doing playing Wolves, a Premier League team. Well, they haven’t always been a team from the top two divisions. In fact, in early 1985/86, they were described by Echo journalist David Whaley as ‘dreadfully poor opposition’. In 1980, they won the League Cup and finished 6th in the First Division. They were relegated in 1982, winning promotion back to the First Division, the top flight in 1983. In 1984, they dropped into the Second Division. In 1985, they dropped into the Third Division, which is where we met them. At the end of the season, they dropped into the Fourth Division.
Along with us.
John Pickering was not happy with our 1-1 draw. He accused Warren Ward and John McGinley of ‘daydreaming’ and accused his defenders of not learning from earlier mistakes. This was the first season without Colin Murphy since the halcyon days of the early eighties, and Pickering wouldn’t last the season.
For the trip to Wolves, City lined up Dean Greygoose, Gary Strodder, Mark McCarrick, Neil Redfearn, Gary West, Steve Richards, Andy Toman, Phil Turner, John McGinley, Warren Ward and Richard Cooper, with Willie Gamble as the sub.
The Echo suggested the first half, in which the Imps conceded within two minutes, they were guilty of ‘lethargic strolling’. On loan Greygoose, who spent the majority of his latter career at Crewe, got into a mix-up with Richards and ended up flattening Neal Edwards as a result. Andy King scored the penalty.
Greygoose made up for it, producing three good saves against a side described as a ‘sad outfit’. The Imps missed the width of Gordon Mair and believed they missed the experience of Bob Latchford. Luckily, they got a ‘kick up the pants’ at half time, and probably did enough to win.
Time was ebbing away when Toman prodded the ball through a packed penalty area, and it crept slowly over the line. The Wolves keeper, a young Tim Flowers, could do nothing, but he did salvage a point for his team, pulling off a fine save from a Phil Turner header late on. Finally, when Flowers was beaten for a second time in the final minutes, Ian Cartwright was on hand to head Turner’s goalward-bound chip off the line.
We finished three points above Wolves in the final league table, but three points adrift of safety. They’d suffered three relegations in as many seasons, but we suffered the first of two that would see us drop out of the Football League.
What happened to the arrested fans? I’m afraid I don’t know!