Having lived in Warrington all my life, when I was a teen watching Rugby League at Wilderspool was where most of my pocket money was spent. I eventually experienced my first taste of a live football match while over in Yorkshire visiting relatives. Rotherham’s Millmoor ground was literally 100 yards down the street from my great aunt’s house.
Jan 22,1977 Rotherham United 0 Peterborough United 0
It was never going to be the first match up on any edtion of Match of the Day, but I had ‘caught the bug’. I enjoyed the atmosphere at rugby league matches, but there was something about a footie crowd that made it far more exciting. Visits to Witton Albion, Northwich Victoria and Chester soon followed in the next few weeks, all easy to get to by bus for a 14-year old. In ‘those days’ you could do stuff like that on your own, but as enjoyable as those trips were, it wasn’t Tottenham.
I missed the chance to go to the Everton away game that April, but our penultimate match that season was at Maine Road. Unfortunately we were pretty dire that season, that bad we got relegated. It even could have been the day we went down, but I honestly cannot remember.
Getting to Manchester was easy enough, train straight to Oxford Road in a matter of minutes and then a short bus ride. I still remember getting on the bus, scarf tucked away under my coat, and asking the driver how much to the nearest stop to Maine Road, to which he replied
‘You’re not from round here are you?’
I looked bemused until he explained they operated a ‘rover ticket’ system whereby it was just one price no matter where you were going. So I paid my fare (20p I think it was) and followed the Sky Blue shirts to the ground when they all got off, before eventually ending up, a little scared, right at the back of the Kippax Stand with hoards of City fans.
The match itself was very much a blur, we lost 5-0, but thanks to the wonders of YouTube I have relived the action a few times since that day. Tommy Booth headed them into the lead from a Peter Barnes corner and it stayed 1-0 upto half-time. Unfortunately, the second half was just one-way traffic. Dennis Tueart made it 2-0 from another Barnes assist, before the skillful winger added the third himself.
No prizes for guessing who supplied the corner that led to Asa Hartford making it 4-0 and a dreadful backpass (sound familiar) led to Tueart setting up Brian Kidd to complete the rout. I do remember having to clap each City goal to try and avoid showing my true colours, but then getting brave with about five minutes left and cheering when we finally when a corner. Surprisingly I didn’t get a good kicking, just a load of pats on the head from the locals and a few sympathetic ‘Good lad’ and ‘Never mind son’ comments.
Luckily I was not scarred for life by that performance and the following season I got to see us draw 3-3 at Mansfield in the old 2nd Division. To finish off what I would say is, when anybody ever thinks we have been poor in recent times,have a quick search on YouTube for that match in 1977 it won’t cheer you up, but my God it makes you appreciate not matter how bad you might think we have been, it could be a whole lot worse.