With my fellow Dundonian ‘The Animal’ getting all prolific with his blog, I have decided to find something worth writing about. This week, I will not be having a go at anyone with beards, I will not be talking politics, and I will mostly be happy.
In the past month, I have travelled the globe looking for something to write about, although when I say that, what I mean is I had a holiday in Benidorm before heading off to London for a few days.
First off, for anyone thinking of visiting Benidorm, don’t. It was described to me before I left as ‘Blackpool with sun’. I would describe it as a total shitehole. Don’t get me wrong, the weather was great, the drink was relatively cheap, but everything else was truly awful.
While I was away, I celebrated my 21st birthday, again, and of all the 21st birthdays I have had, this one was probably the most memorable. It started well enough with a trip to the local casino where I was plied with free drink, as my mate won a small fortune. All good so far.
What followed though was not so good. Benidorm has an attraction. Blackpool has a tower, New York has a Statue, Rome has a coliseum. Benidorm has Sticky Vicky.
So what else could I do but wander along and take in the show?
When we arrived, the act coming on stage was a ventriloquist, allegedly. I always thought the main part of that act was the ability to talk without moving your lips, apparently not. But that is by the by, the next act on stage was Vicky.
Now there is absolutely no way I can adequately describe the act Vicky does, but in essence, a 71 year old woman comes on stage, strips, goes behind a podium and shoves things into her vagina, before coming out from that podium and pulling them out again.
And we are talking razor blades, flowers, a caravan came out at one point I think, to be honest, I was trying to blot out the sound of my eyes crying too much to be paying attention. The climax of the show, and God forgive me for picking THAT word, was Vicky opening a coke bottle, and not the screw on type, with her front bottom. The only redeeming feature of her act was it was better than the comedian who followed her.
But now to the good stuff. I arrived home in Dundee on the Sunday, then left for London the following day to go and watch a football match.
This particular match was a testimonial for Julian Speroni, a goalkeeper who played less than 100 games for Dundee, before spending ten years at Crystal Palace.
Now realistically, this is a kick about, 600 miles away, for a player who did not spend that long at Dundee, on a Tuesday night. How many fans are going to make that trip?
Around 2,000 Dees travelled by train, car, bus and plane, and given the club had just over 4,000 season ticket holders, that is not too shabby.
Croydon welcomed this travelling army with open arms, we were welcomed in every bar, restaurant, shop and even a museum. Dundee fans took Monday as a settling in day, before the festivities kicked off in earnest on the Tuesday.
I don’t want to knock Croydon, but we visited some of the mankiest boozers in the world, and we had a whale of a time. The singing started at about lunchtime, and continued right through the game and on until we were kicked out of the pub at midnight. We then carried on in the hotel bar till the wee small hours.
Now all that is great, and there is a point to this tale. In Scotland, football fans are treated a bit like cattle. We are herded into grounds,and told to sit down and shut up. I have watched Aberdeen fans in Dundee being told by police where to walk, and when to do it. In our own stadium, the club is currently modifying a section of the stadium to deal with home fans deemed too rowdy.
At Crystal Palace, we sat in a pub till 15 mins before kick off, we walked through Palace fans to get to the away end, we got a beer at half time, well a few beers, and Dundee fans took advantage of this freedom to have a party. And party we did. The game finished 4-3 to the home side, and off we went in search of a pub.
It is slightly strange when you walk into a pub for the first time, 600 miles from home, and you know at least half the people in there, but that is what happened. The police in Croydon looked at the Dundee fans, saw we were there for the party, and pretty much left us to it. We partied with Palace fans, without Palace fans, in the pubs, clubs and hotels. In Scotland, we would have been refused entry to most of those places.
George has already written about the reason fans in Scotland are treated this way, it is mostly to do with the bigot brothers, Celtic and The Rangers. They take massive support wherever they play, and in amongst those thousands are a few troublemakers.
So the Police in Scotland treat every away support the way they would treat those troublemakers, and that is not right. While I would never pretend the supporters of other clubs are all angels, in general, football fans are pretty well behaved. But they have been demonised in the press, and non football fans expect the worst.
On the train journey down, a few Dees took advantage of some beer they happened to find in their suitcases, they sang a few songs as they drank. The guard on the train took exception, and the transport police were called. A woman behind me asked what was going on and it was explained to her in pretty much those exact words.
By the time she passed the story on, football fans were rioting.
But what this trip showed was that a group of football fans can travel to watch their club, interact with the locals in a perfectly normal way, and everyone has a good time, like, well like normal people would.
We don’t need to be policed aggressively, we don’t need to be treated badly, in fact, that is only likely to cause bother. Now I get this was an unusual game, and I get that the atmosphere created by both sets of fans was probably a bit less confrontational than if it were a game with real rivalry. I get that everyone was there to see Speroni, and the fans had something in common.
But putting all that aside, what we had was two sets of fans being treated like normal human beings, and in turn, the fans showed respect to each other, and to the stewards and police. And everyone had a great time.
However bad the trip to Benidorm was, the trip to Croydon was great, and part of that is down to the occasion, part is down to the fans, a big part is down to the people and police in Croydon, who allowed the fans to party without getting heavy handed.
And as part of the #CML bandwagon, I finally plucked up the courage to ask someone out, she said yes…….