How did you feel when your team ‘upped-sticks’ and left your old ground? Were you upset, frustrated or annoyed at your Club relocating or was it the best thing that ever happened? I know how strongly I felt when my team Bolton Wanderers left Burnden Park and moved out of town to the Reebok. Having watched The Wanderers at Burnden for almost 30 years of my life I felt devastated so much so I felt compelled to write the article below which was published in just about every fanzine and magazine at the time I wrote it. Since then dozens of clubs up and down the country have moved home and I am looking for fans who want to tell their stories in a new book that I am releasing. I am already a published author and being a massive football fan I want to write a book about football by the people who know best, THE FANS! I would really like to feature your contributions about how real fans feel when the team they love leaves its ‘spiritual home’. So, if you are interested in having your say then please email me your stories and feeling, this is your moment to have your say! By contributing you could very well be published!
Here’s the piece I mentioned earlier which will feature in the new book: –
BURNDEN PARK – MY LAST 30 YEARS!!!
I first went to Burnden as an 8 year old in 1968. The following are my memories of the famous old ground in the 3 decades since then. Memories in no particular order, some of them very vague, others seem as if they happened yesterday. There are very few dates that spring to mind to pinpoint particular incidents, but I know that if you were there then you too will remember.
The Embankment; The first place I ever stood, no Normid Superstore then and massive big steps at the back about 2 feet high, railway line at the back, big wooden scoreboard like a cricket ground. A 3rd round FA cup tie against the then mighty Newcastle United saw a sea of black and white as 17000 Geordies crammed onto the huge terrace, the result 3-3 and Malcolm McDonald scored a hat-trick. We were on ‘Match of the Day’!
I remember crowds of 4000 and crowds of 57000 like the league cup semi against Everton. We drank beer on the terraces and peed where we stood. Go to the toilets? No chance! It was impossible to move you just swayed with the crowd. If you did manage to get to the loo it was a mixture of smells from the 6 inch deep river of pee and the lashings of too strong disinfectant.
Later I moved to the best kop end ever… The Lever End. Here were the boys who sang brilliant songs and wore the football fashions of the 70’s. Doc Marten boots, Crombie coats, Skinners jeans and Ben Sherman shirts. People wore scarves then and it was cool to wear a silk Wanderers scarf tied round your wrist. These were the boys who got involved in the many riots and pitch invasions of that time against the likes of Chelsea, Millwall and Leeds.The big matches down the years come to mind. The Newcastle game mentioned earlier for one. I also remember when as a 3rd Division Club we hammered 1st Division Man City 3-0 in the League Cup 3rd round in front of 42000!!! The top of Division 2 game against Sunderland in front of a similar crowd, when big Sam Allardyce scored “that Header”, and I saw the maestro Frank Worthington score “that Goal”. Nat Lofthouse I’ve never seen him play but from the first years I went to Burnden I knew he was already a legend. There were other names, maybe not all as famous as Frankie Worthy and Nat, but no doubt remembered by the people who watched them at the time. Eddie Hopkinson, Charlie Hurley, John Byrom, Gary Jones, Paul Jones, John Ritson, Willie Morgan, Alan Gowling, Charlie Wright, Tad Novack, Gordon Taylor and Neil Whatmore. There are many more, too numerous to mention but remembered all the same because they wore the white shirt!
Burnden also carries memories of great players from opposing teams down the years. I’m sure I remember a 16 year old Trevor Francis scoring a hatful of goals against us for Birmingham City, 3 or 4 I think, and it might have been his full debut!! The late Great Bobby Moor was sent off for the only time in his career at Burnden while playing for Fulham. Yes, we knew how to wind up the opposition at Burnden. I was there on the night Bruce Rioch incited the most hostile atmosphere ever seen in a football ground as we terrorised Wolves and their fans out of the play offs and went onto gain promotion to the Premier League.
It’s not all been laughter down the years. I’ve seen grown men cry at Burnden when we lost out to Aldershot (of all people) in the first ever play offs to get dumped into the Fourth Division. I was one of the grown men crying at the end of the very last game to be played there against Charlton when that Burnden legend JOHN McGINLAY took his final bow. He could fill a book himself with his heroics and exploits for the Whites, and it all started with ‘that penalty’, 10 minutes from the end of ‘that game’ that sent Preston down and won us promotion. We sang all the way down Manny Road just as years ago we used to sing under the Railway Bridges outside the Embankment, but they are gone now. We used to go into the Rose Hill Tavern for a pint, now it’s known as Churchills. The iron bridge is still there, a lasting landmark on the route to Burnden. I even remember the dodgy bogs just after the Waggon and Horses, a welcome stopping point after one pint too many. Then onto Rice and Easy for the best chips in town.
Burnden wasn’t the plushest of grounds with its wooden stands and broken guttering. The banking at Croft Lane was always overgrown with weeds, and how did that ridiculous great puddle at the corner of the Lever End and Burnden Paddock survive all those years come rain or shine?? Daft I know, but I remember little things like that, things like “The Happy Shop” as the first Club shop was known. Things like being able to buy “The Buff”, a paper that had all the days results and reports 5 minutes after the end of the game. It was printed and sold from mobile vans on Manny Road – BRILLIANT!!! Things like paying 3 quid to get in, and thinking it was a fortune. Things like going to mid week afternoon matches during the power cuts of the 70’s. Things like the Bromwich Street Training Ground and things like trying to sign Pele as our Manager!!!
Things that make up 30 years of memories of an 8 year old boy and now a 38 year old man, but all memories of the same person. All significant in their own little way because they are memories of a place that will live forever in the hearts of the people who were lucky enough to call it “Our Ground” a place that will never be forgotten, even when the bulldozers finally move in.
BURDEN PARK WILL REMAIN FOREVER THE HOME OF
Please note no payments will be made for any contributions but the opportunity to feature in what I know will be the book of the century, you will live on forever – payment enough!!!
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