Everybody's Famous For 15 Minutes

This article originally featured in MEHSTG No.15 - October 1992

One solution to the hooliganism of the late 70's and early 80's which was suggested was the introduction of pre-match and half time entertainment. The idea being that those fans hell bent on bashing the living daylights out of each other would be so totally engrossed in the non-footballing antics going on that they would forsake their aggressive stance to passively watch and applaud. Luckily for most of the sensible majority we all behaved ourselves and now half time entertainment is generally a thing of the past!
Some of the turns put on during the interval had gone on for years. The Police or RAF dog teams racing over hurdles of immense height and complexity was a particular old favourite. Channelling the fans aggression into cheering for one dog which represented their team was a real master stroke, wasn't it? And that poor chap who used to shoot at the policeman, who then released the dog to sink his teeth into the attackers padded arm. He had a good job didn't he? Mind you, it was particularly entertaining when the dog refused to let go under any circumstances and had to be prised off the unfortunate blokes forearm with a crow bar!  

 

One of the other regular treats would be a group of pre-pubescent, pudgy schoolgirls in leotards and leggings prancing about with the home-made choreography to the latest hit tune of the day. The most abiding memory of the game was on a particularly cold and wet day at Luton when the Luton Strikers' (named after the militant Vauxhall workers in the town more than the Hatters goal-scorers) performed in the middle of the pitch and manfully tried to keep their feet amidst the quagmire that had developed during the first half. It was always good fun to spot the one who didn't have a clue what was going on and was trying to follow the girl in front of her although she couldn't even do that properly.

Mascots have always had place in this field too. Not the little boys or girls in the replica strip who kick about with the players, but men and women wearing laughable costumes and diving out of the way of the ball.) Our hearts must go out to these people. Can you imagine going to work on Monday (as I imagine they must have done - it's hardly a full time job is it ? ) and being asked what you did at the weekend? Do you really admit that you dressed up in a combination of polystyrene and fake fur or do you just say you went to the football? Tottenham are by no means innocent in this respect. Our own Tot'n'ham (named by competition in the programme) have been sorely missed (ooh dear sarcastic -Ed) since their disappearance from the White Hart Lane scene. Where are they now? Who knows? Maybe sold for 3 million each to appear before matches at a top Italian club or given a free to Enfield or Hendon to make up the numbers in the crowd? The Postman Pat incident at Crystal Palace has been fairly well documented, but what was he doing on the pitch anyway. It looked like a Toytown invasion. The scraggy Palace eagle was bad enough, but there were tiny fancy dress animals everywhere. The long time performer in this department must be Chelsea's mascot Stamford The Lion - a 7 foot ginger lion who passes to and has a penalty shoot out with the match mascot He also poses for photos with the captains and officials at the start of the game.  However, his comic attempts to save one young lad's penalty kick efforts could have left the child with irreparable mental damage. The poor kid came up to blast the kick with all his might, succeeding only in affecting a gentle back pass, with Stamford flinging himself in the opposite direction to the ball (shades of B. Mimms Esq. there !).  Unfortunately, Stamford flung himself a bit too vigorously and as he hit the floor his head flew off!  We laughed a lot frankly, but the poor kid probably still awakes in the middle of the night screaming as the nightmare is relived inside his sleeping head !

Musical extravaganzas are also featured among ideas to keep a crowd entertained.  At least most people had heard of Chas 'n' Dave when they appeared at the first televised game v Notts Forest at White Hart Lane and for all their cockney front, they were quite entertaining.  Much more than those awful marching bands which regularly trotted out to keep the fans happy.  At one of the Cup Finals we were treated to an American marching band that you could hardly hear, but you could witness the sight of the Pink Panther playing an euphonium !  On other occasions they are so loud that you end up with a headache without ever recognizing any of the tunes they
played.  Chelsea really are torturers when it comes to entertainment. They had a marching band at half time one year and after the game while we were locked in for the regulation half an hour, they brought the band round our end to play for us. There were some very uncomplimentary songs sung by the Spurs fans in that 30 minutes! Luton are always good for a laugh when it comes to keeping the fans entertained, but their piece de resistance was a Carribean calypso band out on the pitch in Hawaiian shirts and beach shorts in the middle of January. They were, according to DJ bring a bit of sunshine to Kenilworth Road. I can tell him -It didn't work mate!

Penalty shoot out's for local boys football teams in the area are often used to get the crowd involved during the break at half time. Usually the teams featured are all under 10 and the goalkeeper is put into position in a full size goal. This means that all the kickers who are able (and many are not) to get the ball three feet above the ground are likely to score. The agonised look on any kicker who misses or the ecstasy of any keeper who saves is nice to see in ones so young, but how they've learned from the television. The crowds, so often cruel to their own team, can be downright horrible to these school-kids, but they all shake hand's at the end and go off for an orange juice together. I'm not sure what happens at other grounds at Christmas, but Spurs have Santa distributing presents and the local school singing carols.

Other things that have happened at White Hart Lane have included representatives from the match sponsors throwing their product (crisps, milk, etc) into the crowd and it usually finds its way back onto the running track in double quick time. It's been done at Tottenham once or twice, but I remember it more clearly at Coventry and Norwich and that was when the match sponsors were the local car dealer. The latest models would be wheeled out at half time and drive around the pitch. Great hilarity generally ensued as the cars tried to negotiate the corners of the pitch without knocking the corner flags over!

One of the more novel pre-match specialities comes from Upton Park. A group of six lads are decked out in claret and blue tracksuits and parade a banner around the pitch which bears the legend 'Junior Hammers', I swear that they are the same six kids who have been carrying it since I first went to see a game at West Ham many moons ago. I also remember that they used to go around the whole pitch in the old days, but now they go in front of the North Bank and then along the half way line, without venturing too near the visiting fans.

Before my time, but something I've read and heard about was the singing police sergeant with the tenor voice (lend me a tenor and I'11 buy you a drink - old jokes -Ed) who regularly performed at Highbury. A bit like Windsor Davies in 'It Ain't Half Hot Mum' he kept the fans from rioting with classic songs and operatic pieces during the 50's and 60's. Many have told me that he was one of the most entertaining things associated with our friends and near rivals.

I feel that this sort of entertainment may be utilised more often in the future to 'make a day' of it rather than spend 10 or 20 for a seat for just 90 minutes of football. How the average fan will react to this, we might have to wait and see. If the quality is there, it could work, but more hurdling dogs? I don't think so. Anyway, as they say in the trade. 'That's Entertainment'!

THE FUNKY PHANTOM

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