Football in the Old Days ; Derby County v Norwich City

Imagine it is the late 1970s. We are walking down to the old Baseball Ground, and about to turn into Harrington Street. The floodlights of the ground are just visible:

A fur x police hors 4

My Dad, my brother and I used to park on what had been the Parade Ground at the old Victorian army barracks at Normanton, and then walk down to the football ground. If we were at all late for the kick off, Fred, my Dad, was quite capable of generating a punishing pace along the terraced backstreets. It was with complete justification that my brother would regularly accuse him of setting off like “a long dog” (whatever that was).
On one occasion, Fred was extremely late for the game, so rather than miss a second of the action, he just left the car on the grass verge of the Ring Road. He accepted as a necessary evil the inevitable parking ticket and fine he would receive, and paid it without demur, but both my brother and myself were advised, “Don’t tell your mother.”
This was not too dissimilar from an incident when he damaged his beautiful pale blue Hillman Minx quite badly by reversing it into an, admittedly, pale grey, well camouflaged lamp post, down near the bridge which went over the railway lines at Swadlincote Station:

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Again, he accepted the cost of the panel beater and a resprayed rear wing, on the basis of “Don’t tell your mother.”
Closer to the ground, Harrington Street was closed to traffic because of the thousands of people all rushing down to the game. The single floodlight is even more obvious:

B - Copy (3)
Here is a backlit policeman on his horse, and more terraced houses, looking back past the long demolished Baseball Hotel:C x police horses - Copy (2)

Two rather drenched policeman on their horses, walking down Shaftesbury Crescent. Look at the fashions! Look at the flares!

D r x police horses 1

At last! These two policemen have the sense to find a little shelter from the weather:

E ur more police horses -photo 3

They are at the back of the Normanton Stand, at the entrance to the Popular Side. The “Popside” was where hooligans of both teams would stand. There would be disorder at virtually every game.
Fred, as a man of some fifty or so years of age, was himself physically attacked, on two occasions, both of them by those lovable, loyal, warm hearted supporters of Newcastle United.

We had a period when we used to park the car in the playground of Litchurch Lane Junior School, for a mere 25p. One day, as we returned from the game, I was surprised to see large brown birds flying over our heads. Only when one of them crashed into the wall of the railway repair works, did I realise that they were not birds, but bricks, thrown by a group of discontented Newcastle supporters.

On another occasion, a group of Newcastle supporters set about giving a damn good kicking to an innocent young man and his girlfriend, who had the misfortune to be walking along Osmaston Road, just in front of us. My Dad, Fred, of course, armed with his RAF maxim of “it always happens to somebody else, never to me”, raced off to help out the young victims. I can remember how Fred grabbed one hooligan’s foot as he prepared to kick the poor young man, and then wrenched it around backwards as hard as he could. That must have hurt! Afterwards, I remember too how the young victim had been kicked so much that he had lost the face off his watch.

When I got home, I discovered a tear on my favourite green USAF war surplus jacket. That tear was present in my T-shirt as well, and my back had a long red mark on it. I have always reckoned that that was as close as I ever got to being stabbed, by somebody I did not even see, in a mêlée of whirling bodies.
The opponents for this match are, I think, Norwich City:

F football x four photo 4

They are playing in yellow shirts and white shorts, which was a slight change from their normal kit with green shorts:

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The problem was that in the early 1970s, lots of people still had black and white televisions, and Derby and Norwich would have looked very similar, as Derby were wearing white shirts with dark blue shorts, and Norwich yellow and green. Here Derby press forward with yet another attack:

F football x four photo 4

I can’t remember the score of this game, but I think it is safe to say that Derby probably won. They used to beat Norwich fairly regularly in the 1970s.



Filed under Derby County, Football, History, Humour, Personal

25 responses to “Football in the Old Days ; Derby County v Norwich City

  1. Good for Fred for getting stuck in – probably wouldn’t be such a good idea now. But did he say “Don’t tell your mother”?

  2. My dad used to tell a tale about cycling to Filbert Street. Close to the ground young boys would offer to look after the bike for the duration of the match for a small fee. He reckoned it was best to pay up or else there would be no bike to come back to.

    The only incident that I ever saw was when two Liverpool fans set about a a Leicester fan after a match. My dad was no hero and just hurried me past the trouble.

    • There was fighting at every match at Derby. The worst I saw was Man Utd who were very, very violent. Chelsea were quite sinister. I even saw Derby fans fight each other after a friendly game against FC Den Haag because there were no away fans. Your Dad, though, was right to pay his money and have a bike to come back to!

      • I used to like the Baseball Ground. In the 90s we could get family tickets quite cheap. The seats were in one corner and were below the level of the pitch so there was a great view of the action but I remember that it was always freezing cold.

        I never saw any trouble there but I was forbidden from wearing my blue shirt when the Rams entertained the Foxes!

        The last time I saw a Derby Leicester match was at Pride Park and Leicester won 4-0 with all four goals in the first twenty minutes.

  3. Sounds like a rough game to be a fan of!! haha I tried looking up your “long dog” but couldn’t even come close to answer.

    • I found it on this website “”
      where it mentions greyhounds and also its use in America with Greyhound buses. Whatever it was, neither my brother nor I could keep up with him!

  4. great post i spent many a time running away from Sheffield uNITED supporters in the 70s watching Hull City…the fact i can run fast is maybe why iam able to leave a comment on your site…

    • Yes, a lot of the hooliganism was really quite serious disorder. I didn’t believe that Man Utd put razor blades in oranges to throw at people, until I saw them doing it. They were certainly the worst in the early 70s.

  5. Sounds like you were involved in the scuffle and lucky to get out of it without being stabbed.

  6. Thank goodness those days are over. It was a regular occurrence and Saturday night news was full of it.

    • And all the poor people around the ground and the shopkeepers used to have wooden boards to put up to stop their windows getting smashed. Those were the days!

  7. Good for Fred for looking out for the young lad. Of course, sadly, organised hooliganism is still very much alive and well. At the 2016 European Championships, violent clashes between Russian and English supporters in Marseille put the spotlight on Russian hooliganism. The Russians, (the Orel Butchers), injured over 100 English supporters, beating two into a coma.
    It has raised serious concerns ahead of Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup.

    • You are absolutely right. I always felt that they should have given the World Cup to the Soviet Union as public disorder was very rarely a concern there. Now the place seems to be run by people with no abstract ideals except the making of money. There will be hooliganism and FIFA and the Russians will just hush it up and essentially ignore it.

      • It’s a shame John that there are those who want to exploit the ‘Beautiful Game’ just for violence and hooliganism. They have no other motivation than violence. Very sad.

  8. Ah for the good old days, John. I remember fashion being what it was in these pics. Nothing like today! Another great story from a great historian. Thank you for writing this! ❤

  9. I remember my mother’s matchday preparations in the early 60s when my parents had a shop near Ewood Park. Dad had a second job to make ends meet and had to work on Saturdays.

    Mum, who was just over 5 foot tall, would lecture me on the evils of fans from Manchester and Liverpool, whilst setting out a crowbar and open pot of pepper under the till.

    • Well done Mum. “Walk softly but carry a big stick” as they say. Blackburn were my second favourite team as a little boy because I had watched the Cup Final where their player broke his leg, back in the days when there were no substitutes and they lost the game to Wolves. 57 years ago!

  10. DOUG Lowe


    My Dad visited the Baseball Ground in 1956 as a Boston United supporter when United beat Derby 6-1 in the Cup! He returned in 1974, with me in tow. That time Derby’s team of internationals avoided defeat due to the state of the pitch i.e. like a ploughed field. A big clod of mud on the goalline stopped a header going in!

    • I wonder if your Dad passed my Dad in the street, as he was also at the game. It was one of Derby’s lowest points in their history (with due respect to Boston) with the possible exception of losing to both Barrow and Workington in the Third Division.
      Twenty years later, my brother and I and my Dad were there at the Baseball Ground, waiting to see Derby win 15-0 in revenge for 1956, but it didn’t pan out like that. I have never ever, in sixty years of watching football, seen anything as “heart in mouth” as that ball rolling quite strongly along the goal line but then hitting a great clod of mud and stopping. Then the Derby goalie picked it up, I think.
      Boston were very, very unlucky not to have won that match, but the Gods of Football knew what they were doing. The replay was much more routine and Derby won 6-1, reversing their previous defeat perfectly.
      Thanks a lot for your contribution, and all the best for Boston in the future, whenever that may be.

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