v Hull (home) 3rd Jan 1970
Together we'll stand, divided we'll fall
And work together
Lets work together - Canned Heat - #2 Jan 70
They walk the short distance along Lumley Road and then up the hill to the rugby ground together, father and son wrapped up against the cold, the old man in his grey raincoat, thick hand-knitted muffler and flat cap, the son in the sheepskin coat that his parents had bought him for his 18th birthday topped off by a blue and amber knitted bobble hat that his auntie had knitted for him and although she'd used the wrong shade of blue he still wears it and on a freezing cold day like today he doesn't really care.
As they turn onto Beechwood Crescent they join the steady stream of men, old and young, heading up the hill towards the ground, and whilst they all have the common purpose of all rugby fans most of the ones making their way up the hill have one major difference - they are Hull fans, clad almost exclusively in black and white, most of it knitted by family members.
The buses from Hull have parked down at the bottom of Beechwood Crescent, as do all of the away supporters buses that arrive at Headingley and the father and son are engaged in the familiar cheerful banter, some of it already drunken, that always enlivens their short trip to the ground.
They find themselves in the middle of a group of Hull men, big, rough looking men, dockers probably, some are well on the way to being drunk, they've been drinking all the way across the A63 from Hull for the last three hours, they've probably taken this Saturday afternoon off work to follow their team on the once a year outing to Leeds, its like a special treat for some of these men and its fairly obvious that this is a pub or working mens club outing as they all know each other very well and the jokes and banter fly around the group while the father and his son keep their heads down in the midst of the rowdy crowd.
The father notices a Hull fan of a similar age to him walking slowly alongside, the other old man has trouble keeping up with his crowd as he seems to have a gammy leg and so the father drops back to acompany him and his son does the same, keen to let the crowd move on in front of them before the banter becomes too boisterous.
"Bad leg ?" the father asks pointing at the other old mans obvious bad leg.
There's a silence as the two old men silently acknowledge their common bond as old soldiers.
"We 'ad some of your East Yorkshie Regiment lads in wi' us in '44, up through Belgium"
"Did you ?"
"Aye, were you in t'East Yorkshire then ?"
Theres another silence as they slowly shuffle up the hill past the allotments.
"Navy then wor it ?"
"So what wor you then eh ?"
Its an answer that the old man from Hull has been giving for the last 25 years and with varied responses, today he's in no mood for taunts about his reserved occupation status during the war and he glares at the father as if challenging him to comment.
"Oh.....reserved occupation then"
"Jerry bombed bloody hell out of your lot didn't he ?"
"Aye, he bloody did that, are street got hit three tarmes"
"That where you got your leg wound ?"
"No, ah fell off a ladder in a ships 'old like"
"Its an inch an 'alf shorter than me other leg is this one now"
"Aye, I can see that"
"Mah bloody son's in that group up there, won't bloody wait for 'is fatha though, young bastard"
The son interrupts the stilted conversation to try and turn the conversation away from the always thorny topic of what two old men did in the war...
"You guna win this afty then grandad ?"
"We bloody beat you last month lad, ah reckon we'll do you agin terday an all, an don't call me grandad"
"Only just grandad, only just, one point weren't it ?"
"One points all it takes lad"
"Is yer blackie playing this afty then ?" the father interjects and the son closes his eyes, gazes to heaven in abject despair and screams in his head, "nooooo, why does he always have to stir it up like this ?
"Sullivan you mean ?" the other old man replies seemingly unperturbed
"Why 'ave you got another one now ?" his father laughs
"No just the one"
"Aye thats 'ow it should be"
"You'd 'ave 'im in a flash"
"No we wouldn't"
"You bloody would and you know it, he ran rings round Atkinson at are place"
"No, we won't sign blackies"
The old man from Hull laughs and nods his head, "Yer raaht there old lad, your jewboys'll not 'ave blackies in yer ground nivver maarnd yer team" and both old men laugh and agree with each other.
And when they finally arrive at the back of the south stand and the son has to leave them both to continue their slow trek up St Michaels Lane to the entrances for the terrace and the North Stand the two old men are chatting away like old friends and the one from Hull has forgotten that the group that he was with have left him behind and long since disappeared in the distance.
He takes his place in the south stand, centre section just in front of the ladder where Eddie Waring will shortly ascend to the commentary platform above their heads, and he nods his greetings at some of the familiar faces that he sees at every home game in this spot.
The ground is not very full today, in fact its barely a quarter full by his judgement, the freezing cold weather and the fact that BBC's Grandstand are covering the game, it being one of only a few sporting venues in the country with underfloor heating to guarantee that the game will go ahead makes it a dead cert for Grandstands live coverage, have meant that most people have stayed indoors today but the son has a season ticket and theres no point in spending a full three quid at the start of the season for a book of tickets if you're not going to use them, so he wraps up warm and stamps his feet on the concrete terracing to keep the circulation going and every now and again he takes his hand from deep down in his sheepskin coat pockets cups them together and blows on them, with a bit of luck there will be plenty to applaud this afternoon to keep him and the partisan south stand crowd warm and happy.
"Now then Eric"
The voice comes from behind and a large hand slaps him across the back of his sheepskin coat and even through the sheepskin it hurts, he turns his head part way around and asks "Do you always have to do that Wayne"
Wayne is a big daft lad, a labourer on a building site, brain the size of a pea but built like a brick shit house, he plays prop forward for Milford Amatuer Rugby League Club and in his mind was unlucky to be passed over for the Leeds Colts side two years ago, he still cant get over that day and honestly believes that he should be in the Leeds team that is about to run out on the pitch this afternoon, strangely enough this makes him very critical of his favourite team, especially of the two prop forwards.
"Are we having a pint ? You got a programme ?" Wayne is wound up tight before every game, just as if he would be if he were playing, he often goes through the motions of passing the ball or tackling a player when he's standing on the terraces, many is the time that he's grabbed hold of someones head to tackle them without even knowing it.
"No, and no, but here's five bob, mines a pint and get a programe will you"
Eddie Waring the BBC commentator arrives shortly before the kickoff in his light brown camel hair coat and brown trilby, clipboard in one hand, he takes the boos from the crowd in good heart and a man at the foot of the ladder slaps him heartily on the back and shares a joke with him before he starts the vertical climb up onto the south stand roof and the tension in the crowd mounts as they prepare themselves for the entry of the two teams.
More next time....