The full story can never be made public, but I had to leave New York in a hurry; angry people were looking for me.  I left my apartment with just a few minutes’ warning carrying nothing except my passport, the Williamson cats, and Mrs Williamson (she didn’t want to go).


This article was originally published on August 27, 2009. Dear Scotland is currently enjoying a winter break and will return to full service on January 3, 2010.
In the meantime, feel free to enjoy some of the most popular articles of 2009, watch the Dear Scotland Christmas video and vote in the Scotland’s Greatest Ever Vocalist Poll.

Ten Things You Just Don’t See These Days…continued

However. just like Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction, I had to make a dangerous unplanned trip back to Chez Williamson in order to salvage one prize possession I forgot and could not leave behind – my videotape of the Scotland-Holland 1978 World Cup game.  I mean, it was the full 90 minutes!

During my regular Sunday morning viewing of that tape, while realising how football fashion had moved on over the years, I began to reminisce about all the other things that have changed in that time.  So I present you with Billy Williamson’s “Ten Things You Just Don’t See These Days”.  I’m not saying that football’s better or worse without them (though it is mostly worse) – it’s just different.

#10 – Men peeing on the terraces
Yes, you do still have terraces, though not in any league branded with the “Premier” appellation.  But you don’t get sold-out, packed-like-sardines terracing these days, which means no-one can justify simply whipping it out and having a slash right where they are.  I’m not sure they could justify it back then, either, but it still happened.

#9 – Cash at the turnstile
Well, again you do still get this, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to rock up to a big game cash-in-hand and pay my way in.  Even in the lower English leagues, which I do occasionally visit, you have to buy a ticket from someone then walk round to the turnstile and give it to someone else.  I guess that’s progress, but it’s also how the Soviet Union used to work.

#8 – Trying not to get hit with coins, golf balls, and crisp bags full of shit
That last one might be an urban myth; certainly I’ve never seen it (although I did try to pinch one out in the late 80s during a particularly aggressive game at Easter Road).  But anyone sitting in Pittodrie’s South Stand next to Aberdeen’s beloved “casuals” could be guaranteed an afternoon of missile-dodging, and the Grampian Constabulary were none too concerned about the hospitality shown to their guests – I saw a guy get lifted for complaining about his head being split open with a Slazenger.

#7 – Ridiculously big home-made flags
One of my favourite stories from the many football books I’ve read is that of the jokers in Seville, 1982, who paraded down the main street holding a large white banner with the inscription “Spanish Sheets Make Great Flags”.  Nowadays it’s too easy; you can order anything on the internet.  I recall a game at Hampden where a guy set up in front of us with what must have been a 20-foot pole and unwrapped a monster flag that took all his weight to sway from side to side on the end of this giant redwood.  No idea what was on the flag, I was just a wee boy amazed at the effort put into this, especially as he had to take it down for most of the game so the rest of us could see.  I doubt the pole would even fit through a gate at the new Hampden.

#6 – Bench seating
Beach End at Pittodrie, uncovered away end at Cappielow, and Kilbowie too but I never made it there; before the era of cheap plastic seats, wooden benches were a rare luxury for the regular punter.  But oh how I loved them!  You could sit with your mates, you could squeeze in as tight as you liked, you could stand on them, you could bounce on them… and am I right in thinking there was never some prick up the back shouting “sit down”?

#5 – Queuing up for big-game tickets
Sunday morning, 8.30am from Waverley to Queen St.  Takes longer on Sundays because of engineering work.  Underground doesn’t run on the sabbath so have to splurge on a taxi to Govan.  Get to Ibrox ticket office; queue going up the hill to the Copland End.  Walk up hill.  Line snakes along the Govan stand.  Uh-oh.  Continues round the corner and down past the Broomloan.  Oh dear.  Join the end of the queue, basically on Edmiston Drive.  Three hours later, 100 yards from the front door… “Nae tickets left.”  Great days.  It was raining.

#4 – Terracing
After Hillsborough, it’s less acceptable to speak up for this one; but the root causes of that disaster were bad policing, evil stadium design, and decades of treating football supporters like scum.  Terracing was fantastic.  A heaving, surging, swaying mass of humanity; nothing generates an atmosphere like it, nothing matches its ability to create a crowd – as opposed to an audience, which is what you too often get today.  Yes, I have my rose-tinted glasses on; yes, I hated it when the guy took a piss behind me; yes, it was great as a teenage male but I’d hate it now as an old fart.  But I still miss it.  Tell me you don’t.

#3 – Happy pitch invasions
Back in more innocent times, clubs were less paranoid about security and going on the pitch was an acceptable end-of-season pastime for league champions and promotees.  Nowadays you just see fannies trying to get on TV and rip shirts or shorts or shinnies off the players to hawk on eBay, so they’ve put a stop to it.  Which is maybe just as well, because the one time I was part of a good-natured pitch invasion, I just wandered around the park wondering what the fuck I was supposed to do next (the goalposts had already gone).  Wish I’d been there in 1977 though.

#2 – Unhappy pitch invasions
I was too young in 1980; I watched the Cup Final riot on TV, or probably didn’t, as I’d have switched off after Rangers lost.  Closest I came to such mob violence was being part of a 17,000-strong mob of angry Rangers fans singing “We’re going on the pitch” after going 3-0 down at Parkhead.  We had no intention of going on the pitch; but it was funny to see the Glasgow polis absolutely shit themselves and scramble for reinforcements.

#1 – Communal singing of grotesquely sexist songs
A friend recently sent round some highlights of 80s-era games; one of them was the 1986 Skol Cup Final, Rangers v Celtic at Hampden.  As Archie was going over the teams, the “Skol Girls” were being paraded round Hampden on the back of horse-drawn carts – which looking back now is extremely bizarre.  Anyway, I was at that game, and I thought to myself “didn’t we sing…” and yes, we did, and there it was, loud and clear on the audio.  As these glamorous young ladies – models, no less – girls  who had pursued their dreams and put every effort into making themselves look as good as possible to earn a decent living, maybe to break free from extreme poverty, give themselves a chance at a better life; as they were paraded round the Rangers end, doing their best to smile, and wave, and promote the benefits of Skol Lager, there was I, and thousands of other young men, belting out, shameless, loud and proud:

“Get your t*ts out for the boys,
get your t*ts out,
get your t*ts out,
geeeeeet your t*ts out for the boys…”

Ah, but the world has changed.