Wales versus England is a favourite fixture for every Welsh football fan. The truth is, the joys are fewer and farther between than we all would like. From Wales' mighty 1907 British Home Championships victory, the competition was a firm favourite for all British football fans. In 1977, Wales travelled to Wembley, and in an extract from his book: "Born Under a Grange End Star: The Life, Loves and Many Frustrations of a Cardiff City Fan", David Collins takes us through his personal, eventful experience of that fine fixture:
It was 1977. The punk-rock scene was setting the world alight as my beloved Wales ventured to the twin towers of Wembley to take on England. "Do anything you want to do", they yelled. This was the Modern World. Like a fool, I went along with it.
The decision to embark on this fateful venture was taken whilst passing from The Horse and Groom public house to The Cottage sometime around Christmas 1976. The air was festive, the world was bright: Wembley in the Spring, what could possibly go wrong? The answer, excluding the actual game, was simply everything.
The three revellers who left The Horse and Groom that beer-frenzied Christmas, had dwindled to two by the time we arrived at The Albert at noon on Tuesday, 31 May 1977. The condemned men ate a hearty breakfast of pasties and brown sauce, complemented by Brains Dark (can't really buy Brains Dark these days can you?) before setting off to the dark streets of London Town.
We had, of course, decided to travel with Cardiff City Supporters Club. Proper coaches that promised a quiet drive to London. Yet on this mild spring afternoon, whilst walking to the pick-up point at Ninian Park, I made the worst decision of my life. A charabanc pulled up and Arthur Daley hung out of the window. On seeing our scarves, we received a warm invitation to board and travel to the game at a most affordable "knock-down" price. A bargain for two fine gents such as your goodselves. Ahem.
So, should we trundle on down Tudor Road as planned, full of Brains Dark, or accept the offer to join this friendly looking outing from Barry? You guessed it. We climbed aboard. Oh dear.
|Wembley's twin towers was the destination that day|
It soon became apparent that the entire coach was hammered. The first official toilet stop was at Howells Garage in Newport Road. I made this eight minutes of actual travelling time. Soon, some of the wildest men in Barry were standing outside the coach watering the wheels in broad daylight in the middle of the busiest road in Cardiff. In those far-off primitive days, in-coach toilets were unheard of. As we set off again, the driver, who later was to play such a major part in the proceedings, invited us in the future to urinate out of the coach's open door as we sped along the M4. The contents of many bladders were emptied along the motorway to the accompaniment of "Scarlet Ribbons" from the back seats. I looked around me cagily. I had joined the official outing of Cardiff City's Barry Boys. Monsters to a man.
Our next stop was Chieveley Services on the M4. As we alighted, the Barry Boys introduced themselves to their English cousins. Within seconds, one was completely naked and staggering around the service area. A frail old lady picked her way through the debris. The shop was completely emptied. Not a penny changed hands. I thought I was going to die.
Now amidst all this chaos it should not be forgotten that this was to be one of Wales' greatest footballing days, a trip to the twin towers no less. As we crawled to the ground, those famous towers loomed in the distance. They glowed majestically as we neared the fabled ground to park up for the evening. We made our way to a conveniently situated pub. A giant football-shaped ashtray was collected as a souvenir, though I swear I never saw a soul go inside.
Shortly, as the Boys relaxed outside the tavern, a coachload of Englishmen turned up, complete with the usual gestures and insults. A Barry Boy was on their coach in a flash. Veggie. Veggie removed his front teeth as he entered the coach, determined to remove someone else's. He returned toothless but unscathed and we left for the ground. I was absolutely terrified!
Presently... We spotted familiar faces from the old Grange End. A harlequin swathed in colours of the rainbow. The Flagstealer's tale unfolded. Our man had been spotted with an England flag about his person. Youths from Wales had set on him. But no. Flags and scarves of all colours hung from every wrist and our young caballero returned the blows with interest for even thinking he was English.
|Wales, led out by Terry Yorath at Wembley in 1977|
I was being enlightened by the minute. We paid £1.50 entry, made our way to the Welsh end and looked out on the hallowed turf. Ah, a glorious sight! Three days earlier, Manchester United had beaten Liverpool in the FA Cup Final and now Don Revie's men were about to entertain us. They were full of household names; we had Joey Jones and Dai Davies. Another five had turned out for Cardiff City at some time or another: Leighton Phillips, Rod Thomas, Dave Roberts, Bryan Flynn, and Peter Sayer. Not forgetting Gabalfa bred, Terry Yorath, the midfield captain who held us together. Nick Deacy was up front, remember him? Wales battled and battled, cheered on by a healthy Welsh contingent.
In the 42nd minute, Peter Shilton fouled Leighton James in the box. A penalty. James himself stepped up and fired the penalty home. Wales were winning 1-0. Say this quietly to yourself. To date, this was the greatest moment of my life.
All the pretend matches I played against England in the streets of Splott were coming true. I had scored hat-tricks in all these matches, let me tell you that, but on this occasion I was more than willing to accept the solitary goal as victory tonight. For the rest of the game I chewed my fingers and personally cleared three efforts off the Welsh goal line. Dai Davies took years off my life saving certain equalisers. Terry Yorath was everywhere. After a lifetime of whistling, I saw Peter Sayer throw his arms in the air and other Welsh players jumping for joy. Wales had beaten England at Wembley. Heaven.
|Welsh match winner, Leighton James|
Now if the Barry Boys were lively before the game, imagine their glee as the scent of victory filtered through their nostrils. They sped from the stadium to spread the word to all and sundry. My own personal fortunes took a backward step at this point as two disgruntled home supporters set upon me whilst I was searching for our coach. They whipped off my scarf and, frankly, kicked my head in good and proper. I thus made the wise decision to quit the ring there and then. My record, fought one, lost one, a sound testament. "I could have been a contender." Perhaps not.
Finding our coach was rapidly becoming a full-time job. Numerous others had left the ground, leaving familiar faces in the rapidly emptying car park. The warm spring afternoon was now a cold, dark night. The unbelievable had happened; the driver had left without us. He had had enough and gone back to Barry, leaving us high and dry.
Fear not lads, there's the Barry Boys over there (oh no!). They had got their second wind and were busy diverting traffic with temporary road signs. A nearby exclusive hotel was visited and the majority of the residents informed of the result by the Barry Boys. The Met Police were now on hand. As we had so far managed to keep a low profile, I suggested to my fellow traveller, the luckless Gary, that we take God's speed to the train station. He agreed. We hitched to Paddington down the Harrow Road but there was not a lift in sight. We caught a taxi to the train station, and arrived virtually penniless. It was awful.
Paddington at midnight is short on entertainment. It's cold and lonely and there's no talent. But fear not, for the night was far from over. Through the misty night air emerged... the Barry Boys. Like a recurring nightmare. They had come in search of the "milk train".
Does this mythical vehicle actually exist? Is there really a train offering free lifts, warm milk and a cosy bed to dishevelled travellers in the dead of night? In a word, no. The next train was at 7am. It was 1am. It was cold and I was on a station platform with 40 hooligans. Think about this when you're tucked up in bed tonight.
So Ali Baba and his forty thieves roamed the platforms of Paddington for six hours. Apart from us, the place was deserted. We were almost penniless. The lads were restless. As we huddled on a cold, hard British Rail bench, Gary assured me we would laugh about this one day. I never have!
Eventually, at around 6am, the ticket office opened and we inched a step nearer to home. Our finances stretched to two half fares to Cardiff (we'd worry about the ticket inspector later). At seven we were, indeed, in heaven. Back on the train home, and despite the accompaniment of 40 other oversized fourteen-year-olds, I had never been happier.
|The Birmingham Daily Post reflect on the defeat to Wales - Wednesday 01 June 1977|
It had been a long, long night, and cracks were showing. My scarf had gone. My dinner was still on the coach and I had lost a jumper. The fight in the car park was beginning to ache. I had been to hell and back, and returned with a 1-0 victory. I got off the train in Cardiff and went straight into work (they weren't pleased). That night's Echo carried the front page headline "Disgrace to Wales Fans left behind". I hid it so my father wouldn't see it.
I was to be at the next three England v Wales games and we lost only once. There were 70,000 at Wembley in 1979 when Dwyer played, and in 1983 I met Ian Rush. But somehow it was not the same. We got home safely from each game after this and never again made the headlines - carefully planned mini buses from The Albert saw to this. Wales never won again. I never got lost or beaten up, and I never had the company of Veggie and the Barry Boys again. Thank God!
Gifted kindly to The Football History Boys (@TFHBs) by David Collins. Check him out on Twitter: @DavidCollins29a.
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