By David Crook.
Back in the 1980’s, there was a popular TV sitcom called “Bread” about a family struggling to survive, and in the opening credits of the series, there was a Pottery Chicken on the dining room table where the family pooled their resources – their ‘bread’ – to pay for life’s necessities.
Now, I never watched that series, because I was about 20 at the time, and had better things to be doing, AND because it was set in Liverpool!
Yet, in our house, growing up, I think we must have had a similar pot on the table which contained not money, but season tickets.
Looking back, I cannot remember a time when football was not part of my life.
As a kid from being able to walk, I probably had a football with me every day. A ragged leather ball which was so heavy, when wet it threatened serious injury.
Yet I would delight in thumping that ball against the side of our neighbour’s house, because they were posh and not really terraced, but had a ginnel – kind of making them a semi-semi-detached, and I did it with a metronomic rhythm until they came out and chased me off.
When chased off, I would play on the car park at the rear against the battered gates and garden walls in the shadow of the Kippax Stand.
Later on when I was older I would retreat to the Topps football cards and hotly contested bouts of Subbuteo, littered with broken players and yearning for World Cup Floodlights.
Match going was not just an occasional experience, but seemed to be every day.
Carried on people’s shoulders from as young as I can remember, perched on the barriers on the terraces, taking in the smell of cigarettes and being gently jostled by the throng of the crowd. Being told to meet up on the steps if I got lost. Football was just part of life really.
In my youngest years, I recall very little of the matches I went to, partly because in amongst the adults on the terraces, most of the time my view was snatched and so my time was spent kicking tabs and staring at programmes or listening to the conversations of the adults around me.
As I got older, I took in more of the game, probably because as I got older, I also got taller and could see the action on the pitch all of a sudden. It was like a whole new world to me.
And that was when the game of football really captured me, and it was all to do with the light and the colour and the noise.
Walking through those tunnels in the Kippax, towards the pitch was like going from black and white to glorious technicolour.
Especially under the floodlights, as they were so bright and the grass was so green, and the City kits were suddenly so blue, I think the floodlights probably seemed so magical because the light they threw was so clear.
At home in the 1970s, our electric lights were a kind of chemical yellow hue, offering a dismal shine which made me mostly think I needed glasses.
But, back to that kitchen table.
I think we probably always had season tickets.
Not always at the start of a season, but they would appear as the year went on.
Gifted from others, borrowed and bought. Those paper and card books full of individual match tokens, and being sent out before a game to see what token number the game was so that I could go back home and tell family, so season ticket books could be split.
They would get grubby and tattered as the year went on, but everything about them was joyous.
Each ticket in that book was like a ticket to an exotic destination away from the humdrum life in our tatty terraced house.
It beckoned us from our daily wrestles with work and bills, and food and knitted school jumpers and all the bullying they would bring.
It was a passport to the impossible, and everything about it seemed perfect. From the feel of the paper, to the smell of the cardboard cover and the simple irresistible pleasure of actually tearing the ticket from the perforated edge.
Each year, those used books used to get put in a tin in the back of a cupboard and eventually they were moved to the back of a wardrobe, and then into the loft.
House move after house move later, and I long thought they had disappeared into the mists of time like my Evel Knievel toy or my Joe 90 Car.
And then this Summer, I had one of those moments that makes you actually stop what you are doing and sit down.
Whilst clearing the back of the under the stairs, I found a sealed box, and one of the many things in the box was a tin, full of old season ticket stubs.
Faded and musty but nevertheless all of a sudden I was confronted with an echo of the past. Transported. Feeling those old tickets again brought back long forgotten memories – of forging the numbers, of not handing over the correct token, of buying half year tickets (I swear I am sure there was such a thing).
The past has a habit of creeping upon us at a much slower pace as we get older, but when it does, it can take the wind out of your sails.
Sitting with that box of old tickets was a wonderful moment which I am not afraid to say brought me to tears, of thinking of what was, and how things had been.
It is not that long ago, we actually had those paper season ticket books – it was only with the move to Eastlands that the future of plastic cards was embraced by City. But even the most recent book is still some 17 years old.
Positively pristine against some of the older books.
Putting all those old season tickets in a new box with the more recent season cards, was a sobering moment. For those current season cards are strangely impersonal and awash everywhere – Pets At Home, Tesco and even the Co-Op have similar cards.
They are ubiquitous and I swear like rats, no human is ever more than 5 feet from a plastic card.
They have no tactile value or real memory, but just seem so cold and disposable. It is sad to say that I cannot see kids in the future being excited about holding one and feeling the joy I once did.
We never really had photos as a kid growing up, they were too expensive and cameras were always thrown away before the film inside was developed.
So, in many ways the fact that so much of my memory is embedded in objects, is probably not a surprise.
Kids these days, will have a digital footprint about 300 GB long by the time they are 10, so perhaps they may not need a season ticket to remind them.
Still it seems sad, that they will never get to experience that moment of finding a box of old belongings, of old musty cards from long forgotten uncles and random people. Dog eared and scrappy, but nevertheless essential pieces of growing up.