The terrifying hooliganism that plagued London football matches in the 1980s and 1990s, from savage punch-ups to terrorising Tube stations

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Thankfully these days football hooliganism seems to have been brought somewhat under control in the UK with the likes of lifetime bans, CCTV and all-seater grounds, and heightened security measures seeming to prevent the escalation of violence that used to erupt in grounds. Though there’s always the distinct danger it could return at any time.

But Londoners who went to football grounds regularly in the 1980s and 90s, watched the beautiful game at a time when violence was at its height. Punch ups in and outside grounds were common and confrontations between rival fans were often. Firms such as the Milwall Bushwhackers and Chelsea Headhunters were feared by clubs across the land.

We decided to ask Londoners what it was like being a football supporter back in those and you made it very clear that it wasn’t just about pies and pints!

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Crowd violence during an Arsenal Vs Liverpool league match at Highbury, Saturday September 4, 1982.

One football fan told us just how violent matches could be, he said: “I remember having scalpel blade put to my throat at Spurs, hit by a house brick at Derby, being chased out of Liverpool Lime Street to the taxis to get to Anfield and those who didn’t make taxis probably got a kicking.”

Another fan recalled how football crowds could sometimes terrorise the London Underground: He said: “My lot were at Spurs, away on the same day Arsenal were at Chelsea in the early 90s. We were stood on the eastbound platform on the Circle/District Line at a jam-packed Baker Street – around 200 of us, all casuals, no club colours.

“About 40 Arsenal lads from the Herd appeared on the opposite platform. The usual goading commenced, a few lads from our lot tried to run over the little walkway that separates the two platforms but the Old Bill were already set up there with dogs so that got nowhere.”



Supporters on the pitch during Manchester United Vs Arsenal in League Division One, August 20 1971

One football fan recalls being shocked as a youngster at the violence. He said: “My first game without my mum was a pre-season game vs Glasgow Rangers at Arsenal. I was 11 and have never been so scared. Bottles were being thrown up into the North Bank roof showering those below with glass. Just pure violence!”

Another fan also remembers danger at Highbury. He said: “When I was in my secondary school one of my mates was an Arsenal fan. I’m Tottenham. We always went to Highbury for the North London derby and we always stood in the North Bank, half way up and behind the goal. Just before kick off the Spurs fans would storm in and we would be pushed one way then the other way anything that could be thrown would miss us then the police would break it all up.”



A fan lies injured after crowd violence marred a Division 2 match between Crystal Palace and Birmingham City at Selhurst Park, on May 13, 1989

One fan also recalls how dangerous Arsenal Vs Spurs rivalry could become, but how quickly differences were sometimes forgotten. He said: “Beginning of 88 we was all kicking the s**t out of each other. End of 88 we was all hugging each other in clubs. Happy days.”

Meanwhile, one football fan recalls something of the trouble that plagued Milwall’s ground The Den for decades. He said: “Yes, Milwall Vs Chelsea, 1976/77 season. A mate and I turned up at The Den, and asked a copper on horseback where the Chelsea end was. He replied: “Go where you f****** like, mate. Every other f****r is!”

If you have a football-related memory you want to share, email [email protected]





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