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A Very Freezing Trip Across the Border
By David Pickles

Hampden Park

15th May, 1971 was, perhaps, my worst (and best) trip to Scotland to watch my beloved sport.

Back in the 70's me and my mates were torn between the declining West Ham "Hammers" and the reviving spectacular fayre on offer at Hackney, so as there were only 4 miles between the tracks we attended both. My only other trip north of the border was to Edinburgh with West Ham as a teenager - and it was rained off!

1971 dawned and the (in)famous Snowy Beattie who was the doyen of the Hawks supporters club issued the list of away trips for the season. Glasgow was there at the, even then, bargain price of £3.25 return on the coach. In those days, one could pay a few shillings per week towards the cost of the trip as long as the balance was paid a couple of weeks before the meeting.

Replete with my ticket for the journey, my friends and I attended the Friday night meeting at the Wick and duly boarded the coach for the long trip north at 11pm. Little did we know what an adventure it would turn out to be.

Around 6am the following morning in our sleepy haze we realised the coach had stopped and we looked out of the window only to find mounds of snow. The coach had come off the motorway to veer towards Glasgow, and had got almost stuck in snowdrifts. I had no idea where we were, but obviously we were far north and probably only a couple of hundred miles or so from the border.

The icy inclement weather duly passed and we made our way to Hampden Park, where the Tigers then rode, getting into the centre of Glasgow around 11am or so. It was raining. Luckily our respective mothers had made sure we at least had our breakfast/lunch packed so before we alighted the coach we had something to eat. Wandering around the City in the drizzle the only thing we agreed on was the need for a freshen up and something to drink.

Even at 16 I looked old enough to get served in a pub (the other guys were between 18-22) and we had a quick wash and brush up and a few beers before a burger or two in the Wimpy before walking to the "Park" for the match which started at 7pm. Thankfully it had dried up and the meeting was on.

We got there early and met our hero Garry Middleton who was delighted that Hackney had managed to send a coach up all the way from London. Buoyed by the chat with our idol we settled in our seats along with around 5000 others (dwarfed by the size of the stadium which then held in excess of 130,000) for a slaughter.

Hackney lost the match 52-26 and before we knew it we were marshalled onto the coach for the seemingly endless trip home.

Back to Stratford by around 8am on Sunday morning, a local bus to near home, a quick breakfast and bed for the rest of the day and night, before up at 7am for school the next morning. But, what a tale to tell! Great days, never to repeated. Thank you to Len Silver, the "Hawks" and my youth in those days for great and happy memories.

 

This article was first published on 6th January 2019

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