We all remember our first proper football game. This is my tale.
Dads and Sons. Dads, sons and football. They go together. It was my Dad Fred, that took me to my first match. I’d started to take an interest in football about age 10, I’d found a First Division team to support, but it was just about impossible to go and watch them. Given that I lived out in the sticks, between Cullompton and Tiverton there was not a lot around. Having started at secondary school in Exeter in 1972 and now living out Longdown way then a football match became a possibility. No doubt having made friends with other Exeter City supporters in class 1M at St Thomas High School I’d used a bit of pester power to get my Dad to take me.
Boxing Day in 1972, had a local derby game against Torquay United at St James Park. So off we went. We were going to go in the St James Road end, not a segregated away end in those days. We missed kick off. The queue to get in was almost to Tiverton Road. We didn’t buy a programme, though to be fair as it was my first match, I wasn’t in to collecting programmes then! Though I have now obtained a copy (see photographs).
On getting in, we stood near to where the turnstiles are. Dad made sure that the little 12 year old that I was, managed to squeeze a place at the front, by the railings. What do I remember of the game? Very little! We won 3-2, Fred Binney got 2, including a penalty, and Dick Plumb got one. I think I missed an early goal. 11,296 were in attendance.
Me? Hooked! Didn’t do too many games that season, and though I travelled in on occasion on the bus to a match, it wasn’t until we moved to St Leonards in Exeter a season later that I became a regular.
How would you describe the relationship? Somewhere between marriage and a prison sentence. Perhaps if the latter, I’m a terrible recidivist. I just can’t stay away. So many lows in all that time, you learn to make the most of the good times.
Watching the lads in the FA Cup losing to Alvechurch in 1973 let me know that my team were not invincible. But the 1976/77 season finished with promotion. What a great day that 3-0 home win over Aldershot was on the last day of the season, and a full celebration of success.
I moved away in 1980. So my attendance at the park dwindled. But still picked up a Boxing Day match if we’re both at home. But under the guidance of Terry Cooper we finished the decade as Division 4 champions. Present for the last game of the season, which was a 2-2 draw with Scarborough, sealing a great season, particularly at St James Park where we didn’t lose a league game.
The 1990s I seem to pick a Wigan game each time to watch, they were either 0-0, or 1-0. Dreadful affairs, with the goalkeepers generally passing to each other, and standing in the Cowshed not seeing it too much as it was hoofed from one end to the other. A CVA also put the Club’s future in doubt. Not a lot of great memories in that decade.
What to make of the 2000 decade? Thought I’d seen my last game when Southend visited on the last day of the 2002/03 season. Relegation out of the Football League. But we bounced back, eventually. 2 visits to Wembley, the second one with success. Then a 2nd promotion on the bounce to give us League 1 football, and a visit at the start of the new season to Leeds United and Elland Road.
What about the decade we’re in? A relegation so far, but what to happen next? What ever happens I’ll be there.
Looking forward to today’s Boxing Day match at home to Oxford United. Here’s to the next 40 years!