The Jungle Drum - Blue Saturdays
The Jungle Drum - October 29th 2018
When I was a child, my Mother, a lifelong Chelsea fan, took me along to games in a vain attempt to steer me away from Spurs. It didn’t work - but when you’re a kid free football is free football.
This stopped when I hit my teenage years and realised that under no circumstances should you ever go and watch your bitter rivals - unless your own team are playing them.
One of my last matches was at Hillsborough,in September 1996, and we were sat right next to the directors’ box. They weren’t cut off as they are in modern stadiums. The “box” was basically a slab of raised concrete. Anyway in it were none other than Ken Bates & Matthew Harding who, for younger fans, were old school chairman before the Abramovich-era of real life fantasy football.
They had actually been involved in a bitter boardroom dispute about the club’s direction. Bates had even had his Vice-Chairman banned from the boardroom.
But you wouldn’t have known it.
They were sat together, laughing and joking, at Hillsborough that afternoon. It shows how football can unite people when it comes down to 22 men kicking a ball about for 90 minutes.
My Ma used me as child-fodder to go and get an autograph from them. We ended up speaking with them for most of the match. Harding was warm & generous with his time & clearly loved football more than anything in the world.
Within a month he was dead.
On October 22nd, 1996, Matthew Harding’s helicopter crashed on the way back from an away match at Bolton.
On October 27th, 2018, Leicester City owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s helicopter crashed leaving the King Power Stadium after a Premier League match with West Ham. He was killed along with 4 others.
A few months after Matthew Harding died, I went one last time to watch Chelsea (in a non-Spurs derby game at least) away at Nottingham Forest. What I saw that day stayed with me forever. The Forest fans were spreading their arms wide and making helicopter gestures at the Chelsea fans.
I was young - but I knew it wasn’t right. Years later, as an adult who fully understands these things, I know just how wrong it was. I’ve been witness, countless times, to various clubs making holocaust gas chamber noises at Spurs fans.
Some lines shouldn’t be crossed in football. Sometimes it needs to stand united. When you love football, you have more in common than not.
When you lose one of your own - one of your band of brothers - you mourn as if you have lost a loved one & support from the wider football community is a huge help.
Only a month ago Chas Hodges passed away and the outpouring of grief (and support) from not only Spurs fans, but other supporters, was heartwarming.
We have another of our own, Glenn Hoddle, fighting for his life, as I write this, after suffering a heart attack at the BT Sport studios the same day as the Leicester tragedy.
So we understand & stand with you.
A little bit of the Leicester fairy-tale died with Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha on the bluest of blue Saturdays.
But so did a little bit of football.
As with Munich or Hillsborough, Heysel or Bradford, there are times to put aside even the most bitter of rivalries and stand together.
So as a footballing community, let’s stand with Leicester, let’s all wish Glenn Hoddle a speedy recovery. Let’s stop mocking the tragedies of our rivals.
It is time to put away childish things and grow up.
J.S. Leatherbarrow, Editor
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