It is difficult to write an account of my first game without it feeling like a substandard Nick Hornby pastiche. Whether I like it or not, sentimental clichés and sepia images are all my mind has left of that May day in 1987. Fortunately, I do quite like it.
The match was Wolverhampton Wanderers versus Lincoln City in the old fourth division and the setting was Molineux. Not the post-Taylor report all-seater Molineux that exists today. This was old dilapidated Molineux with just one and three quarter stands open – the rest closed for safety reasons. Remarkably, it could still hold over 20,000 people thanks to the South Bank terrace.
Ah, the South Bank. At one time, of all the ‘Kops’ in England, only Villa’s Holte End accommodated more people. Not this day against Lincoln. The crowd was sparse – just 7,285 to be precise. But these were dark days for Wolves and a distinct lack of turnstile operators meant there was still frenzied queuing outside to get in the ground. I vividly remember my dad lifting me on his shoulders as he nervously alerted the drunken fans around us that a child (me!) was being caught in the crush.
The next thing I remember, we were inside. This was my first look at a football ground in the flesh and, despite Molineux’s tragic appearance, I thought she was magnificent. Wolves were already 1-0 up – not something that was to become a habit although it did explain the pushing and shoving outside.
Inside that vast South Bank my dad actually had to wander over to the nearest fan – a good ten yards away – and ask who had scored. The answer came back: Steve Bull. Unluckily for me, I had just missed his 13th goal for the club. No matter. I was lucky enough to see his second of the game moments later and most of the 102 that followed in the back-to-back title seasons that followed.
In all honesty of course, there have been plenty of lows to go with those heady childhood days. And my mum even insisted I sit in the family enclosure seats for the next ten years! But I’ll always remember my first and last game on that South Bank terrace with my dad. Perfect.