Sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s
Here’s the thing: I’m not really sure. Whilst my father – through his love of Manchester City – had a huge influence upon my childhood attendance at football games, it was an uncle who took me to my first ever match. Of that I’m pretty convinced. I’m equally certain the venue was Edgar Street, the home of Hereford United. The opposition? Scunthorpe United, possibly. The score? I’ve since imagined it to be 0-0 but in truth I’ve no idea. The game? I don’t remember any of it and I couldn’t tell you if it was a league game, a cup tie or a friendly. No programme adorns my collection, regrettably.
Tempted to do a full and extensive research courtesy of Google and Wikipedia I refrained, loathe to betray my own patchy memories. Those memories are in black, white and sometimes sepia. I know I was very young – six or seven maybe – and my recollection is of a forest of legs on a grey terrace, of dry but very cold weather, and that the upper reaches of the legs were cloaked by thick jackets and long trench coats. Gloved hands would protrude down to my level.
My uncle took me to many games and it was with him, and my brother and cousins, that I visited a number of grounds for the very first time. He was a banker – no sniggering at the back – and as I grew up he frequently moved around the country with his work. At the time of my first game he lived in a huge house above the Nat West bank in the centre of Hereford. Some years later he moved to Telford and he took us to a match there against Barnet. I remember more about that game. We turned up hours too early not realising that it was an evening kick off, and having to go back to my uncle’s house and return later at the correct time. I also recall Geoff Hurst playing for Telford United, Jimmy Greaves for Barnet. I was old enough to appreciate the treat.
Later work moves for my uncle led me to virgin territories of St. Andrew’s, Villa Park, Elm Park and Vicarage Road. Each new ground and slightly older, the fog that blots the memory dissipates. But that very first game at Hereford remains shrouded in the past. The one concrete Edgar Street memory I do have is buying a bottle of Coca Cola. It meant so much to me, being allowed to go and buy something on my own. I remember the green brass threepence coin, with a million sides. I remember the queue to the refreshment hut. I remember the stylishly elegant design of the Coca Cola bottle and the white straw protruding. I remember the single old penny I received as change and the indignation that a single penny should be bigger in size than the more valuable threepence. I remember the joy when my uncle allowed me to keep that old penny.
I still have the penny.