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As featured on Radio 5's 'On the Line
Thursday 18th February '99 

This article was  first posted in January 1998 and refers mainly to incidents of crowd violence occurring during City's FA Trophy and League campaign of 1996/7. It was particularly aimed at rebuffing several unfair criticisms and generalisations of the behaviour of Gloucester City fans that were publicised through Team Talk magazine and threatened to become accepted truth. Unfortunately success in that season seemed to both cause and provoke trouble. Since those times there have thankfully been fewer violent incidents, but the problem of crowd violence has not gone away in non-league football.

If you believe what you read on some other websites and what you may have read in Teamtalk  you will doubtless think Gloucester City fans are a bunch of thugs intent on nothing but trouble. This article does not attempt to deny that in recent times City fans have been involved in some unsavoury incidents, some of which they were to blame for. What this is an attempt to do is put the record straight on a number of lies that have been spread about our supporters, and also to put some of the stories into context. The story will concentrate largely on the last two seasons (1996/7 & 97/8), but first some...

Ancient History
Trouble at football matches is nothing new, and this is as true of Gloucester City's games as it is generally. As far back as January 1894 when City played a side called Warmley local papers reported: "seven minutes before the close of play the spectators swarmed on to the field and several Warmley players complained of being roughly dealt with". Worse yet was a case at Gloucester assizes in February 1896 where three men were charged with the willful murder of a police sergeant and the attempted murder of a constable after a football match. Then as now the papers questioned if this was a football problem or a social problem. To partly answer that question it seems violence was also common at Gloucester rugby matches in the pre-War era.

However the real peak of modern hooliganism came in the late Seventies and early Eighties, but while larger clubs were over-run by scum the non-league game remained (largely) trouble free. But it was during these generally peaceful years that some Gloucester City fans formed what became known as the CDB, or City Disorder Boys. This movement seemed to have started as something of a joke mimicking the "firms" of larger clubs. They came to local prominence when City played Worcester, whose fans had wrecked the Horton Road social club earlier in the season. The Worcester newspaper was given flyers advertising a "CDB Invasion" of Worcester, threatening whole scale riot and damage. The papers and police went ballistic: City fans traveled on a one fan, one copper basis, and unsurprisingly nothing happened. However, within a year Worcester's covered terrace was torched, with Gloucester fans claiming "credit", although this has never been substantiated.

More Recent History:
Thankfully even more recent seasons have seen little trouble, but this is not to say there haven't been incidents of serious violence and crowd trouble, made more alarming by its unpredictable and sporadic nature. The worst attack involved the stabbing of a City fan outside Whaddon Road after a local cup game against rivals Cheltenham in the late Eighties. Thankfully the victim was not very seriously wounded, and it was an attack of one-off brutality despite a long history of minor scuffles and fights at local derbies. Although Golden Valley derbies have had trouble they are better policed than most games, especially since Cheltenham were connected to a sinister group of right-wing thugs called the CVF involved in the Dublin riots of 1995. It should be made clear, in fairness to Cheltenham Town Football Club and its supporters, that these unpleasant lunatics have never surfaced regularly at their games.

The worst trouble seen at Meadow Park during this period of time involved Cardiff City, visiting the ground for their FA Cup 2nd round replay in November 1989. Their hooligan element kicked the back off the covered side standing and tried to engage Gloucester supporters in fighting by breaking segregation fencing and invading the pitch. They were escorted back to the train station, which they wrecked, by mounted police. City fans were praised for not getting involved. Cardiff City later paid for the damage, which received national press coverage.

Apart from these worst incidents trouble was rare. The only other serious incident of note saw City fans given a police escort from Dulwich Hamlet after a December 1993 Trophy game. City fans have been accused of starting the fighting in a Teamtalk letter, but statements were given to the police that the trouble was started by a drunken Dulwich official who had slammed a City fan's head in a toilet door. A fighting retreat was made to the supporter's coach which was then pelted with stones and bottles until the police arrived. However for all that the non-league game was keen to portray itself as a peaceful haven from the big clubs non-league football violence persisted, all be it sporadically. An incident at Hednesford saw a spanner thrown through the window of the departing City supporter's bus, surprising as their had been no trouble at the ground at all. There was an isolated case of coin throwing at VS Rugby's goalkeeper Mick Martin during May 1991's crucial promotion match. This was sensationalised by The Citizen as "mindless hooligan cowardice" in an editorial, although a grand total of five coins were thrown, all of two reaching the pitch. To put these incidents in perspective City fans were abused at several grounds during this time, most noticeably Trowbridge (golf balls thrown at City fans), Worthing (spitting, missiles, the odd punch) and Moor Green (general hostility). Which brings us to...

1996/97 Season:

This was the club's most successful season to date (and very definitely still is), chasing promotion to the Conference until the last day of the season, and being a minute away from Wembley in the semi-finals of the FA Trophy. Success brings with it larger crowds, new supporters and wider press coverage. All of this is very welcome, but along with the majority come a few not content to watch football, and they found it easy to influence some of the more easily led amongst City's existing support.
At first the season progressed usually enough, but then an incident at Newport gave an unpleasant foretaste of the season's violence.

Newport (a): Matches against Newport are always quite intense, with the usual Anglo-Welsh border rivalry heightened by a few season's tenancy at Meadow Park. Only a few dozen City fans had made the trip for an early season midweek game, but they were singing fairly loudly until accosted by three or four Newport nutters. They announced their intentions by smashing a bottle of impressively macho Hooch on the railing and waving the broken bottle at the understandably bemused City supporters. It became clear the cream of Gwent were entirely wasted on ketamin, and could barely stand or talk, never mind fight. None the less they were extremely antagonistic and confrontational, isolating fans and challenging them individually. Stewards eventually came after about 25 minutes of tense stand-off, but refused to call police or eject the culprits despite the broken bottle still being waved around. The car park afterwards brought hefty kicks for any passing Gloucester cars, although the second half had been less worrying due to the increasingly incapable state of the drugged-up Newport hoolies.

Halesowen (a): One of the only two games that season when City fans were guilty of wrong doing. The match was an exciting affair with the score yo-yoing, and finally hinging on two dubious late Halesowen penalties which gave them an incredible 5-4 win. All the off pitch incident happened in the second half when a Yeltz steward took it upon himself to start a conversation with the away fans to the tune of: "you're the foulest mouthed set of fans I've ever seen, you're a disgrace, bunch of yobs" etc. Not only was this extremely unprofessional and provocative, it was unfair as at this point as apart from chanting City fans had done nothing. Gloucester then scored, and in the celebrations this steward was jostled (you are when we score!) which he entirely misunderstood, reacting violently and lashing out at City fans. His hat was then thrown on to a joist of the stand to the general merriment of the away fans. This wound the steward up yet further, and he began to punch people, a fight only being prevented by other City fans. This little Hitler was then persuaded to shut up by another Halesowen official who apologised for his behaviour. At this point City fans were in the clear.
However, bad feeling was aggravated by poor refereeing decisions, and increased further when the match ended and the City players lost their cool. A general brawl then began as a few City fans tried to attack Halesowen players and the referee through the fencing which protected the entrance to the dressing rooms. Yeltz stewards obviously tried to intervene and an ugly scene briefly followed as punches were exchanged. While being provoked City fans had no excuse for becoming so violent, and they were fully responsible for the incident. People just have to accept losing - we should be used to it by now.

Cheltenham (h): The Boxing Day derby passed largely without incident, a full scale pitch invasion met City's victory, but this was a scene of genuine rejoicing and the Cheltenham players were left to troop off while the home side were mobbed. There was though, a minor incident when a few Cheltenham players tried to enter the supporter's bar after the match. Darren Wright reacted angrily to taunting and swung at a City fan, but the scuffle stopped as soon as it started, and was never an 'incident'.

Halifax (h): The real trouble began as City's Trophy run took off in January, and Halifax visited Meadow Park for the 2nd Round tie. Both sets of fans had been drinking heavily before hand, but had been chatting together in the same pubs and trouble seemed unthought of. However some Halifax fans seemed intent on fighting even before kick off, and were grabbing at City fans queuing at the turnstiles. Once inside the ground the atmosphere was superb until it became obvious Halifax would lose, when a minority of their fans decided to vent their frustrations on the metal wall of the covered side standing. As it became apparent Halifax fans were attacking the ground words were exchanged across the segregation barriers, which Halifax fans then tried to break down. There were isolated scuffles outside the ground afterwards, but for the most part the violence was contained to vandalism inside Meadow Park. What amazed City fans was the bare-faced hypocrisy of the Halifax chairman who accepted responsibility and paid for the damage, only to accuse City fans of starting the trouble in his local paper. Too scared to confront the problems perhaps?

Runcorn (h): The next round brought similar problems, only this time it was apparent from the pubs in town that a lot of scousers had come to watch Runcorn before watching Liverpool at Villa on the Sunday. Most never left the pubs, but some made it into Meadow Park and wasted no time making a nuisance of themselves. Among their added entertainments were hurling metal bins onto the pitch, and trying in vain to outrace the police and make it across the pitch to the City fans. By the time the match ended City fans were well and truly wound up, and only a heavy police presence limited further violence from these "Runcorn" fans. A few fights started, although there were apparently more in town that evening. It did serve to get City fans the distinction of a visit by the south-west's only police helicopter, as well as being videoed by the somewhat bizarre Gloucestershire coppers. In an ideal world of course City fans would not react, but is it realistic to expect people to walk away after they've been punched and kicked and watched their ground attacked for over 45 minutes?

Bishop Auckland (a): The quarter-final brought a long trip to County Durham, made by over 400 City fans. In fairness the Durham police were superb and obviously geared for large crowds and more sensitive control than non-league fans have come to expect (certainly in Gloucestershire). That did not stop a couple of unpleasant incidents, the first being in a pub opposite the ground where City fans were congregating. Some death wish lunatic ran in and chucked a glass at Gloucester fans, cutting a female supporter stood nearest the door. His escape was followed by an angry mob, but that was soon defused by sympathetic policing. Once inside the ground the City fans sang loudly and constantly, which seemed to irritate the Geordies no end. They made constant attempts to infiltrate the heavily guarded away section, only to be weeded out by vigilant policing. At the final whistle two Auckland yobs tried to race across the pitch, only to be felled by the police, who then escorted our fans through a coin barrage back to the coaches. Whilst the atmosphere was intimidating a truly dangerous situation was largely diffused by good policing.

Dagenham (a): This was the first leg of the Trophy semi-final, and we were wary of trouble, we'd been told to expect West Ham firms. Generally a large crowd enjoyed itself and the game passed off happily and without incident, although subsequently we found out two of our supporters had been attacked and pushed down stairs in the Dagenham bar.

Dagenham (at Slough): With the two legged semi bringing a draw there was a replay at a neutral venue, namely Slough. The heartbreak of defeat was made worse by a display of crass policing by the local constabulary. City fans ran on the pitch, as they had at every Trophy game (except for at Bishop Auckland when it would obviously have been provocative). This triggered a total over reaction from the police who hustled fans off into the car park. Here many people were mingling around, some genuinely lost as there were so many identical Gloucester coaches (20+) it would have been easy to board the wrong one. Many were upset and very emotional, not at their most tolerant of being man-handled by bullying officers. Having failed to get everyone straight on to buses the police then started to push children around. Inevitably arrests followed - well done Thames Valley.

Gresley (a): The worst incident of the year was easily what occurred at Gresley's Moat Ground. A big crowd knew that the Derbyshire side could win the title if they beat Gloucester, still chasing a promotion spot Gresley couldn't take because of the standard of their ground. The match began usually enough, but within 10 minutes City fans became aware of a group of just over a dozen Gresley fans who seemed particularly threatening in their vocal support. This bunch gradually moved round the ground to stand beside increasingly uneasy and subdued City supporters, especially threatening in the cramped covered standing. It was obvious that they intended trouble, and they were dressed in the labels that hooligan "firms" consider particularly fetching. The City away support was largely young men, but also included older people, girls and a large number of children. It was certainly not what could be described as a gang or a mob, never mind a firm. Also trying to edge away were a couple of injured City players who were regretting opting to stand with the supporters.
When Gresley scored a northern voice shouted, "Who wants it then?" It turned out he was not offering sweets, but initiating a fight. It was an extremely violent, frightening and prolonged running riot that makes everything else mentioned here pale into insignificance. Such was the extent of the violence that scared children and fleeing combatants spilled on to the pitch, away from the narrow confines of the corridor-like terrace. The game had to be stopped and the players escorted away, although to his credit Simon Cooper, City's midfield terrier of the time, did try to help the fans involved in repelling the attack. The fight was terrifying in its intensity, and indiscriminate in its victims, carrying on for a good while as the Gresley scum tried to regroup and relaunch their offensive. After what seemed an eternity the police arrived and set to batoning the Gresley yobs, some of whom appeared to have been arrested.
After a confused period the police volunteered the opinion that those involved were a locally based Derby County firm who had heard we had "a bit of a reputation" and fancied a go at us. This shows how dangerous it is for people to make inaccurate sweeping statements about City fans. The police also accepted that we were not to blame, but refused to take statements even though we could point to our attackers, now waving at us from the opposite side of the pitch. Despite Gresley's claims they didn't know those involved some appeared to be known to some of their officials who were seen joking with them. The game eventually restarted, with these thugs still in the ground taunting the shaken City supporters. When Gresley eventually secured the title and were presented with the Champions shield, City fans still applauded. Not exactly the behaviour of committed troublemakers is it? The thugs then milled around spitting on and threatening the City fans as they boarded their coach under police supervision. Again the police did not arrest the perpetrators, despite repeatedly having them pointed out and many fans volunteering statements.
To add insult to cuts and bruises I was later told that concerned relatives who heard about the trouble on local radio had been told scandalous lies by Gresley office staff. When asked if anyone was hurt they replied no, when we had several people taken to casualty. They were also told that "it was all caused by Gloucester, as you'd expect". Well they were wrong, and are at best ignorant of their legal duty of care to visiting fans. Some of your supporters are scum and you know it. Sort it out - and an apology wouldn't go amiss either.
An interesting postscript to this tale comes from the 1997/8 visit to a much more sparsely populated Moat Ground. While there it was apparent that Gresley fans had repeatedly been told the trouble was started by City fans, although a short column in the match day programme thanking City players (not fans mind you) for clapping at their title presentation suggests something of a guilty conscience. I really hope so. Further discussion led me to find out I was talking to the local MP, who admitted that fear of potential violence from the local people was one reason why a fundraising game against Manchester United had been played at the ground of local rivals Burton. Another interesting discovery was that two of these "unknowns" who attacked us were once again present, suggesting they attend games regularly. So if you're from Gresley and see a man with a distinctive black Victorian pirate style beard, nick him for me, because I vividly remember him stamping on my chest.

Salisbury (h): Following the Trophy disappointment came one of the worst days in the club's history. Not only did defeat let bitter local rivals Cheltenham get promotion to the Conference, but worse City's usually magnificent support was disgraced by some disgusting behaviour. Some hoolies who usually spend their time at bigger clubs causing trouble began to come to Meadow Park hoping to find some fights closer to home, pinching the old tag of the CDB. With City's defeat came a general sense of outrage at bad refereeing, and one man ran on the pitch to attack the referee. Under cover of this distraction a number of the small Salisbury away support were attacked, and a small pitch invasion occurred. The vast majority of fans stayed on the T-End and made their feelings clear by booing those on the pitch. Further the T-End stopped one of the yobs escaping back into the crowd as the police chased him, enabling his arrest, and adding a bit of their own swift retribution for good measure.
The police then generally made a mess of the whole situation and allowed everything to become very confused. What was particularly sad was that the police seemed more interested in finding those who had ran on the pitch rather than who had hit the Salisbury fans. Gloucestershire police basically showed a total disdain for football fans as tax paying members of the public, or even as human beings. That's what you get from a half trained hick force intended as little more than a royalist bodyguard. Many City fans took time out to apologise to the Salisbury fans personally, after all the same had happened to them very recently. In the aftermath of this incident around a dozen people were banned from Meadow Park, although unfortunately not all were necessarily the right people. The club has also been praised by the FA for steps taken to stop a similar incident happening again, showing that they at least take stopping violence seriously. If any Salisbury fans are reading this, please accept our profuse and repeated apologies.

1997/8 Season:
Thankfully there has been much less trouble in following seasons, although the comparative lack of success has reduced both crowds and potential flashpoints. One exception was the October trip to Wisbech, where City were totally astonished to find themselves confronted by a bunch of appallingly racist thugs. The situation could easily have deteriorated into another Gresley, but thankfully these scum weren't quite willing to launch an all out physical attack, contenting themselves with the odd cowardly kick at passing City fans. Their overtly neo-fascist chanting and saluting was totally sickening, and like something out of a bad Seventies documentary. It's incredible to think such disgraces to humanity still dare show themselves in the open. The abuse of City's black players and manager went unstopped by Wisbech stewards, although the police did arrive (with dogs) to insure our safe departure. By all accounts Bristol Rovers found these retards no more developed when they visited a few months later. (Wisbech were also singled out for their racist supporters in a December '98 TV interview with Les Ferdinand who remembered them from his non-league days).
The only other blemish to the season came in February '98 when Stevenage visited Meadow Park for a Trophy tie. City fans were incensed by what they saw as Stevenage gamesmanship, but that is a limp excuse for the subsequent harassment of the referee and stoning of the Stevenage coach. This was vigorously condemned by both the club and the supporter's club. Hopefully this is just an isolated flashback, and not a new generation of yobs with no concept of what the CDB means, intent on damaging the proud but fragile reputation of Gloucester City supporters.

The Big Picture:
So, in short, City have had problems, but not as many as some would like you to think. Our fans have caused trouble, but more often have been on the receiving end of violence we have then been blamed for. Is it any wonder the fans feel victimised and hostile? 
The club has taken repeated steps to stop further violence and hopefully visiting fans will find Meadow Park a safe place to watch their team. We make no apology for being loud, and if you find certain words offensive then you should maybe accept more liberal limits of self-expression at football grounds. We are a big club with a partisan tradition and supporters who expect success from their under-achieving side. If fans attack us or our ground, then they can expect as good as they give, but if you have come for a good time, then you should have one. I hope visiting teams will be intimidated, and visiting fans silenced, but I hope no-one will feel physically at danger. Our vocal support seems to upset some who would prefer football a passionless polite game, well stuff them, that just ain't what its about. But neither is it about fighting. 
Too many clubs prefer to keep their heads in the sand, slagging off Gloucester in Teamtalk and pretending otherwise non-league football is safe and cuddly, but it isn't. Too many clubs have experience of violence to think that. We all need to accept responsibility to keep the thugs away from our game, and must be aware that as security makes hooliganism more difficult at bigger clubs non-league games will be more attractive to thugs like those from Gresley and Runcorn. And further more, as long as scum like the Wisbech supporters are in our grounds we can't afford to be complacent about racism, and must stamp on it wherever it appears.

Remember: The T-End is Supreme 
- but the CDB are big girly pet molesters.

Patria Chica

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