Northstand Nostalgia: Crazy times on Persil-fuelled trains

Dave Beasant and Vinnie Jones celebrates Wimbledon's FA Cup success in 1988, just a couple of years after they were collecting Persil coupons to get to games

Dave Beasant and Vinnie Jones celebrates Wimbledon's FA Cup success in 1988, just a couple of years after they were collecting Persil coupons to get to games

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Last week, I shared some happy memories of my Pompey past in recalling how Martin Fooks chartered his own trains to take fellow Blues fans to a better place – like Hartlepool, Halifax and Rochdale.

During that ‘special’ era, supporters enjoyed a much more comfortable environ for their travels, compared to the confined, cramped conditions aboard the modern ‘luxury’ football coach.

Friendships made aboard the Fooksy express built long-lasting camaraderie between a set of fans, who simply liked to go to footy together.

After the demise of the football special, most of the Pompey fans I knew were keen to continue with this more civilised mode of travel, especially for the most northerly fixtures, when many would choose to travel en masse on the same early Saturday morning service that departed just before 7am.

Train travel, even back in those days, did not come cheap.

Nowadays the internet has turned everybody into eager bargain hunters, all aware of off-peak deals, last-minute savers and two-for-one tickets.

Back in my away-days, a bargain would come around less regularly.

One particular deal my motley crew took advantage of was a promotion from Persil.

The washing powder company offered free rail tokens on their packaging.

Therein lay a problem for the manufacturer, as the tokens were affixed to the outside of the box and many would-be rail travellers, with a less than whiter-than-white character, simply pinched the tokens.

Leaving the supermarkets full of token-less washing powder, which I imagine was very difficult to shift, unlike the stains their product prided itself on removing.

I obtained all my tokens legally, as I successfully persuaded my mother to change her allegiance from Daz to Persil in-order to further my Pompey travels.

Although years later I know my mum succumbed to Danny Baker’s doorstep challenge and returned to Daz, much to the chagrin of my brother who disliked anything with even a tenuous Millwall link.

While travelling around the country absolutely-free on our Persil promotion, we often bumped into other groups of fans whose mother’s cupboards were chock-full of Persil.

Perhaps the most interesting group we met on a regular basis, were the players and officials of Wimbledon.

Dave Bassett, Vinny Jones, Dave Beasant, Wally Downes & Co would often be fellow Persil passengers of ours.

I got to know their assistant manager, Alan Gillett, rather well on those trips.

He had a soft spot for Pompey as his aunt lived in Southsea.

He said the Persil deal was too good for a club like Wimbledon to ignore and, just like us, all the players’ mums were now using the washing powder.

He also told me the Wimbledon supporters’ group fully funded the football club itself, with various lotteries, functions and Sunday morning markets in the car park.

To give an idea of how successful their supporters’ club was he added that the club budget was factored against a prospective crowd of zero.

At the time Pompey’s average gate was around 13,000 and Wimbledon’s around 2,000.

Based on this knowledge, I still retain affection and a great degree of respect for the Dons and all their achievements.

A regular contributor to the Football Mail’s letters page many moons ago, the Northstand Critic has got back in touch and now writes a column in the Sports Mail, which is in shops every Sunday.

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