Northstand Nostalgia: Excitement of bumping into heroes proved a false dawn

I woke full of excitement and anticipation.

Sunday, 14th August 2016, 12:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 5:36 pm
John McLaughlin

I had a feeling in my water this was going to be a special day, as I set out on my first ever trip to that footballing hotbed of Merseyside.

My destination in September 1979 was not Anfield or Goodison Park but the much less glamourous Prenton Park, home of Tranmere Rovers.

‘Trannie’ played their home games on a Friday evening to avoid clashing with their more illustrious neighbours.

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The young Northstander was travelling alone to the game.

However, as my Waterloo-bound train pulled into Havant Station, I noticed a party of about 30 familiar faces preparing to board.

This was not a group of fellow Pompey fans en route to Birkenhead, it was the directors, management and players of the club.

Before the train had even left the station, I had sidled up between Steve Bryant and John McLaughlin to shower my admiration.

I am sure I probably bored the Pompey pair all the way to Waterloo but before bidding them farewell and good luck, they gave me some complimentary tickets for the match.

Surely this was a good omen!

I arrived in Liverpool mid-afternoon with the intention of a mini Liver tour.

However, whilst walking through Lime Street Station I recognised another familiar face.

Asa Hartford was a hugely-famous footballer of the 70s, previously with WBA and Manchester City.

He had recently left Notts Forest after falling out with their manager Brian Clough.

He had actually signed for Everton that very morning and was at Lime Street awaiting the arrival of his wife.

During the interim I exposed Asa to similar levels of boredom experienced by Messrs Bryant and McLaughlin on the 10.35 from Havant.

Asa eventually escaped from the captivity of a Lime Street Café on the appearance of Mrs H and we both went our separate ways.

Again I got the feeling this was going to be my day.

When Terry Brisley put Pompey 1-0 up in the first minute, this just confirmed it.

Then things started to unravel as my co-commuter McLaughlin give away an equaliser and was then sent off.

Both incidents were pivotal to our 4-1 defeat.

Desperately disappointed, I headed back south.

I was even more desperate when I boarded the train without having time to visit the convenience.

By the time we reached Crewe my bladder was at full capacity, as there was no loo.

On arrival at Crewe I was in despair as I noted an out-of-order sign displayed outside the gents!

In sheer desperation, I headed for a secluded alleyway behind the platform to relieve myself of the copious amount of coffee supplied to me earlier by Mr Hartford.

Unfortunately for me an eagle-eyed transport police officer had witnessed my urinary emission.

The net result to me was a clip around the ear, an arrest, two or three missed trains and a £30 fine for fouling the platform.

Those earlier feelings in my water turned out to be an unreliable source on which to gauge the prospects of a good day.