Part 2 of this almost true story
At half past two, way earlier than normal, Grandma and Grandad decided to take their seats in the stand. Grandma headed for the stairwell but Grandad put his hand on her coat. ‘I think we should do something different.’
‘How’d you mean?’ Grandma asked.
‘I think we should go up to our seats from the left instead of the right.’
This was radical talk. Grandad never liked to vary his routine when it came to football. He’d only just changed out of the boxers he’d worn to Wembley back in May and he only did that because grandma threatened to leave him if he didn’t. ‘All right,’ Grandma said slowly and followed him out.
Their seat was in the middle of the row. Luckily, because they were early, there were only two people already sitting down. Not so luckily, one of them was an old man with two walking sticks who struggled to make way for them to pass, but they’d committed to their high-risk strategy and weren’t going to back down now. ‘Sorry, sorry,’ Grandma apologised.
The stadium was already three-quarters full. On the pitch, both teams were out in their tracksuits, warming up. ‘That’s Manchester United warming up on our pitch,’ Grandma said in disbelief. Grandad just smiled. It was noticeable immediately that there were differences between the way the two squads warmed-up. The Manchester United players were playing small games of five-a-side while Town were more linear, running in and out of cones and doing other stretching activities. Manchester United had a separate goalpost set up to the right of the actual goalpost for shooting practice, too. Town used the normal one. When the warm-up ended and the players left to line up, all the Town fans cheered and clapped their players off. They were getting behind their team from the start.
As three o’clock approached, Grandma grabbed her clapper from the seat. Other teams mocked Town fans for their clapper-usage but Huddersfield fans didn’t care. The ‘clap banners’ had helped create a noisy atmosphere and were a good way of getting everyone involved. Plus they made nice place-mats afterwards once you took the rubber band off and flattened them out a bit. The clapper that week had a picture of Aaron Mooy, Town’s brilliant Australian forward. This turned out to be a good omen.
The stand opposite Grandma and Grandad’s was called the ‘singing end’ on account of that’s where the noisiest fans sat. These fans were separated by a narrow bank of seats and dozens of nervous stewards from the opposition fans sitting adjacent to them. ‘The Cowshed Loyal’ as they called themselves were famous, not only for singing the loudest and leading the chants but for their dexterity with a an unwieldy flag. Grandma noticed immediately they had something special lined up for the match. All the rows at the front were grabbing something long and white and it wasn’t Peter Crouch. Sure enough, as the teams left the tunnel, they unfurled their artwork. It stretched across four rows. ‘It doesn’t count how big you are,’ the top tier read in capital letters. ‘Or how experienced you are,’ it continued beneath. ‘If you have passion + desire…’ ‘…You have no limits.’ What a great message! They singing end had surpassed themselves this time. They’d boosted the players and the crowd with their message. This was our version of Henry V at Agincourt, only without the swords. Everyone cheered their efforts and then turned to the tunnel. It was time for kick-off.