Trouble on the Terraces. Arsenal v West Ham at Highbury 1982. icf ?
Billowing smoke scatters the Arsenal and West Ham thugs on Highbury's North Bank.
1982 and an English football (soccer) match was not always a pleasant event to attend. It was a couple of years before Maggie Thatcher's clampdown on the activities of Soccer Hooligans and the gangs were becoming more vicious and more willing to use a frightening array of weaponry, which was only too obvious at this particular game. Arsenal versus West Ham was always likely to be a major flashpoint. West Ham had always had a large trouble making following, and had a particularly large and violent gang called the Inter City Firm (ICF), named after their fondness of travelling to away games First Class on the Inter City Trains, and were generally thought of as the top gang in the Country. Arsenal, although they had seemed to be successful in breaking free from the Skinhead element which had plagued the club in the late 60's, were not without their own violent followers, and had an up and coming young street gang known as the Gooners, a spoof name for the official club nickname of the 'Gunners'. May 2nd 1982, an hour and a half before the kick off and the fans were streaming into the ground. In the preceding years it was common practice for the ICF to march onto the North Bank, which was the Arsenal stronghold virtually unopposed, with very little resistance from Arsenal's followers. However. this year was to be different, and there was a very uneasy feeling as I stood on the North Bank on this particular sunny Spring Saturday. Having been part of the hooligan scene years before, I could tell who was who, and I could see the West Ham fans gathering on the North Bank. The Arsenal fans sensed this and attacked immediately, and their rivals were kicked and punched and quickly dispatched from the sprawling terrace, which when full could hold up to 20,000 people. As the police battled to gain control, another West Ham gang had forced their way into the middle of the North Bank and set off a smoke bomb. Clouds of thickening smoke billowed across the pitch and pandemonium broke out. The players, who had just about started the game, were led off the pitch, and panicking Arsenal fans stampeded onto it for their own safety. This left the large West Ham gang cock a hoop in the middle of Arsenal territory. There they were, the largest most vicious gang of football thugs in the country doing what they did best, bullying and taunting their beaten rivals. Only, something was wrong. Not all of Arsenal's fans had panicked, and the next thing they launched a counter attack, and probably for the first time in their lives, the ICF were on the back foot, and were brutally pushed right to the edge of the North Bank. The police desperately fought to surround the ICF for their own protection, and despite numerous attempts by the gooners to attack again, the police line held firm, and the ICF were held until the final whistle, and then escorted to safety. Sadly, this was not an end to the trouble on this particular day, and about an hour later an Arsenal fan was surrounded by a gang of West Ham thugs, and brutally stabbed to death. His killer was never caught, but folklore has it that he himself has also gone to meet his maker. It was the end of an era, and West Ham never again ventured onto Arsenal's North Bank. And in the following years, Arsenal were known to have taken liberties on West Ham's Manor, a feat previously unheard of since the old skinhead days of the late 60's. This ultimately led to several undercover police operations, and many of the main players were arrested and subsequently charged. Nowadays, thankfully the only winners on match days are the police. And premiership matches, although missing the old boisterous atmosphere, are much safer places to be, with attendances on the increase, and families very much in attendance. If you are interested in watching an Arsenal game, visit www.hubpages.com/hub/How-to-get-Arsenal-tickets-at-face-value for ideas on buying face value Arsenal tickets.