“I could be a writer with a growing reputation; I could be the ticket man at Fulham Broadway Station. What a waste . . . What a waste.”
I used to walk past that ticket man made famous by Ian Dury’s lyrics on regular occasion. Going to and from Chelsea matches at Stamford Bridge. It was always a man, as I remember. Not that I paid too much attention.
Except for one particular Wednesday night game against London rivals Arsenal.
Chelsea had taken the lead midway through the first half and had hung onto it from there. It was starting to look like that grip might stick, when late in the second, Gunners’ full back Lee Dixon picked up the ball some distance from the edge of the Chelsea box and wellied it goalwards nonetheless.
Chelsea were defending the Shed end, where I stood; that shot could’ve been aimed straight at me. The second he hit it, I knew exactly where it was going to end up despite what should’ve been the unlikelihood.
And so, much to the delight of North London’s better half, the game finished in a draw.
These days the entrance to the tube station is closer to the ground.
Back then a row of old bill on horseback would pen everyone in along the Fulham Road while they waited to get in the packed station.
That night a group of isolated Gooners caught up in the sardine crush started singing the praises of their team. In the process alerting anyone who fancied a bit of payback for the late equaliser to their presence.
Sardines became Salmon and fast made their way through the sea of people with no interest in a fight.
Realising the waves of anger heading their way, the Arsenal fans made likewise movement, only towards the station (a.k.a. running away). The police on horseback, thanks to their vantage point, could also see what was going on and alerted their brethren in the station of what to expect.
The station had a large square area on entry. In the right hand corner a gap about twelve foot wide led to stairs going down to the platforms. It was there, on the left hand side of the gap, that the ticket man sat in a sentry-type booth to check people had paid the right fare.
The police let the Arsenal fans through to the platforms and then formed a human chain across the gap leading to them.
The struggle of Chelsea fans pushing against plod and plod holding their ground to push back again was truly epic.
I looked at the ticket man sat in his little box. Grinning like a Cheshire cat, he was; highly amused by the shenanigans taking place all around him while he just got to watch.
Then someone realised the booth wasn’t screwed into the ground and the emphasis become about rocking it back and forth, as in error the police line ended next to it.
I can still see his face like it was yesterday even if the station and the little box are now things of many a yesteryear. The way he banged on the glass and desperately pleaded no-no-no with those pushing the booth hard as they could.
There was nothing plod could do. Eventually it toppled, the ticket man still inside and Chelsea fans swarmed over the breach with greater energy and desire than anything Lord of the Rings has ever had to offer.
Alas, though, for the delay proved long enough for a train to have already whisked all the Gooners safely away.
A Picture Paints a Thousand Words:
The above image is also way before my time (no traffic lights); though there’s a lot more familiar about it than many of the newer ones. In the mid to late 1990s Fulham was part of my pest control ‘patch’.
- The pub to the left was a customer. Even though I went their regularly when closed as part of their contract, the manager—who I knew—once refused me entry due to wearing a Chelsea shirt. I’d been pre-match numerous times before in one, but he’d suddenly decided to go for the more affluent members of the community, who were becoming ever more numerous; it was an attempt at modern gentrification way before its time.
- Next to the pub is a sign for the ‘Hibernian Club’ above a closed metal gate. Also a customer. I think it still had the same name too. The club was huge; the gates opened onto a long alleyway it was at the end of.
- The station itself. The rooms behind the big windows on the first floor had been left vacant for years, pigeons had got in and with them the risk of fleas, varied carpet beetle and disease from their droppings. They received three treatments as a preventative measure.
- To the right of the station, a branch of Lloyds bank, also a customer on contract. Where visible in other images, the alleyway between it and the Station is always protected by a big metal gate, placed there after thieves did the obvious and used it to break in the rear of the bank without being seen.
- Right of the bank, the perspective runs down the Fulham Road without much being clearly seen. All of it, including the bank, has been replaced by the modern building containing the new station.
- I don’t remember the taller building with placards on its side.
- One of the lower buildings before it was a “workingmen’s” cafe that’s name related to Chelsea somehow (can’t recall exactly). I occasionally used it for lunch. One time the owner noticed the writing on my uniform, so came over and asked for a favour: ‘could you give the kitchen a quick spray with something? – we’ve got a bit of a roach problem.’ That they had a bit of a problem was bad enough; that they weren’t using another company to treat it, even worse – it meant it wasn’t a bit of a problem; that they’d waited for a pest control technician to just happen to walk in before doing something about it, the icing on the cake that meant I never went back.
- Furthest right can be seen a floodlight used to illuminate the Stamford Bridge pitch.
Thanks for reading 🙂
N. P. Ryan.