“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 game against London rivals Arsenal.
The 25th of April, 1992. 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 smacked the ball goal-wards from outside the box.
Chelsea were defending the Shed, where I stood; soon as he hit it, instinctively knew where it would end up.
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 day 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 way before my time (no traffic lights), but says a lot more to me than any of the modern ones above. As well as being a Chelsea fan, in the mid to late 1990s Fulham was part of my pest control patch. Many of the buildings, such as the pub pictured left, were customers.
So was the club immediately to its right, that isn’t instantly recognisable, as it was at the end of the alley behind the metal shutters. I’m sure it was still called the Hibernian club in the 90s too.
The station was a customer too, but only in relation to some pigeons that had got into the large room behind the tall windows on the first floor.
Past the station can be seen Lloyds Bank, inbetween the two an alleyway. The bank was also a customer. By the 90s the alley had a great big metal gate with spikes on top; staff there told me it’d been added after thieves had used it to break in the back of the bank.
Further down on the left was a café. Sitting in there having a bit of lunch one day (as I often did), one of the staff walked over and asked if I could give the kitchen a ‘quick spray’ after as they had ‘a bit’ of a roach problem.
There’s no such thing as ‘a bit’ of a roach problem; and when someone’s not prepared to do anything about it until pest control happens to start using their establishment, and even then a quick cash-in-hand spray, it’s definitely a fucking massive one.
I never went in there again.
My favourite thing about that image is it capturing a set of floodlights (far right). It coming into view was always something when walking from the station to a game. It isn’t that the new station changes the perspective/experience; but changes to the stadium have removed the spotlights.
- Geezers and Goldfish Bowls
- Horses for Courses
- Pain and How Despite Being an Atheist I Still Blame God Anyway
- Britain Beers Back!
Header lyrics quoted for educational purposes copyright of WB Music Corp
Thanks for reading 🙂
N. P. Ryan
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