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Tuesday, February 20, 2007


"You'll never ban, a City fan!"

Tonight it was time for a top of the table clash away to West Bromwich Albion, who only dropped down from the Premiership at the end of last season. Prior to the game they were on level points with us so there was everything to play for. The game, however, was not the most memorable part of the trip.

Six seasons ago lads from the valleys who like to go away to the football and have a drink on the way got together to form the Valley RAMs (Rhondda Aberdare Merthyr). The RAMs were different from the Cardiff City Supporters Club, who do not allow smoking or drinking on the bus (hence the nick name Pop and Crisps). With the RAMs it was a case of anything goes, so long as all booze was safely tucked away in the boot before we reached our destination; then after the game it was a stop in the first services to get the booze back out. Technically this is not strictly within the law, but it worked well, it meant that a huge portion of the City away following would be shipped to the ground and straight out with the police knowing exactly where they were and what they were up to. Prior to the RAMs it had been cars, vans, mini busses and trains all over the place terrorising the motorways and railways of the land totally unchecked with the forces of law and order having no idea where everyone was.

The RAMs made a major contribution to the fact that arrest figures for Cardiff at away games dropped from being amongst the top in the League to close to the bottom. At one time there were cars being turned over, pubs being set alight and full-scale riots going on with literally hundreds of arrests at some games; last year we only had 6 convictions all season. The home office were using us as a beacon to show how it could be done!

Some police forces were more amenable to this ‘progressive’ drink policy the RAMs had than others, West Midlands Police in particular were having none of it of late and have been sending sniffer dogs onto busses and nicking drivers if they found one empty can on a bus. As a result the RAMs decided it was time to call it a day, being unwilling to put drivers at risk anymore. South Wales police attitude changed and they had told the RAMs that they should not be surprised if busses were searched before they left Wales! The RAMs attitude was no drink on busses, no busses!

So, finally on to the WBA game. With no busses layed on, other than the pop and crisps, I drove up with me old pal Squirrel. This was a ‘voucher’ game, with all fans having to call into the services to exchange vouchers for tickets. In the words of Cardiff Citys man in charge of crowd control “It deters those intent on causing disorder simply because they don’t want to play by the rules and therefore usually decide not to travel. It prevents train travel, which is the preferred method of transport of the Risk Group who may be intent on causing disorder. It allows the Home force to gauge demeanour of the travelling supporter and can help to break down pre-conceived ideas and perception”.

With the RAMs not running busses it meant some 500 people travelling independently which messed plans up a bit and caused delays and hassle, not to mention a lot of bad feeling. A mini protest was organised whereby fans would turn up at the ground with vouchers and demand to be let in, but so few joined in it became a waste of time and those that were protesting spent the evening down the pub and missed the game.

The game was pretty damn good. I hate to use excuses but with three top players suspended and at least two more out injured we were always going to be up against it, especially against a hot team like WBA. But the depleted team, which included two 17 year olds battled well and were unlucky not to get a point.

The city fans were quite vocal but I felt not quite as vocal as usual (lack of drink??). John Hartson of Swansea came in for some stick and Jason Koumas, star of the City side last season, was in for some ribbing. There was one funny moment when we all started singing along with the WBA fans, the whole ground united in its hatred of Wolves, which made me smile.

At the end of the night me and Squirrel jumped in the car and headed home…. Straight home, without having to wait for a police escort or to stop to drop people off. One advantage I suppose of travelling independently!


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