The Junior Hooligan Chronicles Part 1: It Was a Bit of a Gas

In the 1980s, Aubrew McGurl was a minor member of the infamous 657 Crew, hooligans once associated with Portsmouth FC. In this exclusive new series for Star & Crescent, he recalls the stranger, funnier and more dangerous incidents…

Note: names have been changed for reasons of legality and sensitivity.

In my mid-teens I was well into football, as a lot of lads are, and I started going to Pompey home games not to start rucks but just because I loved the game. Then, when I was fifteen, my mate Graham invited me to drive up with him and his dad to watch Pompey away at Leyton Orient. When we were in the stand at Orient, we heard a bunch of our mates from school shouting at us from behind. ‘You’re with the scarfers!’ they mocked. ‘Scarfer’ was the term for normal fans. They were 657 Crew, who followed Pompey around seriously and took on rival gangs wherever they went, and were taking the piss out of me because I’d gone to the match all straight and sensible, like, with my mate’s dad. I felt a right idiot.

Soon after that, another mate told me he was going with the 657 Crew on a double decker bus from Somerstown up to Nottingham Forest. I thought, this is my chance to get involved with the serious fans! It was a Milk Cup tie, and a major game for Pompey as Notts Forest were the team to beat in those days.

At school the morning before the game, I told my science teacher that I’d be taking the rest of the day off to watch Pompey.

‘Why’s that, McGurl?’ he hissed. ‘What do you want to waste your time doing that for? You’ll never get anywhere in life, lad.’

‘Fuck you,’ I thought but didn’t say to him.

Later that morning, me and my mate went and caught the bus from Somerstown. It was a bit intimidating to be fifteen years old and amongst all these wrong ‘uns. Halfway up the M25 someone let a gas canister off. We pulled over on the hard shoulder and everyone got off, coughing, spluttering, eyes streaming. Luckily, I wasn’t too badly affected by it. While we were recovering, a car load of other Pompey fans drove past shouting, ‘See ya’ later you wankers!’ Next thing I know, some of our lot were chucking bottles at their car. I didn’t know that serious Pompey blokes could fight amongst themselves like this.

At Forest they already knew who we were and what trouble we might cause, so as soon as we arrived a bunch of police cars and motorbikes escorted us into the ground. They kept a close eye on us throughout the match. I thought I should call my mum and tell her I’d be late back. I asked a steward if there was a payphone somewhere, this being before the age of mobile phones. Worried I might cause aggro, he preferred to walk with me rather than let me go off by myself. He led me around the pitch in front of the Forest end and into the Brian Clough Suite where there was a phone. While I was ringing my mum, I noticed this huge cabinet full of Forest’s trophies. That was quite impressive to look at.

I don’t remember much about the game itself other than a bit of trivia: there was only one Forest player on the pitch who was still left over from their 1980 European Cup-winning team, and that was Bryn Gunn.

On the way home we pulled in at a petrol station and nicked a load of chocolate from the shop. My mate Nige even laid his hands on a load of VHS videotapes – quite an expensive haul back then. We jumped back in the bus and decided to have a chocolate fight. We opened all our Curly-Wurlies, Mars Bars, Walnut Whips and Marathons – as they were called then – and chucked them at each other. By the end of it our faces and clothes were smothered in chocolate and the inside of the van was dripping with it. I’d never seen anything like it.

Geoff, our driver, was appalled. ‘You’re a disgrace to your city!’ he shouted at us over his shoulder. That sort of shut us all up and we felt a bit ashamed. He couldn’t have been too miffed, though, because he took us back to Portsmouth and dropped us all off at our homes.