In the 1980s, Aubrew McGurl was a junior member of the infamous 657 Crew of hooligans associated, once upon a time, with Portsmouth FC. Here he recounts a dangerous day in Derby…
Note: names have been changed for reasons of legality and sensitivity.
Was I ever in fear of my life during the 657 days? Yeah, at a pub in Derby once. There were two generations involved in the 657 Crew then: the younger lot in our teens and the older bunch who’d started out in the 1970s and were a bit meaner, a bit more up for it. That night in Derby we’d gone out for a few pints and weren’t especially looking for aggro. I was on the fruit machine when a load of Derby bastards piled into the pub, expecting an easy match-up against nippers. They didn’t bargain for the older Pompey lot, though, who immediately turned around from the bar and battered them out of the pub.
Somehow, I got swept up in it and ended up standing outside with the Derby crowd. ‘Let’s go back in and have another go at them’, one said. ‘Nah, what’s the point?’ said another. They hadn’t noticed I was Pompey and I got scared that they would any second. I ran back in the pub and started smashing up a bar stool to get a lump of wood to use in case they returned. The rest of the 657 were just listening to the barman, who was apologising for the behaviour of his fellow Derby men. ‘You’re just trying to relax,’ he said. ‘You don’t need that hassle.’ Geoff, the minibus driver, told me to calm down and stop breaking the stool, as the Derby lot weren’t coming back for a second round. Or so we thought.
As we were driving home along the M1, we noticed that a car was following us. We realised they were Derby when they started chucking stuff at us. They broke one of the minibus’s windows. My mate Harry wrapped a pool ball in a sock and flung it, but I don’t think it hit them. We decided to settle this once and for all by pulling over at a petrol station. I jumped out with some of the lads, ran over to the car and started booting the door to stop one of them getting out. As you’d expect, the cashier pressed the alarm which rang out across the forecourt. Geoff shouted from the minibus, ‘Let’s leg it!’
We took all the A and B roads home in the hope of avoiding more trouble and got home safely to Portsmouth. I thought we’d got away with it, but when I went to work at the printers’ on Monday morning, my colleague told me that the police were looking for a white minibus that had travelled from Portsmouth to Derby on Saturday. ‘Was that you lot?’ he asked suspiciously.
‘No,’ I said. ‘We went in a blue minibus.’
I was petrified. I thought I’d go home that night, sit down with my mum to watch the telly and see myself on Crimewatch UK. There’d be some actor playing me, kicking the shit out of a Ford Escort along with all these other hooligans.
I was lucky but Geoff the driver wasn’t. Portsmouth CID nicked him and then handed him over to Derby police. They took him all the way back to Derby to be interrogated. He said that he’d pulled over in the petrol station and fallen asleep, missing the whole ruck, and certainly didn’t get involved in it. Somehow they believed him, let him off and never came for any of the rest of us.