For my first guest blog I’m delighted to say that a writer I’ve admired for years has agreed to contribute. Noel Bayley, the editor of the Manchester City fanzine Bert Trautmann’s Helmet, tells us about the role Covid has played in him sharing the stories of his match tickets. Noel writes…
High up on a shelf in the spare room there is a shoe box. To be honest it’s a trainers’ box but that doesn’t sound quite right. Although, if I’m being pedantic, it’s a blue and white adidas Samba trainers’ box (reduced to £42.49) that has been there for the 17 years I’ve lived in this house. It came with me from the last house so it’s probably more like 20 years old. Maybe older.
The trainers are long gone (lifespan six to 12 months in my hands… or on my feet since we’re being pedantic!) but the very thing that you’re supposed to throw away – the box – lives on. Inside are match tickets. I just throw them in there whenever I get one. But since I haven’t had one for a while (Aston Villa at Wembley on 1 March last year, since you asked) the box should have just sat there quietly doing nothing throughout lockdown.
But then I had an idea. Who hasn’t during lockdown? I’d get them all out, put them in order and, scan them. I’d had an idea to put them on my FaceBook page but as I had a City fanzine FB page, that was the obvious place to put them. So I started doing that at the start of the season. It started off slowly and picked up momentum. Nostalgia’s big business on the internet… “Remember when…” And what might have been a meaningless game to you might have great meaning for someone else. Many of us measure out births, deaths and marriages in football matches; the ticket is the proof positive of the day when all the other details have melted away.
I’m not a ticket collector, you understand. Collectors eschew shoeboxes in favour of A4 folders with transparent pockets and dividers, all neatly arranged. Many years ago at Maine Road, a ticket collector turned up at ‘Fanzine Corner’ happy to show anyone who was even mildly interested his fantastic collection of tickets, going back years – as neat as a new pin.
He was proudly showing someone a ticket from a pre-season friendly in Italy in 1992. “I’ve got that one too,” I told him, “only I went to the match.” That was an understatement. My mate and I had spent a week hitch-hiking to Italy only to find that this very match against Cremonese on a mountain top in the Dolomites had kicked off half an hour early. We got to see an hour of the game anyway! My mate died in the intervening years, but I still have some great memories and a tiny slip of a ticket to mark the highwater mark (literally!) of our great adventure almost three decades ago.
And that’s the thing about tickets and programmes and much of the – mainly paper – ephemera that people collect: it tells a story, and if it’s going to tell a story it might as well be your story! Not that I’m a ticket collector, you understand.
There were several hundred tickets in the box. Easily enough for one every day of a nine/ten-month season, I thought naively. As I painstakingly scanned them I realised that there were some dates when I was spoilt for choice (Boxing Day, for example, and early January when the FA Cup Third Round kicks in) and some days when there were none at all. Not that City hadn’t played, but I’ve had a season ticket for 40 years and for many years all-ticket games were something of a rarity; pay on the gate, no questions asked. Now, of course, every game is all-ticket.
I roped my mate Josh in for a few more – not that he’s a collector either; more of a curator – but there are still gaps. Even so, most days I can put a match ticket on FB with a story to go under it. Remember when indeed! Derby matches, important matches and games that had memorable incidents like last-gasp goals are the most popular ones I have found: Ian Brightwell’s Derby Day equaliser, York away, Blackpool away in the Cup in 1988…
The author Hunter Davies said: ““There is the serious collector, who goes out of their way and actively searches for items. Then there is the accumulator, a much more passive beast. He or she accumulates by never knowingly throwing things away.”
Davies is, without question, a serious collector. I’m more of an “accumulator.” I’m certainly not a ticket collector. No way, not me. They can be found on trains.
Which reminds me: I’ll have to tell you about the model train collection I’ve accumulated over the years when I’ve got more time…
To see Noel’s, err um, collection (not that he’s a collector!) have a look at https://www.facebook.com/leonyelyab It’s updated every day and provides a great ephemeral record of a football goer’s life. Every ticket tells a story.
Watch this space for other guest blogs soon.