The Battle of Platt Lane

Platt Lane

In this year of death and bad, mad days my mind has often wandered back to Platt Lane, a place redolent with sunshine freedom and hope. Now when you see the Platt Lane complex on your iPad, complete with shiny confident youth in expensive tracksuits being led out by Patrick Viera, you see too many hangers-on. However in 1985, it was hardcore only. The one mile walk past red-brick Manchester terraces from Mad Dog’s new £13k Moss Side home was always memorable. Blue skies, the smell of freshly laid tarmac, the pungent aroma of over-grilled kebab meat spirited you along and suddenly all the roads widened as you approached Platt Fields. Man City’s magnificent 55,000 capacity stadium Maine Road wasn’t far away and the football buzz was palpable. Although the legendary TKFC fronted by the imperious Solly Musseltoff were not short of a bob or two, floodlit Astroturf pitches plus hot showers and changing rooms were pricier than the gravelly back-yard of St Clement’s Church in Chorlton where TKFC was spawned. This was a big match. Fine Art FC were led by a Peaky Blinder from West Bromwich called The Amazing Waldo who made Thomas Shelby look like a pussycat. They were a crack group of radical Hulme-dwelling refusniks who in the face of encroaching Thatcherism were not prepared to simply roll over and die. Through Churchillian folly, they had lost Grandfathers and Great Uncles at Gallipoli. They knew that there would be some Business Studies capitalists lining up against them and this was the moment to avenge Cape Helles and Orgreave. Saturday came. Chrissie-boy Rowlands, a rugby star and fellow parachutist drove us to the ground in his sleek fuel-injected Triumph Dolomite. Incredibly, seven fans had materialised including Fantasy Bob and Curvaceous Christine. They were privileged to witness the audacious pre-match signing of Ricardo, from Buenos Aires via Blackburn. His good looks, artistry and easy way with the local press made his signature a major coup. In fact, a carnival atmosphere had developed within the high fences of South Manchester’s astroland as TKFC’s brave and virile eleven took to the pitch. Fine Art FC with a glint in their eyes were already warmed-up and bristling with menace. Barry White their denim-clad supremo prowled the touchline and snarled at Sam, scowling at us with a menace not seen since Arthur Scargill faced up to the South Yorkshire Constabulary. But we were young and fearless. Ricardo notched early doors with a deft Kempes-like flick. Stick it up your junta, boys. But the Amazing Waldo showing the predatory spirit of Tony Bomber Brown responded with a far-post header. Chrissie-boy and Socrates patrolled the midfield with élan, yet it was the lanky and bronzed Simmo who caught the eye upfront, peeling off defenders at will. The Fine Art back four were in disarray and with typical aplomb he scored just before half time. Monsieur Le Shark handed out the half-time oranges and proceeded to give us a pep-talk straight off his leadership and influencing people module at Manchester Polytechnic. If truth be told, we didn’t need it. We smelt the Medlock boys blood and despite the indefatigable Waldo scoring another from Impressionist John’s left wing cross, Simmo ran riot. A can-opener splitting 40 yard pass from Socrates released the Kilskeeryman who nonchalantly toe-poked into the net. Fine Art briefly rallied again as John Ferrari showed why he was once labelled Crumpsall’s Paddy Crerand. But TKFC’s fourth and final goal was from Simmo again. A slick interchange with Socrates and Ricardo climaxed in a 25 yard screamer past the luckless Vincent Van Driver in the Fine Art goal. It wasn’t simply a peach but the full Del Monte canning factory. The hat-trick hero ran off the pitch and clambered over the steel railings. His celebration lasted at least five minutes and involved Christine, Beano Bob, several Chinamen and Sam the Dog. The crowd now in double figures watched on in amazement. Joy filled the streets of Fallowfield. As the hot water from the luxurious showers pummelled our aching limbs post match, we knew we would never see another celebration quite like it. Strolling home in the bright sunshine towards the Parkside pub I was filled with the indelible feeling (almost a portent) that the Russian proverb would stay with us right up till the dog days of 2013. Hope is the last to die.

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