Filbert Street Memories: Easily Suede

Andy Betts marches across the Fox Blog turf with his Filbert Street Memory from The FOX 108 – October 2001


There is a defining moment in Director Franc Roddam’s fine 1979 film of The Who’s ‘Quadrophenia’. The Mods, having arrived in Brighton beautifully suited and booted and pilled up, park up their Lambrettas and march (no, make that ‘strut’) through a disbeliving Bank Holiday public singing en masse:  “We are the Mods, we are the Mods, we are we are we are the Mods!”
It is one of those cinematic adrenaline rushes that I marvel at every time I watch the video.
I have come close to such a moment but once in my forty-four years, it was at Filbert Street on June 7th 1971 when City played Cagliari in the Anglo-Italian Tournament.
I don’t know or care who devised the short-lived competition or even on what basis teams were selected to compete in it. What I do know is that even in the less cynical climate of 1971 it was regarded as pretty much of a joke with its sole saving grace being the provision of more exotic and competitive pre-season action than was the norm then. I suppose its current counterpart would be the Inter-twobob Cup.
I had arrived in Leicester in 1969 as an eleven year old whose Dad’s job had brought the family here from Ipswich. We settled in Oadby and once I had endured a couple of ‘new boy’ kickings at Gartree High School I settled in and found the sense of music and fashion in Leicester an absolute revelation after the ruralism of Ipswich. Being in my early teens and obsessed with music and clothes I experimented with the ‘Scooby’ look – all greatcoat, tie die and loon pants and although I loved seeing ‘Head’ bands at the Uni and DeMontfort Hall I always felt a bit of a plonker in the clobber.  I also realised that many ‘Scoobs’ were swots or snobs or even both and as I was neither I fell out of love with them.
The ‘Scoobs’ rivals in 1969 and into early 1970 were the Skinheads, whose patriotism, unambiguity and work ethic I admired but whose violence and racist tendencies deterred me from allegiance (also, I couldn’t fight my way out of a paper bag). But around Christmas 1970 my struggle for an identity started to bear fruit. First up, my mate at school, Dave Harvey, played me his Blue Beat Record’s copy of Prince Buster’s ‘Al Capone’ which stayed in my head until it was blown out of there in March 71 when Radio 1 played a reggae instrumental called ‘Double Barrel’ by Dave and Ansil Collins. I remember running to Brees Records in Oadby to hear it on their booth before buying it, running home and playing over and over on my ‘Dansette Challenge’. One month later it was joined by my first Motown record, ‘Remember Me’ by Diana Ross (who was the first woman I loved, and it was love. Honest!).
While I devoured the staple music diet of the ‘Skins’ the cult metamorphosed into the much more acceptable Suedeheads who were a step back towards the halcyon days of the Mods.
The clothes were lovely and through a combination of saving my paper round money and pestering my Mum I soon had the whole wardrobe and in that June of 1971 I rather nervously set out on the Midland Red from Oadby to the station attired in my Prince of Wales Harrington jacket, Fred Perry, raised seam trousers and ‘blakeyed up’ brogues. Studiously avoiding eye contact (or in my case bi-focal contact) with anyone who looked tougher than me (ie everyone) I skulked into the Kop for City v Cagliari to join hundreds of youths dressed just like me.
‘Of Fossils & Foxes’ shows we won the game 2-1 and that Nish and Weller scored. What that excellent tome doesn’t mention is that at half-time every ‘Suede’ standing in the Kop End into which City had been kicking in the first half legged over the wall and swaggered chanting past a powerless small police presence and a contemptuous but silent Main Stand into a cowering Filbert Street End to take up residence for the second half.
Somewhere in the midst of those marching Suedes, absolutely cacking himself but peacock proud and buzzing, was an awkward, myopic youth genuinely feeling somebody for the first time in his fourteen years.
In the thirty years since, Filbert Street’s highs and lows have run a course through my life but nothing on the field of play has quite galvanised me the way that march from the Kop did.

A priceless Filbert Street Memory!

Photo: Neville Chadwick Photography – 

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