Repression is one of the most haunting concepts in the football world today.
Something shocking happens, and the mind pushes it into some inaccessible corner of the unconscious. Later, the memory may emerge into consciousness. Repression is one of the foundation stones on which the structure of retro-footballpsychoanalysis rests. Recently there has been a rise in reported memories of football horror stories that were allegedly repressed for many years. With the advent of the Internet, especially social media, people with recently unearthed memories are coming forward, and recalling events that happened 20, 30, even 40 or more years earlier.
These new developments give rise to a number of questions: How common is it for memories of football horror stories to be repressed? How are parents, spouses and family likely to react to these repressed memory claims? When the memories surface, what are they like? How authentic are the memories?
My repressed memory came from March 14th 1978. This memory did not come back all at once. The first flashback came one afternoon in January 1998 when I was at an indoor soccer practice for the youth team that I coached. Instead of wearing the usual green practice jerseys, one of the•players•came in•wearing what must have been a Christmas present, a blue and white hooped jersey! At that moment, I was back standing in the•School End,•watching West Ham play QPR.
I can’t tell you when or why, but I have always despised QPR. Maybe it was traveling to Shepard’s Bush; maybe it was those hooped jerseys; maybe it was that tiny pitch; maybe it was•because•of Gerry Francis, or maybe it’s because at the end of the 78 season we were relegated and QPR survived by two points! That day back in 1978 started badly for me. I was late getting on the train and so I missed the “meeting time”, so I had to travel on my own, instead of with some friends.
For me travelling to away games, always holds a little trepidation, a result of spending hours on a train surrounded by, and sitting between Manchester United fans. Anyway, I got off at Barking and jumped onto the District Line to Mile End, and onto the Central Line for ride to White City. I hoped that I might run into my•friends somewhere on the journey or near the exit at White City, but I never found them, maybe they took the long walk from Shepard’s Bush instead! Loftus Road itself is a very nondescript•memory for me – I•remember•from the outside the stands looked lower than I expected, and on that day, it wasn’t as busy as I expected either.
Both teams were battling relegation back in 1978 and as it happened, this turned out to be the pivotal game for West Ham. That 1978 team should have never been in relegation trouble, and if I put that team into the Premier League today, people would rave about the quality an depth.
But the season had been a real struggle, with both the inconsistency in front of goal, and also the lack of speed from Tommy Taylor, which was highlighted on a regular basis. It’s easy to second guess today, but playing a 19-year-old Alvin Martin might have made the difference in some of the runin games. For me, QPR can be summed up by these players; Rodney Marsh, Stan Bowles and Gerry Francis (I identify Phil Parkes as a Hammer). My main memories of Marsh are with Manchester City, but Bowles and Francis brought out the worst in me at West Ham v QPR games!
Especially Francis.•Of course had he played on my team, I would have loved him, as his midfield prowess was outstanding. Even when QPR challenged the mighty Liverpool for the•Division•One title in 75/76, I•remember•wishing QPR to lose every game, especailly after our great start that year, and yet another season just avoiding relegation!
Guess it’s true, misery loves company. After that “sniff at glory”, Francis picked up an injured which seriously hampered him over the next few years, including the 77/78 season, when he only played a handful of games. Of course I will swear that he was there that day in March when West Ham visited Loftus Road, badly needing the points.
And he was no doubt instrumental in the move that•finally•led to the•only•goal•of the game, right in front of us away fans. And for one moment, I swear our eyes met and Gerry Francis just smirked, as he wheeled away in celebration! I was numb, not from just the cold, but knowing that there would be ten games left, and every week the angst would grow, until the final game of the season, at home to Liverpool.
No one knew that Saturday afternoon in West London, that West Ham and QPR•would be in a dogfight to avoid the final relegation spot. West Ham won six and lost four out the last ten, while QPR only won four, but had two draws and four losses. So close, but not close enough for West Ham who were relegated by one point! I would have been happy to keep this memory repressed, somewhere deep and dark, along with other West Ham disappointments.
Truly, I am still bitter about that day in March 1978, still perturbed that we lost out to Gerry Francis, yet as I look at the Premier League table today, it is me that is smirking!