Returning to the Junction station from a match only the other day, I came across some of the Hertfordshire constabulary on the Platform for the trains to London, where I have the misfortune to live.
I was, understandably, expecting a police presence around the trains - it would normally be the only point where home and away fans would clash, and, although not notoriously violent, there was ample cause for a celebratory skirmish, seeing as how we had just stuffed them 2-0 and they were not best pleased.
Awaiting at the platform was the Intercity to Euston. "Such luck", thought I, misguidedly, "Home before the pubs close!"
However, on entering the platform, ready to board this fast train, I made the fatal mistake of actually speaking to one of the policemen. "Is this train going to Euston?", I asked.
"Yes! It's the Intercity", replied Mr. Plod.
However, my opening question must have been misinterpreted by Plod, who instantly, on looking down and seeing my Golden shirt, followed his comment with, "But you're not getting on!"
Normally, I have an entente cordial with the rozzers, and, not wishing to have swabs forcibly taken from the inside of my mouth, being listed on a national DNA database, and having the word "Convict" branded across my forehead (as I believe is now part of the Criminal Justice Act), I decided to let matters lie. I attempted to interject some humour into the proceedings.
"Oh well", I said, glumly, "Just have to wait for the next one then!"
"Yes, that you will", replied Plod.
"Shouldn't have gone for that drink, eh?", I added.
Plod just stared at me through narrowed eyes. He stood, sentry like. It was blatantly clear that he had no intention of having a converstion with me, or any member of my travelling companions.
We decided to wait in the waiting room. Several other boys (and of course, girls) in blue walked past me, slowed when they realised that I was a football fan, fingered their new retractable US style batons expectantly, but then proceeded to the station to meet up with their horde of colleagues.
I felt that I was being treated as the potential aggressor, although, judging by the increasing number of red shirts on display, I was the one who needed protection from our guardians of the peace.
Feeling threatened, I disappeared quickly to the toilets and removed any sign of gold from about my person. I was therefore, dressed in regular civvies.
I grabbed a can of drink to soothe my crippled throat (I must stop shouting, "Referee, you're an absolute disgrace!" at the top of my voice), and returned, alone, through the scholes of 'Addicks back to the platform.
Fearful of attack from two sides, the Charlton fans, and the Police, I decided it prudent to stay in the waiting room.
Maybe, being a country boy, I have grown used to Policemen being friendly rotund fellows, who always have time to smile, point the way and tell you the time - rather like Sgt.Ventris on "Peak Practice". In fact, the only time I had been treated like dirt before was after I had been seriously manhandled by a bouncer outside a nightclub in Plymouth (Thankfully, said bouncer has now been sacked, but that is a different story), and, on seeking solice from the police, I was told to "F*ck off home" (yes, the F-word was uttered).
That time, I had put it down to having drunk rather too many pints for my own good - I was drunk and disorderly, it's a fair cop.
This time, however, my crime was much more serious - I was a football fan, scourge of the criminal justice system, second only to New Age Travellers in the basement of criminality. If I was carrying a large knife, out on the town to do a mugging, I would still have received a friendly smile from PC Plod.
I sat tight in the waiting room, any sign of Yellow banished to under my jumper.
The train pulled in, and stopped.
I entered the platform. Just to double check I asked, "This going to London?"
"Yes, Sir. London Euston via Harrow. Should be there in about 20 minutes."
I was taken aback. The policeman had not only spoken to me in a warm, friendly, Bobby-on-the-beat type manner, but he had also called me sir.
I thanked the Policeman.
"You're welcome, sir, just doing me job", came the reply. "You might want to sit up that end sir", he added, "seeing as how those carriages there are going to be full of football fans", pointing at all the 'Addicks.
Sure enough, those very carriages were full of football fans. The policeman had treated me as a human being, rather than as some kind of brainless moron. The reason behind this seems to have been proven. Removing my golden shirt to avoid a beating from the away fans on arriving in London, I had also removed any sign that I was a football supporter. Football supporters, it seems, are threats to the community, and now I was not one, I could be treated as "Normal".
How is it that we football fans can strike the fear of God into anyone, just by wearing our "tribal" costume? Why must I be treated as a criminal, because I'd rather go out on a Saturday than sit in and watch "Baywatch"?
I could say that the police should be out catching proper criminals, and not harrassing innocent people - but I won't (er, you just have - Ed).
Even the one time that I actually did commit an offence - driving too quickly along a residential road, the policeman was able to call me sir, and have a laugh and a joke as he read me my rights.
Why, when I am not a criminal, am I treated like one?