Danny Breslin

How it is…

The Match


He’d never felt so alive. His senses were sharper than they had ever been; the room was brighter than the dim lights in there should have allowed, colours so vivid; his ears were keen enough to pick up the slightest sound and separate it from the din around him. He could smell the heady mix of aftershave, stale cigarettes on clothes, beer spilt on the sticky, ugly patterned carpet beneath his feet, sweat battling deodorant; he could smell excitement. He could feel the cold moisture on the outside of the pint glass nestled in his hand; he could feel the electricity that charged the air in this place. Tonight was different.

It was, these days, a rare opportunity for his team to play the team from across the city. They weren’t in the same league, in so many ways. Tonight was a cup match and they had been drawn together. A chance to renew a rivalry more than a century old.

They were only a couple of miles across the city, but when the wind was right you could smell them. They were different: they dressed differently, preferring cheap sportswear to the designer labels that he could pick out amongst the men around him. They spoke differently, an outsider would never be able to pick up the ever so subtle difference in the accent, but they knew and that was all that mattered.

The word was that they had boasted that they would take this pub, this fortress. They could try. Plans had been made: when they hit the front the lads would pile over the side fence from the beer garden and turn their flank.

Spotters were out in every direction, young kids with mobile phones, watching the streets. There was no way the pub could be approached without being seen and their movement reported.

He looked at the faces around him. Not a bad turn out, but that was to be expected. Nobody would want to miss this one. Some of the older boys carried scars from previous battles, each one telling a story. Younger lads, fresh-faced and eager to make a name for themselves. What would take place tonight would make them; a battle honour and an “I was there” moment.

People were checking their watches, not long now until kick-off, where were they? Him and his mates were what you might call mid-level. They had long since cut their teeth but they were not hard core. Some of the lads in this place considered fighting at football matches a profession. His mates weren’t like that; they had never and would never shy away from the action when it started but never went looking for it, they had nothing to prove. They were there for the game not the warm-up; the game was all that mattered. Football was the only drug they ever needed.

Tonight was different. Everyone would have to walk to the ground together; out there, tonight, it was bandit country, small groups could easily get picked off. The animals from across the city had no idea of etiquette, the unwritten rule that non-combatants should be left alone. They hunted in packs like hyenas: cowardly yet merciless.

The movement might have gone unnoticed to the casual observer. The man nearest the door wordlessly turned. He was the one who decided for them all. Like a flock of birds or a shoal of fish, they all moved to follow. No need for shouted orders, they filed out and within sixty seconds the pub stood empty and silent save for the staff breathing sighs of relief.

The Beast

The mass of bodies moved across the car park. No longer groups of individuals from various estates and satellite towns, they were now a “firm”. No call had come, where were they? Someone attempted to get a song going but was hushed by others around him. No singing, don’t give the Old Bill an excuse.

The police followed them like pilot fish following a shark. They were as excited as the people they were tailing. They wanted there to be trouble, they wanted an excuse to unleash brutality yet not have to face consequences. Tonight was going to be special.

The firm numbered around 200: warriors all. There was no point turning up if you were going to run. It would be remembered, you would be tainted by it forever. As he walked with the group, with his friends, he could feel a bond. It felt to him like all these hearts started to synchronise and beat as one. All these bodies merged to become one entity, one beast.

They passed the police station, more Old Bill were outside, some with dogs. Ahead of them at the junction the cavalry waited: mounted police with their long, vicious batons. Above them a helicopter hovered, buzzing like an angry wasp, the searchlight picking them out.

The firm reached the turn and headed right, the only sound they made was their many footfalls. Then someone just in front of him started to curse, lamenting miserably the absence of opposition. He fell quiet again and they marched on in silence.

Suddenly a shout: “They’re here!” The march halted, everyone looking to their left. The others from across the city had been clever; they knew that the approaches to the pub would be watched. They knew that all the main roads and the railway station were under observation. They had come the back way through the estates, quiet streets, a roundabout route that would have taken them so much longer to traverse yet one through which they remained unobserved. Now they attacked.

The plan would have been perfect if they hadn’t needed to charge from so far away, the road was wide and the houses on that side set back from the road. The firm had plenty of time to react and reset. The top lads from the front moved to the centre and waited. They watched as those from across the city charged down the grassy slope towards them. There were far more attending this party than they expected, how did they put together this crew? There seemed to be hundreds of them, a never ending stream of them piling out from the housing estate opposite. The firm were well outnumbered but there was no turning back now. The screaming horde charged and the firm stood their ground; some of them bouncing on their toes, fists clenched; others moving slowly forward muttering curses.

Battle Joined

The police between the fast converging sides fled in panic, they were caught off-guard. He looked at one of his friends next to him in those last few seconds and they grinned at each other manically. He could feel the beat of the beast’s heart racing now, pounding a deafening rhythm, until he realised that it was just the thud of his own pulse he could feel. Closer they came, howling their war cry. He tensed: every muscle, every sinew taut. With a rush the tidal wave crashed against the levee. The levee held.

The war cry had stopped; there were no shouts or screams, just slaps and thuds as fists and feet made contact with flesh and bone. Men were grunting as they struggled with each other. He found himself in the thick of this danse macabre. The adrenalin rush was like nothing he had ever experienced and he revelled in the exhilaration. He heard someone somewhere laughing, he looked around, wondering who could be that insane to be able to find such mirth, before realising that it was he himself who was laughing.

The battle had split into two distinct sectors now. Many of them from across the city had expected to win with the initial charge, believing it to be irresistible from sheer weight of numbers. When the line held and then pushed back they became disheartened and started to take backward steps, they were breaking. Others still stood and fought, this caused a division, some of the firm pushing them further up the road; others still stood battling it out with their more determined foe.

He looked back as he moved with the first group, he saw one of his friends who had got separated and was in danger of being surrounded. He ran as fast as he could, bursting through the closing ranks he grabbed the lapel of his friend’s jacket. He pulled him away, swinging a fist at the nearest head, not knowing or caring to whom it belonged. This smaller melee broke up as the battle moved up the road. His friend was laughing, “Cheers mate, I was in trouble there.” He smiled back at his friend and replied, “I was saving them, I thought you might hurt someone.” They both laughed and jogged to catch up with the others.

By the church wall the enemy had turned and stood. The battle re-joined with relish. The two sides clashed again, but many of the other side had not stopped running so by now the numbers were more even.

The police had regrouped on the outskirts of this fighting throng and were now eager to join the fray. They sent in the horses who charged into the mass of bodies snorting, the mounted coppers were swinging left and right, batons cutting through the air, loud cracks heard above the noise of the battle as the wooden batons met skulls. He turned to see a huge horse just a few feet behind them, at full gallop, and pulled his friend back to flatten themselves against the wall. Not a moment too soon, the horse and rider’s leg missing them by a hair’s breadth. His friend turned to him wide-eyed and breathing heavily, “That’s twice you saved me tonight.”

The cavalry shouldn’t have gone in alone as one after another they were pulled from their mounts and disappeared beneath this boiling sea of bodies. The beast rolled on over them, leaving them lying on the ground, the horses stood riderless and confused.

Eventually the enemy could take no more; they broke and ran down the street beside the gigantic stadium. Many still gave chase but enough was enough. A point had been proven and he and his mates had reached the ground safely. It was time to go inside; the Old Bill were getting a bit nasty now, they didn’t take too kindly to having their boys battered; they were out for revenge and to restore the status quo. Stragglers getting dragged into the vans and beaten.

Our End

They filed in, taking up position in the bottom right hand corner of the huge terrace. Packed in tight; a buzz of anticipation. The crowd moving, swaying in waves from top to bottom and back.

His friends still on a high from the action they had just took part in. There was nothing, NOTHING on earth to match this feeling. Nothing could touch it, nothing could touch them, they were invincible. All of them breathing heavy, stood on wobbly legs, not even noticing the tremors in their hands; basking in the afterglow.

He felt it rather than saw it, but he knew there was something wrong. He stopped listening to the excited jabbering voices and tried to concentrate. What was bothering him? He looked all around him, a slight itch at the back of his brain, a small voice talking to him, whispering – there was danger here. He couldn’t quite work out what was bothering him but he could feel himself tightening up inside.

He saw the side of a face in front of him, there was a tension in it that didn’t belong; a slight tic in the corner of this stranger’s eye. The man turned; in fact about 50 men turned at the same time and started yelling an all too familiar war cry. It was happening in front of him, the nearest one of the enemy was less than an arm’s length away. He could smell the enemy’s breath.

He tried to take a step back but as he did he was hit from behind and carried forward as, it seemed, the whole of the terrace poured down. They shouldn’t be here, they can’t be here. This was our ground, our terrace – this was our end. He was thrust into the middle of them from across the city by the sheer weight of those behind him. He had no option, he had to fight for his life because if he fell he would be trampled and crushed.

He fought; he fought with everything he had. His hands lashed out as others tried to lash out at him. He felt punches land but in this seething cauldron accuracy was not a consideration. The enemy were pushed back and began piling over the advertising hoardings onto the edge of the pitch. The fans in other stands in the stadium had realised what was going on and were screaming at their allies to exact revenge on these interlopers.

The battle raged on until eventually only a few of the enemy were left on the front of the terrace. The police and stewards trying desperately to pull them out as blows rained down on them; the rest being ushered out and taken to their own end.

The situation was calmed. Energy was sapping away as the second, and unexpected adrenaline surge slowed and stopped. He inspected his clothes to make sure there wasn’t any damage and felt a tender spot on his ribcage, there would be a nice bruise there tomorrow. One of his mates was chattering and giggling like a kid, “How could they be that stupid to try and take our end?” A reply escaped him and all he could do was grin. The players were trooping out onto the pitch to the sound of “we will rock you.” The match was about to begin.

The Match

We won…

October 16, 2012 - Posted by | Short Stories | , , , , ,


  1. Great writing, I got caught up in it!
    The passion and excitement sounds something akin to our fixation with American football over here. 🙂

    Comment by Audrey | October 16, 2012 | Reply

  2. Awesome… Such passion..enjoyed it. Keep writing. Good Luck!

    Comment by flyingbubbles | October 19, 2012 | Reply

  3. Wow! Way to take it to the opposition!!! 🙂

    Comment by colliesofthemeadow | October 21, 2012 | Reply

  4. Wow! Just wow! I would never normally read anything about a bloody football fight! Are you kidding? A little way in I thought maybe I’ll find something else he’s written that I can read, this is guy stuff. But ya sucked me in. Couldn’t stop reading. Yeah!
    PS Glad you won 🙂

    Comment by Alison | December 13, 2012 | Reply

  5. For legal reasons I cannot confirm or deny how true this story is or who the protaganists might or might not have been. That said, I wanted to write an account that would draw people in and hopefully give them a sense of the atmosphere generated who might never have experienced that sort of scenario. I wanted to give my readers an adrenaline rush in a safe environment as they followed the story, one that they might never experience if they haven’t been involved in such a fracas. I’m so glad you enjoyed it and felt the rush I intended for you.

    Comment by Danny Breslin | December 14, 2012 | Reply

  6. Yep, sure did. It was exciting.

    Comment by Alison | December 14, 2012 | Reply

  7. […] drop some more short stories like The Match, First Impressions and Lasting Impressions on you in the coming months but you’ve got to ask […]

    Pingback by Bogged down « Danny Breslin | November 15, 2013 | Reply

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