It wasn’t always chauffeur luxury when football folk went to work

Just the ticket: It wasn’t always chauffeur-driven luxury and battle buses when football folk went to work

  • Footballers have not always opted for luxury for travel to and from matches
  • Managers including Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson have taken the tube
  • Manchester United have been plagued by bus delays getting to games recently

Life in the bus lane. Surely make you lose your mind. Jose Mourinho might be forgiven if a distorted version of the Eagles classic has wormed its way into his mind in the last 24 hours.

The man who coined the tactical term about parking the team bus across the goal pressed the bell and hopped off to beat the Manchester traffic on foot ahead of the Juventus game on Tuesday. 

Mourinho isn’t the first to step out with the masses. Thirty years ago, Brian Clough ordered Nottingham Forest’s bus driver to pull over on the Old Kent Road and promptly walked his players to The Den.

Footballers travelling to games has not always been luxury chauffeur-driven experiences

Footballers travelling to games has not always been luxury chauffeur-driven experiences

Manchester United have had plenty of issues with travelling on the bus to recent matches

Manchester United have had plenty of issues with travelling on the bus to recent matches

Millwall were unbeaten and top of the table at the time, having made a brilliant start to their first season in the top flight. The reputation of some of their fans was notorious but Clough wanted to show his players there was nothing to be afraid of and he refused to be intimidated.

‘The unpredictable things Clough did often show not just his eccentricity but his brilliance as a motivator,’ wrote Stuart Pearce.

‘He led the way and strode on, swinging his walking stick as he made his way through the hordes of Millwall supporters down Cold Blow Lane.

‘We had no hassle at all. Mind you, we kept close to the manager. No one wanted to tail off. It was clever psychology and all part of the Clough mystique.’

Maybe it sharpened their minds, too, because Forest went two goals up before being pegged back in a 2-2 draw.

Dave Bassett hired a mini-bus to take his Wimbledon team to their first ever derby across the Thames at Chelsea in 1986 and won 4-0.

‘It seemed sensible,’ said Bassett as he recalled setting another Crazy Gang tradition in motion. ‘It was a lot cheaper and we only had to get across Wandsworth Bridge, didn’t we?’

Roy Hodgson once opted to take the London underground during his spell as England manager

Roy Hodgson once opted to take the London underground during his spell as England manager

Two years later and Wimbledon took the same low-budget transport to an FA Cup semi-final against Luton at White Hart Lane, and again they won.

‘Most of us made our own way to the stadium,’ said goalkeeper Dave Beasant. ‘Bobby Gould drove the rest in a mini bus. They refused to let him in at first, believing no manager would arrive with his team in a beaten up van.’

In the more distant past there is no shortage of tales about footballers travelling to and from the games in the midst of supporters, climbing on buses or trams or striding to the ground with boots slung over their shoulder. Derek Dooley would tell of the bus journey home from Hillsborough having scored five goals for Sheffield Wednesday in a 6-0 win against Notts County in November 1951.

Dooley was sitting with his wife when a passenger climbed aboard, wearing a smart suit but soaked to the skin and fearing the disapproval of his wife when he made it home. 

When the driver asked how he came to be in such a state, the man blamed Dooley, claiming he had tried to leave the ground several times only to be drawn back as the Wednesday hero scored again. Dooley kept his head down and hoped he wouldn’t be recognised and taken to task.

Ron Greenwood, then manager of West Ham, wrapped the FA Cup in red cloth on the tube

Ron Greenwood, then manager of West Ham, wrapped the FA Cup in red cloth on the tube

Jimmy Greaves tells a story about John Sillett from their days as team-mates at Chelsea.

‘I used to drive to matches, park in the side street and walk to the ground,’ said Greaves. ‘That was how it was. John Sillett told me about a nightmare game he had. He said he took his time leaving, to let the crowd go. He waited until it was getting dark, pulled his overcoat up and headed to the bus stop.

‘He was standing there waiting, there were still a few fans about and they were slagging him off without knowing he was in the middle of them. He said he didn’t want to take any chances, so he joined in.’

WHEN SPORTSMAIL COLUMNISTS WERE STUCK IN REVERSE

CHRIS SUTTON 

Manchester United’s recent travel woes remind me of when Norwich’s coach got stuck in traffic on Battersea Bridge before an away game at Chelsea in 1992.

We changed on the bus, only arrived minutes before kick-off and there was no time for stretches. Just like pub football!

We were 2-0 down after less than half and hour – though that might have had more to do with me playing at centre back – but battled back to win 3-2. Who needs a warm-up?

MARTIN KEOWN 

We traveled by coach under George Graham but that changed when Arsene Wenger took over. Then we took the train — and eventually a plane — to away games. Traffic infuriated him.

Years into his reign, he once said: ‘There were roadworks on the M1 when I started at Arsenal and they’re still doing them now!’ He had a point. 

Under Graham, one trip to Merseyside took seven hours. By the time we arrived we had eaten the food for there and back.

Football managers have often opted to go public to beat congestion on London’s streets.

Ron Greenwood took the FA Cup home on the Tube after West Ham’s triumph in the 1964 final. Christian Gross turned up for his first day at Spurs brandishing his one-day travel card to prove his man-of-the-people credentials.

Roy Hodgson sought a change of transport after a conversation with a fellow passenger about why he wasn’t picking Rio Ferdinand for England found its way into the newspapers.

Elite players have even been known to venture out from behind the smoked glass of their sports cars and luxury coaches.

Adel Taarabt once stormed out of Craven Cottage and was seen waiting for a bus. Oscar also walked home from Fulham’s ground when he played at Chelsea, and Lukasz Fabianski has been spotted taking a train home from West Ham games. 

Joachim Low took his Germany squad to training at Wembley in 2013 on the Bakerloo Line and, at a time when elite footballers are perceived to be so far removed from those who pay money to support them, it was widely applauded.

Manchester United's bus was attacked as they drove to Upton Park to take on West Ham 

Manchester United’s bus was attacked as they drove to Upton Park to take on West Ham 

On match day, however, the mood can turn, as Manchester United found when their bus was attacked by West Ham fans as it inched through crowds ahead of the final game at Upton Park.

Police refuse to let teams make the short walk to Wembley from the nearby Hilton Hotel. The Norwich bus was peppered with bottles as they made the same short journey for the 2015 play-off final against Middlesbrough.

So, while the shambolic journey from the Lowry Hotel is a problem which United need to sort out, the long-term answer is not Jose Public.

There’s more chance of teams following the lead of the Leicester owners and landing in the centre of the pitch in a helicopter.

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