Sinister portraits of the football hard men who ruled the terraces in 70s, 80s and 90s

THESE are the striking faces of the men who ruled the football terraces from the Seventies to the Nineties at a time when game-related violence was at its peak.

Football crimes were prevalent in the Eighties and Nineties, as territorial groups started to form in and around club grounds.

This was particularly rife in cities with clubs in close proximity to one another.

"There’d always been gangs at Millwall," said Ginger Bob, who played a key role in the club’s multitude of notorious firms in the Seventies and Eighties and believed his participation was pre-destined.

He explained: "You’re indoctrinated and brainwashed by your nearest and dearest.

"Everyone comes from the same few roads, it’s like an extended family and you’re representing your area."

Ginger Bob spoke of how loyalty played a big part in his first experience of terrace fighting, which took place when he was just eight years old.

He said: "If there’s any fighting around you, you look for an opportunity to go up behind someone and give them a sly punch in the kidneys or kick them in the leg and then back off.

"You’re only a kid, but you want to do something for the cause."

Another club gang that had a notorious reputation was West Ham’s Inter City Firm.

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One of the founding members, Cass Pennant, spoke of how his first match at the age of eight had a lasting impression on him.

The game took place during the season after England’s 1966 World Cup victory, and he ended up getting separated from his friend who had taken him.

In order to help him see the game, fans passed him overhead towards the front so he could get a better view.

This feeling of protection and camaraderie lasted well into his later years, and was reiterated on occasions such as the time he witnessed a fight on his walk back to the station after an away game at Wolverhampton.

He recalled that, being black, he was immediately targeted by the attacking gang and was forced to run for his life.

According to Cass, he received no help from the police and ended up running into another gang, who offered him help.

The impressionable youth was emboldened by the feeling of security and protection that a gang could offer.

This account is not isolated.

One member of Leicester’s Baby Squad, Riaz Khan, said that being a member of a firm gave him a sense of belonging – something he claimed he had never felt at school as a young Asian lad.

He said: “When I was at school, racism was rife and gangs of boneheads would chase us just because of the colour of our skin.

“When I started following the Baby Squad, I felt protected and also brave because now we had lads who would defend you through thick and thin.

“I felt invincible. I wasn’t a troublemaker – only at the football.”

Gary Clarke, also known as Boatsy, said being part of Nottingham Forest’s Executive Crew gave him an identity.

Meanwhile Barrington Patterson, also known as One-Eyed Baz, from Birmingham City’s Zulus, said that his group felt like 'a close-knit family'.

While many at the time considered the gangs to be made up of National Front members, candid accounts give a much more vivid picture.

There is no denying that racism played a dominant role at many firms, but groups such as the famously mixed-race Birmingham Zulus showed that this wasn’t true of all.

Danny Brown, of Aston Villa’s C-Crew, describes the beginnings of his firm and how it hit back at the rise of racism at football games.

He said: “The name C-Crew is short for ‘Corner Crew’, we took the name from the part of the Holte End where we stood and watched the matches from.

"We were the first multi-racial football crew in Britain – it brought together youths from different areas of Birmingham during the Eighties."

Following the lead of older Villa comrades, he decided to start getting involved in fighting to demonstrate his support for the group.

The backdrop to football violence in the Seventies and Eighties was one of political unemployment, the threat of a nuclear war and high levels of people out of work.

In uncertain times, a gang offering security and camaraderie could have appealed to those keen to take their destinies into their own hands.

When you factor in a sense of pride in your club and the close location of rival groups, it becomes easier to understand how the violence started.

Many of the previous firm members have since turned their lives around.

Cass Pennant has become a particularly prolific author and publisher and is now moving into film production.

Barrington ‘One-Eyed Baz’ Patterson focused his formidable physique, passion and drive into both mixed martial arts and kickboxing and became an IKF champion.

Danny Brown took time to involve himself in youth work in schools and youth centres, while the Baby Squad’s Riaz Khan gained an MA in English Language teaching and teaches at a college and university.

Gary ‘Boatsy’ Clarke has featured on numerous documentaries and Jason Marriner continues to make his voice heard by speaking at various events around the country.

We previously wrote about how a notorious football hooligan from the Manchester City Guvnors was jailed after accidentally tipping off police he was loan shark.

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