My father – who is now comfortably into his 80s – recently recalled a Chelsea football match he attended in the 1950s.
Stood at the back of a stand at Stamford Bridge, when the home side banged home a goal all the fans cheered and threw their hats in the air.
I dread to think how long it took to reunite each piece of headwear with the correct owner, but such a scene seems unthinkable today.
Now, if a goal is scored then the celebrating players are more likely to be hit with a wave of abuse and hurled objects by opposing fans than anyone risk losing a valuable piece of clothing. Have you seen the cost of ‘official’ hats and scarves these days?
My earliest football memory was being taken to watch Arsenal play a – then all-conquering – Liverpool in 1981 at Highbury.
Arsenal featured the gloriously perm-haired Alan Sunderland up-front (and who scored the only goal of the game), Liverpool were jam-packed with big names; (the equally permed) Graeme Souness and Terry McDermott plus Kenny Dalglish, Ray Clemence and Alan Hansen.
Each team was permitted just one substitute.
I remember watching the North Bank and Clock End sway with people during the game – rippling like the wind as the then-all-standing terraces pulsed according to the action.
No hats were being worn to be tossed in the air then, I’m sad to report.
Of course, football in the 1980s wasn’t necessarily a great place to take a youngster – although my excitement at going to a big game always negated any fear that marauding hooligans were about to cave my head in for a bit of Saturday afternoon entertainment.
Nor were tickets the almighty pain to obtain as they are today. Taken to watch Arsenal play Manchester City (in their ‘not very rich’ days) in the league in 1983, the crowd was a little over 16,000. That was when the capacity was 50,000-plus.
I was at Highbury again many years later – again with my father – to watch Arsenal take on Gillingham in the FA Cup in 2002.
When the Gills banged in a cracking goal my dad leapt up and cheered. Which was awkward as we were among the home fans. While he was keen to cheer on the Kent side – as much as he was Arsenal – I had to point out that folk took a rather dim view of opposing fans lurking in their midst so could he kindly pipe down.
But then he used to attend games where segregation of fans was neither imposed or needed. Again, a by-gone era.
In fact, the only time I’ve ever seen trouble at a game was when travelling to watch Ashford Town take on the might of Tooting & Mitcham in an FA Cup qualifying round in the mid-1990s.
Clearly not best pleased with losing, a gaggle of their fans took to swinging their fists at Ashford fans as they filed out.
Heaven knows what the hat-throwing brigade would have made of such antics.