Motherwell Saturday Service
Whilst the author's name will not immediately be recognised, many will definitely know the author by the events depicted, it is not the intent to identify any individual, where possible permission was sought to either use an individuals nickname or a pseudonym, where this was not possible the name has been changed anyway due to continued over-reaction on the part of certain sections of society to involvement in football violence. There are obviously many more tales to be told relating to the Motherwell SS, this is just one man's observations and should not be deemed the be-all and end-all of Motherwell hooliganism by any stretch of the imagination.
To properly chart the rise of Motherwell's hooligan group, the Saturday Service you would have to go back to the club's relegation from the Scottish Premier League in 1979. Their first season in the 1st Division saw thugs from their smaller opponents view Motherwell as the big noises, there to be shot down and claimed as a scalp. In reality clubs like Dunfermline could hardly be described as small compared to the Lanarkshire club but Motherwell had enjoyed relative success, being a member of the Premier League since it's inception in 1974, therefore the 1st Division looked forward to bringing them down a peg or two, just in case any superiority complex existed among Motherwell's fans. If there were any such notions they were quickly dispelled as the travelling 'Well fans consistently found themselves a target for boot boys at every ground they visited. Age was of no concern, everyone was liable to encounter some form of violence as the season panned out and every ned in town came out for Motherwell's visit. The club were to endure 3 seasons in the lower reaches, during which time a number of their young fans, quite literally, grew up fast and began to mould themselves into a form of defence force, to protect those unable or unwilling to look after themselves. A large proportion of those youngsters formed a fearsome looking Skinhead gang, following on from the 2-Tone scene which was prevalent in the early 80's, to supplement the regular headcases among the support. This group were to become part of the initial nucleus of the new 'Casual' gangs which emerged later. In
Season 1981/82 Motherwell romped away with the 1st Division title, ensuring a long awaited return to the Premier League, but the battles on the park were small beer compared to that which took place outside the grounds. With a winning team, naturally, came an increased travelling support and the hooligans multiplied accordingly, fracas were reported as far apart as Berwick, Ayr and Perth, the Motherwell crew were merely warming up for the bigger challenges which lay ahead. A taster came in the form of a Scottish Cup Tie at home to Aberdeen, loads of trouble after the game with a lot of the travelling support enduring an uncomfortable journey home with no windows. Not advisable in the middle of January and they were not to forget in a hurry. Aberdeen's mob also came about due to frustration at the lack of protection offered at away games and some of them got together to ensure relative safety in numbers.
With their place in the top Division secured, trips to Aberdeen and Hearts, among others, were keenly anticipated both by ordinary Motherwell fans and 'Lads' alike. The first trip to Aberdeen, early in the season, was to be the one which acted as a catalyst in the formation of the Saturday Service, given that the locals still harboured thoughts of revenge for the previous season's Cup game at Fir Park. Pittodrie was probably the first to be marked down on fans' fixture list, providing the opportunity for a full day away with the boys, plenty of bevvy from early in the morning, and possibly a good rammy somewhere down the line. The usual quota of Skins and Boot Boys made the journey, armed to the teeth with beer and cheap wine, the few normaloids who were accepted joining in the fun but, upon entry into the ground, it soon became clear that some infiltrators were among the throng. Unmistakably dressed with bleached jeans and patterned jumpers, big wedge haircuts and white training shoes, they were dismissed as 'poofs' who would run like the hammers of Hell as soon as they were challenged. Quite the opposite was true, these guys were a different breed of 'poofs'. Even when faced directly they steadfastly refused to budge, obviously with a significant Police presence due to the threatening look of a gang of Skinheads there was limited scope for a direct confrontation without being left open to arrest. The game passed by almost without incident until Aberdeen scored the winner in the dying moments of the game, the infiltrators rose to acclaim the goal in taunting fashion, which signalled a charge by the Motherwell group. Even though they were heavily outnumbered the Home mob stood their ground, albeit there was nowhere to run as they were backed up to the side wall. The Police eventually restored order but the big wedge haircuts were soon flicked back into place and the smug looks returned, they knew they had achieved their aim, a few bruises for their troubles but they had proved they were no 'poofs'.The 'Casuals' had been well and truly noticed.
The popular tabloid perception later was that Motherwell and Aberdeen were such great rivals because both claimed to be the first with a Casual mob. In truth there was never any debate between the groups, Motherwell's Skinhead mob eventually followed suit, almost to a man along with others attracted by the image, but not because of Aberdeen's direct influence. The formation of the SS was a gradual changeover, starting off with a few 15-16 year olds who copied the style from one of their classmates who had moved back home to Motherwell after living in Leeds, where the style had caught on a lot earlier. He was to be seen resplendent in Fila Bj tracksuit and Pringle sweaters before any of the Skinheads had even considered growing their hair, in fact most them were dead set against changing to the 'poofy' look. One game against St Mirren was to change some of their outlooks. The 'Casual' mob numbered about half a dozen if that, all of them a bit younger than any of the known Hooligans around town. What they lacked in experience they more than made up for in attitude. The decision was taken to enter the opposing end, through a gate at the back of the segregation fence at Fir Park, which was always policed. One by one they strolled past the Copper on duty without so much as a second glance from him, but one solitary Skinhead following behind was stopped and questioned as to his motives. "Nae pies at that end" was the excuse for changing ends, "Go on then but I'll be watching you" came the Copper's response. Whilst he was keeping a close eye on the Skin at the pie stall, the young 'Casuals' were creating merry hell amongst the Saints fans, taking on guys twice their age and weight before being thrown back into the Home end. The lads story was relayed to the rest of the gang along with the suggestion that the relative anonymity provided with a more 'normal' dress code would work wonders for the easily recognised Skinheads. One by one they came round with added proof coming from Aberdeen's mob the next time they met at Fir Park.
Before kick-off a mob appeared at the back of the North terracing, gesticulating to the Motherwell fans at the fence to 'come ahead'. A surge of shaven heads along the terracing saw the two mobs meet level with the corner flag. All hell broke loose with ordinary punters, struggling to get away from the violence, clambering over the perimeter wall and onto the pitch while the gangs stood toe-to-toe slugging it out. The Police were slow to react, caught unawares by the invasion of respectable looking youths. Aberdeen were forced back on their heels by the sheer weight of numbers, but again they stood their ground, gaining a grudging respect from their opponents. If proof were needed that the Skins had to rethink their tactics if they wanted to progress as a mob, this was it. Over the coming months even those who steadfastly refused to consider previously the prospect of growing their hair and smartening up their dress code, came round to the glaringly obvious fact this was the way ahead.
Increasingly Pringle sweaters and bleached jeans became a familiar sight around Motherwell, the Leeds lad pointing the newcomers in the direction of the best shops in Glasgow. One early trip was to Celtic Park, where the innovative sight of partly grown in, but still obviously cropped haircuts sporting the new uniform greeted those who attended. Over the coming months the numbers were supplemented by lads who had previously hovered around the trouble zones, without committing themselves to actually belonging to a group. The supporters buses were dropped as a means of transport in favour, as was the 'Casuals' custom, of British Rail. The first organised trip was to Tannadice on New Years Eve 1983, and an advert was placed in the local paper to inform those who wished to travel of the meeting time. A couple of Scarfers didn't quite get the gist of the advert and turned up for what they thought was going to be a fun day out at the fitba' along with about 30 of the new style mob. They weren't disappointed but it was a different kind of fun to that which they expected. They enjoyed it just the same, and one of them reappeared later that season and became a regular.
Some of the lads held an affection for Chelsea and were semi-regular travellers to London for matches, it was during one of these trips that the name was decided on. As was popular at the time, British Rail influenced the decision, with their Sunday Service timetable being tweaked to suit the purposes of the mob into the Saturday Service. The initials SS were an aside, some lads professed an allegiance to right wing groups, swayed probably by the tendency for football fans to be classed as nazi sympathisers, but the biggest majority had little or no political persuasions, with no interest whatsoever in the faceless bureaucrats who ran, or indeed harboured ambitions to run, the country. The term 'Casuals' rankled a bit with the original lads, Aberdeen were called the 'Soccer Casuals', therefore it was a view widely held among the SS that 'Casuals' was a term only to be used when referring to ASC. The Motherwell mob preferred to be called 'Dressers'or 'Trendies', anyone using the term 'Casuals' was likely to be given short shrift, but after the media got hold of it, there was little point in taking umbrage, everyone knew the 'Casuals', so the term stuck.
It may be a bit of a surprise that a club as small as Motherwell latched on to the phenomenon quicker than most others in Scotland, indeed by the time the likes of Rangers and Celtic cottoned on both Aberdeen and Motherwell had moved on from the bleached jeans and white trainers stage to a more advanced look featuring leather jackets and coloured trainers as the Police became a bit more clued up and learned to recognise the uniform. There must have been a gap of at least a year, maybe more, before another mob appeared in Scotland to supplement the excitement. Not that there was a lack of action with only two mobs for such a long time, not when the Rangers and Celtic scarfers fancied their inging by virtue of the size of their respective supports. It was always a treat to play either of the Old Firm in those early days, they just didn't have a clue about organisation. They felt, as they always had done, that sheer numbers was enough to guarantee winning a fight, mostly without a punch even being thrown. Throwing bottles and bricks and hoping that was enough to scare the other group away became a thing of the past as both Motherwell and Aberdeen proved time and again by facing up to almost 10 times their number and coming out on top. The main advantage as far as Motherwell were concerned, was the close knit group which had come together where everybody knew everybody else. The guy standing at the front knew the guy behind him would cover his back and no way would he leave a mate when the going got tough. With a maximum of 150 lads, it was easy to know the next in line, the Old Firm never had that luxury and suffered accordingly for wondering if the next guy would stand up under fire. The SS drank together as well as fought together, there was a coming together of lads from all over the District, gang fights became a thing of the past around the town as most of the street gangs contributed members to the ranks of the SS. Just another positive side to the movement but an important one, there was no infighting among them over territory, no outstanding local disputes to be settled, the SS were Motherwell, full stop. Everything else became secondary as they faced up to bigger challenges. The numbers were swelled by boys from all walks of life, trainee teachers and solicitors walked alongside Burroo boys, sons of Policemen ran about with known petty criminals, Welders and Office workers, even some serving in the Forces, all fighting towards a common goal, to be No.1 in Scotland.
The fashion was as important as fighting ability, no scruffs were tolerated, quite how some of those on the Dole managed it was never discussed, they did what they had to do. Not only were Motherwell up there when it came to the action, they had some of the smartest boys on the streets, regular shopping trips to London became essential as Glasgow had limited appeal as tastes became more attuned. Overnight trains to London on Friday nights invariably saw a few of the lads occupying their seating carriage, taking in a game after the shopping was done and the return journey saw the travellers back in Centre Focus, the first pub outside Motherwell Train Station and the main base for the mob, for a couple of drinks before shutting time. The initial look of bleached jeans, white trainers and Pringle sweaters progressed rapidly as the English mobs had already moved on before the SS were formed. To keep up with developments regular trips were required 'down South', and reports of what's new filtered through the ranks over the coming week. Italian designer tracksuits, Fila, Lacoste, Sergio Tacchini supplemented the look before the leathers and coloured trainers, dark corded jeans and Armani jumpers came in to confuse both the old Bill and the opposition (in the shape of the newer mobs who had just begun to wise up putting both Aberdeen and Motherwell one step ahead at all times). There was a great advantage to be had in continually developing the fashion, allowing the mob to continue to infiltrate opposing 'ends' virtually unnoticed by opposing fans and Old Bill, who would be on the lookout for the previously noted styles. In England, Northern mobs had developed a scruff look as a reaction against the easily recogniseable uniform of the early 'Casuals', Motherwell had grown closer to Leeds than any London teams so the scruff look followed up here, wax Barbour jackets and flared cords brought a few unadmiring looks from Motherwell's womenfolk but it was never an intention to impress the ladies anyway. The innovative style was to prove an inspiration in later years as every stage of the 'Casual' look's development became ensconced into mainstream fashion, one only has to look at the performance of those designer labels which the 'Casuals' adopted early on to prove that fact. Fila, Ellesse, Diadora etc. etc. all readily available on the High Street a few years later, flares and running shoes would have been unheard of as fashion items had they not been modelled on the terrace catwalks, Armani was so exclusive anyone who acquired an item was lauded at the next game. Prices offer a guide to the exclusivity also, with a Fila Bj top fetching around £80 in 1982, almost twenty years later a similar item would cost probably £30-£40. Even original items were swapping hands for close to the purchase price a few years later as they became close to collectable material. Much searching was done to find the right gear, the need to go back home with something no-one else had was uppermost in the mind of the 'Casual' shopper. The 'Casual' has offered much to fashion culture but only those who were there realise the significance, the contribution to terrace culture goes almost unnoticed under a barrage of criticism from would be do-gooders. When the SS were in their heyday, there could be no safer time for an ordinary fan to go about his business, they were not targets unlike when the original youngsters learned their trade. The SS prided themselves on their moral code to seek out like minded individuals for an 'off'. Might sound like bullshit but they and Aberdeen both set out their stall in similar fashion, only those who wanted trouble found trouble, taking liberties by setting about young fans or terrorising old ladies was frowned upon, this was the new breed, something the tabloids never quite got to grips with in their search for the scandalous story which would please under pressure Editors.
As with any Youth cult, a steady stream of new blood was required to maintain the advancement of the group. Some of those younger wannabe's in the early days were refused access to the train platform on away trips because the older lads felt they weren't ready and might undermine the reputation the SS were building as a solid unit. Some of those younger lads developed into main faces in the mob later on but first they would serve in The Tufty Club, Motherwell's version of a baby crew. A ladies crew also evolved, calling themselves the Soccer Sisters to link in with the SS title, some tasty Sister's they were too. As if that wasn't enough there developed another baby crew called the Soccer Shorties, as the lads from the Tufty Club graduated into the SS proper. Much later an attempt was made to revive the older SS members into an elite mob going by the name, Nu-Kru. This was short lived but nasty while it lasted as you would imagine given those who made up the numbers. In the end many of the older lads went over the top and down the other side for Motherwell, and the former Tufty Club and Soccer Shorties members began to form the nucleus of the SS. It's only natural that lads would decide to move on as they had done their service, and their lives changed with children perhaps forcing a settling down period. The effectiveness of the mob was obviously weakened as these lads dropped off but there were no 'Top Boys' who ruled so it was a gradual process of bodies being replaced, natural wastage if you like. The question was often asked "Who's your Top Boy?", but in truth there was no one person could lay claim to that title. Everything was done by mutual agreement, by committee if you like. Meetings would be held in Centre Focus every Thursday night to determine the plan of action for the weekend. To put it another way the SS were on the piss every Thursday, the start of the weekend, and the plans for the Saturday just happened to come up in the conversation. Nothing was organised strictly, one or two guys took it upon themselves to find out train times and the best stations to get off at for a ruck, no-one was delegated to do it. Some may have thought they had more clout than others, but the others weren't slow in telling them if they got too far in front of themselves. Self rule was evident and no-one was above reproach, all the boys hated politics anyway, this way meant there was no internal strife if one individual sought to impose his will on the rest.
The SS continues to this day, although not in the same form, they can still be found if you look hard enough at Fir Park of a Saturday, or whichever day of the week the authorities wish to choose on which to play a game. You might also see many of the original SS still kicking about, looking for all the world like a current member. They might not be active participants anymore, but the dress sense survives, in fact it's kind of difficult to determine the active hooligans at times. One or two of the original mob gave up football altogether to go and watch Rangers, they might as well have gone to Coventry, which is exactly where they were sent. Shut out completely by their own treason and rightly so. As the mob might have said at the time, "We Are Motherwell", nothing else is acceptable. The biggest majority have carried on watching the team and, should the need arise, be available to lend a hand. It's a difficult thing to give up completely, the pride in the mob will always be there, especially for those who were there at the beginning and watched it develop into arguably the best in the country, which they had absolutely no right to expect or demand. In keeping with their team, a relatively small outfit who can be a match for anyone on their day, only the days came around fairly quickly for the Saturday, Saturday, Saturday Service!!!
And we had the best name tae!!!
Saturday is Service day
Saturday is Service day
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