By David Evans
Fellows Park Policing/Crowd Officer Cyril Adams
For twelve seasons Inspector Cyril Adams was the officer in charge of police and crowd control at Fellows Park on match days – a part of his career that he loved and looked back on with fondness as I caught up with him in Shropshire to chat about his role and memories of Walsall FC in general from his time there. He explained, “I was placed in charge of police affairs for the 1974-5 season which just happened to coincide with two big FA Cup games to take charge of in the shape of Manchester United and Newcastle United. Crowd control and segregation of rival supporters was an important role undertaken by the police”.
It certainly was, bearing in mind at Fellows Park at that time there were no stewards in place. It was all down to the boys in blue. He went into detail regarding police levels at games during his tenure, “For standard league games the usual figure was 35 officers. Of course we did our homework leading up to games and liaised with police forces from visiting clubs and sometimes had to up that figure accordingly. Obviously for the big games it was considerably more. For the Milk Cup game with Liverpool, for example, it was around 150.”
As for exactly which personnel were on duty, Cyril observed, “For the main part, those officers at the games actually volunteered to be there as there were many football fans amongst us. For the Saturday games we would assemble at Green Lane police station for debriefing at 1pm. However it was up to the officers to make their own way to the ground! Most of them would be in the Pleck before 2pm walking slowly past pubs like the Tavern In The Town in Bradford Place which was sometimes interesting!”
Several officers were mentioned in our chat including Terry Groves and Ken Perry however one officer in particular was singled out for special praise – Julie Dale (as she was then, who later became Julie Skidmore). “She was as good as six men. She was absolutely fearless and soon went in to make arrests when required to do so.” When asked which opposition fans caused trouble he quickly replied, “Those who came up from Plymouth and from Portsmouth in particular came up in large numbers and were always boisterous.”
Regarding club officials who impressed him, Cyril stated, “John Westmancoat was a first class secretary who was easy to work with and very co-operative as was owner Ken Wheldon. However he left me speechless one day when I asked him for some more fencing to help with segregation problems. He asked me to sort some out from his scrapyard and he’d get them erected for me!
When asked to elaborate on those previously mentioned cup games in 74-5, he came up with the following, “The Man United game was relatively trouble-free despite over 18,000 being present and the game going to extra time, however it was the Newcastle game that gave me a headache. We were aware that a fair few Geordies had travelled down on the Friday to make a weekend of it and most had been drinking in the pubs and clubs on the Friday evening. Heavy overnight and morning rain resulted in three pitch inspections having to take place by the referee. The managers were not over keen on the game taking place as large areas of the pitch resembled a lake but I had to use my powers of persuasion on each inspection to convince the referee that as far as I was concerned the game MUST go ahead as I knew that by 1pm there could be as many as 10,000 away fans milling about the area and I certainly didn’t want them facing a late postponement. I could have had a riot on my hands!” He got his way and despite a shock 1-0 Saddlers win again the afternoon was peaceful enough despite half the 20,000 crowd being bitterly disappointed with the outcome.
Perhaps Cyril’s finest hour was that much-talked about Milk Cup semi final with the mighty Liverpool on Valentine’s Day, 1984.Following the dramatic 2-2 draw at Anfield in the first leg all eyes were focused on the prospect of another close, exciting second leg back at Fellows Park. All was going well from a policing point of view up to half time with Ian Rush giving the visitors an early lead with a headed goal. However there was a major off the field incident seven minutes into the second half that caused big problems for Cyril who takes up what happened next…
“I was by the player’s tunnel at the other end when Ronnie Whelan scored Liverpool’s second at the Railway End and the excitement of the thousands of visiting fans caused them to all rush forward and in the frenzy of it all caused a large section of the wall to collapse and a pitch invasion occurred and 24 fans got injured. I rushed down to that end and as I composed myself I looked up behind me and I expected 4 or 5 others behind me but to my horror there wasn’t one. I was a lone officer.
I thought to myself there could be a massive situation if they score again with such easy access to the pitch so I thought I would try and out smart them. I shouted loudly to those fans within earshot that the ref had relaid a message to me that should another pitch invasion occur then he would have no hesitation to abandon the game and after being in such a winning position they would surely not wish to travel down to Walsall again and spread the word. Of course there never really was any such message from the ref!”
Asked if policing the old ground was ever a nightmare Cyril’s reply was, “The vast majority of Walsall fans were generally responsible people just there to watch and enjoy the game. We only had a small minority who were hell bent on causing trouble and being awkward. One obnoxious idiot who was very well built and kept on shouting out obscenities even when he saw me standing even closer to him simply wouldn’t shut up. When I had heard enough of him I went to cuff him. As I grabbed his arm I thought I was lifting a tree trunk!”
One of Cyril’s happiest memories from his police days is during the time that he was manager of the Walsall police football team who used to play on Thursdays. They won three cup competitions and one season finished runners up in the league under his leadership and he quipped, “After my success managing those players I thought I may get a call from Walsall FC to sit in the Fellows Park hot seat, but it never came!”
On to the best and not so good characters around the place whilst on duty he said, ” Alan Buckley was always cheerful with me and would always say a few words. Dave Mackay on the other hand was just the opposite. He always appeared to have no time. Groundsman Roger Johnson was brilliant both at doing a terrific job on the pitch and as a character. Alan Buckley and George Andrews were really special. George’s ability in the air was exceptional.” Mick Kearns, Roger Hynd and Brian Caswell were mentioned. He also enthused at the younger players who made it and developed under Buckley. The likes of Kenny Mower, Ian Paul, Don Penn, Dave Preece, and Craig Shakespeare.
Cyril, along with his son Neil were at the ‘Battle Of Bramall Lane’ at the last game of the 1980-1 season when either side had to go down to Division Four and he chuckled, ” Some angry Sheffield United fans thought they were being cleaver kicking out at some of our players at the final whistle who had just relegated them but they had a shock when young Mark Rees dished out a few well aimed kicks back! I liked speedy wingers like him and Miah Dennehy who were so exciting to watch with their sheer pace.”
Now in his mid 80’s, it was clear that Cyril could remember more than he’s forgotten about his time supporting the Saddlers and those dozen years in charge of policing at the old place.
Nice one, Cyril.