Stoke City has one of the most active and organised football hooligan firms in England. For six years in the 1990s Jed ran with them, getting into scrapes in towns around the country.

Having since given up the life, Jed now does performances and poetry - some of it about the years he spent as a football hooligan. He feels that the phenomenon of football firms is misunderstood by an hysterical media out of touch with the realities of working class male culture Jed has spent much of his adult life working doors in clubs and pubs but was never really into football or football violence. He was drawn into it in the early nineties by a friend who was involved with the hooligan firm, known as the 'Naughty Forty'. The friend took him along to his first match and Jed soon realised that there was more to it all than just football.

Jed said: "There was a big crowd outside the away end and he turned round to me and went 'I don't like it when there's big numbers like this. Why don't you come with me, we'll go into one of the side streets, see where we could find five or ten of them on their own."

There was no trouble on that occasion, but that is how he got started in football violence. But becoming accepted in a football firm is not easy. He explained: "You can't turn up, show them a CV and say now I want to be part of your firm. "There's a lot of the lads that didn't like me for a long time, but because of the people that I went with, it was trust by association. And then, after a certain period of time, you get accepted." But as far as Jed is concerned, once you are on the inside, your fellow hooligans will look after you.


"I had my experiences specifically with Stoke City where it's a very tight firm that look after each other", he said. "There's a lot of respect and there's a lot of loyalty. The older guys and the top boys look after the young lads in match situations." That loyalty stretches as far as helping people get jobs or weaning younger members of the "firm" off drugs.

Jed revealed the friend who first took him to a match has helped several youngsters in his firm who had become hooked on heroin. He explained: "He's taken them to live with him for a while to get them off the gear. It's far more reaching than just making a phone call and knowing where to turn up on a Saturday morning, go have a row, get pissed and then leave again. People take care of each other."

Washed clean

For Jed, the football firm offers a kind of unquestioning acceptance that is difficult to find elsewhere. He admits the thrill of the violence is addictive, describing it as "a pure adrenalin rush". He added: "If you've been involved in a situation where you have that feeling - maximum velocity - and then something happens to shut it off for a moment, it's as if your veins have been washed clean with iced water".

But the thrill can become addictive, as Jed explained: "It took over a section of my life and there were some periods when I was more involved and wanted to go more often." He also rubbished the common claim that football hooligans have no interest in the actual game.


"The concept that they've got no love of football and they don't go to football matches to watch a game is ridiculous," said Jed, "because some of the football matches that I've been to are so bad that you've got to love football to stand there and watch it all the way through."

And he revealed how many would-be hooligans actually planned ahead for trouble. He said: "I know people that regularly used to go on reconnaissance missions weeks before the game so that they would know what pubs were there, the layout of the streets around the ground, if there was any waste ground near the ground, the layout of the ground itself."

But despite the protestation of the authorities that football hooliganism has largely disappeared, Jed thinks the phenomenon is on the increase again. "There was a lull because most of the top boys throughout the country were getting loved up on ecstasy pills and going to acid house clubs. Then the ecstasy went poor, they got bored of it and went back to football violence. Like drugs, it's far bigger than any government figure will ever tell you," he said.



см: Naughty Forty

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