My family moved to Derby when my dad got a job at the local council. He was a Sunderland fan, but would go and watch Derby County play. He never invited me along until we’d moved again, this time 150 miles south to Wiltshire in the west country.
It was 1975 and Derby County were champions of England. One of his former colleagues called to say he had a couple of tickets to see Real Madrid in the second round of the European Cup at the Baseball Ground. I was only nine and it was on a school night, but for some reason my dad took me with him for my first game.
It’s a bit of a blur, but I do vividly remember the brightness of the lights, the noise, the colour – Real Madrid in blue – the packed old stadium and the incredible swearing all around me. I’d never heard adults swear like that. We were at the back of the old Ossie End and it was so rowdy.
The final goal was a penalty right in front of us, but I was angry because everyone stood up and I couldn’t see it. But Derby won. 4-1. Charlie George (shooting above) scored a hat-trick. The six-time European champions beaten by the Mighty Rams.
I’ve been a Derby fan ever since. I’m 54, and nearly 45 years on, that first game is still my high point. We lost the return 5-1, which seemed to mark a turning point for the club. We were relegated four years later and even dropped into the third division. By then I was travelling to watch us home and away. Cambridge, Tranmere, Reading. Nothing has hit that high since. But what a night.