The view from the Vale steward - #3
6,444 supporters turn up for the opening home game against Chesterfield...but precious few stewards It’s the real thing! League football returns to Vale Park after what seems like an ETERNITY…but is in fact only 3 months. 6,444 supporters turn up for the opening home game against Chesterfield, but precious few stewards (all still on holiday, it seems). There is little panic – stewards are still stationed outside to see how many KitKats we can pinch whilst checking people’s bags. (For the uninitiated, this is a JOKE.) (We only ever pinch Snickers bars.) (and Twix.) (No, seriously, only Snickers.) But we are very thinly spread around the ground. Thankfully, no one really notices as Vale are obliterating Chesterfield for a whole hour, with the two Richards strikers dominating up front (Marc scores on 11 minutes). It’s skill and flair in the sun, and a joy for all to watch, apart from the visiting supporters who are probably wondering if they have found themselves in the wrong league by mistake. Down the aisle Surely there’ll be no trouble today, particularly with so many gaps in our numbers. But I can’t help but look in despair at my normal (empty) position in the stand where (gulp) people are … standing in the aisles! I’m away for one game, and the regulars are stomping around on the yellow grids (the “no-stomping-around” areas). Heartbreaking, and I can do nothing about it! “Keeping aisles clear”. What a pain in the arse. However, if you’ve ever wondered why stewards muster up any enthusiasm at all for this task it’s because they’re all shown the police’s horrific Bradford City fire video in their stewardship training. As opposed to the TV pictures of the 1985 disaster, the police video also has the walky-talky conversations. There weren’t any stewards on view at all that day, but at least the police who were there were able to keep in contact with the control centre. However, the control centre wasn’t in the corner of the ground (like at Vale) it was … across the other side of the city! Lunacy. It was like the blind leading the blind. The stand went from tiny flame to complete inferno in … FOUR minutes. Most who made the wrong decision – trying to get out the back – didn’t make it. Some just died in their seats. 56 died in all. I mention this, as in an emergency you may not have 4 minutes to get out. With, say, a terrorist alert (and don’t for one minute think Vale is such an unlikely target), we may need to get you ALL out in less than that. Do you remember air-traffic’s David Gunson’s revelation some years ago about the consequences of noticing an engine fire on a plane just before take-off? He said, “You must not divulge this to anyone: as a steward you have NINETY SECONDS to get 500 people off the plane.” So if you’re on a plane and notice an engine fire on take-off, start counting. When you get to 91, you might as well stop, as you’re about to be very crisp. Interestingly, Gunson also notes that to get 500 people off the plane, you open all the doors and shout “Get off”. However, what happens is that people tend to sit down again thinking they’re safer where they are. That’s probably what would happen at the Vale. Blood & Guts I mention all this as a back-drop to the “keeping aisles free”. It’s not just to get as many to safety as possible through a clear aisle, it’s also that if you’re blocking the aisle you will be trampled to death in the subsequent stampede, and there will be your blood, guts and internal fluids splattered everywhere, and... But anyway, back to the game. Vale miss loads of chances, and a late equaliser is inevitable. 1-1. Vale should be top, and they’re not. It’s a crime! And everyone goes home safely, and the suspected Mike Newton protest against the board doesn’t materialise. Shame, I could have done with the overtime. But what do I know.
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