the banners were hand-made

crafted from garage leftovers

and worn out felt-tips      or their kids’ ancient painting sets

letters shadowed in highlighter orange

for emphasis      and fire

colours running in the rain


they stole chants from the terraces

recycled      repurposed

they stole chants from the home end

only the incendiary ones


the uniformed looked on      passive

as if it was nothing to do with them

unconnected bystanders

out for a stroll with their mates

in kevlar      just in case


in the drizzle some heads were hot

frustrated      animated      passionate

blinded by their cause

shackled by the impotence of their words


they shouted      their placards shouted

but no-one listened


a bystander smoked languidly

and in a shop doorway a photographer

searched for an angle that would look perfect

in black-and-white

waiting in case it all kicked off


people moved slowly      or didn’t move at all

tension between them taut like an elastic band

about      to      snap


a cry      the holding of breath

then from the back      an arm enflamed      swung


years later

the BBC voice-over has become legend

their words a symbol

of the struggle

the conflict

the outcome

and the black-and-white photo

of a uniform smeared with blood

something motionless on the ground

is a fable

or the only truth


the following weekend      in bright sunlight

keepers in smart peaked caps

kits vibrant-hued

the local derby a one-all draw

and the pubs full again