A further extract from Ultra Violence. Chapter Six, "The Sixth Circle of Hell", focuses on an attack on Notts County supporters by a mix of a thousand Hartlepool and Middlesborough fans. Notts play up there tonight. The area has been significantly regenerated, but there is no love of strangers, southerners or people from Nottingham among the locals, whose team are being threatened for the second year running with relegation out of the league.
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Hartlepool is one of the most deprived areas in the whole country.
Thatcher had done a number on the main industries - the steel, the shipping, the docks and the coal. Nothing left up here. Zero. A scorched earth policy passed by a southern elite who fly straight past.
More women than men work in Hartlepool, in part time jobs on the high street or in the corner shop. Fifty per cent unemployment, a hundred per cent hopelessness and the locals are angry about it.
Visiting football supporters tend to be the outlets for that anger. Especially Southerners - a relative category in which visitors from Nottingham nestle snugly.
You look out the window as the train rolls into the town, a smell of sulphur stirred by the old train’s brake. The hellish smell matches what you see outside.
The North Sea, a dank, restless, murky, overfished, oil-slicked and polluted stretch of water on the edge of Europe.
In the silver grey sky, a flock of seagulls escapes inland, a storm brewing out in the mist. A post-apocalyptic tableau, as if someone had exploded a thermonuclear device nearby - a doomsday weapon that had demolished everything for twenty miles. The few remaining satanic mills now ruins, ghosts, stark mausoleums, the foundations on which they stand fragile, the soil poisoned and infertile.
It is getting dark outside.
An inkling of snow in the air and a gathering wind. You spot a gaggle of dirty kids digging for something, perhaps buried treasure, atop a heap of chemically enhanced soil and rocky debris. Others cycle up and down toxic hillocks on Choppers and Grifters.
The train trundles into an outer district; row upon row of terracing. Kerbsides stripped of their cars, streetlights yet to flicker. Behind that, in the distance, you see more dead grass, more slag heaps crawling with hopelessness, gravel and rubble.
You pass malformed metal shapes, strange unidentifiable wreckage and blasted brickwork.
More rocks, miles of coiled wire, torched vans and burned out cars - the desolate inheritance of a proud industrial past, gutted and filleted for no real reason other than the vengeance of a shopkeeper’s daughter.
You are uneasy too: This kind of environment creates monsters and you are not expecting a result.
The only result you really want is to get in, watch Notts get through to the third round and a potential moneyspinner with a proper club - a City, a Liverpool, a United, maybe even Forest - and then get out of there as fast as possible.
You’ve had a good season so far with several good rucks around the country. You’re making a name for yourself as someone who can be relied upon in a punch up. You don’t cry and you don’t run.
If you’re taking a kicking - like that time in the car park at Walsall, or at Doncaster station against Palace - you take your beating like a man.
You’ve been invited today by Younger Bully and you had to come whether you wanted to or not. There was no choice. You’re no shitter, but you’d much rather be watching the Lumberjack Championships on ITV this afternoon than trying to survive this hellhole.
You tell no one this, for obvious reasons.