The majority of red-blooded males have ended a night with a straightener. Lashed out after seeing red. Animal instinct overtakes rationality. I doubt anybody loves the connection of knuckles with flesh more than the man dubbed the deadliest man in Britain. From terraces up and down the country to rings and cages across Europe, this warrior has been breaking bones in both to feed his blood lust.
Football hooliganism is a lot more than just thumping the first fan you see wearing the rival colours; the top firms are run with military precision and discipline which is instilled into the ranks, roles are set with generals down to scouts and footsoldiers. During the rise of football ‘casuals’ in the 80s, it was predominantly a white man’s game. But that all changed with presence of Barrington Patterson at St Andrews. Him and the infamous top boy of West Ham’s ICF (Inner City Firm) Cass Pennant, who later hung up his knuckle duster to become a writer and penned One-Eyed Baz’s autobiography.
How did you first get into the world of football hooliganism?
Fucking hell, I was just intrigued about fighting really. Back in the early 80s, we were rude boys on the town. To say rrude boys and skinheads didn’t get along was undercooking it. Every Saturday, the skinheads flocked to the Apex. That’s the old blues, they call it the Apex. All the skinheads would come to town, so would all gang up in town and fight these fucking skinheads.
Assemble, fight, retreat, repeat.
Then all of a sudden, things started changing. The music scene started to change and a lot… got friendly with some of the skinhead lads. They said come down the fucking Blues. So we did. I think my first match was ’82, ’83 and just hit off from there.
What made you persist with it? What was the appeal?
Fighting. I was never interested in football. Football is for faggots. All the faggots play football. I just came down for the fighting. Fuck the football. Fight.
Did you follow football or was attendance purely for violence?
Back then it was purely for violence. Now I do follow football, even though I don’t know half the fucking teams but… no, I do come down for the football now. I don’t come down for the violence anymore but if it came my way I would.
I’m well known to the police. I work for TNT now. They’ve got a box there. I park the car, come in, straight to the box. Ten minutes before the end of the match, in my car, fuck off home. Keep away from it.
But this season is going to be different. There’s a lot of Midlands clubs in the league and you go to quite a few away games. One midlands ground to the next is a short distance.
Is the temptation still there on a Saturday to go out and bust some skulls?
To tell the truth, I haven’t been to that many matches so it hasn’t been there. And if it has been there, I can’t afford to get myself into trouble. I’ve got lots of good things going for me now. I’ve been out of trouble for five or six years and I’ll be going back down the ladder again if i got involved in the carry-on of the past. I’ve got no intention of going back down the ladder and giving the people something to talk about. They’ve got enough to talk about as it is.
People never forget what you do. Your past is your past but people never forget it. People don’t want to move on. I’m interested in moving on but you’ll always be labelled as that football hooligan, street fighter, cage fighter, kickboxer. Thug.
Some people view football violence as mindless hooliganism; is there more to a firm to how it’s depicted by the media?
The media are full of shit, especially the fucking papers, know what I mean? The paper is full of shit. People… half the people don’t understand football. Or some of them are proper fucking thugs. Some of them are racist thugs on top. Some of them are out just for the football, just like myself, just out for the football…
I’m not interested if you’re fucking black, white, pink or yellow, or you’re Indian, Pakistani or whatever. I love football violence. Caught between the old world and the new when i go to other grounds and see different colour scarves, whatever the colour skin, and they start attacking..
Did they bring any bans on football? Did you serve any bans at any clubs?
I’ve been careful. Only arrested about three or four times, and every time I’ve got off with it, know what I mean? I’ve never had a banning order or nothing.
Football and fashion have always been closely associated, from the early days with the skinheads to rise of the casual. Were you a fan of the expensive clobber?
I’ve always been a fan. Still am. I like the expensive clobber. But it’s no use in wearing a nice Burberry if you can’t pull it off.
Toughest firms you have encountered?
You know, I’ve always had a good run with Villa. Always had a good run with Villa.
Toughest firms… probably West Ham and Arsenal. Yes, West Ham and Arsenal. But mind you, back in the day there were some good firms around. Really, really good firms -even in the lower league. Some of the lower league teams are fucking tough.
There’s only one good firm though and that’s Birmingham.
How did your relationship with Cass come about?
I’ve known Cass for years and someone put me on to Cass for when I did the book. We’ve never clashed together because on the times that it probably did happen; where you’re getting chased all over the place… we used to have the town on the lockup. You know on a Saturday, the Bullring was on the lock by us. Fans would come to the Bullring and they were scared to come to the Bullring because they know that you’re fucking… they’re going to get their arse busted and they’re going to get fucking taxed. So a lot of the fans didn’t want to come to Birmingham. They didn’t want to come into town. But yes, someone introduced me to Cass and mentioned about the book and he said yes, “we’ll give it a bash man, I think it will do good” and it did. It’s done brilliant man and it’s still doing well now. Two or three years later, it’s been number one in two or three charts.
The latest tournament in France has highlighted hooliganism is still rife, did you ever get involved with any international bust-ups?
I’ve never been… I’m not even an England supporter, you know what I mean? I don’t support England. I’m a club man, not a countryman. I’ve been to Poland loads of times and I’ve been to Poland for Speedway. Last time I went there was like 35,000 people there. I was the only black one there and I loved it.
Them type of people, all they do is eat, sleep and train. That’s all them fucking people do. They’re like ex-military guys, you know what I mean. You see the football, they ain’t going back. They’re just stamping other people, playing forward, that’s it.
You have gained the strapline of one of the deadliest men in England; how’s it feel to carry that tag?
I haven’t personally given myself that tag. Joe Public has given me that tag. If Joe Public want to think I’m one of the toughest, fine. I’ve done this thing with Danny Dyer, I thought, you know, I’m going to get some shit off this man. But since the programs been out, I’ve never had any shit… no ones ever come up to me and said to me, oh you think you’re the hardest man in England but it’s never happened. If Joe Public want to think I’m a bad man, that’s totally up to them. I’m just a normal bloke from an inner city area, doing what I do best.
Street fighting or in the ring, what gets your adrenaline pumping the most?
Street fighting. Because it was always with more than one person, you know what I mean? No rules and it was always with more than one person.
Your martial arts has allowed you to travel, can you tell us some about this?
I travelled all over. I didn’t just travel to Europe, I travelled the world with my martial arts, yes. I’ve been to Russia three or four times, Brazil, Hawaii, all around Europe. I fought Vitali Klitschko. I fought Dennis Alexio who starred with Van Dam in Kickboxer. I’ve won the world title in kickboxing. I’ve won the world title in cage fighting and I’ve come second in like the world karate championships in Holland.
You learnt martial arts at a young age, how important do you think it is for young boys and girls to get involved with these clubs at an early age? And do you feel more support is needed?
England doesn’t get the support… especially for unprivileged kids. I’ve been to quite a few countries with my fighting career and if you’re good at a sport, the government push you towards that sport. In England, if you’re good at sport and you come from an inner city, you’re going to struggle to get anywhere. I know this one guy, he was a really good tennis player, of course, he was black and from Handsworth, he couldn’t get the funds or nothing like that. But someone who was from outside of the manor, up there with the rest of the hi-tech people, he got it. I started martial arts from when I was about ten, eleven years old. I started with Judo and I just gradually moved, this one, that one and just gradually moved up. I would encourage my kids, any kids to get into martial arts.
Are you still involved in martial arts?
Yes, I just teach kids now. I still train a bit but mainly teach kids in Coventry. Well, I moved to Coventry in ’87 and now I’ve done 28 years in Coventry. I’ve been back in Birmingham now about four years. I prefer to do it back in Coventry. Coventry is like my second home. I get a lot out of teaching the kids. I’d rather teach the kids than adults. The adults… half of them are just brain dead, don’t know their left from their right. Kids pick up things a lot easier and they get more enjoyment out of it, especially going to a competition and the kids win something. I give myself a pat on the back, that’s my work done. They’ve got their trophy, their Mum’s laughing, I’m smiling. I’ve done my work. Happy days.