How football prank still haunts me to this day

"I hold my hands up and admit that I have been a bit of a naughty boy over the years, but I wasn’t looking for trouble that day – what happened still haunts me.”

Andy Charlesworth from Huntington
Andy Charlesworth from Huntington

On August 15, 1987, the life of avid Wolves fan Andrew Charlesworth changed forever in a day that remains part of football hooliganism folklore.

Mr Charlesworth, aged 23 at the time and a home and away supporter of his local club, travelled with his friends to Scarborough for the opening game of the season.

The opponents had just been promoted to the Football League as Wolves continued to plummet down the tiers of English football, with the clubs meeting in a fourth division fixture at the home club’s Seamer Road stadium, called Athletic Ground.

The scene on the roof before Mr Charlesworth’s accident

What started out as an ‘exciting’ day for Mr Charlesworth soon turned to disaster after he fell 30ft through the roof of the stadium’s Hinderwell Road stand after climbing on top with a number of other Wolves fans.

It is an image which has been replayed in countless documentaries on football hooliganism culture over the years and one which sticks with Mr Charlesworth to this day in more ways than one.

He said: “Physically, I have never been the same, it took me three months to get back to anywhere near normality.

“I had bones in my neck that were broken, my arm was in a cast and I was in pain all over.

“I checked myself out of hospital but I was left with no shoes, no money and no way of getting home.

“There was just a set of stairs by a kiosk that led you up to the roof and having had a few beers, we thought why not.

“That section of the roof was made out of asbestos sheeting and it just couldn’t take my weight.”

Mr Charlesworth, who lives in Huntington, was left severely disabled by the fall and still needs the use of crutches, walking sticks and a neck brace every day.

He also suffers from arthritis, spondilitis and is partially paralysed for life after falling onto the concrete terraces.

The game itself, an entertaining 2-2 draw, was overshadowed by violence that saw an exit gate battered down, a food kiosk in the away end ransacked and play held up for 10 minutes at the start of the second half amid clashes between the police and visiting fans.

The ugly scenes even forced then Wolves manager Graham Turner to make a plea to fans via a PA system in the stadium to stop the trouble.

Mr Charlesworth said the reaction from Scarborough fans to his fall and injuries, including laughing and verbal abuse, led Wolves fans to ‘tear up’ the stadium.

The Wolves fan, now 53, said: “There was pockets of trouble here and there, but that was completely normal for football at that time.

“It happened every week, all over the country.

Andy returns to Scarbrough FC in 1997

“After my fall, I think the Wolves fans got upset with the reaction of Scarborough fans and they decided to tear up the stadium and really go for it.”

In the days after the match, Mr Charlesworth recalls seeing his fall back countless times on television, reading numerous headlines labelling him as ‘hooligan scum’ and had to deal with countless TV cameras and journalists at his door.

He said: “It was crazy, I had just become this huge story and people were using me as an example.

“I read stories where people were calling me hooligan scum and they would interview people for TV who said that they wished I would have died because I was the problem with football at that time.

“I wasn’t looking for trouble that day I was just being a bit stupid and something unfortunate happened to me. I didn’t expect to have cameras outside my house day and night. The only paper I would speak to was the Express & Star and then my brother took me away for a few days.” While the physical injuries suffered by Mr Charlesworth could have been much worse, he says that mentally he has suffered ‘every day’ since.

He says: “It has lived with me and not a day goes by when I don’t look back on what happened, all I feel is regret.

“I have seen therapists over the years to try and come to terms with it but it is so hard to comprehend how something can just instantly change your life when it was so avoidable.”

In 1997, on the advice of his therapist, he visited Scarborough FC’s ground again after contacting the club to say he wanted to publicly apologise to fans for what happened.

He was shocked to discover that although three sides of the ground have been rebuilt, the McCain Stand where he fell still remained. He said: “It did feel good to go back and apologise, the fans cheered and clapped and it brought a tear to my eye. The chairman pointed to the patched up section of the stand where I had fallen through and handed me an invoice for £250 and my heart stopped. I told him I had no money but it was just a joke.”

Despite the help that day has given him, 30 years on from the incident he still looks back with pain and says he wants to convince young people who may be tempted by football hooliganism that it is something they should do everything they can to avoid.

He said: “I want kids to know that staying in school, working hard, getting a good job and a nice family – they are the important things in life.

“I was never a big football hooligan and on that day 30 years ago I wasn’t looking for trouble but it found me and it has stayed with me ever since.”

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