Our special edition of Bygones Weekly marking the 120th anniversary of the first Derby County match being played at the Baseball Ground (March 19) brought memories flooding back for a number of readers. Sarah Powlson reports.
WHEN Dolaver Atwal was a youngster, he was always happy if frosty nights were forecast in the winter.
He and his mates used to help groundsman Bob Smith cover the pitch at the Baseball Ground with sacks to protect it from the bitter cold in exchange for tickets to watch Derby County.
“He would call on us local lads to put the sacks on the pitch,” said Dolaver, of Sunnyhill, who was brought up in Shaftesbury Crescent.
“Me, my brother and our mates would always help and we would get fish and chips on the Friday and free tickets for the match on Saturday.
“We couldn’t afford to pay to get in to watch the matches but they used to open the gates after half time. We would climb the fences behind the stand and watch from there.”
Dolaver said local lads also helped players out by keeping an eye on their cars.
“When the players got Saab cars in the 1980s, we used to look after them in the car park at the back of the Baseball Ground,” he said.
“We couldn’t afford to buy hot dogs and burgers but used to get rolls with just onions in at the end of the match.
“We also got our sweets from Doris’s Black and White Shop on Shaftesbury Crescent.”
Jeff Bardill, of Ilkeston, said reading about the Baseball Ground reminded him of the first match he went to.
“My father took me. It was against Norwich City on September 4, 1965. Derby won 3-1, with two goals from Nigel Cleevely who only played a handful of games for Derby.
“The crowd numbered just over 8,000.
“The season started poorly, with Derby losing the first four games and conceding 14 goals.
“The game I remember most that season was against Wolves. After averaging around 12-13,000 for most matches, the gate for this game was more than doubled, increased by a number of Forest and Sheffield Wednesday supporters whose game was called off at the last minute. This probably wouldn’t be allowed to happen these days.
“So, you had black and white, gold and black, red and white and blue and white favours around the ground.”
Jeff said there were plenty of goals in that season from Derby – five against Birmingham (twice) and Middlesbrough, and four against Crystal Palace, Bury and Huddersfield.
“Derby finished a respectable eighth. Durban, Thomas and Buxton were regular scorers.
“Little did I know at the time but, three years later, the ground would be full for every game at the beginning of a wonderful era, probably never to be equalled.
And Mrs M Delahay wrote to us to say her son, Christopher, had spotted her on one of the photos of fences at the ground in the 1980s.
“I am the woman on the right behind the bars with the glasses on,” she said.
“I used to go to the Baseball Ground with my son from when he was three years old. We are both still big Derby fans and often go to Pride Park to watch them play.
“My mother lived in nearby Columbo Street and used to let fans keep their bikes in her back garden.
“The pictures and articles brought back happy memories for me.”
Janice Keightley, nee Yeomans, of Cotmanhay, said she believes the man in the flat cap at the front of the same photo is her late mother’s cousin, Jack Bramwell.
“My mother was Iris Weild. I know Jack was a great Derby County fan and so was my grandfather, John Weild.”