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The Grange End
The Grange - a tiger reduced to a pussycat.
I remember well as a child finally plucking up the courage to venture out of the safety of the Children's Enclosure into the foreboding darkness of the Grange End.
Schoolfriends advised me against such a perilous venture. "Don't they all have flick knives?" asked one, while another offered a rumour that they sacrificed babies and summoned up the devil underneath the stand at half time.
Such was the menace of the Grange, I half believed them.
But as a fourteen year old, becoming a 'Grange Ender' meant credibility amongst my peers, and the hope that somehow I might earn some reflected 'hardness' from associating with the Cardiff nutters.
Of course, you couldn't just stroll into the Grange and expect to be accepted. You had to look right too. That meant a sharply ironed Ben Sherman shirt, Levi's, Braces and a Crombie or Harrington jacket (the harder to find red Harringtons always earned a nod from the Grange End cognoscenti). Footwear could only be a pair of loafers, brogues or ubiquitous Doc Marten's. Blakey's studs added an extra note of menace, scoring important aural and visual bonus points.
Jeans came with boot-exposing turn-ups, all adding to the impression that Here Was A Fan Not To Be Messed With (although in my case that should read, Here was A Boy Shit Scared)
In those days, only the truly psychotic and committed (or those bearing very dubious opinions about race) went for the disturbing skinhead look, while others like myself plumped for the easy-to-maintain, greasy, long haired, scruffy git look.
Essential accessories came in the form of CCFC scarves wrapped around your wrists or hooked on your Brutus jeans, and in those faraway days even blue bobble hats could cut a dash.
A cigarette was naturally de rigeur, preferably clasped tight and concealed in your hand. Taking a drag required a slightly strained expression, suggesting that some pain was necessary to enjoy the full benefit of the nicotine.
Happily, I survived my Grange End initiation, and soon became a regular on the dark terracing. The roof amplified the chanting and the lack of any decent safety railing made the stand a dangerous place until the crowds started to dry up. I can vividly recall the darkness of the stand, the smell of the wooden terracing mixed with Woodbines, beer and the cooking smells of some unknown animal parts nearby.
Looking back today at the roofless expanse of empty terracing, it's hard to imagine what made the Grange End such a menacing and alluring prospect to a 14 year old.
Happily, since this article was written a roof has finally been put back on the Grange, although it has to be said the stand is but a shadow of its former dark, gloomy and thundering self.