A week football went mad

Players aren't the only targets: The steward
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The Independent Online
THE DAY at Tottenham, where I supervise the searching of fans at the turnstiles, starts at noon with a pre-match briefing from the police. There we are told what to watch for: certain trouble-makers; sections of the ground where, perhaps, away supporters are known to have tickets in the home stand; or maybe sets of fans who are known to bring canisters of CS gas or knives which they conceal as lighters or pens. At White Hart Lane, every spectator is searched as they walk in the ground, away supporters receive a more thorough search. We'll be particularly checking bags for cans of drink - you must remember that a Coke can ripped in half can be used as a weapon. Liverpool fans we know to watch out for particularly. In the past we have had cases where they have concealed razor blades in their hats. A couple of years ago, a woman tried to come in with a wooden club which was two foot long and four inches thick in her bag.

I generally get into the game at half-time and stand in a section between the home and the away supporters. We face the crowd so we see very little of the match. Being a Spurs fan, this can be frustrating. With trouble-makers, the procedure is first to warn them and then to eject them from the ground. I've had to eject three this season. If you are going to eject someone, you try to go in with two or three other stewards and if the fans are very violent you get police back-up.

Aston Villa fans are bad, they go for the burger bars -not stealing the cash but jumping over and taking the food. Liverpool fans are also bad with their attitude of disrespect.

At Tottenham every year, the stewards go on a four-day training course. You learn to deal with awkward people, how to calm them down. There's no point raising your voice, I always call them "sir". We're not really taught to cope with physical violence. We're not exactly kung-fu experts; we just have to control any trouble until we get back-up. Against Arsenal at Tottenham this season we were told that the Arsenal fans would try to tear the seats out, to repay the Spurs fans for smashing up their toilets. Fortunately it didn't come to that, but if it did, we were told by the police to back off.

The best thing, though, is just to chat to potential trouble-makers. We've got one guy of 32, and because he's coloured and got dreadlocks he takes loads of abuse. But he's an absolute diamond in dealing with it. However, it should be said that over the six years that I've been a steward, the fans have got better. And at Spurs this season there's been a Fans' Charter whereby if someone is bad-mouthing excessively, anyone may point him out to a steward who will then take action. That has actually happened quite a few times times this year.

I've also travelled as a steward to a number of away games where I find the stewarding far softer -people get away with murder. At Old Trafford I saw a person, right in front of the Spurs stand, giving all the Nazi signs for the whole of the first half. He would never have got away with that at Spurs.

London derbies are generally the worst games to steward. You have to accept a lot of abuse, all the swearing and gesturing, a lot of which I just let go over my head. The away supporters direct it at us because they associate us with the football club.

What you can do depends on the situation. If there are just one or two giving you abuse, you can eject them, but if there are 30 or 40 of them, you have to try to let it go right over your head. After six years, that doesn't particularly worry me, but itwas a shock at first.

A lot of the press have defended Cantona for what he did to that fan, but he's paid £10,000 a week - we have to take it for £23.