This week in the latest offering from our Awayday casuals series we caught up with Mick O’Shea from Gillingham’s Gate 13.

Hiya Mick, Right firstly how did you get into football and when?

Got into footie like most lads at secondary school age played a lot for school team etc did have trails once with the Gills with the likes of Steve Bruce, Peter Beardsley was also a trialist at the time. But started to go to football matches regularly from the age of 12 about 73/74 used to go with my brother in law West ham one-week Gills the other also used to attend England matches with the school never forget the first one I was 13yrs England Wales 21st may 1975 going to the old Wembley for the very first time was very special from then I was hooked.

What was your first memory of trouble at a football match?

Had seen a few skirmishes at the hammers and Gillingham but my first bit of bother that I was actually involved with was again on a school trip watching England play Wales again this time 1977, It went right off in the coach park after the game, I and a life long friend (Pat the hat green) who sadly recently passed.

We got stuck right in but sadly for me and Pat the teacher’s saw it all from the coach and that was the last time we were invited on any school trips. By this time I was regularly going up the Gills and my alliances were starting to be with them as everyone supported a big side but I was no glory hunter, Gills were our team on our manor, we used to get on the train at Herne Bay and by the time we got to Gillingham there would be about 50 little rascals running about from the likes of Herne Bay, Whitstable, Faversham Sittingbourne/Sheppey and gate 13 was born we got our name from the turnstile we entered at Priestfield. The first big battle we had was with Sheffield Wednesday kicked off all around the dreaded ally ways that surrounded Priestfield these allys would soon become our strength.

When did you become a football casual?

I first started to take interest in the casual clothing scene when I was following the hammers, all donkey jackets and doctor Martin boots down the Gills lol but West Ham was different, Pringle, Lacoste, it was mainly the lads that used to frequent the Hammers that brought the casual scene to gate 13 we ended up with some smart dressers around 80/81.

Who are your main rivals?

Folklore states Swindon Town as our biggest rivals, strange one I know but I shall explain why below but my lot feel its Colchester, more intense confrontations with them than Swindon although Gills v Swindon are always lively encounters I received my second banning order from a Swindon home match, the Swindon Town and Gillingham rivalry is an unusual one considering the distance between in miles, yet the events of a meeting at Priestfield in March 1979 set the tone for future years. With the sides seeking promotion from Division Three, Swindon’s visit culminated in a fiery encounter. Gillingham scored two in the opening 25 minutes, only for Town to make it 2-2 before half time and take the draw. Gills fans were incensed when goalscorer Westwood was sent off for foul and abusive language, then later by the antics of Town defender Ray McHale, which culminated in a Gills fan running onto the pitch to punch and knock out the referee. A few weeks later Gillingham visited the County Ground and McHale was centre of attention again after a tackle on him earned a red card. Then with Town 3-0 up Gills players turned on McHale for some retribution. The game eventually finished 3-1 and as the players returned to the dressing room, there was a fracas in the tunnel. Swindon coach Wilf Tranter was hospitalised with facial injuries after being punched. Two Gills players ended up in court over the incident, both were acquitted – and the season ended with both teams missing out on promotion – the Gills by a single point, which the Kent side blamed on Swindon.

What was your biggest battle with them?

Had many run-ins with Colchester, you like to think there was mutual respect as we never disappointed each other although they did like to use the odd tool which our lot never did. Looking back as far as I can remember around 84 was the first major off with the Barsiders we gained access to their end and waited for them to approach from the far side. There were no leaders in gate 13 we were all one yes sure you had known faces but we all respected each other the inevitable clash occurred within minutes, unfortunately, the Barsiders felt it necessary to use ammonia bit uncalled for as it was a fair knuckle that seemed to go on for ages we were about 40 handed that day and stood well against probably 2 or3 times more Barsiders but luckily no major damage done just a few discoloured pringles damaged by the ammonia. A few more minor skirmishes that day during and after the game it’s a long walk back to the train station from the old Layer rd but fair play to Colchester they didn’t let up as they were fuming, there were many skirmishes over the years but the biggest and most brutal was the battle of The Drury Arms, a pub just along from the old Layer rd ground around 96. Not getting into to much detail as jail sentences where served but we arrived early doors for an evening game by coach again about 40 handed took the pub with little resistance few minor skirmishes and Colchester disappeared back to the Salisbury hotel to regroup and that they did, massive numbers with all sorts of tools including a house for sale sign you name it they were carrying it I think every window in the pub went through most of the unarmed combat took place in the side ‘ car park until the military and civi police turned up to restore order it carried on all evening with minor skirmishes, the next time we see the Barsiders again was at a cup match at Ipswich where it was business as usual.

Who else did you have a big battle with?

Many, I would have thought obviously Swindon are right at the top there being in the lower leagues we haven’t met the likes of Man Utd or Liverpool although we did have a little show at Chelsea in the fa cup outside Fulham Broadway after the game Gills had a good mob up there that day. Although many of my lot in the early days were mainly from the coast we soon connected with the Medway lads solid lot mainly from Chatham and Strood, we were a diverse firm with black, Indian and Irish amongst us like many firms of the ’80s there was no room for the racist and like most for 40yrs we battled to keep them out and pleased to say that still stands today. We took a fantastic firm up to Ipswich one year and made ourselves busy we were told to head for the Falcon pub by a Spurs mate of mine which we did but tbf we had some quality lads there that night and Ipswich didn’t put up too much resistance, tbf who would expect little old Gillingham Gate13 to turn up on a Tuesday night but we did and made ourselves known. Other minor skirmishes over the years early days Pompey probably the best I have personally seen at Priestfield, Cardiff another one we even went to them one year and made ourselves known the walk back to the station from the old Ninian pk was brutal. Took a coach to Sheffield one year, the inside of the bus resembled a mobile bar complete with beer pump and cooler and homemade toilet haha should have seen the look on south Yorkshire police when we rolled up was a picture some minor skirmishes that day. And obviously Fulham on that tragic day, we have had some good bouts with Fulham but sadly the loss of life overshadowed anything that happened between Gills and Fulham so out of respect I won’t go into detail. There are so many more, away to AP Leamington in the cup Kettering also all had good little firm waiting for us and not forgetting Aldershot and Bournemouth there’s just so many that deserve a mention.

Who have you come unstuck against?

There’s been many we won some we lost some and some the local plod won. Anyone who says they haven’t come unstuck as a firm is lying, individually you may have been a winner but not as a firm. For me it would have been against Reading at Priestfield they were flying high in the league and brought masses we stood our ground but got battered, I personally ended up crawling underneath a car to swerve the boots to the head was probably my worse I’ve ever had but got up brushed myself off and went again and that day Reading had Millwall with them a little favour returned for when reading went up to Man City with Wall.

Name 5 firms you rate and why?

In no order. Colchester Barsiders, Portsmouth 657, Middlesbrough frontline, West ham ICF, Millwall Treatment 28/bushwhackers, Barsiders as they have earned my respect over the years on a personal scale. 657 purely down to their loyalty to each other close-knit firm that in their day could raise large numbers came up against them many years ago at Priestfield. Frontline, now if you have ever been to boro back in the day this lot need no explanation haha the old Ayresome pk was brutal I’ve only ever been anywhere worse and that was Katowice Poland when the iron curtain was still up. ICF Probably one of the best organised again from a tight-knit community and if you were an outsider in the ICF you was honoured went on many excursion with West Ham in my younger years and can absolutely vouch for them. Treatment 28 you just can not ignore Millwall I know many old school wall and still today some still good friends and always will be, their reputation is well earned and can raise massive numbers when needed. There are many others I know but have taken the above from personal experience.

Name 5 firms you don’t rate and why?

I just wouldn’t be as disrespectful to not rate any firms as every firm has its day at whatever level so I’m gonna say only one and my reason why, PNE A few years back we played on a few occasions mainly in playoff games can’t remember the exact year but any PNE will remember it, we were all plotted up in the Britannia in Gillingham high st about 50 handed they arrived with a very good mob of 100+ they knew where we were but they sloped off and headed for the Cricketer’s pub a scarfers pub and set about it, we did catch up with them that day and I think justice was done but for that sadly PNE lost my respect that day, they have always denied it but it happened. The funny thing was one of our lads bumped into some of them doing a fag run a few weeks later on a ferry going to France and admitted they were on the receiving end after smashing a pub but hey its history move on but true story. But for us, that’s who we don’t rate but I’m sure they have had many better days.

What clobber do you wear down the match?

Used to wear Pringle, Lacoste and liked a bit of Ralph Lauren but these days I like to support fellow casuals so apart from still wearing Lacoste and Ralph Lauren I do tend to go for peaceful hooligan great clobber.

What was your music scene on your awayday?

Always loved Reggae but can listen to most music.
What’s your favourite all-time song?
Without a doubt waiting in vain by Bob Marley, I have been very close to many artists due to my work for 30yrs but Bob Marley waiting in vain always wins hands down.

Can you tell us about the book/s you have written?

Never wrote a book could probably fill one but have never had the desire.

What battles with England have you had?

Was in a few, the most notable was Dusseldorf euro 88 v Holland the Dutch put out a centre page spread in the news of the world saying what they were gonna do to the English haha the English responded with thousands of hardcore hooligans it was massive and brutal the Dutch were more or less non-existent that day but the Germans kept us occupied especially the night before the game. Also done Poland back in 89 in Katowice, a nightmare of a place as the ground is in the middle of some woods, a good few Gills were out there that night great night rate the Poles always have done probably the finest in Europe today. Also, around 89 up to Hampden park for the jocks surprised them that day and again with the jocks in London for Euro 96. Rep of Ireland Dublin 95 great couple of days out there going off all day and in the evening it exploded the rest is history. Also attended the England v Turkey game at Sunderland few minor incidents but nothing major old bill had it well under wraps the English were baying for blood that day. Have no desire to attend the new Wembley on a regular basis I’m sure you old school will know where I’m coming from with that.

And lastly, tell us what you enjoyed about being a football casual?

Personally think we were lucky to live through the 80s casual era. For me personally, I met some fantastic lads friends and foes the guys I was surrounded by I will never forget by far too many to mention but you know who you are. Sadly like many of the firms from back then, we are all missing a few so I pay tribute to you all from whatever firm you all probably paid a part in my life as a casual at some point I salute you. I’ve tried to be respectful and honest as possible and hope it comes across like that, Gate13 has surprised a few over the years but we have never portrayed to be superhumans there’s so much more that could be said but some of what happened in Gate13 stays in Gate13. Although it cost me many pounds in fines and two times 3yr banning orders and a life ban from Priestfield I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Thanks for speaking to us at Awayday Radio Mick.