When Charlie Driver sang the celery song at Villa Park, the last thing he expected was to have his collar felt by Plod. Not only that, he had to go back to Birmingham for a court appearance.
I am one of the unfortunate celery-tossers who were arrested at Villa Park on Sunday 14th April while watching Chelsea’s FA Cup semi-final against Fulham. After having a brilliant day out, I took my seat in the upper tier of the Trinity Road stand, six rows from the front, above the directors’ box.
There was a great atmosphere at the match, especially after John Terry’s goal, when the celery came raining down on me. I was picking up celery off the floor and tossing it in the air — great enjoyment. When I sat down for the second half, after about twenty minutes a female steward walked down and asked to speak to me. I went to the exit at the top of the stand where she whispered something to a police officer who then informed me that I was under arrest.
When I asked “What for?” he did not know. It was not until I arrived at the detention centre at Villa Park that I was told that I was under arrest for throwing a missile. I did not panic, as I thought that it was a case of mistaken identity, until a fellow missile-thrower told me that it was celery. I burst out laughing.
We were then all taken down to Queen’s Road police station. Having travelled to the match with fifteen others, including children — I was the driver of the mini bus and was holding the keys — I have got to tell you that I did panic. I was released at 00.40am and arrived home at 05.15am.
As we all know, over the last ten years the policing at Villa Park has been way over the top. When I got home on Monday morning I was struck by the reality of it all. I had just renewed my season ticket for the west stand lower at £650 (to all those Mathew Harding lower, I sit there because it is a non-smoking area). I feared that I could lose it all.
On Wednesday 17th I went back to Birmingham magistrates where I was bound over for one year for £300. I was told by Ken Bates on Saturday morning at the Manchester United game that I would be able to keep my season ticket and would not be banned from watching any football.
I must warn any Chelsea supporters who were thinking of taking celery to the FA Cup final in Cardiff, don’t bother. Ken Bates has assured me that anybody who is arrested and convicted for celery or any other football-related offence will be banned from Chelsea. For me, if you take Chelsea away you might as well close the curtains and turn out the lights.
I would like to thank my solicitor, Rizwan Pasha of Parker and Grego in Birmingham, for helping me and to all fellow Chelsea fans who gave me their support throughout this time. Let us go on and win the FA Cup, because celery took the shine off the semi-final for me. Thanks also to Nick Howe and Peter Knight for coming to court with me.