The prequel to the Movie Top Dog starring Leo Gregory -
Directed by Martin Kemp
APPEARANCES CAN BE DECEPTIVE - as As Paul Jarvis of the National Soccer Intelligence Unit is only too well aware. He knows that Billy Evans is no ordinary Cockney lad made good. He's also a thug, a villain and a cop killer. Jarvis just hasn't been able to prove it...Yet. So when Jarvis discovers that Evans is putting together a hooligan 'Super Crew' to follow the England national soccer team to Italy, he feels sure he can finally put Evans behind bars - if only someone can infiltrate the group and get him the proof he needs. But nothing is ever that simple. The Crew believe Evans is just out for a full-on riot. Jarvis thinks he's trafficking drugs. But Billy Evans is always one step ahead. He has another plan. And it will be catastrophic for everyone concerned.
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Saturday, 16 November 1996
Paul Jarvis lay on the floor of Euston underground station, clenched into a ball, in a vain attempt to protect himself while he waited for rescue or unconsciousness. Whichever came sooner. As he waited, he tried to remember everything that others had told him in the past; never expose your face – and protect your head at all costs. Everything else will heal in the end, but not that. The blows were coming less frequently now. Sporadic but no less violent. But the noise was still ferocious. Screams and shouts, mixed with fear and aggression.
Opening one eye, he turned his head to try to see what was happening around him. Feet were rushing past and, every so often, someone would either stop and aim a kick in his direction or simply run over him, stamping on him as they passed. He shut his eye again and relaxed. The noise was receding. Was that because the trouble had moved on, or was it because his brain was switching itself off? Putting him to sleep for a while to escape the nightmare.
Suddenly, he felt a hand grab his hair and pull his head away from the safety of his arms. He tried to resist but had no strength for any kind of fight, and so he opened one eye to see who it was. He could just about make out a snarling face, but couldn’t focus properly. It seemed to be twisted with hate and was shouting something at him. What was it? Something about West Ham. West Ham cunt. Yeah, that was it. He almost laughed at the irony of it all. ‘He thinks I’m West Ham, but I’m not. What kind of tosser makes that sort of mistake?’ he thought. The blurred face pulled away and he waited for the blow – but it never came. Just a sudden shove back to the floor and a crack as his head hit the hard concrete. If anything else came, he didn’t feel it. Unconsciousness had arrived at last.
Suddenly, he was awake. Something was touching his face, and he winced. But this was different. No aggression this time, just compassion. He opened his eyes and turned his head. A young woman in a police uniform was kneeling down beside him. She was crying. Jesus, was he hurt that bad? He tried to speak, but no words came out. Just a groan of agony. ‘It’s OK,’ she said. ‘They’ve gone and an ambulance is on the way.’ He tried to move, in an effort to sit up, but she held him down.
‘Stay where you are, you may have broken something. Best wait for the ambulance.’
She reached behind his head and gently lifted it, sliding her coat underneath for him to rest on. He relaxed into it and looked at her. Her eyes were red, full of tears and so he looked away. Across the concourse, something caught his eye and he tried to focus on what it was. A group of men in black uniforms were standing around something on the floor. They were just looking down, heads bowed. What was it? A pile of clothes, or was it a man? Christ, it was. ‘He looks in a right state,’ he thought. ‘Why aren’t they helping him?’ One of the men began taking off his coat, but the hand touched the side of his head again and gently turned it away.
‘You mustn’t look,’ the policewoman said, tears still streaming down her face. ‘Just you relax. The ambulance will be here in a second.’
He closed his eyes again and tried to relax, but the pain was beginning to take hold now. A dull ache eating its way up through his body. He opened his eyes again as two men in green overalls knelt down beside him. The policewoman was speaking to them, telling them who he was and what had happened to him. He tried to speak, but nothing came out. Just a gasp as the medics put a mask over his face and lifted him onto a stretcher. And then they were moving, past the coat and up into the fresh air. Away from the battle ground and the dead policeman.
Billy Evans sat in his car and stared out of the windscreen at the front of his house. It was late, but he knew that once he left the confines of his Mercedes and went indoors, the most satisfying day of his life so far would end. He wasn’t ready for that. Not just yet. Reaching across to the passenger seat, he pulled a cigarette from a half empty packet and lit it with his Zippo lighter. The first lungful relaxed him a little and he allowed a smile to spread across his face as he thought about the older lads in the firm. He couldn’t begin to imagine how they must be feeling tonight. Gutted was probably an understatement, but that’s what happens when you fuck up. And boy, had they fucked up. Just six short months ago, they had called the firm together and announced that the Cockney Suicide Squad, one of the most notorious fighting firms in football, were not taking part in any organised trouble during Euro 96.
He had stood up and asked if this was a joke. The greatest tournament in England for over thirty years, with the Jocks walking into their backyard, and they weren’t going to do anything about it? It had to be a joke. But they had shouted him down. The top boys from all the London firms had met and decided that while it was OK to fight together abroad, it wasn’t on at home – and especially not in London. Those particular rivalries were just too deep to be put aside, and so it was best to keep the firms out of it. Then he had stood up again and told them that they were wrong. This was the chance to show everyone what they could really do – and if they didn’t take it, they were making a major mistake. But still they had shied away. The decision had been taken, and that was that. And so he had stormed out. Furious at the lost opportunity. For a while, he had toyed with the idea of putting together a new firm and taking them. He certainly had enough support among the other lads but, in the end, he had decided against it. He was a part of the CSS and he had to obey the rules. It was tradition.
But then he had been proved right – and in the worst possible way. Not only had the northern firms come down to the capital and taken the battle to the Scots in Trafalgar Square, but Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal had shown. Not at the front, where the provincial firms from clubs like Sunderland, Stoke, Plymouth and Leicester had done the business, but lurking in the back streets of the West End. Picking off little mobs and doing just enough to let everyone know they were there. And then the rumours had started. The CSS had let the side down, they had lost their bottle and they were living on past glories.
At first, they had ignored it, but then, just three weeks ago, they had travelled to Sheffield and listened to the Wednesday fans singing about how they had done their fighting for them and stood as mobs of northern bastards taunted them with cries of ‘Are you Orient in disguise?’. That had been it. No firm worth its salt could put up with stuff like that, and so he had gone to the top boys and put forward the plan to hit Millwall at Euston. At first, even after what had happened in the summer, they had taken the piss, but he’d forced it through. Convinced them that if they were ever to repair the damage done to their reputation and re-establish themselves, they had to stage a big hit. Who better than the Scum from across the river? Their biggest rivals and one of only three or four other firms in the country who could hold a candle to them in terms of status.
In the end, they had gone for it – and what a success it had been. His plan had worked to perfection. Seventy lads, split down the middle. Half sent to Warren Street station and then on foot to Euston. The others, spread around the various walkways of Euston underground. Hiding among the shoppers until his spotters told him a mob of Millwall lads had arrived. As soon as the Scum were below ground, he had formed his lads up and that was it. By the time Millwall had realised what was happening, it was too late. Fair play, they had stood for a time, but then the second group had come pouring down the escalators and hit them from the rear. The classic pincer movement.
Thankfully, casualties among the CSS had been light, but the Millwall firm had taken a real hammering. He had seen one lad at the top of some escalators who looked like he’d been stabbed, but that was too bad. If you run with a firm, you take a risk every time you turn a corner. He took a final drag on his cigarette, dumped the stub in the ashtray and shut his eyes. He could have happily fallen asleep, but his head was buzzing. Reminding him of small details and conversations that had taken place that day. So he opened his eyes and lit another cigarette.
A light went on in his house and he smiled again. Wondering if it was Samantha or one of his boys. What would she say if she knew what he had achieved that very afternoon? Would she be proud, shocked, maybe even disgusted? Maybe she knew already but didn’t care. He drew on his cigarette and let out a sigh. All he knew was that today had changed everything. Today, in just five short minutes, he had not only started a war with Millwall, he had put the CSS firmly back on the map. As if that wasn’t enough, by the time they had made it back to the East End, his lifelong ambition had been realised. The old guard had stepped aside and he had been installed as top boy. Years of fighting, planning and hoping had finally paid off. He had thanked them all, bought them a pint – and that was it. No arguments, no violence, just a grudging acceptance that a new era was about to begin and a new regime was in place.
And now the real work could start. There were scores to be settled and reputations to rebuild, but beside that, he had other plans for the CSS. Big plans, and not all of them involved football, either. Having an active firm at your beck and call was a valuable commodity and he hadn’t built up his business from scratch without seeing an opportunity when it presented itself. This was another one. Perhaps the biggest he had ever seen.
His mobile rang and he looked at it for a second before answering.
‘Hi Billy, where are you?’
He smiled to himself. The spell was broken, his day was over. ‘Hello sweetheart. I’ve just pulled up outside. Put the kettle on, I’ll just be a second.’
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I thought I had an understanding of British soccer hooligans, but Dougie Brimson's "The Crew" is an in-depth novelization of the hooligan life and the police response to it. This topic seems to have dominated Brimson's writing career since 1997. Hooliganism is an odd-subculture of sport, which we we've only seen in diminutive form in the United States - small riots when teams win; small riots when they lose; the occasional fight at a baseball or football game. But British hooliganism, and European hooliganism as far as that goes, is fighting for the sake of fighting, territorialism in the extreme, more like American gang culture. Perhaps it's the popularity of football, the xenophobia of the hooligan class, and the geographical proximity but historical separation from Europe that makes British hooliganism abroad legendary. That's also what forms the framework for "The Crew." From street fights among hooligan crews in Britain, the book broadens out to fears of a hooligan invasion of Rome - on behalf of an Italian fascist group - to interrupt an England-Italy international match. With an informant inside a British hooligan crew, England's National Football Intelligence Unit (NFIU) works to reign in the hooligans, stop an international incident, and connect hooligan leader Billy Evans to an incident years earlier that resulted in the death of an NFIU officer and the near-fatal beating of NFIU Detective Paul Jarvis. Throughout the book, Jarvis and Evans match wits as the England-Italy match approaches. Brimson maintains the suspense throughout, from beginning to the surprising end. Don't worry if you don't like football (soccer); that's not what the book's about.