Saturday afternoons at The Den would mark the end of the work week for much of the adult (male) population, the ‘odd’ kick-off time a concession to the dockers who had to finish work. It would present an early adventure ground for children and youths, going with parents or on their own, with some recalling the first visit to The Den as a ‘coming of age’ event.
‘Remember walking up those steps the first time I ever went, and seeing the pitched bathed in sunlight…. Coming from Deptford, I had never seen so much grass…. I stood for minutes in wonder.’
Similarly, Carole Brady remembered The Den from the perspective of both child and mother:
And as a kid you don’t always watch the football, you watch everything else going on around you. I mean, the old Den used to have these awful death traps really of these, the old stands where, you know, as kids, you’d just run up and down them all the time, because you get bored when you’re little. You get bored, you know, I used to take my kids and their mates, so kids do get bored watching football because it’s not always very exciting.
The Den was alltogether a place with its very own rules, language, and code of conduct – as Malcolm Taylor captures so well in this memory, also from the 1970s:
My dad he was, you know, he never really used to hardly, he never swore in front, it was bloodies and bleedin’s, but there was never any bad swearing in front of the children. But, I’ll never forget that, when we used to get through the gates, one of the first things he used to do was spit (laughter […], and he was just like, ‘well this is what blokes do, you know, when they’re going down the football, you know, it’s what we do’, and he used to spit, and it used to, it always used to shock me, you know.