Football Factory hooligans brutal fights – from 600-man brawl to prison riot

Hopefully the most likely place you will witness a violent brawl between thuggish football fans these days is in movies like Green Street.

And hooray to that… We’d much rather be on the couch scoffing popcorn while watching Danny Dyer give it the big ‘un in the Football Factory than have trouble erupt in family friendly environments.

Yet the grim reality is that Britain has witnessed some horrific football savagery. It was particularly prevalent when disorderly behaviour peaked in the 70s and 80s with notorious firms like The Headhunters and the Zulu Warriors causing havoc.

READ MORE: Inside violent 'Football Factory' hooligan firms infiltrated by daring undercover agents

But the dangerous behaviour has continued to poison the national game in recent times.

Below, we hear from some men who know exactly what it feels like to receive and dish out deadly brutality – be it with fists, snooker balls or glass bottles.

The reformed hooligans recalled their most memorable fights and gave a chilling insight into the reality of the chaos.

Noughties

First up we have Dante Hawkins – a Spurs fanatic who now supplements his thirst for violence sportingly in a mixed martial arts cage.

He grew up in West London and had his first football clash with Portsmouth fans shortly after hitting puberty.

But he said the “best fight” happened when a group of just 20 Tottenham fans took on a larger mob of bloodthirsty Wolves supporters.

The 32-year-old told James English on his Anything Goes podcast: “We split up into fives so we didn’t attract attention from cameras walking up the road and they (Wolves fans) had got off the train.

“They came up to us, I’ve put this bottle straight through this geezer’s nut straight away, I thought I’m going to hurt one of these badly first and set the tone for the day.

"So I put this bottle through the geezer’s face, right through hard, all the glass had shattered into my hand, cut my hand but his face he went 'agghh' and went back into the melee screaming.

"I was thinking this is going well, but they have got 40 people and they are a good firm.”

Dante has since turned his life around and he is a professional MMA fighter with the nickname ‘The Bull’ and he has four wins and one loss.

90s

Another infamous former hooligan is Jason Marriner – a man who was exposed in a BBC documentary in 1999. Known as ‘The General’, he and his Chelsea Headhunters firm were infiltrated by Donal MacIntrye.

Marriner was subsequently banged up for six years after a judge said he “relished violence” – but he has since spoken publicly about his dark past.

And he said his passion for footie yobs was sparked after getting “kicked the f*** out of” by Wolves fans over a flag.

He told the Anything Goes podcast he was left holding a Chelsea flag while his pal nipped to the loo on an away trip to Wolves.

The blues fan remembered: “As he’s gone to the toilet, I’m holding this flag and a mob of Wolves fans turned out and asked: ‘What’s on that flag?’

“Of course, the lairy c*** I was said: ‘It’s f***ing Chelsea, what do you think?'

“All of a sudden he’s gone for me… I’ve f***ing shaped up and gone to go with him. He’s chased me all round the car park and kicked the f**k out of me, to be truthful.

“I was quite bruised up, not too bad, but enough. I’d had a kicking.”

Marriner now describes himself as an author while in 2018 he was reported to have taken part in a UVF parade in Belfast.

80s

In the 1980s Andy Nicholls was travelling the country with his fellow Everton yobs looking for trouble.

His lairy ways eventually landed him in HMP Brixton – the scene of his most harrowing fight.

Andy, who is now a charity worker, remembered: “You don’t want 30 Everton on a wing in Brixton. It was f***ing evil. They had to put us on a segregation unit.”

He then told James English how visiting a church while inside was the “scariest day” of his life after a riot was sparked.

Andy said: “F***ing hell mate, I’ve never seen anything like it. It was the scariest day of my life. They had to let all the IRA there – there was loads of IRA at the time in Brixton. It was not long after when a helicopter landed and tried to break people out.

“It was going off over the pews, the aisles, the vicar was saying, ‘pack it in, come on lads, the police are coming’.”

Once released, the Evertonion was banned for life from seeing his beloved Toffees play. And the former hardman has since gone on to write books including Scally, Confessions of a Category C Football Hooligan.

70s

Another well-known brawler was West Ham fan Bill Gardner whose barbaric exploits inspired The Rise of the Footsoldier film.

Now in his late 60s, the pensioner has recalled the most ferocious battles he took part in during the 70s and 80s.

He told Anything Goes with James English that his tears ups with Millwall’s Bushwackers firm were the most memorable.

“I think Millwall [were the toughest] when I think of some of those games we played,” he said.

“More than 300 on each side, you know what I mean, when we went over there they used to all turn out and I’ve got nothing but respect for them, I think they are all alright.

“It’s just a free for all really, like they say in the film Zulu ‘mark your target’ when they come, you know what I mean. You know the one you are going to have.

“I used to always go for the one at the front who was the mouthy one. I used to go for that one because I believed that you cut the tree at the bottom, the tree will fall.”

He decided to put his days of fighting behind him after police arrested him in 1987.

Gardner remembered: “I thought if you carry on like this you are either going to end up dead or mad so I decided mad was the better option.”

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