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Jack The Lad: Right on time

There's nothing like a three o'clock kick-off on a Saturday afternoon to keep grumpy old traditionalists like me happy.

These days, matches can kick-off at any hour from tea-time on a Sunday to lunchtime the following Saturday afternoon.

Indeed, our Fifth Round FA Cup tie will start at 4pm on a Sunday afternoon. Just as well I don't still go to Sunday school!

Younger fans will be used to varied kick-off times in this age of wall-to-wall live televised football. But unusual kick-off times and days can throw an old fogey like me out of kilter for the whole weekend.

I instinctively know exactly what time to leave the house for a 3pm kick off, but ask me to make it on time for a 5.15pm match and I haven't got a clue!

Change the day and I go into a tailspin. It's always a particularly nasty shock to be driving home after a Sunday evening game to realise I'll be negotiating the dreaded Monday morning commute in around 12 hours time.

There are no such problems for this weekend's visit by Millwall. My long established match-day routines can be followed to the minute.

However, if you look back into the history books, not all clubs used to adhere to the traditional 3pm Saturday afternoon kick off times - including Saturday's visitors from the New Den.

Until the early 1960s the club, initially nicknamed The Dockers, was allowed to kick-off at 3.15pm to allow the workforce at the nearby docks to finish their morning shift and get to the match on time.

Apparently, Plymouth Argyle also used to kick off at 3.15pm in order to allow dockers who finished at 2pm to enjoy a pie and a pint on the way to the game.

Newport County had a similar arrangement, kicking off at 3.15pm in the afternoons, but also scheduling evening games early at 7.15pm to allow steelworkers to go straight to their night shift after the game.

Friday night football has of course been popular among certain clubs for many years in order to avoid clashes with other Saturday afternoon events.

Tranmere Rovers have been regular devotees of Friday night football in order to avoid clashing with Liverpool and Everton home games, while Southend United, Colchester United and Stockport County have also been known to kick-off a day early.

Indeed the Swans are no strangers to Friday football due to rugby internationals the following afternoon.

I also seem to remember them playing Birmingham City on a Saturday evening in late November 1981 to avoid a clash with Swansea RFC who were hosting the Wallabies just up the road at St Helen’s that afternoon.

Of course, in the days before floodlights, midweek matches would kick off at all sorts strange times in the afternoon and early evenings.

A glance through a fixture list from the late 1950s reveals kick-off times ranging from 10.30am and 11am in the morning through to 5.45pm and 6pm in the evening.

And even Saturday matches in deepest, darkest winter meant earlier kick-off times.

There was a return to those pre-floodlit days during the 1973-74 season when strikes led to the introduction of the three-day week restricting the use of electricity. All matches had to kick-off at 2pm to avoid the use of floodlights.

So the next time you hear someone like me banging on about 3pm kick-off times in the good old days, you can give them a history lesson in kick-off times and tell 'em to stop whingeing!

C'mon you Swans!

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