Mark Andrews: Let's use the lockdown to knock Trick or Treat on the head

It was part and parcel of the match day experience in the 1980s. Every other Saturday in the back streets around Villa Park, it used to be the same old routine. Before you had time to get out of the car, some likely lad in a dodgy outfit would tap on the window: "50p to mind your car, Mister."

Let's consign Trick or Treat to the dustbin
Let's consign Trick or Treat to the dustbin

It must have been a pretty lucrative trade. We all know what chummy really meant, it was "50p and my big brother won't nick your cassette player," but most people paid up regardless. And even if they only acted as minder for 15 cars each, factor in inflation and that is about £18 for a few minutes of intimidation. And if there was a midweek game on too, it was doubles all round.

It doesn't happen today, the police put a stop to all that. No, they didn't stop the kids from demanding money from motorists on match day, they just banned fans from parking in the streets. So now, instead of "50p to mind your car", it's "£5 to park on an industrial site about three miles from the ground."

Actually, it is still possible to park on-street if you're really determined, but it's hard work. A few years ago, a mate talked me into it, telling me he knew a perfect spot. After half an hour looking for Witton's best-kept secret, we eventually parked so far away from the ground that we missed the first 10 minutes of the game. As we walked up to the 'late entries' gate at the stadium, the Holte End erupted into a chorus of cheers. Villa had taken the lead.

I concluded at that point that these parking wheezes were false economy. Particularly as, following my friend's suggestion we spend the money we saved in the bar at half time, we also missed another goal as we headed back to our seats at the start of the second half.

Anyway, I'm not here to bemoan missing two crucial moments in what turned out to be Villa's last win for several weeks, but to try find something positive to say about lockdown regulations.

There is a saying that every cloud has a silver lining, but you have to say it's hard to see it at the moment. The coronavirus is coming back in time just to coincide with the winter flu season, the region is subject to varying degrees of confusing regulations, our high streets are starting to resemble the sort of Third World shanty towns that used to feature in school geography books, and businesses are falling like ninepins.

But after a bit of careful deliberation, I've come to the conclusion that there is one positive thing to come out of the lockdown. It's going to screw up Hallowe'en big time.

I hate the modern-day Hallowe'en. I hate the grasping commercialisation of it, I hate the fact that every shop I go in – well every branch of Poundland, anyway – has the shelves packed to the rafters with tacky tat. I hate the fact that teenagers, who are so earnest about saving the planet, think nothing of buying a ghastly nylon costume which will end up on a landfill site before Christmas. And most of all I hate Trick or Treat.

Remember the good old days, when it was Penny for the Guy? Yes, I suppose that could be a nuisance, particularly when they called while you were eating your dinner. But making a guy did require a little bit of effort and Penny for the Guy was at least affordable.

Now before somebody accuses me of being a curmudgeon, I accept that under the supervision of responsible parents, visiting an agreed circle of close friends and neighbours with a home-made jack o'lantern is just a harmless bit of fun for very young children.

But that is not what I'm talking about. My problem is with adolescents who find it hilarious to go from house to house demanding money, with the threat of a 'trick' on those who do not comply. We all know that being accosted on your own doorstep by a group of teenagers dressed like the cast of a Hammer House of Horrors movie scares the life out of some old people. And nobody should feel they have to giving money to these hooligans on the basis that they will get their tyres slashed or their flowerbeds ruined if they don't comply.

So, I'm hoping the lockdown restrictions will put a stop to all this nonsense, and would-be Trick-or-Treaters go back to playing video games or posting dodgy pictures on Instagram.

Because when you come down to it, Trick or Treat is just a fancy-dress version of hanging around outside football grounds demanding money with menaces.

Except you don't get to see the game afterwards

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News