Richard Davis: Football Fans 1991

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It was back in the early 1990s that football in the UK finally caught up with the trends sweeping Europe, and photographer Richard Davis was there to capture the transformation first hand, with his pictures now republished in a book, simply titled: Football Fans 1991.

Manchester United fans in Rotterdam for European final against Barcelona, 1991. Copyright: Richard Davis
Manchester United fans in Rotterdam for the European Cup Final against Barcelona, 15.05.91. United ran out 2-1 winners, both goals scored by Mark Hughes. A mix of Bucket hats, NFL and NBA caps, twinned with baggy jeans, bomber jackets and Henri-Lloyd coats, made fans look more Stone Roses than typical football fan. Copyright: Richard Davis

He had stood on the terraces as a young Wolverhampton Wanderers supporter and recalls his first game 50 years ago, as Wolves battled for First Division survival at one end of the table, against the mighty Liverpool, chasing the title at the top.

“It was absolute bedlam,” recalls Richard. “There must have been 30,000 of their fans there, on the roofs and hanging off the floodlight towers.”

A mass pitch invasion when Liverpool clinched the title, and Wolves went down, stuck in his mind, so too did seeing a brick being thrown during a game against Arsenal.

Fast forward 20 years and Richard, now following football in the early 1990s as a photographer across the North West of England, noticed outside influences changing the atmosphere around the game.

Manchester United fans. Old Trafford, Manchester United, March 1991. Copyright: Richard Davis
Casual: Young United fans outside Old Trafford with matching ‘Shaun Ryder’ curtains style haircuts. Copyright: Richard Davis
Two United fans pose for the camera outside Old Trafford in March 1991. Copyright: Richard Davis
Posers: Davis reflected; “I particularly loved the pose of the lad on the right. It’s a great pose. Plenty of attitude. As a photographer you either want people to look natural or to look good. I loved his style, and his whole attitude.” Copyright: Richard Davis
Old Trafford, Manchester United, March 1991. Copyright: Richard Davis
Rave on: A young United fan with a ‘Madchester’ haircut selling the United We Stand fanzine. Copyright: Richard Davis
Manchester United fans, Old Trafford, 1991. Copyright: Richard Davis
Alternative style: Manchester United fans pose outside Old Trafford. Copyright: Richard Davis

Music, fashion and football had come together. Oasis, and the Gallagher brothers, Liam and Noel, were big Manchester City fans, as was The Smiths’ Johnny Marr. The ‘Madchester’ nightclub scene had taken off, with The Haçienda top of the list, co owned by another huge City fan, Rob Gretton, manager of New Order and Joy Division.

Where they might not then have been hot on the pitch, Manchester City’s young, impressionable, fans were leading the way off it.

Manchester City fans. Maine Road, Manchester City in April 1991. Copyright: Richard Davis
Manchester City fans outside Maine Road. Diverse young female fans providing a fresh look what was typically a male environment. Davis always strived to make his photos as diverse as possible in a positive way. Copyright: Richard Davis
The Salford Lads Club better than Best. The Smiths: Richard Davis
City fans recreate The Smiths’ The Queen is Dead album cover outside The Salford Lads Club. The fans wore ‘Better than Best’ Colin Bell t-shirts, in a dig at United’s George Best. Richard shot the stunt for Manchester City fanzine Blueprint in 1992. The links between football, music and fashion were clear to see and showed a lighter side of football banter between rival clubs. Copyright: Richard Davis
Maine Road, Manchester City in April 1991. Copyright: Richard Davis
Caged: Young City fans watch on from behind bars at Maine Road. A powerful image that captured the lasting evidence of the brutal environment and nature of what it had become to be a football fan. Copyright: Richard Davis

Richard provided the pictures, all taken between March and May in 1991, for a new book, Football With Attitude, by Steve Redhead. The focus was the fans and Richard’s backdrop took in the terraces of Manchester’s City and United, as well as Liverpool, Everton and Oldham.

Liverpool fans, 1991. Copyright: Richard Davis
Liverpool fans outside Anfield. Men and women, young and old. But all fanatical Liverpool fans. Copyright: Richard Davis
Liverpool fans, 1991. Copyright: Richard Davis
The new faces of football: No posing, completely natural. Liverpool fans wait patiently outside the ground. Copyright: Richard Davis
Liverpool FC fans photographed in 1991. Copyright: Richard Davis
At ease: Davis states that he most proud of the Liverpool photos. “It could have been quite difficult for me, but I got some great photos from Liverpool and they are my favourite from the set. Maybe they felt some sympathy for me due to my Brummie accent and that provided a bit of kinship between us.” Copyright: Richard Davis
Liverpool fans, 1991. Copyright: Richard Davis
Day trip: Liverpool fans pictured outside Maine Road, before beating Manchester City 3 – 0. Away fans often made great subjects for Davis, with their bravado and relaxed attitude making them easy to photograph whilst having a good time. Copyright: Richard Davis

Football Fans 1991 is available to buy online from Café Royal Books and a selection of Richard’s prints from the book are available form The British Culture Archive.

Liverpool fans. 1991. Copyright: Richard Davis
Banter: Liverpool fans wear Barcelona scarfs ahead of Barcelona’s European Cup Final against Manchester United. Copyright: Richard Davis
Liverpool fans, 1991. Copyright: Richard Davis
A poignant moment: On his way to Everton’s training ground to photograph Pat Nevin, Davis noticed a small group of Liverpool supporters gathered next to the Hillsborough memorial beside The Shankly Gates outside Anfield. “Potentially the hardest photo I took from this project, but so glad that I had the courage to ask them to pose. They didn’t say anything, but posed defiantly beneath the famous words ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.'”
Copyright: Richard Davis
Eberton fans: Richards Davis
All smiles: Junior Evertonians sum up the relaxed vibe surrounding football as they wait outside the Gwladys Street End entrance of Goodison Park. Copyright: Richard Davis.

“It became about hedonism, having a good time, coupled with aesthetics, the importance of looking good.

Richard Davis
Everton fans, 1991. Copyright: Richard Davis
Ignore the man with the camera: Young Everton fans relax against a wall outside Goodison Park. Copyright: Richard Davis.
Goodison Park, Everton fans, 1991. Copyright: Richard Davis
Everton fans celebrate the only goal in a 1 – 0 win over Luton Town at Goodison Park. Copyright: Richard Davis

“There was a big attitude change,” said Richard. “It became about hedonism, having a good time, coupled with aesthetics, the importance of looking good.

“Modernism was all about experimentation, being individual”.

Two Oldham Athletic fans outside Boundary park in May 1991. Copyright: Richard Davis
Baggy ‘Madchester’ jeans and Kickers: Fashion conscious Oldham Athletic fans sit on the floor outside Boundary park. Copyright: Richard Davis
Oldham fans, 1991. Copyright: Richard Davis
Music fashion: An Oldham fans rocks a James t-shirt outside the ground. Copyright: Richard Davis

From nightclubs like The Hacienda came Rave Culture, Acid House and the rise of the DJ.

“Dance culture, and maybe ecstasy, seemed to have mellowed the fans,” said Richard.

“There they were, posing with their mates as if they were Ian Brown and in The Stone Roses.”

Oldham fans, 1991. Copyright: Richard Davis
Trying to keep pace: For some, it didn’t quite come off. Oldham fans wearing club leisurewear including matching Latics bucket hats. Copyright: Richard Davis

His photography took him with Manchester United to Rotterdam and a 1991 European Cup Winners Cup Final against Barcelona.

“Manchester was at the heart of most of these changes, ” he said, “and 1991 caught that moment in time. It was a glorious period and I was in the right place at the right time.”

Manchester United fans in Rotterdam for European final against Barcelona, 1991. Copyright: Richard Davis
Festival or football away day? Manchester United fans enjoy beers and a smoke in Rotterdam ahead of the European final against Barcelona. Copyright: Richard Davis
Manchester United fans in Rotterdam for European final against Barcelona, 1991. Copyright: Richard Davis
Cannabis Connoisseurs: United fans pose with a “Madchester’ Union Jack flag, wearing French brands like Naf Naf and Haçienda printed t-shirst. Copyright: Richard Davis
Manchester United fans in Rotterdam before the European Cup Winners Cup final. Copyright: Richard Davis
Party time: United fans enjoy the build up. Copyright: Richard Davis
Manchester United fans in Rotterdam for European final against Barcelona, 1991. Copyright: Richard Davis
Two cans of lager, and a sly one in the pocket. Copyright: Richard Davis

Gazza, Paul Gascoigne’s, tears inspired a whole new wave of followers. New TV football programmes, like Channel 4’s Gazzetta Football Italia, which ran for 10 years from 1992, helped fuel the fire with its focus on a different soccer style, both on and off the pitch.

The programme’s title was a play on Gazza’s nickname. Sometimes he didn’t show, and in came presenter James Richardson, on occasions supping a cappuccino while reviewing the Italian newspapers outside a coffee bar. Casual, relaxed, laid back. A new way of presenting to match the new mood.

“Dance culture, and maybe ecstasy, seemed to have mellowed the fans.”

Richard Davis

Richard’s pictures capture that transformation as he put to good use his early days as a photographer covering the music scene in the 1980s. It all came together with Italia 90 and New Order’s England anthem, World In Motion.

“Love’s got the world in motion,” went the lyrics.

“Express yourself”.

And that’s what football in the 1990s became all about.

Football Fans 1991, and Richard Davis’ pictures, bring that era back to life.

Manchester United fans in Rotterdam for European final against Barcelona, 1991. Copyright: Richard Davis
Manchester United fans celebrate as they see their team win beat Barcelona 2 – 1 at the Stadion Feijenoord in Rotterdam. Copyright: Richard Davis
808 State pictured in Rotterdam. Copyright: Richard Davis
The following night, Manchester band 808 State played the Stadion Feijenoord in Rotterdam. From football fan to music fan overnight, loads of the United faithful kept on for the gig and so of course did Richard Davis. 808 State pictured ahead of their gig. Copyright: Richard Davis

If you enjoyed that, you may also like Football fans bringing the 90s back to like, where photographer and Tony Davis captures the essence of a match day in the 90s.

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