I think most will agree there has been an improvement in facilities at League of Ireland grounds over, say, the last
10-15 years. Summer soccer has helped and an improvement in crowds. However, like our English counterparts, there was a time when , well our stands, pitches and grounds weren't exactly up to scratch. Most clubs have moved on from a time when corporate sponsorship was an absolute non-entity , and family enclosures was a foreign concept. But to
maybe refresh your memory, here at 20 things you might have seen in days gone by.
1 A man with a bright red face and enormous flared trousers.
2 The local town nutter who declares that he loves his local team so much and never, ever, misses a game, before mysteriously disappearing somewhere during the second half.
3 The failed tactician. Usually stands behind manager’s dugouts in a mid-nineties Adidas training coat, god-awful slacks and shiny shoes, bellowing out various disastrous instructions to all and sundry.
4 Some old dear manning the shop for the 51st consecutive season.
5 The five man strong away support. Normally confined to teams more then 4 hours away. They've travelled in a clapped-out Fiat since six that morning only to see their side put on a display worst than an U-11 schoolboy game.
6 The half-time raffle where the prizes are mostly things like 4 cans of Hoffmans, a box of out of date Terry’s All Gold, or a half empty can of Lynx.
7 The condemned stand. In the past in every League Of Ireland ground you’d encounter a thin piece of red and white tape that’s the only thing separating you from certain death on a relic that has stood empty and disused since 1987. It will hold firm for 89 minutes until the home side score and the movement of half a dozen fans will bring the entire seating area and terrace crashing to the ground. A ground liable to have you in the obituaries column the following week.
8 Dodgy advertisement hoardings. These usually include some local factory, a Chinese takeaway, something where half of the advertisement has dropped off, and a taxi firm that went out of business 3 years ago.
9 A dodgy section of the pitch. Used to great tactical effect by the home team, often resulting in long balls pumped to the sloping left-wing and random bounces on the concrete-like goalmouth area which would snap the opposing goalkeeper’s ankles should he dive on it.
10 The 40 year old club veteran. Usually a central defender with a nose like a hammer, but sometimes a journeyman ex-pro called Dave, Barry, Mick, or Alan. Has seen the good old days and now bitter he’s 47 stone and carrying three chins. Constantly uses phrases like “Back in my day” “that’s not real football “ and “do that again son and I’ll break your legs”.
11 The desperate Dad. Father of one of the younger players, he spends the entire match shouting and roaring at him in the full knowledge that his lad is never going to be quite good enough to “make it.” That trial at Portsmouth will never come around again.
12 The bloke who positions himself near the dugout so he can berate the manager regardless of the team’s form or performances. Likes a pint in the bar with the failed tactician.
13 Packets of crisps at the tuck shop from manufacturers you’ve never heard of and that probably don’t even exist. Brands like “Nibbles” or a Polish counterpart that’s slightly cheaper.
14 The annoying intermittent tannoy system that was given to the club back in 1974 by the local train station. It hardly worked back then, and has somehow gotten so bad that nobody’s been able to work out who’s been named man of the match in the last 30 years.
15 The pre-match announcements. With the dodgy tannoy the poor man could be droning on about a local porn cinema for all anybody knows. In actual fact, he’s usually thanking the local print firm for the match sponsorship or playing records such as “Eye of the Tiger” or anything by Phil Collins.
16 A couple of mind-numbingly bored six year olds brought along by an elderly relative desperate to institutionalise them into the ways of supporting the local League of Ireland team. Moments after kick off they’ll start kicking a discarded Coke can about for the remainder of the match.
17 The Premiership wannabe. Disgusted he’s playing League Of Ireland and easy to spot – he’s the only one wearing gold boots and a hairband. Normally tries a couple of fancy flicks with his first few touches before being cut in half just below the waist by the 40 year old veteran.
18 Some daft old dear sitting alone wrapped in a bizarre, homemade club scarf and wearing an equally homespun woolly hat. Her mood will swing from serene quietness to violent rage at any innocuous refereeing decision and berates every single ref she’s seen in Ireland since about 1927. There’s also a good chance she’ll be knitting.
19 The out of shape linesman. You know the type. The poor sod who’s left his job in a chemical factory to run the line at Mervue on a cold Tuesday night only to get ninety minutes abuse from the home fans for disallowing three perfectly good goals and giving the away team a last minute penalty. Can normally be seen running for the dressing room after games.
20 The turnstile at that certain ground that NEVER worked. Getting through it demanded brute force strength
from your hips , often a younger fan (ie- your son) was used as a battering ram to test it out!