LORDS OF THE WING!

“..AND IF YOU KNOW YOUR HISTORY!”

LORDS OF THE WING

With Celtic fans lording over the recent signing of Kyogo Furuhashi, and with good reason too, there is perhaps scope to question just how much the Hoops’ followers seem to embrace one position on the field above all others; that of the Wingers. 

By Jonathan Foley 

Last month’s defeat to Rangers at Ibrox saw manager Ange Postecoglu confess that he should’ve played the Japanese forward in a more central role. It still oesn’t deny the fact that, in an overall sense, the recent summer signing from Vissel Kobe is a dab hand at showing his talents while charging down the flanks. This is not entirely new at Celtic.

Jimmy ‘Jinky’ Johnstone will always live in the hearts of Celtic fans. His dazzling dribbling ability and sultry skills in the wider areas of the field earned him the reputation as perhaps being the club’s greatest ever player. In a time of damp and mud-soaked pitches, the wee man from North Lanarkshire won 19 major honours with Celtic, including the European Cup in 1967. 

With 135 goals to his credit during his time at Paradise, Jimmy Johnstone’s name will forever resonate with the Celtic faithful. His precocious and mercurial talents were noticed on a global scale while his small stature, gapped teeth, fuzzy red hair and quick-witted humour made him as normal and approachable as the everyday man on the street. 

While he had many famous goals and performances, there are some parts of his life that remain the stuff of legend. His late goal at Ibrox to win the league title at the home of their fiercest rivals or twisting and turning the Inter Milan defence while giving them guff about how their Ambre Solaire gel was going to set their hair on fire, so they should maybe “phone yer maw, big man!”

In slightly more recent times, one might also recall a certain dreadlocked Swede who also wore the number seven jersey. Henrik Larsson went on to become Celtic’s third place all-time leading goalscorer, but it’s worth noting that when he signed from Feyenoord in 1997, the original plan for him was to play off the main two strikers up front; Andreas Thom and Darren Jackson. 

While ‘the Bhoy who would become King’ was molded more into more of a frontman, there were many times during his Celtic career where he showed his capabilities to drift towards the wide areas. Here, he could send in crosses, make runs towards goal himself and still service the latter partnership of John Hartson and Chris Sutton in attack. Winger or striker? It matters not! 

It’s reasonable to suggest that in Larsson’s second season (1998-99), the arrival of Slovakian-born winger, Lubomir Moravcik, possibly allowed him the freedom to go and take up the striker role. With Lubo now taking over the responsibility of supplier from the left-flank, Larsson had more freedom to focus on scoring goals. 

For his part, Lubo ‘God’ Moravcik, was simply a joy to watch. Scoring two goals against Rangers on his full home-debut was just the start. Already well into his mid-thirties, he was the ultimate two-footed player, who was an absolute master of the dead ball, when it came to free kicks. 

He could entertain too. 

Who would have thought controlling a ball, dipping from the sky with your rear-end was possible? By the time he was 36, he was still starting in victorious Celtic teams in the Champions League; famously nutmegging Pavel Nevded of Juventus in 2001, and letting his Czech counterpart know all about it by sticking his tongue out at him, in a schoolyard-like manner. 

Of course there were other wide players whose names were sung from the stands of Celtic Park down the years: Alan Thompson, Didier Agathe, Jackie McNamara, Aiden McGeady, Emilio Izzaguere, Scott Sinclair, Kieran Tierney et al. 

There’s one man who still stands out in the memory, after all these years, and that’s another Japanese star who pulled on the famous green and white hoops; Shunsuke Nakamura. 

‘Naka’ signed in 2005. Little was known of him at the time, but the fans were in for a treat. After a slow start initially, he adapted to life in Scotland and his sublime skill and incredible work-rate endeared him to the Celtic faithful. In his four seasons with the club, he lifted the SPL trophy three times, as well as the Scottish Cup in 2007, but that’s just part of the story. 

With celebrity status back in Japan, Nakamura made regular television appearances there where his party-piece was kicking footballs from a Yokohama alleyway which would find their way through the one open window of a moving bus. Banzai! Celtic would certainly reap the rewards of his technical ability and there were certainly some iconic moments thrown in along the way. 

During a tense Champions League clash with Manchester United in 2006, Naka sent Celtic Park into delirium when his 35-yard free-kick sailed over the United wall and found the top corner of Edwin van der Saar’s net. Six months later, he did likewise with the dead-ball, when his stoppage-time free-kick curled around Kilmarnock’s wall, hit the net, and the title was sealed. 

And that’s not forgetting his other long-range special. This time in a win-or-bust clash against Rangers, in 2008. To this day, people still can’t fully explain how he struck an escaping bouncing ball with such veracity that somehow managed to change direction midway through the air and, basically, burst the net. If it was anyone else, you wouldn’t have believed it, but this was Naka.

Sure, we love goalkeepers, centre-halves, holding midfield players, but at Celtic, there seems to be something magical about some Qof the Bhoys who lord the wing.

@johnnyfoley1984 @ArmchairFanatic

‘The Gorbals Irishman’ – Charlie Gallagher.

Last month, Celtic FC bade farewell to one of their heroes from the past. Charlie Gallagher’s cortège made its way past the front door of Celtic Park itself so that supporters could pay their last respects. But what did we know of the man? 

By Jonathan Foley

Charlie Gallagher enjoyed a 12-year stint at the famous Glasgow club between the years 1958 and 1970; making 171 appearances and scoring 32 goals in the process. 

More than that, he acquired a clean sweep of Scottish domestic honours and, although he wasn’t on the field that day in Lisbon, he was an instrumental figure in Celtic’s 1967 famous European Cup success story. Although to say his successes came overnight couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Born of Donegal parents, Dan and Annie (Gaoth Dobhair), Charlie also became the first Scottish-born player to represent the Republic of Ireland. In a 2017 interview with TheCelticView, Gallagher discussed how he had grown to love west Donegal, having spent many of his summer holidays there when he was a child. 

He was well regarded for his ability to pickout pinpoint crosses from wide areas and set-pieces. One of his most famous assists is probably the delivery he sent in for Billy McNeill to rise up over Alex Ferguson to head in Celtic’s opener in the 1969 Scottish Cup Final rout of Rangers. As we will see, that was just one of many famous set-ups for his captain. 

He was also the cousin of another former Celtic player, Pat Crerand, who was well-known for his precocious talents and aggression on the field for such other teams he played for, including Manchester United and Scotland. And if the local rumblings speak true, some will tell you that Crerand also played in a number of summer cup games for the Gweedore sides under a pseudonym, but hush, no more. 

When Charlie Gallagher joined Celtic, the club was deep in transition. Rangers were utterly dominant and success was proving to be very elusive for the Hoops. Legendary figure and all-time leading club goalscorer, Jimmy McGrory, wasn’t enjoying the same successes as a manager, but such was his reputation, very few fans were calling for his head during this period of drought. 

Frustrations were more so aimed at the board, then chaired by Robert Kelly. 

In 1961, Gallagher made his debut in a League Cup victory over Raith Rovers and come the end of the season, aged just 21, many would’ve been expecting him to collect a Scottish Cup winners medal. Celtic went into this showpiece event as huge favourites against Dunfermline, but the Pars, managed by a certain Jock Stein,  threw the script out and rejoiced in a surprise 2-0 win following a replay.

For success, Charlie Gallagher would have to wait. 

Celtic were trophyless in the early 1960s and Gallagher was regularly rotated in and out of the starting eleven. His finest performances came in 1964 when he put in a dazzling display in a Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final victory over MTK Budapest. 

The Hunagrains would overturn the tie in the second leg, however, and Gallagher openly claimed that this night as the most disappointing of his career. He would put in another stirring performance five months later though when Celtic pulled off an unexpected 3-1 win over Rangers in the league. 

One year later, 1965, Jock Stein returned to Celtic as manager and Gallagher became something of a regular in his early sides. Despite a lowly eighth place finish in the league that year, Celtic did reach the final of the Scottish Cup again where they would meet Dunfermline for the second time in four years. 

Many fans still regard this game as a pivotal turning point in the club’s history. 

Having twice trailed in the match, Celtic levelled each time and eventually won the encounter courtesy of a 3-2 scoreline. Charlie Gallagher’s superb ball in from a corner set up McNeill’s winning goal and, alas, the Hoops ended an eight-year barren run of no trophies. Following that, Celtic FC were about to embark on something truly special in the following years. 

They became the dominant force, not only in Scotland, but across the European continent as well. 

Having played much of his time in the midfield area alongside Bobby Murdoch, Stein’s remoulding of Bertie Auld’s role – often regarded as one of his managerial masterstrokes – meant that again, Gallagher’s appearances became a bit more sporadic. Celtic were roaring, both domestically and in Europe, so getting into that team would’ve been a task for anyone. 

With Auld and Murdoch holding the midfield and Jimmy Johnstone and Bobby Lennox taking up the wide areas, this was the most famous midfield which Celtic ever had. When he was called upon though, Gallagher was also more than capable of lending more than just a little help for the cause. 

In the New Year meeting with Rangers in 1966, Gallagher thundered in a wonder-strike as the Bhoys routed their old rivals 5-1. A season later, in the quarter-final of the 1967 European Cup run against Vojvodina Novi Sad, his stoppage time cross found McNeill’s head (again) and his majestic finish sent the famous Parkhead stadium into raptures of delight. 

In a time when only one substitute was named on a team-sheet and where he could only be deployed in the event of an injury, Charlie Gallagher did remarkably well to stay in the plans of Jock Stein as Celtic embarked on, what is still, the most successful and revered period in their entire history. 

He was there that day at the Estádio Nacional when Celtic famously beat Inter Milan 2-1 to become the first team from the northern half of Europe to lift the famous trophy. Although he didn’t get a run out on the field, his role within the camp was regarded as important as anyone else’s. 

He was known to have been very proud of the fact that he got to represent Ireland on the international stage. The country of his ancestry thanks to his Donegal heritage. He may have only got two caps during his career, but it must be remembered that he was competing with none other than the talents John Giles (Leeds United) for that position in the team.

Following his departure from Celtic in 1970, Gallagher finished out his career with Dumbarton before hanging up the boots in 1973. He would return to the East End of Glasgow to work as a scout between 1976 to 1978 and was often spotted still attending games and club functions right up until very recent times. A Celtic man, through and through. 

Charlie Gallagher, ‘the Gorbals Irishman’ 1940-2021. 

Celtic’s ‘Millennium Bug’ Reappears.

Originally penned in May, 2021

In a season that promised so much – hopes of continued domestic domination and with the champagne cooling on ice for the unprecedented ‘10 in a Row’ parties – very little was harvested.

Across the city, Rangers have undoubtedly improved, but there was still a potent feeling that the majority of Celtic’s demise was brought on, not by others, but primarily by themselves.

History, as we all know, often has a bemusing ability to repeat itself. Up until now, many supporters for the green-and-white looked back and shuddered at the ill-fated 1999-2000 campaign. Upon reflection, this past campaign drew some uncanny resemblances to that particular season. 

By Jonathan Foley

In the summer of 1999, the biggest pop acts going were the likes of Travis, Stereophonics and Britney Spears. Robbie Williams had rocked Slane Castle at the tail end of the summer and his lyrical flow about stars directing our fate was a fairly constant feature on the radio airwaves back then. 

Bill Clinton was still, albeit controversially, dwindling to the US Presidency. People in Donegal were still using punts as their currency and, even in a world devoid of social media, the biggest fear was that on New Years’ Eve, global computer systems would all fail and planes would fall from the sky. Honest! 

In Glasgow, Rangers were fresh off the back of a domestic treble from the season before and Celtic pinned their hopes on a (‘Return of the King’) Kenny Dalglish who was coming back as General Manager. Alongside him, his mentee and fellow-Liverpool legend John Barnes, taking on the reins as Head Coach.

It was a bold move, given Barnes’s inexperience as a coach, to say the least. 

From the off, it seemed as though Celtic meant business. Splashing out big money on drafting in Olivier Tebily, Eyal Berkovic, Stephane Bonnes, Rafael Thied Scheidt, Bobby Petta, Dmitri Kharine and – the one saving grace he brought in – Stilyan Petrov.

On the field, at least at first, things looked promising. 

Celtic’s dynamic duo up front in Henrik Larsson and Mark Viduka were firing on all cylinders. Going into the autumn, they won 11 of their opening 12 games, had made early headway in the League Cup and disposed of Hapoel Tel-Aviv in the Uefa Cup’s opening round. 

Saturday 16 October, 1999, was a day where the fans were treated to a masterclass performance. 

A 7-0 showpiece victory over Aberdeen at home – with both strikers netting a hat-trick apiece – provided genuine optimism for the season ahead.

The fact that Barnes was something of a novice at this level seemed immaterial. For the time being at least. 

The fans who left Celtic Park on that mild and somewhat sunny afternoon were not to know that it was all about to emphatically unravel.

A few days later, Celtic would lose their talismanic dreadlocked striker for the rest of the season following Larsson’s catastrophic leg break away to Lyon.

In his absence, Barnes resorted to his contacts book and rushed in and an aging Ian Wright on a loan spell from West Ham. Initially, he seemed a fairly suitable stop-gap but that too would prove to be a false dawn.

Into November and Lyon compounded Celtic’s misery with a comfortable victory in Glasgow. The absence of Larsson was starting to show and one team were never likely to show them any mercy for their predicament lay in waiting. 

On a gray and overcast Sunday afternoon at Ibrox where they briefly snuck into a 2-1 lead, Celtic capitulated in first-half stoppage time. Rangers winning a dubious penalty was bad enough, but when captain Paul Lambert didn’t get up after his tackle on Jorg Albertz, it soon emerged that he’d been severely concussed, lost some teeth and was in need of urgent medical attention.

Albertz knee had collided with Lambert’s mouth as he went to ground. While the German was able to dust himself from the challenge and score the equalising penalty on the brink of the interval, his opponent was still being ushered away by a team of paramedics. Rangers went on to acquire a comfortable and fairly telling 2-4 victory. 

With the new millennium having passed without a hitch and no planes falling from the sky, Celtic’s season, in its own way, nose-dived and crash-landed in early February. A 2-0 lead at home to Hearts looked like plain-sailing until a monumental cave-in ensued and the Jambos silenced Parkhead by turning the game on its head and running out 2-3 winners. 

Worse was to follow. 

The following Tuesday night was the final straw. The Scottish Cup had offered a lifeline for Celtic to salvage something from this fire-wreck of a season, but when lower-division Inverness Caledonian-Thistle dumped them out of the cup in a humiliating 1-3 defeat in front of a sparsely-attended crowd, enough was enough. 

Circulating rumours rang out that Mark Viduka had refused to go out for the second-half amid a tumultuous and angry dressing room proved to be true. Mass protests gathered outside the ground and chants of ‘Barnes Must Go!’ rang out long into the night. The Board responded with a prompt termination of his contract but it didn’t end there. 

Kenny Dalglish, perhaps feeling responsible for all that had gone on, took over as interim manager. 

A March Old Firm clash, under the lights, with Rangers was the last chance to restore some pride at least.

In a typically frantic and bad-tempered game, Rangers won it with an 89th minute bundled but effective effort by Rod Wallace. A goal iconically remembered for the ball boy, behind the goal, kicking out at the ball in frustration. He was allegedly reprimanded, but who could blame the fella?

A League Cup final win at Hampden provided mere consolation but, from a PR perspective, Dalglish’s renowned distrust of the press took a new road. He, rather oddly, ordered that a press conference be held at Bairds Bar – a regular Gallowgate watering-hole for Hoops’ fans – and while all this circus was all going on, there was hope that Larsson (and Lambert) would soon return to the fray and settle things.

Mark Viduka would officially pack his bags and depart, under a bit of a cloud, and joining Leeds United for £7 million. Quipping to the media that he only had to play to 70% of his ability to get into the Celtic starting team to the media as a nasty parting shot. Ian Wright would later remark that he detested living in Glasgow, although that was not intended as direct jibe at the club.

In comparison with this past season, one can perhaps notice the similarities that rose up. False promises, fallouts between players and management, injuries in key positions, fan protests, embarrassing cup defeats to lower-league opposition at home, a mid-season sacking leading to an interim role and a disastrous relationship with the media. It all seems oddly familiar, doesn’t it? 

The one guiding light that stayed flickering for Celtic in May 2000 was that Larsson did reappear as a late substitute on the final day of the season. He even made it to the Sweden squad for the Euros that summer. 

Back at base, Celtic looked to make amends by announcing Martin O’Neill as manager. 

And we all know how that turned out. So maybe, just maybe, hope does spring eternal.

@JohnnyFoley1984

@ArmchairFanatic

Another Day in Paradise.

🔙OTD, 7/4/2001. The St Mirren Adventure!! 🍀

A Celtic win and they become league champions. Rare in those day and myself and Ultan are told we have a golden ticket each but …

A 4am ticket mixup at the bus. A huge row with the organizer. Told “a mistake was made. I’ve no ticket for you. Go on home.” Heartbroken and, yes, tears got shed as the bus heads off.

4:30am, crying a little on the porch and Ultan certainly not slagging, a taxi flies up the driveway. Orders the two of us to get in as “another bus” will take us but we have to catch up with it!!

Whizzing out the dual carriage way, get on the bus but told “I’ll help yous but keep this quiet now, d’ya hear me?” 🤫 Get to the ferry port, hiding under the seats during security inspection.

Bus breaks down. Typical. Sneak on another and hide again. 😩 Get to Glasgow, but still no ticket. Ultan says “we’ve done well to get this far. Anything else now is a bonus.”

Ten minutes to kickoff. Stadium in sight. Given two unused ticket stubs found in the glove compartment from a game played three months earlier and told “try your luck with them. I can do no more for yous now!”

Noise of the stadium gets louder. Race through the wasteland, puddles and rubble as a shortcut. Nowadays it’s where the Emirates Arena stands but it looked a lot different 20 years ago.

Getting a footie over the high, gang graffitied wall from a group of fairly rowdy – but sound – local lads. Buckfast and all. 😜 🍷

“Y’iv nae ticket, man? Dinny worry. Stick wi us and we’ll git yiz in, Ken?”

Get to the turnstile. Distract the collector as much as possible and hand in the fake ticket stub upside down. Ultan does the same and … we’re in Paradise!! Quick high fives of thanks to the gang lads who helped us at the wall. 😂

Tommy Johnson’s bundled effort goes in and, despite a scrappy game, Celtic do win the title at the final whistle. A real rarity back then and the celebrations got underway and, by hook or by crook, we got there. Even if we’d to stand at the back as we’d no seats. 😀

After all the excitement was done, I did meet the ticket organizer in a Glasgow hotel later that day. Yes, we did exchange a few words, he was livid that I’d snuck on the boat but, I must say, we did bury the hatchet a few weeks later, to be fair. 👍🏻

I’ve been to much better games at Celtic Park since that one but St Mirren, 2001, will always be the one with most (fairly avoidable) drama 😂 Ultan moved away and I’ve not seen him in years but I think we’ll always have that day to give us something to chat about. 🍀👍🏻

Getting back home on the ferry that night didn’t have a quarter of the drama. Thank God! 😂👍🏻

‘The Prince of Goalkeepers’; John Thomson.

Originally published in September 2020; Redrafted in March, 2021 by Jonathan Foley.

Still regarded by many as the best goalkeeper in Britain during the two decades which separated the world wars, relatively little is known about Celtic and Scotland’s John Thomson.

The date of September 5th marks the anniversary of the tragic passing of this young man during a Rangers vs Celtic game in 1931. One who so many once hailed as ‘The Prince of Goalkeepers.’

By the time Thomson reached the tender age of 21, he was already a fully-fledged starter in goals for both the Celtic and Scotland teams. Sadly, he’d not live to go any further. 

During that aforementioned Old Firm match at Ibrox, he gallantly rushed out of his goal to thwart a move that put Sam English in on goal for the home side. 

As Thomson dived at the attacker’s feet, English’s knee innocently collided with the goalkeeper’s head and the blow was severe enough to put him into an immediate state of unconsciousness. 

His head nestled in the ground, his arm raised aloft and static above him. A most harrowing image, even today, when seeing the flickering archive footage which has survived all this time.

The urgency of the matter was not lost on English who, despite limping from the clash, forewent concern from himself and immediately rushed to Thomson’s aid. 

David Mickeljohn – the Rangers captain – called for calm amongst the many thousands on the terraces who were initially booing and jeering.

Realising the seriousness of the situation themselves, the crowd quit their taunts and immediately fell into a hushed and most respectful silence. 

Thomson was stretchered from the field and was rushed to the Western Infirmary. 

Rangers manager William Struth feared the worst and arranged for the club to send a car to Cardenden – some 55 miles away – to collect the boy’s parents from Fife.

He passed away at 9:25pm and the mass congregation of some 100,000 people who attended his funeral – many of whom arrived on foot from Glasgow – was testament to the stature to which he carried himself. 

And yet, while many recall how he passed, not as many know how he lived. 

Background and Upbringing:

Born in 1909, Thomson spent the bulk of his early life carrying out work in the dank and claustrophobic surroundings of the coalmines. 

Despite his relatively slender physique and small-sized hands, his job of locking trailers together as they moved along the rails, is said to have given him a natural sense of agility, timing and positioning. Ideal goalkeeper attributes. 

His appearances in youth football on the Scottish east coast caught the attention of then Celtic manager, Willie Maley, who approached and signed the boy for a fee of just ten pounds. 

Even with his Evangelical Protestant upbringing, Thomson was delighted to sign for Celtic. Miner strikes were common and professional football offered a more steady and stable income. 

The only true opponent to his decision to swap the pits for football was his mother, who feared that football was too dangerous. In retrospect, her words could be deemed as a haunting prophecy. 

During his career, Rangers were dominant in the league title honours, yet Thomson helped Celtic to two Scottish Cups and three Glasgow Cups. 

At international level, he initially played for a Scotland League XI side. Despite a resounding victory for an England XI at White Hart Lane, Thomson was applauded off the field by both sets of fans.

At Scotland senior level, he earned four caps. He put in a series of wonderful displays and became known for his ability to clutch crosses from the air and for his bravery when rushing out of his goal. 

Behaviour that certainly wasn’t all that common at the time and in his four proper appearances for his country, he conceded just a single goal in those matches.

Perhaps an element of foreshadowing knocked on his door when he picked up a series of injuries in one game.

During a challenge, he lost two teeth, broke his jaw and several ribs. His mother’s pleas rang louder than ever before but he was unperturbed.

He recovered to be back in goal quickly and set his sights on marriage after becoming engaged to his childhood sweetheart, Margaret Findlay. A wedding that nobody would ever see.

Sam English, only 23 himself, openly wept at his funeral and his genuineness was seen by everyone. Thomson’s family openly forgave him and successfully pushed for an exoneration; clearing him of any wrongdoing. 

English, a native of County Antrim originally, left Scotland soon after. Even a prolific goal scoring record at Liverpool couldn’t redeem his spirit and humour anymore. 

He retired young with the feeling that football had become what he called “a joyless sport.” He passed away himself in 1967, aged 58. He remains well thought of by all. 

John Thomson joined the game as a boy, but sadly, left it as one too. He will always be remembered amongst the Celtic support and, hopefully, by the wider football community as a whole.

@johnnyfoley1984

IS FOOTBALL (REALLY) FINISHED?

Originally penned in March 2021.

Football has undergone a plethora of changes in recent times. So much so that the game sometimes feels unrecognizable from what it was 25 years ago.

Some changes have been forced upon the game by the powers that be – some for better, some not so – and some have been brought to bear on ‘The Beautiful Game’ by the players, managers, pundits and even the supporters themselves.

“The Game’s Gone” has become a popular catchphrase amongst all such parties mentioned. While much of that sentiment derives from the frustrations over VAR and harsher penalization of supposed foul play, let’s take a look at some other factors that might be just as responsible.

Back in 1992, when Sky Sports may as well have claimed that they’d invented the wheel with their “whole new ball game” bragging, the main rule change of that period was the introduction of the back pass rule.

#1: ‘Can’t Pick It Up!’

Taking a look back at the first weeks of the inaugural Premier League season is interesting. It will provide enough evidence to show that goalkeepers were certainly finding it hard to break the habits of a lifetime.

A series of bundled goals and comical errors ensued and it led to a public decry that the game was being ruined. Utterly ruined! One notable protester was a certain Andy Gray.

His frustrations rang out most memorably during his co-commentary from the gantry of the Charity Shield at Wembley.

Leeds United ‘keeper John Lukic was given a tame enough pass, when all of a sudden, the fear of being charged down by an opposing forward became all too real!

It seemed the only option for him to take was to just hoof it out of play which he duly did: “Is that [rule] making the game any better? … I don’t think so!” bemoaned the Scotsman.

#2: ‘He’s Getting How Much?’

Moving slightly onwards into the mid-nineties, it could be argued that society at large started to become more aware, and often disgruntled, by the amount of money that was being thrown around on club transfers and player wages. 

Between the summers of 1995 and 1996, moves like those of Denis Bergkamp to Arsenal (£7.5m), Stan Collymore to Liverpool (£8.5m) and Alan Shearer to Newcastle (£15m) alone made both front and back-page news headlines (Shearer’s especially).

When reports of how much they’d be earning a week were eked out by the press, the wider-public would surely have been throwing their eyes to the heavens in exasperation.

“What?? That amount of money every week to kick a pig’s bladder around! Well, I’ve never!” was one I can definitely recall.

#3: ‘The ‘FAmous’ Cup?’

For generations, the FA Cup was something of an institution and a staple in the football calendar.

Regardless of who you supported, watching the cup final at Wembley every May was as routine and as annual as Christmas. The teams leaving the hotels that morning, being filmed on the buses to the ground; it was all part an exciting build up.

Sadly though, it’s lost its charm in modern times.

Most higher-end teams tend to put less emphasis on the importance of cup success in preference of a more financially-rewarding league finish.

Part of which is understandable but it begs the question. As kids, whoever dreamt of finishing fourth in the table instead of scoring the winning goal in a cup final?

Some have claimed that this was brought on the FA by themselves however.

In the 1999-2000 season, it’s said that they encouraged Manchester United to withdraw from it to go and compete in the experimental 8-team FIFA World Club Champions tournament.

Allegedly this was all a part of a plan to help England’s bid to host the 2006 World Cup.

#4: ‘Put Your Clothes Back On!’ 

A little further on into the new millennium and, in the eyes of the law-makers, there was a new enemy in town. The curse of ‘over-celebrating!’ and it had to be promptly stomped out.

Initially by booking players who removed their shirts during a celebration and later by doing likewise for players who left the field of play; even if they were merely scaling the advertising hoardings.

Now, after seeing how frightful hairy Ryan Giggs’s torso was after he scored against Arsenal at Villa Park in 1999, this may not have been the worst rule that ever came in. Still though, it basically eclipsed the possibility of anyone ever reigniting the Fabrizio Ravenelli celebration, forever more.

Although some players will rebel against the system and do it anyway, one couldn’t help but feel slightly aggrieved for Chelsea’s Arjen Robben in 2006.

A late winner in a pulsating fixture at Sunderland saw him dismissed for ‘over celebrating’ with his own fans, even though no item of clothing was removed in the process.

The rule which stated “players must avoid such excessive displays of joy” had been violated and breached.

#5: ‘Goals: The Original Soundtrack.’ 

Personally speaking, I can’t say I’m overly-opposed to music being pumped through the ground’s sound-system. It’s certainly wasn’t the worst idea that ever was.

Mainly because I hold fond memories of joining in with the chants at Celtic Park when the DJ pressed play on ‘The Magnificent Seven’ every time Henrik Larsson scored. The same goes for the rehash of the Stone Roses classic for ‘I Wanna Be Edouard.’

And I’ve no doubt that the likes of Middlesbrough fans feel something similar. Especially when the samba-like saxophone beats of ‘Reach Out’ blare out in the stadium when the Teesiders finally get around to hitting the net.

Mind you, Tottenham may be taking theirs a tad too far. Even this year, during a time when stadiums are empty, someone decided it was a good idea to play a 20-year old dance track (‘Sandstorm’ by Darude) before a VAR check on the goal is even complete.

So one has to wonder what the thinking was behind that one.

#6: ‘Hold Me Close, Don’t Let Me Go.’ 

Seeing the teams line up in the tunnel is always part of the anticipation just before kick-off.

It adds a sense of realism to the affair, but over the last maybe seven / eight years or so, one can’t help but feel that the excessive hugging and friendliness between supposed rival players is a bit of a momentum killer.

It’s a sentiment that’s certainly shared by Roy Keane in his punditry, but as a player, his spat with Patrik Viera in the tunnel at Highbury in 2005, makes him true to his word on this occasion.

Now I have to say here, that I quietly enjoy seeing international colleagues or former teammates share a pat on the back. Goalies too who seem to have their own unspoken bond.

Although an instance like third was comically ridiculed by Jamie Vardy when Kasper Schmiechel and Pierre-Emile Hoijberg had their lovely moment spoiled with a teasing “Oooh Danish friends!” just before a Leicester took to the field alongside Southampton back in 2017.

#7: ‘Make Mine a Half and Half.’ 

The growing trend of half and half scarves at domestic league matches has got worrying to say the least.

A quick online search suggests that the two biggest names Ed who are most guilty of this heinous act are the Manchester clubs. Others may disagree, but sure hey, if it’s on the internet, then it’s gotta be true, right? (Ahem!)

Half and half scarves of teams competing in a European match seem to be somewhat exempt from this rule, but seeing them in the stalls outside the grounds of teams who are facing even their crosstown rivals just feels like a quick cash grab.

In fairness though, the clubs themselves can’t really be blamed for this one. After all, these items are almost always unofficial merchandise and we all know how it’s not that cheap to attend these games anymore. Maybe it’s just a new fad of consumer culture to purchase a memento of that particular game.

Fair enough, maybe.

#8: ‘Ask Not What Your Country Can Do…’ 

Perhaps because our multi-channeled and high-resolution television sets have us all so spoiled nowadays; ones that enable us to watch top-flight football from clubs all across Europe and the world at the touch of a button. Yet one can’t help feel a touch sad when we see how so many fans now see international breaks as a hindrance.

A youngster lining out for his country hasn’t really remained as a landmark moment down through the years.

In the contemporary era, a player togging out for his country creates more a sense of apprehension or dread amid the fans who basically offer prayers so that he won’t get injured.

And yet, when the big summer tournaments come round (be it for the Euros, the World Cup or the Copa Americainternational football suddenly becomes cool again.

Call me Old Fashioned, but I’d still take watching the best eleven Brazilian players take on the best eleven German players any day of the week over West Brom vs Brighton. 

#9: ‘Computer Says No!’ 

There’s not a chance we could come this far and not discuss the way the game has spiralled since the introduction to VAR in 2019.

I think it’s fair to say how we, as fans, all feel a tad bewildered by how cruel it is in ruling players offside and how, even with all the fancy electric geometry Stockley Park can perform, what exactly constitutes a handball is more confusing thanever.

Some might argue that it’s a case of ‘be careful what you wish for.’

For years, there were cries and moans that technology should become a prominent feature of the game (“look at how rugby does it!” one would say) and now that it’s here, the golden wish has become a nightmare.

The hierarchy claimed it would quell any arguments over decisions, but many fans still hold firm to the belief that debating theories over a decision was just part of the enjoyment.

Olivier Giroud and Harry Kane have both scored superb goals this month but the joy of either moment could never be fully embraced due to prolonged monitor viewings and re-viewings that followed.

#10: ‘Breaking News: Player Eats Sandwich – More to Follow.’ 

Clickbait media is a huge pep-eevee of mine.

The digital version of tabloid gossip and quotes being taken out of context drives me up the wall. What’s worse is that even Sky Sports have got in the act with misleading captions on their YouTube. Hoping to draw in views because a pundit supposedly said something controversial.

In these cases, the word ‘slams’ gets a ridiculous amount of use. With the exception of the occasional actual outburst by a manager during a press conference, very few of these ‘slams’ are ever anything to take note of.

And with this being an era of likes, shares and retweets, it’s little wonder fans often end up talking more about what pundits say or didn’t say during the broadcast of a live match instead of the game itself.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a luxury having the ability to sprawl out on the sofa and channel-hop between matches but I just don’t buy in the “explosive punditry” narrative.

In conclusion, while the game of football has indeed changed an incredible amount over the last quarter of a century, some are uncertain for the future. Will it ever be enjoyed the same way as it once was?

Attending games, even post-Covid, could become even more expensive and we’ll rely more and more on mass media to pass their opinions onto us.

Is “the game gone” though? I mean, really?

If life teaches us one thing, surely it’s that this is a common feeling that has been uttered by generations many times in the past.

History books like ‘Sport and the British’ (Richard Holt) teach us that the very notion of players being paid to play the game at all spelled certain doom during the late 19th Century.

It’s unimaginable to think now but there was even a time when a group of Scots factory workers adapted a revolutionary new tactic called ‘passing the ball.’ A ghastly idea that their English gentlemen counterparts thought to be most appalling (cite: ‘Inverting the Pyramid’ by Jonathan Wilson).

Even in my own years as a fan, I still recall my elders bemoaning the death of the game when players had the audacity to wear coloured boots and gloves while on the field. The Horror!

@JohnnyFoley1984

MY UNUSUAL LOVE AFFAIR WITH WORLD CUP USA’94.

By Jonathan Foley

Originally penned in January 2021

And a one and a two and a “Glooooray Land. In Glooorrraaay Laaand! It’s in your Heaaart! It’s innnn your Haaands! Gloooray Land! Innn Gllooorrry Land! You’re Here (You’re Here!!!) in Glooooraay Laaaannnd!”

It’s over a quarter of a century now but, Gosh darn it, there’s still just something about World Cup USA 94 that I just love rewatching all these years later.

Maybe it’s because it was played in the United States and all those montages with intercuts of eye-catching skyscrapers, ones roller-blading down sunny boulevards and packed out rodeo shows captured the imagination of my then 9 (and a half) year old self.

Perhaps it was because this was the first time I really started to learn about different cultures and customs of nations from all around the world. Something I see as an early catalyst for inspiring me to go traveling later on in my life.

Even if it was only through the magic of television, I’m not sure I’d ever seen real-life South Koreans, Africans or Latino Americans share the same emotions over football, just like I did. It made the world feel somehow smaller to me. 

One of the perks about reading up on the wee World Cup sticker album I had was that it had a little bio on each participating nation. 

That meant that for the next few years in school, I was a dab hand in Geography tests when the teacher would ask us to identify the flags or name the capital cities of such exotic locations.

As alluded to earlier, montages are something that I’ve always loved watching, particularly during a major tournament.

For me, USA 94 was arguably the first competition where the tv companies – because of the advancements in technology and wider array of camera angles filming the action on the pitch – they became much more visually attractive.

Looking back now, they were fast cut, they were colourful and many of them were mixed with a cool nineties dance music vibe that still holds up really well when you see them on YouTube today.

Even if football isn’t your thing, they’re still worth a look for the feel good nostalgia factor that often goes with popular music of that era.

“Welcome to the start of an All American Show!” was how Barry Davies put in his commentary for the BBC on the evening of Friday, 17th June.

As you could somewhat expect from the Americans being the host nation, the opening ceremony at Soldier Field in Chicago was awash with razmataz and spectacle. 

Red, white and blue balloons to raise the sense of patriotism with Diana Ross fluffing a ‘penalty shot’ that would oddly foreshadow how the actual Final would be decided four weeks later. 

The initial match between Germany and Bolivia was a pretty dour one. A single Jurgen Klinsmann goal was enough to decide it, but I’ve read since that very few US-based viewers saw that goal live.

Millions had switched channels on their TV sets. Not entirely because they were bored of the ‘soccer’ and its low scoring attribute.

Nope! It was because a police helicopter was following a chase down the highway of one OJ Simpson. It was all go in America that night!

Well not really! Local interest in the tournament wasn’t all that high. And truth be told, because the MLS didn’t exist at the time, I foolishly thought the US players were all just College boys who happened to play the game and they just threw a team together. Whoops!

Being an Irishman, it’s only right that I pay homage to some of our exploits in that tournament. It was a short stay but something of a roller coaster experience.

Now it must be remembered that the Irish have always felt some sort of ownership of some parts of the United States. Arguably with New York at the top of that bill.

Then again, so have the Italians. In a way, it was somewhat fitting that the two would be drawn to face another in a game played at the Giants Stadium in East Rutherford. 

In a game where our fans had a near monopoly of the tickets, Ray Houghton’s 12-minute ‘swinger’ with the left boot was enough to seal a famous victory for our boys. 

This was back in the days when the neighborhood kids would assemble for a match on the green between all our houses and his roly-poly became a firm favourite to imitate for the rest of that summer.

As the tournament progressed, there were other talking points that cropped up. Conversations that were taking place for the first time amongst an intrigued and curious youngster like myself watching the World Cup.

Mind you, there was room for some misguided and ill-judged premonitions too. 

-‘Did ya see that Mexican goalie who designs his own jerseys? Mad!!!’

– ‘Them Nigerian lads are cool dudes the way they dance when they score, aren’t they? But how do they all have English first names and African second names?’

– ‘Greece are pure dung! They’ll hardly win a match, let alone a tournament, in the next ten years!’ 

– ‘Oleg Salenko scored five goals in one game. He’ll be a quality signing for whoever gets him!’

– ‘Fair play to him but what age d’ya think yer man, Roger Milla, really is? They say 42, but he looks at least sixty!’

With the greatest of respect to Italia 90 four years earlier, it wasn’t really a tournament for the purists.

Half-empty stadiums, a lot of matches in damp conditions and something of a goal drought meant much of the games that summer became largely forgettable. USA 94 was different. 

Every match seemed to reach close to full attendance and the warm and sunny conditions made you want to run outside and kick a ball about yourself between almost every game. Goals came in a flurry and in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

There were diving headers, solo-runs and neat finishes, volleys, daisy-cutters, direct free kicks all busting the nets from all angles.

Granted, the dropping standard of goalkeeping did become a major talking point amongst Matthew Lorenzo and the ITV pundits one night. 

Back in the days when the late night ad breaks either read ‘Back Soon’ with some elevator music or sometimes they were for 0891-Chat Lines which, I’m guessing, cost a fortune.

They had good cause to discuss this poor goalkeeping to be fair but, as an almost 10 year old boy, goals and more goals were what you wanted to see.

Gheorgi Hagi’s rasper in the group stage for Romania against Colombia was another I regularly tried to replicate out in the back garden after. Rather unfortunately, the off-target shots meant the garage door got its fair share of muddied splotches.

The tournament produced its fairytale stories too of course. 

Nigeria caused a stir with progression to the knockout stage as group winners and could’ve gone further had the Italians not snatched an 89th-minute leveler – who went on to win in extra time –  in the second round. 

Both Bulgaria and Sweden upset the odds to reach the semifinals. 

The former pulled off a shock victory against holders Germany, when Jordan Letchkov’s flying header sailed into the German net. 

Hristo Stoichkov became a household name after the tournament. A feeling not lost on most people who later renamed his hometown after him, in his honour. Not a bad wee tribute to have bestowed.

Whereas the Swedes had a wonderful array of attacking talent with the likes of Martin Dahlin, Kenned Anderson and the youthful talents of young dreadlocked lad by the name of Henrik Larsson.

The legacy of the Dutch team’s travel arrangements would leave a permanent mark on the mind of Denis Bergkamp. After an unusually rough landing, the then Ajax forward swore he’d never fly again. A promise he stuck to. 

It might be insensitive to man’s phobia, but it was used to raise the question of whether or not Arsene Wenger should employ the tactic the A-Team used to similarly deploy with BA Barachas.

Bang his head off the door and throw him on the plane once he’s passed out. Just a thought.

At that time, I’d never heard of Saudi Arabia before, but there’s one name I’ll always remember and that is Saaed Al-Owiran. And yes, I’m pretty sure I can pronounce it right too.

A minute skinny lad who ran the full length of the field to rattle one in past Belgium. 

And no World Cup would be complete without its soap-opera like moments and by God, they came by the bucket load. 

The Republic of Ireland’s own John Aldridge losing the rag on the sideline with a FIFA official caused a very boisterous Scouse-twanged “Ya f*****g d******d!” to be heard over the airwaves. 

Not forgetting how the heat of Florida affected the Irish team so much that the team management, and Jack Charlton in particular, was cautioned for throwing on too many water bags. Then poor Steve Staunton looked as though he was going to melt faster than the witch from the Wizard of Oz.

Germany – who incidentally arrived at the tournament on the back of an official song they recorded with none other The Village People – cut their ties with midfielder Stefan Effenberg. 

After he was substituted in a group match, he gave ‘sign language’ to the crowd. His appalled manager, Berti Vogts, declared he’d “not play again until the year 2006!” Now how’s that for efficient German organization and planning? 

And to top it all off, the irrepressible Diego Armando Maradonna. Argentina’s finest. 

Celebrates a goal by running at the camera looking like he was at a rave and, maybe unsurprisingly, gets ushered off the pitch in the next game to undergo a (failed) drug test.

I mean ya just couldn’t write it, could ya?

Sadly, it wasn’t all fun. 

The Irish team’s exit came on probably the day of the one cloudy and grey-skied afternoon in the whole tournament. While the Netherlands were much the better side and well worthy of their 2-0 win. It was heartbreaking to see my fellow Donegal man in the Ireland goal, Packie Bonner, make such a costly and avoidable error from Wim Jonk’s strike.

Then, of course, there was a moment that made the trials and tribulations of football seem somewhat irrelevant. 

When the news broke that Andrés Escobar was tragically gunned down on the command of Colombian drug lords for his own goal against the USA, it was shocking news for everyone. Revelations have since unearthed about how much threat and pressure that Colombia team lived under, during the reign of Pablo Escobar; it was another lesson in the harsh reality of life.

On a lighter note, the best thing about the 1994 World Cup was the Brazil team. 

Romario, Bebeto, Dunga, Taffarel, Branco et all. Names that just rolled off the tongue and they played football like guys who were having fun to the beat of Samba music. 

The partnership of Romario and Bebeto was a dream to watch. And they too had fun in the team camp when the latter scored against the Netherlands during the quarterfinal meeting in Dallas.

Bebeto ran off pretending to cradle a baby. He even had some unknowing teammates join in.

It was only after the game that he informed his teammates that his wife had given birth to their baby boy just a few days earlier. They’d later progress to the Final after beating Sweden.

One team who had a much rockier path through the competition were Italy.

There could be a movie with an unhappy ending written about their conquests that year. There had been a media backlash after their opening game defeat to Ireland and when goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca was sent off against Norway, their manager, Arirgo Saachi, took a monumental gamble when he withdrew their starman, Roberto Baggio. 

That gamble just about paid off as Italy still managed to progress. They needed and they got all the luck going when they scraped past Nigeria – with Gianfranco Zola also being sent off in that one – and just about got past Spain in the quarters. A bad-tempered and tempestuous affair where Luis Enrique sported a bloodied nose for his troubles.

That incident came about when the officials failed to spot Mauro Tassotti swinging an elbow into his opponent’s face. As the blood ran down the face and into the now heavily-stained white Spanish jersey, the millions watching knew the Azzurri were riding their luck.

Nevertheless though, thanks to a dramatic 2-1 win where Roberto Baggio again provided a last-gasp goal, they were through.

The ‘Ponytailed Assassin’ was digging his side out of holes when it mattered most and as they made their way to the Final, it seemed as if they were doing so in a kicking-and-screaming fashion. Two goals again for Baggio in the semifinal ended Bulgaria’s noble crusade but it came at a cost, as the talismanic striker’s injury and fatigue were starting to show more and more.   

The Final itself in Pasadena was a bit of an anti-climatic way to conclude what had been a tournament full of fast-paced and high-octane matches. A 0-0 stalemate where the game resembled more of a chess game than a football match and, thus, a penalty shootout ensued with Roberto Baggio skying the decisive spot-kick miles over the bar for Brazil to win. 

Like a figure who was utterly lost to the world in disbelief at that moment, the man who had done so much to get his team to the Final was unable to save them in the end. Brazil were rightful winners in the end, but seeing Baggio standing alone on the penalty-spot while the green and gold celebrations erupted around him; it was a life-lesson for us all, in itself.

Brazil manager, Carlos Alberto Panieri, had ended Brazil’s drought of 24 years without a World Cup success. While his side would never really get the acclaim that their predecessors from 1970 had with Pelé and the likes, this Brazil side would set a new trend in motion and would go on to reach the next two World Cup Finals; winning the competition again in 2002.

All in all, while so many of the matches that summer started (because of the time-difference) after my bedtime, there’s still something so very special and memorable about what was the fifteenth installment of the World Cup finals tournament.

Using football to inadvertently study up on so many different countries and cultures from across the world was an early factor in what I feel inspired my enjoyment of travel ever since. American TV shows and movies of the mid-1990s had always captivated my imagination and now I had football to throw into that mix. 

And sure who doesn’t love a good montage, eh?

See: https://youtu.be/6s5zI2onIgU

BAR COUNTER RAMBLINGS.

Originally written in September 2018

Maybe it’s just me but have you ever taken the time to notice what Donegal people converse about most and wonder what factors influenced the creation of these talking points?

Be it at a bar counter, a supermarket aisle-way or a casual chinwag with a friend on the street, it might be no harm to pick up on the themes that so often seem to continually ressurface during a casual chat with a friend or a colleague: sport, pop-culture, politics and the weather probably spring to mind and here’s how. 

By Jonathan Foley

Firstly, let me take a wee second to explain how the idea for this week’s article came about. I recently sat down to read a book called ‘Sport and the British’ by well-respected historian, Richard Holt.

Through a study of the history of life in the United Kingdom and throughout the British Empire – of which we were once an occupant of – he presented a wonderful case for how certain parts of these islands and the world adopted certain cultures and traditions through sports. 

Without reciting the whole book, he shows the reader that the strongest nations in international rugby and cricket are all former imperial regions who took up these games during the colonisation process. 

This rings true when we see how much interest there is in rugby amongst the people of Australia and New Zealand while cricket still gathers mass popularity in places like India and the West Indies. Even this weekend as England and Scotland locked horns in The Calcutta Cup, it’s all linked to that period. 

Similarly, Holt draws a parallel with Britain itself by showing how the Industrial Revolution era of the 19th Century combined with increased leisure time and trade union laws helped develop soccer as the ‘game of the working class,’ so it should come as no real surprise that the game has thrived in cities such as Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester amongst others. 

Those who could afford the facilities required to play lawn tennis and golf in these times were often those of the higher classes. 

Moving closer to home here in Ireland, something that we can take great pride in is that, as a nation, we do possess a strong love of sport be it through gaelic games, boxing, soccer, rugby or horse-racing in particular. Yet we are not exempt from how certain parts of the island developed somewhat differing sporting interests and this is down to a number of factors that link to things such as regional culture, social-class, geography and sometimes, reasons of religion and politics or even mass-influenced media. 

Before focusing in on Donegal, a more general look at Ireland is perhaps necessary. As popular as hurling is in this country, there’s still no doubt that it thrives mainly in the south-eastern region and that’s no coincidence. 

To play the codified version of the game after 1884, there was the requirement for soft flatlands and in these parts where the ‘Garden of Ireland’ exists and where there were better relations between landowners and tenants, our national game could begin to flourish more down there.

Gaelic football took more of a precedence in the western, midland-based and northern counties (possible exemptions for Antrim and Galway) as it made more sense to play with a ball through the hand and foot when contending with playing areas that were often more bog-based and inclined than those of the south. 

It also become a form of national expression in a more hostile environment which was not something rugby faced as much in such affluent places like south-Dublin or the wider Belfast area.

In Donegal today, there still remains a tremendous interest in sports across the board. How often do we hear of people chatting or debating away about soccer for example? 

To remonstrate this point further, we certainly do a lot more than persons from the likes of Mayo and Monaghan. Celtic FC have a huge following and the majority of that is down the history of cultural migration between here and the west of Scotland – for both fans and players – but here’s why English soccer has taken such a hold here. 

Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool have had a large support here for a long time. 

Some have shunned others for their decision to follow them and as one former unnamed publican in the town said to me last week, there is more to it than what meets the eye. He believed it was down more so to the access, or lack thereof, to the coverage of sports on television and radio during the eighties and nineties. 

His theory was that prior to this era, people in Donegal didn’t care all that much about cross-channel soccer, but with the lack of Scottish and League of Ireland football being televised, people began to slowly but surely turn to English leagues and Match of the Day viewings for their enjoyment. 

With this county and town being located where it is, we were always able to pick up BBC transmissions much more than west Donegal, so it’s no real surprise that the popularity of the EPL grew hugely.

The proverbial explosion of Sky Sports and the volume of their subscribers here during the Celtic Tiger years added to this greatly. 

Moving aside from sport, other topics of conversation often come to the fore here and one of those is politics. There’s no doubt that Donegal people often become irate when we often get asked are we “from Northern Ireland or the Republic?” 

As much as we proclaim the latter, it’s maybe not always right to condemn such questions as ones being asked by the ignorant. At the end of the day there’s something that we share with only a few other counties and that is that we do have a profound interest in political matters of both regions. 

Ireland has been an island for 6000 years and less than 100 of those years have seen a line drawn on a map with our neighbour counties to the east. 

Living in the hinterland of a place that does gather so much media attention across the world – particularly during The Troubles – it seems inevitable that we should keep an eye out for what’s going on there. And yet because we are a county of the Republic, matters of interest in Dublin’s Dáil Éireann will also receive our attention. 

Thus another conversation ice-breaker arises. 

Thirdly, popular entertainment has always had a stronghold here and in all truth, it so often comes from either American or British influences. 

US sitcoms and Netflix series regularly pop up in conversations in staff rooms and in other meeting places while still on the normal everyday TV set, British-based soaps, comedies, dramas, reality shows and chat shows often dominate conversation and this trend is nothing new. If anything it’s generational. 

Some people of Letterkenny can still fondly tell you of times growing up through the years when Fawlty Towers would come on  BBC Two on a Sunday night and even for more regional-based shows like south-London’s Only Fools & Horses or Glasgow’s Still Game or Rab C. Nesbitt, we are able to understand the contextual humour and diallectual tones of these shows just as much as any local from the aforementioned cities could. 

And because we were one of the few regions in Ireland who had access to UTV for much longer periods than that of the rest of the country, that’s why, unlike others, we can remember what The Gerry Kelly Show was like or how ‘Julian from the UTV’ introduced a given episode of Coronation Street. 

Modern times have seen more topics be brought about with discussions of The X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent or I’m a Celebrity; Get Me Out of Here. None of which bare any official link to this part of the world. 

In conclusion, as Irish as we are and will always be, there’s little denying that advances made in technology and that of popular sport and entertainment have altered the course of casual conversations we often discuss in this country. 

Come to think of it, that’s always been the way! Even as far back as the time when Celtic Tradition came here from Eastern European tribes or even in the sixth century when Saint Patrick came here from Wales to preach the Christianity that was born in the Middle East and given momentum from the Roman Empire. 

We’ve always had things from afar to discuss and debate about so what I’m discussing here is nothing new really. 

Focusing closer to home, both Ulster and more national politics have gripped us and the sports and entertainments we follow most are there because of geographical, socio-political, technological and even trendy factors. 

Even through all this of course, it’s not be forgotten that we always have time to bring up the one thing we simply can’t control and that of course is the weather. Born from our tradition of agriculture, where weather plays an utmost important role, there’s always time to bring how ‘that day would clean founder ye!’ 

Having said that however, here’s hoping that as the month of March edges closer, we’ll soon be seeing a ‘grand stretch in the evenings, hiy!’