Friday 21 October 2016

Paul Hyland: FA are taking no prisoners in Aviva plan


WHEN you read the content of the English FA's email to their 3000 registered supporters, the mind boggles. Is this a game or a military campaign?

There's the propaganda war to stop nutters singing anti-IRA songs (when was that ever a bad idea?) by substituting a few new words in the right place to drown out the offenders if they bellow out their nonsense.

There's the quasi-military wing of the operation involving both police forces and when you realise that all of this probably necessary, you wonder why we are bothering at all.

There will be plenty of talk of a moral debt owed to Irish football because a bunch of morons decided to rip up the West Stand and unload it onto those below back in 1995 (see picture, above).

And there'll be other stuff about the 'Auld Enemy' when in real terms, English football has been an old friend over the years providing an environment for our best players to flourish and earn a living from their feet.

We have our nutters too. For years, a hard-core Republican element sang their tired old songs home and away and nobody ever mentioned it.

They haven't gone away either. They were singing about the IRA at the Allianz Arena in Munich back in November. Not many, just a handful and you wonder would FIFA even understand the irony of that fact.

There are people still so rooted in the past that they still feel the need to fight a war which is long over.

Clearly the English lunatic fringe still believes that we all have pictures of Gerry Adams, The Pope and Jesus over the fireplace in the good room and it has to be said, John Delaney, the FAI CEO, can only have given them some encouragement when he gave a rendition of a tune about a hunger striker in a pub.

No doubt that went down well with the type of people who like Nigel Farage.

But of course there are hard-headed, practical reasons why the FAI wanted this game. It will be a razor sharp preparation game for Martin O'Neill in advance of Scotland but the debt currently hanging over Lansdowne Road, stubbornly huge since the stadium was opened, is the main one.

There is a curious karma to the notion that English footballers will help service a debt on a stadium which their supporters tried to dismantle.

The EFA was kind enough to acknowledge the part played by footballers from Ireland when they celebrated their 150th anniversary and invited us over to play at Wembley. That was, in part, something of an atonement.

But that game took place in a stadium which is pretty much permanently in security lock-down. Football policing is a fine art in England now as anyone who has been to a game there knows. There is zero tolerance even though the high water mark of hooliganism in the mid-80s has been washed away by years of this tough approach.

For the recent Scotland v England game at Parkhead, police forces went into action days before the event, blocking known thugs from, travelling. All police leave in the city and beyond was cancelled.

It was a success and everyone breathed a big sign of relief. There was a couple of dozen arrests and practically none at the ground. We must hope that the Gardai can say the same on June 8.


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