Monday, 4 November 2013


It’s never good when a passion becomes an obsession, so I gave myself a double take the other day. I was reading Eamon Dunphy writing in his recently-released autobiography ‘Rocky Road’ about Bill Shankly’s Liverpool, on the way up from Division Two.

Thing is, I’d just stopped reading David Peace’s ‘Red or Dead’ about Shankly’s Liverpool to read this, another football-related book, which was now showing me a different side of the same events of a football club and its manager, several decades ago.

Was I maybe just possibly losing it in the noodle a little with all the football?

While I’ve over-boiled a lot of my mental spaghetti over the years, thankfully football is not a problem. It’s under control, y’know what I mean, like like like I can live with it and I can live without it. Like, last week, y’know, I went a couple of days without watching it or reading about it. Well, more like one day really. But it’s under control. Honest.

Anyway, the reason I need to read Dunphy’s book in such a hurry is that I’m going to be interviewing the man himself, in Dubray’s Bookshop, Shop Street, Galway, on November 7th. I’ll be asking him questions for 20 minutes or so, there’ll be a couple of questions from the floor (that’s you if you come, not the laminate strips) and then he’ll read from his new book.

So while thinking back to the book I’d just relinquished about Shankly, I was reading Dunphy writing about Shankly. He couldn’t recall why he turned down the chance to play for Shankly’s Liverpool. Back then they were in Division Two, which we now call the Championship.

Actually, the difference between those two league titles sums up perfectly why I’m (maybe just a squidgem) obsessed with the game.

You see, in them there far off days, when men was men and refs waved play on, the four top leagues in England had no nonsense to ‘em: 1,2,3, and 4. There was no need for the liberal wrapping and fancy tinsel of today’s Premiership, Championship and the Less Wonderful But Still Worthy Of Corporate Sponsorship-Ships, now optimistically called Leagues 1 and 2.

When you won League Division One in the 60 and 70s, you knew well enough you were the best team. No rockets, no exploding multicoloured glitter balls. Each team had eleven players on the field (12 if your manager was into bungs), and there was one named substitute, who came on only if somebody’s head was broken off. The game was played with vigour and violence, more akin to today’s ice hockey and the GAA/Aussie Mish-Mash Rules.

Being a Chelsea fan, I was at Wembley to watch the legendary 1970 Chelsea-Leeds FA Cup Final, and now, when I watch the same game again on DVD, I roar out loud with laughter. The Snapper has grown to love the Beautiful Game during the Premiership years, so she’s mystified to see Leeds’ captain Billy Bremner deliver an excellent and completely unprovoked left hook to Chelsea’s Peter Housman, off the ball, right in front of the ref, who then waves play on.

Chelsea’s captain was nicknamed ‘Chopper’. Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris, who could do you harm. Norman Hunter bit your legs, so they said. These days, tap your TV, see the strikers all fall over.

I’m not saying that the old game was better. Today’s players are overpaid prima donnas who prostrate themselves upon reaching the penalty area with such enthusiasm, you’d think they’d just finished the Camino de Santiago. Yet they are far more athletic than those 1970s hunks of manhood. They are incredibly skilful and fast, covering far more ground than their predecessors.

I’d like to say I had the pleasure of watching Johnny Giles play, but this Chelsea fan finds it hard. Leeds and Chelsea were intense rivals in those days, so I watched the Irish magician’s skills more with fear than the respect they deserved. The same goes sadly for Liam Brady, who was a wonderful footballer, despite the fact that he was a Gooner.

Tragically for us viewers, Brady was equally as exciting to watch as a footballer as he is crushingly dull to watch in the RTE Studio. His observations are insightful and interesting, but his delivery leaves me feeling I’ve stuffed dried cardboard into my mouth. On his right flank, John Giles is smart, dependable yet unexciting. Inevitably, it’s 'Dunpho' who makes the show come alive.

I’d never heard of Eamon Dunphy before I came to Ireland, and don’t buy into this idea that he’s the marmite of Irish football. You can’t pin him down enough to really hate him. His opinions are as unpredictable as they are challenging. The man is rarely boring, as presenter or writer. He has charisma, which makes a rare outing naked of authority, because of his propensity to be outrageous.

Despite many of your best wishes, Eamon Dunphy holds an important place in today’s Ireland. Everyone I’ve told about the upcoming interview has given a far greater reaction than I anticipated. Evidently, people are eager to see him, talk of him, listen to him and inevitably disparage and disagree with him.

The only Ireland matches I’ve missed on TV since moving here were played at the same time as an England game. After many fairly gruesome Irish displays, I’ve been both amused and infuriated by Eamon Dunphy’s punditry, but would rather watch him than the anodyne BBC alternative of Lineker and Shearer.

I reckon the man’s probably talked enough about Saipan, so I’m working on some questions he might not have been asked before. Ah sure, mind you, I can’t imagine we’ll get through the night without the words ‘Roy’ and ‘Keane’ being spoken in tandem, and suggest that you arrive promptly at DuBray’s, as it is a relatively small area in which to house such an expansive personality (and that Dunphy fella too!). See you there.

Interview and reading with Eamon Dunphy,
Dubray’s Bookshop
Shop Street, Galway City
Thursday November 7th, 5:30pm

©Charlie Adley

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