Diary Of A Gooner
Club and Country
Wednesday the 13th of October 2004. There I was, sitting in the East Stand of Landsdowne Road in Dublin. Ireland are still in the hunt for World Cup qualification and tonight should be a formality. The opposition are the sheep farmers of the Faroe Islands so nothing less that victory is acceptable.
In the end the 2-0 scoreline is merely the sub-plot to the story as tonight is the night that Robbie Keane breaks the all time scoring record for his national side. The crowd go wild and chant the name of their hero.
I myself am out of my seat cheering with the best of them, but within me a tiny twinge, a slight pang of discomfort. Before Keane the two previous holders had been former gunners Niall Quinn and Frank Stapleton, but now the mantle is carried by a Tott.
To be honest, this has never been much of an issue for me. Due to the lack of money and the absence of any kind of organisational accumen on the part of the F.A.I., all our best players play in foreign leagues (predominently
England and Scotland). When it comes to announcing squads they usually throw in one token name from the Irish league, but this is pure window dressing. So being Irish and a gooner, the whole club v country issue had
pretty much passed me by. Of course we have had Totts in the team before, Tony Galvin and Chris Hughton being the names that instantly spring to mind, but that wasn't today nor yesterday so I think that I was probably too young to care then.
Now however, the leading light of Irish football (Galvin and Hughton were hardly that, even in their prime), the all time record goal scorer for the 'green army' also has his name sang out on a regular basis by the likes of
Chirpy, White Hart, BigYid and more troublingly Weststandvoice. My question is, does this really matter?
Like the rest of you, I am in deep. The cut and thrust of supporting a football team automatically involves engaging in rivalry with other clubs.
It's the nature of the beast and it's not something we need to apologise for. Hooligans and people who partake in football related violence have ultimately gone too far, but with the depth of feeling that you can develop for your team it is not hard to understand the evolution of hooliganism. It's our patch against yours and that's is all that matters, on match day at least.
Then, in the midst of all this love and hate, someone decides to play your country against someone elses and all of a sudden your patch has been transformed into the entire nation and you are expected to stand shoulder
to shoulder with people you have otherwise learned to despise. Strong words I know, but take it back to '91 and the F.A. Cup Semi Final, try and remember how you felt at the final whistle. Or even this year, the
Highbury game when Spurs played on with two of ours down and scored, at that moment how did you feel about your neighbors from the other end of the Seven sisters? I am guessing you weren't in your happy place!
This year at the World Cup your hopes and dreams of England success will be carried by (amongst others of course) quite a few Totts. How do you process this? Can you simply put your club into the forgotten place of
your heart for the duration of the tournament or is there always a little niggle inside you that twists when one of them scores a goal or indeed saves a penalty? I invite you all to share your views on this, maybe I am
way off, maybe love of country supercedes all other emotions, but for me it is a little more complex. When Keane bangs one in for Ireland you will find me smiling, but the question keeps coming.
How can I love this guy on Wednesday night and hate him all over again on Saturday afternoon?