Longford Town preview and articles

Bray Wanderers meet Longford Town at the Carlisle Grounds on Friday, 18 September in the First division. Due to Covid restrictions the match will be played with limited spectators allowed into the ground on the evening. 

Due to the limited attendance there will be no match day programme printed. Instead our regular match day programme articles from Michael Duffy, Brian Quigley and Mícheál Ó hUanacháin will appear as part of our match preview on the website.

Match Preview (Michael Duffy)

Bray Wanderers went top of the First Division after last weeks win away to Wexford FC. The win in Wexford was Wanderers third consecutive league win and it was also the third consecutive league game in which Wanderers scored three goals in a game. Wanderers have won five and drawn one of their last six league games and are unbeaten at home in their last 11 home  league games.

Friday’s game will be the 65th meeting of Bray Wanderers and Longford Town in all competitions. Wanderers lead on the head to head with 31 wins against Longford’s 19. Friday’s game will be the 56th league meeting between the sides with Wanderers leading on the league head to head with 25 wins to Longford’s 18. Bray defeated Longford Town 2-0 in the previous league meeting this season in Bishopsgate last month with two goals from ex-Longford man Gary Shaw.

‘Boys Of ‘86’ (Brian Quigley)

I left school in 1986, and I think of my classmates as ‘The Boys Of ‘86’. So, I feel a certain affinity with the West Ham United squad of 1985-86 who finished third in the old First Division in that campaign for what was, and remains, the club’s highest-ever league placing. West Ham fans nicknamed the squad ‘The Boys Of ‘86’ and they became immortal.

Phil Parkes was the goalkeeper. A great keeper, he had spent the entirety of the 1970s with Queens Park Rangers and spent the entirety of the 1980s with West Ham, turning out 344 times exactly for each side in a neat piece of symmetry. At Loftus Road he had been part of QPR’s greatest-ever side, namely the one that finished runners-up to Liverpool in the First Division in 1975-76 under Dave Sexton, so it was another neat piece of symmetry that saw him also be part of West Ham’s greatest-ever side.

Growing up it was easy to confuse Phil Parkes with… Phil Parkes. There were two great goalkeepers operating in the First Division at the same time, the other Phil being the long-serving Wolverhampton Wanderers custodian who played at Molineux between 1964 and 1978.

Phil ‘West Ham’ Parkes played in every game of the 1985-86 campaign, 42 in total. Mark Ward in midfield and defender Tony Gale (who would win a Premier League medal with Blackburn Rovers in 1995) were also ever-present, and strikers Tony Cottee and Frank McAvennie only missed one game each.

Cottee, who was club Player of the Year that term, netted 20 times and McAvennie netted 26. With the goals flowing from their strikers, Parkes solid between the nets and a great team in between, it is easy to see why Joe Melling in the Daily Express wrote that the Hammers were “the best team in the land”. I certainly loved watching them at any opportunity I got.

John Lyall was West Ham’s long-serving manager (he was in charge at Upton Park for 15 years between 1974 and 1989) and his side had finished a lowly sixteenth in 1984-85. He brought in McAvennie and Ward and things just clicked, in particular McAvennie’s partnership with Cottee. 26 of the 42 games were won as the club narrowly finished behind Everton and Liverpool. A place in the 1986-87 UEFA Cup was won but the Hammers – like all English clubs – couldn’t take their place because of the ban after the events in Heysel.

The magnificent season was particularly pleasing to the players who had been at Upton Park for the long haul. Captain Alvin Martin and Alan Devonshire had been there since 1976, and Geoff Pike had been there since 1974. Others, like Cottee, had come through the club’s academy.

Just like my own ‘Boys Of ‘86’ have occasional school reunions, West Ham’s ‘Boys Of ‘86’ get together every so often, usually for a charitable cause such as helping Great Ormond Street Hospital. Long may their memory live on.

 I hope you enjoy the game this Friday night. We are top of the league and need to stay there. C’mon the Seagulls!

Where we are now

Mícheál Ó hUanacháin looks at the long-drawn out saga of the attempts to rehabilitate the FAI, through the eyes of the past

May I introduce William “Bill” Stanbridge?  Even in his heyday, his name would not have been particularly well-known outside his immediate circle, but his pen-name was.  After the fashion of the times, newspaper reporters were not generally named, and the few who were, were usually granted the privilege only by way of a pen-name.

“Nat” of the Herald

‘Nat’ was the by-line of the Evening Herald‘s principal soccer writer from the early 1920s until his untimely death in March 1951 (less than 24 hours after filing a match report), and he was highly regarded in the game.  As his Irish Independent colleague Kieran Kenealy wrote at the time, Stanbridge “had probably a more thorough knowledge of his subject than any other sports journalist”.  Unusually, he “enjoyed the confidence of almost every soccer legislator down the years.”

In addition to his extensive reporting of the senior game, ‘Nat’ also contributed weekly notes on Junior football over the years, and noted among other things the rise of Shamrock Boys, and their successors, Shamrock Old Boys, in the 1920s and 30s.  Reading between the lines, he was highly critical of the actions of the Leinster Association during the Sunday Alliance crisis in 1934/5, and he was well-informed during the expansion and consolidation of teams in Bray in the 1940s.

Known as ‘Stan’ in the office, Stanbridge was clearly well in with the Association, as he functioned as a kind of Clerk of the press corps on behalf of the FAIFS for major fixtures.  In particular, his column noted that “applications for Press tickets are to be made to WJ Stanbridge, Independent House, Middle Abbey Street” for International matches and the Free State Cup Final in 1927.

Of course, Independent Newspapers were in the commendable habit (for circulation purposes, be it admitted) of compiling and printing ‘programmes’ for significant fixtures – not just the rare Internationals proper, but also senior international representative games (League v League), Cup Finals etc., and distributing them free.  Souvenirs of this sort were handed out outside the grounds, as a matter of routine, but in at least a couple of instances when ‘approved’ by the FA, they were available only inside the ground.

Bearing in mind that meetings of bodies like the League Management Committee and the Leinster Association Council were then held “in public” – at least to the extent that reporters were admitted – the coverage of their debates and decisions was highly informative, far more so than has been the case in recent years.  And the analysis and comments on them were accordingly pointed and compelling.

Like many well-informed observers of sport, Stanbrdge had ideas for the improvement of the game and its administration.  He was an early supporter of the idea of an inter-county tournament, which eventually became the Oscar Traynor competition, and his comments on the various attempts to heal the breach between North and South would bear a closer reading at present.

But one of his his constant annoyances was the devil he called “clubism”, the pursuit by individual clubs of decisions that would serve their own purposes, regardless of their impact on other clubs.  Everything of any significance had to be decided by vote, and for example proposals to expand the League from the ten clubs usual at that time were normally voted down – it was widely believed that there was little if any support available for any further Dublin teams, but the addition of new provincial teams would add heavily to the expense of the season.

Rows would break out about fixtures: at a time when almost all businesses worked a Saturday half-day, clubs in Cork or Limerick or Sligo found it next to impossible to field a full-strength team in Dublin on that day, while some clubs, notably Bohemians who had a longstanding rule against it, were averse to playing Sunday games.  Even as senior games were increasingly played on that day, there was to-ing and fro-ing between the clubs, in attempts to ensure the best attendance and “gate” for their own team.

Let me summarise ‘Nat’s view in his own words, from a column published in March 1934:

“What might be termed clubism has developed too much and too far.  In the stringent monetary circumstances existing clubs cannot be blamed if they are insular in their outlook and self-centred in their actions. Still that policy or practice is detrimental eventually to their own interests. What is required is more co-operation. And that can best be secured by the creation of a body whose members will impartially see that the welfare of every club is given due and equal consideration.

“The body to which reference is made is that Supreme Council for which I have been advocating for years, since I saw the first signs of the crisis that has now been reached.  The personnel of this Council would necessarily have no club affiliations and … would possess plenary powers, though except in extreme cases, they would only guide and supervise the proceedings of existing Leagues and Councils.”

Well, many years later, the Association dealt with the still continuing difficulties of the League by absorbing it – or so they believed.  The FAI, being staffed by people “with no club affiliation”, would know much better than the clubs how to run a League, with less time lost over factional disputes, and a governing body less in thrall to the wishes of individual clubs.  But, possibly predictably, what might be termed “associationism” replaced clubism as the prevalent syndrome, as the repute of the game (and by extension the Association) had to be guarded by harsh measures and big fines, and the needs of the International team became the primary consideration.

Needless to say, the presence of reporters at the meetings of both League and Association had long been outlawed.

It is not the structure of the Association that caused the debacle into which it descended and which it is now slowly attempting to escape.  Nevertheless, the principal alterations to date, guided and supervised by people outside the game whose interests are not supposed to be relevant to their advice, have been to those very structures of the Association, and not least of which has been the creation of a governing body half of whose members “have no club affiliations”, and indeed some of whom may have little or no sport affiliation.

This is not what Stanbridge had in mind, although I suspect his big idea – strangely, for a man so deeply immersed in the game – was more than a little naïve.  What is more troubling, now, is the impact this new structure will have on the organisation of the game itself, at all levels, which is the primary function of such a body.

The new governing body may make the Association “fit for purpose” in terms of company law and governance, which are clearly among the matters that seem to have been largely ignored for a long time, in Merrion Square and latterly in Abbotstown.

It remains to be seen whether it will be fit for the purpose of overseeing a sprawling, partisan, argumentative and predominantly voluntary horde of soccer-loving administrative amateurs, whose representative role has always been, and will continue to be, to advance the interests of their own particular area of the game.