#23: Paddy McCourt And The Decline Of Old School Wingers

When it comes to dazzling crowds with insane skills and incredible dribbling skills, there is nothing quite like the old school winger. Taking the ball out wide, beating not just one, but several bamboozled men, before smashing the ball past a helpless goalkeeper and into the net.

Few players possessed this ability quite so clearly as Paddy McCourt, also known as ‘Messi with a beard’. While he never played at the highest level, the Northern Irishman proved his worth to all the clubs he represented, including Derry City, Celtic and Barnsley.

Recently retired, having fired Finn Harps to promotion into the League of Ireland Premier Division in the final game of his career, we ponder whether or not McCourt is the last of a dying breed, and why, on the latest episode of the Nostalgia Ultras podcast.

We also tackled the rather philosophical question of whether football is about entertainment or results, Ste’s local team Ballybrack FC, and the new documentary Take The Ball Pass The Ball.

Listen to the latest episode of Nostalgia Ultras here: 

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Read Colm’s piece on Paddy McCourt’s career here.

Episode 23 of Nostalgia Ultras – Paddy McCourt

#22: Poppygate and Swindon Town with David Squires

David Squires joined us on the latest episode of the Nostalgia Ultras podcast to talk about his new book, Goalless Draws, a compilation of all his best work over the last four years.

The Guardian’s resident football cartoonist talks us through the process of trying to pick the best comics out of the 300 or so he’s drawn for the newspaper, why self-doubt can be a healthy tool a creator, and how to strike the right balance when drawing comics about tragics events, such as the recent death of the Leicester City owner.

We also touch on the insanity of Poppygate, James McClean, the death of satire, Emo José Mourinho, the unintentional hilarity of LinkedIn, and his beloved Swindon Town.

Listen To Our David Squires Interview Here:

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david squires

You can buy David Squire’s new book Goalless Draws here (with free delivery).

#21: The Essence of Eric Cantona

How many footballers have had as big an effect on British football in the last thirty years as Eric Cantona? There have been better footballers (although not many), but the Frenchman’s influence on the game in England is demonstrable and far-reaching.

To find out why this is the case on the latest Nostalgia Ultras podcast, Ste McGovern and Colm Boohig look into his complex and often contradictory personality and how this was reflected in his style of football. We also tackle a blasphemous suggestion; was The King in fact overrated?

Listen to our Eric Cantona episode here:

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During the course of the episode, we talked about Cantona’s piece in The Player’s Tribune and his willingness to talk about his background, including the incredible story of his grandparents fleeing Spain from General Franco’s Nationalist forces. This story has helped to shape who Cantona and the type of footballer he became.

Since retiring from football Eric The Red has moved into acting and poetry, but how is it that this person who often comes across as soft-spoken and in touch with his emotional side has been prone to flashes of severe violence on the football pitch? How is it that a player who came across as stunningly arrogant and a showboat on the field of play, is also incredibly humbly and socially concious?

We tried to thread these contradictions of Cantona into a cohesive answer, but the Frenchman is a mercurial character, and perhaps will never be fully understood. But at least we can remember what a bloody great footballer he was.

#20: Charming Yet Inhospitable, Remembering The Old Lansdowne Road

Home to Irish football and rugby for over a hundred years, the old Lansdowne Road stadium was the scene of a myriad of special moments in Irish sporting history before being demolished to make way for the Aviva Stadium.

Ste McGovern, Colm Boohig and Peter Henry (FootballFaithful.com), reminisce about the old ground, freezing cold nights, pissing on the terraces, five Mars bars for a pound, and some incredible football memories along the way.

Listen to the latest episode of the Nostalgia Ultras podcast here:

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Remembering The Old Lansdowne Road

What makes a house a home?

Rose-tinted glasses make everything look, well, rosier, but every now and again we permit ourselves to out on a pair of hindsight spectacles and reminisce fondly.

Despite never actually belonging to the sport’s governing body in Ireland, Lansdowne Road felt like the true home of Irish football for several generations of fans. Residents of Dalymount park still cling to that moniker, but it is a relic of a bygone era that somehow still remains. Lansdowne at least had the good grace to make way, eventually.

While the East Stand was impressive in a way, the rest of the ground was ancient. The terraces were the product of a different time. As were the beams holding up the West Stand, obstructing views right, left and centre. The place shook ever so slightly whenever a DART ran underneath, a sure sign of its age. Those with standing tickets had to queue to use the temporary portaloos, leading some to not bother waiting in line and relieve themselves there and then on the South Terrace.

And in typically Irish fashion, the weather was generally unforgiving. On a sunny day you were oppressed by the heat beating down on you. On a rainy day you were soaked to the bone. Almost every time I attended a match there I was frozen solid. You were truly at the mercy of the elements in the open arena.

And yet, there was a charm to it all. The floodlights. The clubhouse inside the ground. Being able to see inside the stadium from the DART. The old school scoreboard. Getting five Mars bars for a pound.

As all of my memories of the old Lansdowne Road are exclusively from my childhood, the schoolboy stand holds a special place in this writer’s heart. The access to cheap tickets was tremendous, allowing our entire football team attend together on occasion. That in particular is sorely missed. Sure, there are child season tickets available at decent rates these days. But it’s not the same. Whereas the terrace allowed you to roam wherever you please — sometimes allowing you to jump into the premium front row seats when they had been vacated towards the end of a game — now the youngsters have to be piled into one row of seating. Perhaps this is just a personal grievance, given I had to sit in front of one such restless group during the famous 1-0 win over Germany.

The age of the ground was a problem, of course, but it also had its benefits. The dressing rooms and other surrounds were not up to the same standards to which more salubrious opposition were accustomed. This was taken to another level every now and again, the level of the grass changing depending on the technical ability of the visitors. A bit of shithousery never hurt anyone.

Like any home, it carries bad memories as well as good ones.

The English riot in 1995 is the obvious go-to here, but there was also Jack Charlton’s first game as Ireland manager, which ended in a 1-0 friendly loss to Wales in 1986. Big Jack would have to wait over a year to get his first win at the ground; a 1-0 friendly victory over Brazil.

From that point until 2007, the Republic of Ireland lost just five competitive games at the old Lansdowne Road (Spain, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, France). A fortress, pure and simple.

The shiny new Aviva Stadium has already played host to as many competitive losses in half that time (Russia, Germany, Sweden, Serbia, Denmark), including a couple of heavy beatings. Is there a connection there? Maybe, maybe not. A more welcoming ground might give you less of an edge, but there are many variables at play here, not just the stadium.

It does play into this narrative that the Aviva is not really ‘home’. It is superior than its predecessor in almost every conceivable way; better seats, better toilets, better bars, and just better aesthetics. By the end of the previous era, sports fans were crying out for a new stadium we could be proud of. We’ve got that now, but for all we’ve gained, we’ve also lost a lot. The aforementioned affordable tickets, the ease of access which has been replaced by the maddening crowd control, and, most of all, the once great atmosphere.

Ironically, the Dublin 4 venue always felt like a football stadium, despite being owned by the Irish Rugby Football Union. Now it feels like a rugby venue in which football just happens to be played in, despite the fact the FAI no co-own it.

In so many ways, the old Lansdowne Road stadium was an anachronism. It was impoverished, creaking, and past its sell-by date. A real shithole. But it was our shithole. Home.


 

#19: Paul Gascoigne’s Adventure at Lazio, with Daniel Storey

Paul Gascoigne signed for Lazio in 1992 for a then-British record fee, despite having spent the previous year on the sidelines following a serious knee injury sustained in the 1991 FA Cup Final. During his three-year sojourn in Italy, Gascoigne played in a little over 40 games and scored just six goals; injury and fitness continually got the better of this mercurial number ten. Despite the constant layoffs, “Gazza” remains an icon to Lazio fans to this day, as seen in this triumphant return to the Stadio Olympico in 2012 before the Roman club’s Europa League game with Spurs. So why do supporters of the Biancocelesti love him so much?

Daniel Storey, author of Gazza In Italy, explains the allure of Gascoigne to Colm Boohig on the latest podcast:

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You can listen to a brief reading from the audio book by James Richardson here: