What is about football stadiums that we hold so dear to our heart?
They’re only bricks and mortar after all. But it’s also so much more than that. It’s where memories are made, where we make our fortnightly pilgrimage, where individuals come together as one homogenous mass to get behind a common goal.
The football ground plays a huge role in the local community, one that often goes unnoticed. It’s never truly felt until it’s gone.
In the latest episode of the Nostalgia Ultras podcast, I was joined by Chris Lee of Outside Write to discuss why stadiums are so important, what makes a good stadium, the soullessness of modern arena, and special ones from the past that we dearly miss.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from everyone at Nostalgia Ultras! To celebrate our first year as a podcast and somehow reaching 25 episodes, Ste McGovern and Colm Boohig bring you the first annual Christmas Selection Box.
Rather than focus on one subject as we usually do, we talked about a number of things for which we didn’t have to do any research, and for that, we are truly grateful this holiday season.
We each revealed our favourite Irish footballers of the Premier League era, talked about Ireland’s footballing diaspora, our favourite sports books of the year, some choice moments from our first few months in podcasting, and gave our unpopular opinions.
Currently we have no time frame for when the pod will return in the New Year, but we will be taking some time to improve the podcast, get it on more platforms, and bring you more content in the future. Thanks to everyone who invested their time in following our work throughout 2018. Hope you all have a wonderful 2019 and continue listening to our show!
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:
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.
Giovanni Trapattoni’s reign as Republic of Ireland manager is generally regarded as a failed experiment, but there were some great moments in between the depressing style of play and weird team selections.
Ste, Colm and Brian remembered the good times with Trap on the latest podcast, but the conversation inevitably turns to the bad times, and a wider debate on the state of Irish football and what the Italian’s hiring represented for the game on this island.
There’s also some chat on the Liam Miller Tribute Match, dad bods in nineties football, and the 1998 Tour De France.
When Holland came to Lansdowne Road on September 1st, 2001, they brought with them a mighty squad full of world-class talent; a master tactician and Champions League winning manager; a reputation as one of international football’s greatest forces; and a huge weight of expectation on their shoulders.
The Dutch left that day with nothing.
So how did a team featuring Ruud van Nistelrooy, Patrick Kluivert, Marc Overmars, Jaap Stam, Mark van Bommel and Edwin van der Sar fail to get a result against the Irish? How exactly was it possible that a nation that could leave Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Giovanni van Bronckhorst on the bench couldn’t beat a ten-man Ireland?
Listen to the latest episode of the Nostalgia Ultras podcast, where we discussed Ireland vs Netherlands in the World Cup qualifiers in 2001, to find out how the famous 1-0 victory went down: