Football Special Report #3: Falkirk vs Glasgow Celtic, Scottish Division One, 19/09/1992

Last time on the Football Special Report we looked at a heated clash in Derry from 1994 and some preceding League of Ireland supporter history. We now take a quick hop through time and space across to their celtic (pronounced “keltic”) cousins in the Scotland of 1992, for the quite appropriately named Celtic (pronounced “seltick”) of Glasgow and their hosts Falkirk (proncouned “falkirk”) of Falkirk.

Background:

There are several things of note about today’s featured match that collectively exemplify association football in the era. Besides kit fashion and ground configuration, this included the reality of potential crowd trouble at basically any given game, even if a general downturn had occurred down in England at the end of the ’80s.

But Scotland of course had their own fan culture scene, in which besides the obvious Old Firm and everything that went with it, Aberdeen can claim status as among the godfathers of the casual movement. There is also the anomaly of Dundee and Dundee United Sharing a firm, the excellently named Love Street Division of St. Mirren, and Aberdeen again being able to claim the earliest UK ultras group in the Red Ultras (slightly unimaginatively named in retrospect, but revolutionary for the time).


A display from Aberdeen's Red Ultras from a 2006 game vs Rangers.

Crowd trouble and supporter mischief were already marked issues at Scottish league games by the early 1970s, and this was particularly evident on a day in 1973 when the managers of the two big Glasgow clubs felt compelled to get involved. A newspaper reported that Celtic manager Jock Stein had entered his away fans enclosure at Sterling Albion to lambast young supporters who had been waving an Irish tri-colour and singing Irish rebel songs. At the same time back in Glasgow, Rangers manager Willie Waddell had addressed the Ibrox stadium before their game, including the following as reported by the newspaper:

“It is to the tykes, hooligans, touts and drunkards that I now pin point my message. This is no appeal to their better selves – this is a declaration of war. So you are warned – do not bring alcohol. Do not throw cans. Do not use obscene language. Do not sing provocative songs.”

The innocence of it. On the same day, there had also been trouble at Dumarton FC’s fixture against  Hearts, when visiting supporters were changing ends at half time. Several arrests were made to cheers from the “normal” fans.

At a national level, those down south would quiver in fear at the regular visits of Scottish hordes for British Home Championship games and club encounters alike, with a reputation for drunk and disorderly behavior. Statistically, alcoholism was five times more likely for a Scot than an Englishman as of 1967, and the stereotype was not helped by the likes of a Newcastle vs Rangers Fairs Cup semi-final in 1969 that had to be held up for 20 minutes due to rioting Rangers fans, and a friendly between Aston Villa and Rangers in 1976 that was called off for the same reason (games themselves both worthy of an article, but unfortunately footage does not seem to exist of either).

One of the most famous mass pitch invasions of all time occurred the following year at Wembley, after Scotland secured the Home Championship with a 2-1 victory over England in June 1977. During the celebrations – the highlight of which revolved around the destruction of the Wembley goalposts – commentator John Motson remarked how there had been a pitch invasion of the same sort from the Scots ten years earlier, and while fences were popping up at grounds around the country due to the general increase in crowd trouble, Wembley had yet to install their’s so the visiting supporters were free to encroach again here. He also mentions how these scenes of chaotic jubilation are “so typically Scottish”.


The goals come down as Scotland celebrate the 1977 British Home Nations championship victory in Wembley.

A few months later and the Tartan Army would be on English soil again, this time for a crucial World Cup qualifier away to Wales that was actually played at Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium. Wales had seen crowd trouble of their own when Yugoslavia were the opponents in Cardiff’s Ninian Park in 1976, and as a result the potentially volatile visit of the Scots was moved out of the usual national team home ground. The Welsh FA chose revenue over home-advantage by selecting to play the game across the border at the larger Anfield in order to sell more tickets, rather than Wrexham’s smaller Racecourse Ground.

Unlike Wembley, Anfield was in fact equipped with fences, which was a good thing for those intending to maintain order on the pitch, but in the terraces it was a different matter. The many thousands who had made their way down south for the game erupted into an epic sea of ecstatic chaos on the huge terrace behind the goal for Scotland’s two strikes late in the game, which secured World Cup qualification. Doubtlessly this would have spilled onto the pitch if not for the fences (as we have seen before at the same fixture 11 years earlier in People On The Pitch #2) and the amazing pandemonium demonstrated that a football match was certainly not a “family environment” at this time.


Scotland fans erupt as their side go 1-0 up "away" to Wales at Anfield in October 1977.

But it would be three years later back in Glasgow that Scottish football mayhem would reach it’s nadir, with the 1980 cup final riot between Celtic and Rangers fans. The conflict in Northern Ireland – to which the two clubs were inexorably linked due to their historical community affiliations – was at it’s height, doubtlessly spurring on the already existing tensions between the two huge rivals. After a Celtic victory, things would boiled over on that hot May day in Hampden Park, but as we definitely will be covering this game in full later, we won’t say more until then.


Scenes from 1980 Scottish Cup final riot between Celtic and Rangers supporters.

Throughout the following decade, more ogranised hooligan elements would spring up at Scottish clubs as they were doing throughout Britain, but good old spontaneous break-outs of trouble were still always a possibility. Celtic were again involved in another infamous incident at a UEFA Cup game in the mid-’80s that resulted in their following European fixture being played behind closed doors (again, we will come back to this later).


An empty Celtic Park as Celtic are forced to play Atletico Madrid behind closed doors in the 85/86 Cup Winners Cup.

That bring us up the dawn of the ’90s, and Celtic’s visit to Falkirk FC during the ’92/’93 season. Falkirk were a smaller team (although notably their foundation date of 1876 predates Celtic’s by 12 years) not as well known for violence, and today Wikipedia lists their two modern firms as the Falkirk Fear and Falkirk Yoof; names which ironically don’t really instill much fear at all. But while we’re not going to see any mass chaos at Falkirk here, we however will see how even a single individual can sometimes be enough to stop a match in it’s tracks.

The Match:

The first thing to highlight, as we often like to do, is the kits. Celtic’s Packie Bonner (“Packie” being a colloquial Irish shortening of Patrick) can be seen in a classic early ’90s Umbro goalkeepr strip in delicious yellow and dark green-tones that just hits the spot:

Visible in the above shot is also the fact that supporters in wheelchairs were positioned right beside the grass of the pitch, behind and to the sides of the goal. This seems heartwarming, but then again also indicates a lack of actual facilitates for such fans, as well as the proximity to goal creating a potentially uncomfortable situation if a particularly ferocious shot were to miss the target but connect with a vulnerable fanatic’s face, nearly surely knocking them clean out of their wheelchair if hit sweetly enough.

But anyway, continuing with the visitor’s attire, this was when Celtic were still maintaining the integrity of their sacred green and white hoops by uniquely not allowing numbers on the back of their shirts. Instead, the player’s number appeared on the front and back of their shorts. And despite having them since ’84/’85 season, Celtic were also devoid of a shirt sponsor for some reason in ’92’/93 (in the otherwise same kit as ’91/’92), delightfully making this strip feel even more minimal and retro for the era (retro-within-retro so to speak, and we’re sure someone knows the reason for the lack of sponsor, do get in touch if so!):

The hosts meanwhile were wearing an interesting Hummel kit, the make of which was not immediately obvious, although their recognisable arrows did feature on the sleeves and shorts. It seems Hummel were enthusiastically indulging as much as anyone in the increasingly outlandish nature of early-mid ’90s kits, leaving their sleek, stylish and iconic ’80s catalogue behind. It is perhaps no surprise then that the ’90s would not be a kind decade for them, but never the less the navy/white/red configuration of the Falkirk kit is a winner (and anyway, we like outlandish kits, and Hummel):

So that’s our early ’90s gear covered. As far as the ground itself – that being Falkirk’s old Brockville Park – the home fan’s main standing element were located on the small terrace behind the goal of the left, and a portion of the stand under the camera where police kept a watchful eye:

The sizable visiting support occupied terrace at the other end of the ground, and were also packed right around into the other end of the camera-side stand:

It would be at the away end that the first drama of the game would occur, when in the 27th minute Celtic defender Tony Mowbray used his hand to prevent the ball going into an empty net while Bonner was in no-mans-land. The future manager of Celtic among other clubs, Mowbray was promptly sent-off and the resulting spot-kick was converted much to the glee of the home support:

But it was extremely short lived joy, as only a minute later Celtic broke through the Falkirk defence and goalkeeper Gordon McDougall brought down attacker Andy Peyton in the box for another penalty. From this stemmed our main issue of the day, as while a Falkirk player tried to argue in vein with veteran referee Martin Clark, a small missile (perhaps a coin) was launched from the home end and connected with Clark right on the head:

As you can see, the player didn’t even seem to notice that anything was wrong at first, even as the ref was doubled over in pain, and acted like an awkward child around a parent who has just injured themselves doing DIY. Finally some linesmen and a slightly more concerned Celtic player come over and signal that assistance is needed for the distressed Clark:

The game was held up for a few minutes while medical treatment was given, and the veteran  ref – who doubtlessly had already experienced his fair share of football “rowdies” – was eventually able to continue. But as we mentioned earlier, here was an example of a “random” lower-key match (albeit massive for Falkirk due the visit  of one of the country’s biggest clubs) that had to be delayed due to the crowd; or in this case, a singe member of the crowd.

Celtic’s penalty was converted successfully, and as a result we can see thrugh the fan reaction that were was a decent percentage of those behind the goal who were in fact away fans:

Early in he second half, goals form both sides made it 2-2, before a frantic few minutes had the score at 4-3 going in to the last twenty minutes of the game (including an assist by a Falkirk player who had just lost his boot). After a sending off for the home side and another goal for Celtic to make things even once again (in both number of players and scoreline), a last minute goal from captain John Collins made it 5-4 to the Glasgow outfit, sparking an epic eruption from the away terrace:

As the players celebrated, we see that plenty of Celtic fans were also lactated in the main stand opposite the camera, meaning their huge traveling support were inhabiting at least parts of all four sides of the ground. The final whistle blew shortly afterwards to end the crazy game, which had seen it all:

Through a trouble lens, there was not outright chaos as in days gone by (although clearly a good atmosphere), but like with the Football Special Report #2 in Ireland, it was obvious that football in the early ’90s didn’t need oragnised gangs or per-ordained violence for incidents to still occur.

Youtube link

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Football Special Report #2: Derry City vs Shamrock Rovers, League of Ireland 1994

Last time on the Football Special Report, we debuted the series with a look at a peculiar all-West African affair from 1973. We will continue to examine unique or interesting situations that don’t fit in our other categories, this time with a visit to Ireland in 1994.

While most of the country was focused on the national team and the upcoming 1994 World Cup, the long suffering League of Ireland ticked away as always in the background with it’s relatively small, but loyal, fan-base. The country tried to boast “the best fans in the world” at international level, but at home a League of Ireland game had yet to even be shown live on TV. A hardcore supporter of a local side was an increasingly mythical creature, and had somewhat become seen as a figure of ridicule. But this had not always been the case.

Background:

Domestic football in Ireland achieved it’s popularity hay day back in the 1950’s, with respectable attendances such as 11,000+ for Shelbourne FC vs Shamrock Rovers in 1954 and an FAI Cup semi-final crowd of 28,504 to watch Drumcondra FC and Waterford FC (later United) in 1955.

Dublin sides Rovers and Drumcondra were the top two teams of the late 50’s and their game in January 1958 was to be the first all-ticket affair in League of Ireland history. A capacity 19,503 filled Drumcondra’s Tolka Park with thousands locked outside, but after 25 minutes the mass of ticket-less supporters broke through the gates and into the ground. With the terraces already full, hordes of desperate Dubliners spilled onto the pitch and the match was abandoned.


Another packed house watch Drumcronda and Shamrock Rovers, FAI Cup Semi-Final, 1964.

Over the coming decades, attendances would gradually decline. This was in part due to mis-managment at home, along with the eventual marketing domination of the neighboring British clubs to who many would turn. Ireland is also in the unique position in Europe in having it’s own native competition to the sport in the form of Gaelic football.

Gaelic had it’s own fan scene that at times looked far more similar to continental football terraces. In the 1970s and ’80s you wouldn’t have been hard pressed to find crowd disturbances in the Gaelic football stadium of Croke Park (specifically the Hill 16 end of the Dublin GAA Supporters) as well as other supporter culture tropes such as flags and banners, swaying terrace masses, fighting with police, and people/projectiles/pyro making it’s way onto the pitch.


Dublin score a point as Hill 16 erupts, Dublin vs Kerry, GAA All-Ireland Football Final 1975.

Even though crowd figures at big GAA games dwarfed their League of Ireland counterparts, the League still maintained somewhat of it’s own supporter culture identity. More tifo-centric features like oceans of big flags (apart from cup finals) and pyro would take a while longer to translate over, but clashes between supporters were a reasonably common occurrence for certain clubs, even since the late ’60s. A St. Patrick’s Athletic vs Waterford game in 1968, for example, received media coverage for it’s terrace trouble.

As society itself “hardened” in the ’70s, along with the rise of youth subcultures, incidents and tension at games naturally increased. Like abroad, sinisterly named groups now attached themselves to some clubs, such as “Black Dragons” of Limerick FC (Aka Limerick United/City), “Red Alert” and “Bootboys” of Sligo Rovers, and “SRFC Mob” of Shamrock Rovers. A 1975 cup game between Limerick and Sligo was a particularly violent affair with hundreds involved, reported at the time as the Battle of Market’s Field, Limerick’s stadium.


Limerick fans invade the pitch as their team secure the league title, Athlone Town vs Limerick United, League of Ireland 1980.

The blossoming casual culture that was about to spring up in Britain would not yet spread to Ireland, but the ’70s and early ’80s did see the intermixing of the anarchy-driven punk/skin head/boot-boy scene into the football supporting population, which added to the potential for chaos (by 1973 they were already a problem in Limerick, as reported in another “Battle of Markets Field”).

One infamous situation even occurred when Waterford’s “Freewheelers” motorcycle gang traveled with supporters for a 1986 FAI Cup game between St.Pat’s and Waterford in Dublin, with the intention of causing trouble. The resulting projectile throwing and general ructions caused the referee to stop the game after 19 minutes and lead the players back into the dressing room.

Coinciding with the birth of the English Premier League, the League of Ireland as a whole slumped further by the 90’s and with even less in attendance, notable examples of supporter culture became more scarce. But the same media access to big foreign leagues that hurt the League of Ireland would also provide a window for a generation of youths becoming familiar with continental supporting styles that would go on to strongly influence and inspire the birth of the Irish ultras scene in the early 2000s.


Features such as "tifo flags" became common in some Irish grounds by the early 2000's, as seen at Shelbourne vs Drogheda United, League of Ireland 2003.

Until then, the Irish hardcore domestic supporter would remain largely ignored and underground in a sort of twilight era. But while the likes of Black Dragon and Red Alert were no more, supporter groups possessing a new mentality such as Shelbourne’s politically minded Alternative Reds Club had sprang up in the 80s, along with Bohemians’ Bohs Soccer Casuals on the pronounced hooligan side of things in 1992, and the era did see it’s own moments of mayhem that hearkened back to the chaotic days of the ’70s. Well, kind of.

The Match:

After all that background, our featured incident is a relatively short affair coming after a league game that pitted candystripes against hoops, Derry City vs Shamrock Rovers; a fixture that had seen trouble go down when last previously played. The footage comes from an Ulster Television (UTV) sports-news broadcast that couldn’t look more 1994:

UTV, being a station from Northern Ireland, were covering the game since Derry lies within the borders of the UK. The Derry team competes in the Republic of Ireland based League of Ireland, but this had not always been the case. As we do not have time to go into why here, check out People On The Pitch #4 fore more information on Northern Ireland’s footballing ethno-complexities (as well as a literal pitch battle between Linfield and Glentoran), and for the general split between Irish and Northern Irish football, check out Politics On The Pitch #2.

The game was in Derry’s Brandywell ground (now redeveloped), who’s fences, small terraces, tall walls and barbed wire gave a classic, rustic look (so “shit” to your modern barstool fan, which can only be a good thing).

The lack of crowds demonstrate the dwindling numbers of the League, although in saying that most supporters would have been underneath the camera side. Of course some also watch from outside the ground:

As mentioned, Shamrock Rovers were (and continued to be) one of Ireland’s most prominent clubs sides, both in terms of numbers as well as reputation for “troublesome” fans. Their visit to Derry, therefore, may have seen a larger traveling support than usual in the Brandywell, and after a long, no doubt thirsty journey from the capital to what is a traditionally belligerent area, and considering the existing history, it was not out of the realms of possibility that something might kick off.

And after a 1-0 win for Rovers, that is of course exactly what happened. All we know is that two groups of grown men from opposing sides come face to face at the away section, and following some sort of confrontation, a punch is thrown triggering the melee:

(Note the supporter, wrapped in Irish tri-colour, stood still as a statue in the seats, quite possibly experiencing a heroin comatose.)

Clearly this was a far cry from the mob warfare of the ’70s, or indeed the stylised, organised casual culture that was seeping in. Yes, just a good, old fashioned, spontaneous outbreak of violence between otherwise regular civilians, perhaps sparked by some sort of passing slight. Meanwhile in the back the of the stand, bodies scamper hither and thither as in any good donnybrook:

Ok, that part wasn’t very exciting. But the highlight of the whole fuss comes next, in the form of a Rovers fan who pretty much looks and acts exactly as Alan Partridge did at the time. “Alan”, obviously thinking enough is enough, has managed to find himself the corner flag, and after breaking free from his mates comes out swinging like a man possessed:

As you can see, the connection of the appropriated weapon with it’s initial northern target is followed by a shake of the poll and few little hops (clear body language suggesting “Come on then, who else wants it??” in angry, flustered Alan Partridge voice), as an innocent, bewildered, jersey clad by-stander attempts to take down his banner from the fence. A young child in a goalkeeper shirt also looks on attentively from a fine vantage point atop the greyhound boxes, as the Brandywell is also a greyhound racing stadium:

(It is worth noting that this is not the first time we have seen a supporter on Northern Irish soil commandeering a corner flag, refer to the afore mentioned People On The Pitch #4.)

The footage concludes with another Rovers fan approaching and engaging in some seriously menacing finger pointing, along with a few more threatening shakes of the poll for good measure. A good-hearted lady attempts to interject and cool things down, rightly concerned that another vicious “polling” is coming somebody’s way.

Very humorously, the perspective gives the impression that the pointing and threatening is directed straight at the kid in the goalkeeper top, who is also now the size of a man:

As we leave the scene, the UTV reporter informs us that Derry were considering banning Shamrock Rovers fans from the Brandywell for future games. Whether this was enacted or not, we do not know. But regardless, that is enough League of Ireland for today. We shall of course revisit the heroicness of Ireland’s little-known but fascinating fan culture soon, but for now, this is Pyro On The Pitch signing off for another Football Special Report.

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Youtube link

Sources for some of the background info:

These Footballing Times: 1950’s Attendances

Come Here To Me (Dublin culture blog): Some media coverage of Dublin GAA fans and Hill 16 in the 1970s.

Come Here To Me: “Some examples of football violence in Richmond Park, Inchicore (1972- 1986)”

Rabble.ie: “Bootboys, Casuals and the Beautiful Game”

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Football Special Report #1: Ivory Coast vs Ghana, African Cup of Nations 1974 Qualifier, 29/07/1973

Here we are again with another new feature where we are going to take a look at random incidents, interesting matches or general football related events that don’t fit into any of our other categories. This is the Football Special Report.

For Football Special Report #1 we cast our eye to the West African derby of 1973 between coastal neighbours Ivory Coast and Ghana. The two were paired together for the final round of African Cup of Nations ’74 qualifying; a two legged affair that saw Côte d’Ivoire take the first game 3-0 away from home on July 15th, 1973.

Going into the return leg on July 29th in the Ivorian city of Abidjan, the hosts with their advantage were naturally feeling confident of victory. All that was needed was to kill time and let the clock run down while maintaining possession. But apparently, this was combined simultaneously with the need to take the complete piss out of the opponents, manifesting in one of the strangest sights ever seen in an international football match.

First it is worth noting the end behind the goal where throngs of people casually appear to be on the move, as seen during the throw-in below. Presumably, and hopefully, this occurred throughout the entire match.

Then, perhaps in an attempt to entertain the restless crowd during the dull game – or indeed themselves, or just in complete and utter contempt of Ghana – the Ivorian players begin to cruelly showboat and mess around, such as standing and sitting on the ball:

This occurs to overwhelming delight from the home supporters who vocally display their approval. As the ball is passed around, other players have their turn:

The Ghanaian players seem baffled and unsure how to react, but their restraint in not immediately descending into fury at this patronising display must surely be commended.

Later, as the visitors are taking a corner, a home substitute close by can be seen dropping a white hand towel to the ground and standing sternly with hands on hips. This may well be an innocuous moment, but given the spirit of the game I’m going to go ahead and assume it is some sort of local passive aggressive intimidation tactic:

Things get even more farcical from here as first the home side abandon a perfectly good chance to counter attack to do literally nothing…

…before one of the Elephants (official nickname of the Ivory Coast team, and I didn’t want to say “Ivorian” again) proceeds to lay down on the grass behind the ball:

This actually results in Ghana stealing possession shortly after and making at attempt on goal, albeit a failed one. Not to be deterred by this close call, an Ivorian (dammit) defender uses the dead ball situation to demonstrate his solo skills as throngs of supporters can again be seen in motion in the end behind the goal and we wouldn’t have it any other way:

So then: spontaneous and lighthearted fun that is sorely missed from the modern game, or a cynical, premeditated attack displaying unprofessionalism to a disgraceful degree? You decide. Either way, Ivory Coast were rewarded for their tomfoolery with a 1-0 win on the night, 4-0 on aggregate, and proceeded to the Nations Cup in Egypt the following year.

Ghana could take some solace from that fact that the Elephants would be knocked out of the tournament in the first round, bottom of their group and without a win. But the wounds inflicted, by way of the theft of their dignity on that July 1973 day, would doubtless take far longer to heal.

Youtube link