Last night I finally got around to doing something I should have done a long time ago – get in to see the Blues at the RSC. It was a visit that did me absolutely no credit, neither filling the Blues’ coffers with my own money (the person who was meant to go cried off at the last minute) and in a non-competitive fixture against the latest British club to buy in to the cult of Roy Keane. The redoubtable FootballPress will be all over me like a rash.
So not having been to the RSC in the best part of a decade, how was it? The new stand is a pleasant addition to the experience. It may seem trivial, but it’s easier to take the Blues seriously now have twice as many Subbuteo stands as before. Credit is due to the ticket office as well. We ended up with a spare and they would have been quite within their rights to have insisted on a policy of no refunds, money being too tight to mention at this level at the best of times (and these aren’t the best of times). But the man at the booth handed over €15 without batting an eyelid. If he was trying to make us feel guilty, it worked.
It was a recurring theme in the early part of the evening. Walking in to the rather optimistically titled East Stand, you felt like the stewards were giving you evils at coming to such a beano while ignoring the grind of playing the likes of Finn Harps. When I wasn’t feeling bad for that, the sense of plaintiveness was almost heartbreaking, whether it be the PA – who sounded suspiciously like a friend of the family – begging us to come to the next home match against Limerick or the programme notes lauding the loyal 500 who regularly defend the pass of Thermopylae / Tramore against the alien hordes. Patriotism may be the last refuge of a scoundrel, but that’s because a scoundrel knows what works.
You can only push guilt so far though and any sense of it quickly evaporated once the match started. Quite simply, the Blues were awful. Stephen Henderson said in the programme notes that when he had been manager of Cobh Ramblers a few years back when Roy Keane’s Sunderland™ rolled into town, he had made the mistake of gutting the team at half-time in Sven-Goran Eriksson-style and that he would not repeat this error. Yet come the start of the second half no fewer than five players made way. Perhaps the players had moaned about not getting a game – when the Blues played Man U in 1990 it was as if everyone in Waterford was allowed a game. But that was Manchester United and this was Ipswich Town, a distinction that shouldn’t require any further explanation. The likelihood is that Henderson decided there was nothing to be learned from getting the runaround from Kevin Lisbie (a man who once scored a hat-trick against Liverpool) and they’d be better off keeping the leg’s fresh for the much more important game against the mighty Monaghan United on Sunday.
I hope the money makes a difference to the Blues’ season / existence because none of the 2,500+ people there to see Roy Keane’s Ipswich Town™ last night would be enticed back by a match that managed to have all the bloodlessness of a Harlem Globetrotter’s game with none of the silky skills. My wife and I entertained ourselves for the 85-odd minutes we were there with constant lame quips about how different it was to what we are used to at Anfield – an aside to my father-in-law about how it was “not exactly St Etienne” was typical of the ‘wit’ on display. With that in mind, I might make my way back next week when my brother-in-law is in town so he can see how the other half live and I can see if a competitive fixture watched only by enthusiastic Ultras is any better. It would be cruelly ironic if what finally kills any affection I have for Waterford United were to be too much exposure to them.
Update: did I say I’d be going to the Limerick game? The only Limerick team I’ll be seeing will be their hurlers if they play in a double header next week. Sorry Blues, got to get my priorities right.
Update II: at the risk of this becoming a circular series of references, FootballPress didn’t let me down with his take on my visit to the RSC. The ‘pressing GAA fixture’ is going to be on Sunday, so the Blues may yet have the pleasure of my company this weekend . . .