30 year wait


Last time Liverpool won the top title in the English League was the 1989/90 season under Kenny Dalglish.  Irish star John Aldridge lost his place to an on form Ian Rush.  John Barnes was the top goal scorer.

Jürgen Klopp and myself were in University.  I was playing fully amateur rugby in Dublin City University while he was playing non-professional soccer in Goethe University of Frankfurt.  Klopp’s headmaster said he hoped football worked out for the young Jürgen because he didn’t fancy his chances of getting a medical degree.

He played most of his career in Mainz 05, starting as a striker but moving back to defence.  He felt himself that he had “4th division feet and a 1st division head”.  A pretty fair assessment given his record since.

He successfully managed Mainz – 05 on a shoestring budget, landing him the job with Borussia Dortmund where he secured their first ever Domestic Double.

His football philosophy is gegenpressing which is described alternatively as a counter-attacking or a forward defending style.  It is a development of the Johan Cruyff style of total football that defined the glory days of Ajax and made Barcelona such as formidable side.  Attackers become defenders the instant the ball is lost.  It stresses control of the ball, and is reflected in the possession statistics.

Klopp is a team builder.  He was the longest serving manager for both Mainz 05 and Borussia Dortmund.  In Liverpool he took his time to craft the side, continuing to build on the exciting forward attacking style of his predecessors, but fixing the back to seal up porous goal mouths.  He found great defenders and a brilliant goal keeper to secure the leads built by the strikers.

The last time Liverpool won the title it was the 1990 First Division.  The Premier League was formed in 1992 and this year is the first time Liverpool have lifted that trophy.

It’s taken 30 years but has been worth the wait.  Along the way we have had some good days and some great days.  Few football fans have ever experienced the single match highs and lows of the greatest European Final in history, the Miracle of Istanbul, the 2005 UEFA Champions League Final against favourites A.C. Milan.

I started supporting Liverpool in the early 1970’s when Bill Shankly was the manger who brought them to 1st Division Champions and UEFA Cup Winners in 1973.  That makes quite an impression on a 10 year old kid.  The names of that team remain in my memory.  Kevin Keegan at the front, Ray Clemence at the back.  Irishman Steve Heighway.  Welshman John Toshak.  Emlyn Hughes, Roy Evans, Tommy Smith, Peter & Phil Thompson and a trio of Scotsmen, Cormack, Ross and Hall.

I always thought it was a terrible shame that George Best played for the wrong team.




Simply the Best.

Image result for george best

I heard this poem on the radio this morning.  These days I only reliably listen to two Irish radio shows; Saturday playback and Sunday Miscellany.   There was a little snippet about George Best.

On the 14th of September 1963, the year I was born, at the age of 17 he made his first division debut for Manchester United, so today is a bit special for George.  That year they finished second in the league behind my team; Liverpool.

George Best was problematic for me as a kid.  He was from the wrong end of Ireland.  He played internationals for Northern Ireland.  Everyone knew he was a genius, but he played for the wrong team.  Those were the great years of Liverpool Vs Manchester United rivalry.

If I wrote this poem it would be 1974, Liverpool winning the FA cup in Bill Shankly’s final year as manager, the young Kevin Keegan scoring twice in the final.  Dermot is that little bit older than I.  But we had the same english teacher in Beneavin College.


In Memory of George Best: by Dermot Bolger

In one corner of our mind it remains 1969:
Frosted pavements, icy breath, yet our hands thaw
in the thrill of chasing a ball under streetlights,
voices in the dark calling the names of Best and Law.

A drudge of decades have clogged our arteries,
yet no matter what occurred, what we have become,
when we see again his feint, his sheer artistry
thousands of us are instantaneously made young.

Happy Birthday Peter Reading


“Eschew baggage for the expedition is brief” he said and Peter was right, because in this day and age 65 years is a brief expedition.  Reading was described as the laureate of grot and as a bleak poet.  Seems to me he was a poet with good eyes and ears who conveyed what he saw accurately, incisively and didn’t give a shit if you were offended by it.  My kind of poet.

Most of all his poems are hilarious, very funny if very dark also.  He is a master at exposing the absurdity of the human condition and pointing out the bullshit we use to make ourselves look important.

He worked for over 20 years as a weighbridge operator at an animal feed mill.  It is a repetitive and boring job and it freed his mind to think and to create.  Volume after volume of poetry flowed out of that dross.  Then a new boss arrived and told Peter he had to wear a uniform to work and you can only imagine the tirade of flagrant abuse eminating from this usually quiet man that led to him being sacked.  I like this story because Peter is a poet who strips away the crap that people surround themselves with.  Imagine telling such a man to wear a uniform so he can better weigh truckloads of calf nuts and chicken feed!



Soiree; by Peter Reading

One funny thing about loving someone
is how much you’ll put up with – her parents’
conversazione for example,
or being sweet to those fools she works with
who smoke inferior cigars and think
it’s savoir vivre, and drag me back to drink
inadequately and long past my bedtime,
and put on records (God!) stuff like Ray Conniff.
And all their damn fool questions ‘tell me Peter,
what do you write about?’ (cunts like you mate).
‘Peter, you interested in history?’
(Mate, I ain’t even interested in
the present.) Still I’m here because I love her.

Happy Birthday Roger McGough


A beat poet from Liverpool, born this day 1937.  A man who worked with the Beatles, writing dialogue for their movie Yellow Submarine.  I love the brutal northern honesty and truth of his poetry.  His approach to death is both real and funny.


Soil; by Roger McGough

we’ve ignored eachother for a long time
and I’m strictly an indoor man
anytime to call would be the wrong time
I’ll avoid you as long as I can

When I was a boy we were good friends
I made pies out of you when you were wet
and in childhood’s remembered summer weather
we roughandtumbled together
we were very close

just you and me and the sun
the world a place for having fun
always so much to be done

But gradually I grew away from you
Of course you were still there
during my earliest sexcapades
when I roughandfumbled
not very well after bedtime
but suddenly it was winter
and you seemed so cold and dirty
that I stayed indoors and acquired
a taste for girls and clean clothes

we found less and less to say
you were jealous so one day
I simply upped and moved away

I still called to see you on occasions
but we had little now in common
and my visits grew less frequent
until finally
une coldbright April morning
a handful of you drummed
on my fathers waxworked coffin

at last it all made sense
there was no need for pretence
you said nothing in defence

And now recently
while travelling from town to town
past where you live
I have become increasingly aware
of you watching me out there.
patient and unforgiving
toying with the trees.

we’ve avoided eachother for a long time
and I’m strictly a city man
anytime to call would be the wrong time
I’ll avoid you as long as I can

The Old Ship Inn


Brighouse in Yorkshire is about as far from the Sea as you can get in Northern England.  It is a town lying on the spine between Yorkshire and Lancashire.  So if you ever travel there you may be amused to find a pub called the Old Ship Inn, far far from the sea.

The history of the Pub will surprise you even more, and will take you round the world and to the US Civil War.

The Old Ship Inn is so called because in 1926, named the Prince of Wales,  it was renovated from the timbers of the broken up Royal Navy 101 Gun HMS Donegal.  In 2007 the Prince of Wales was renamed the Old Ship inn.

HMS Donegal herself was a first rate ship when launched in 1858.  She was a screw driven sail rigged battleship at the very end of the age of sail.  She, along with every other wooden battleship, became obsolete on the day the CSS Virginia and the USS Monitor clashed in the US Civil War in the 1862 Battle of Hampton Roads, the first clash of ironclads.

It was the US Civil War that made the HMS Donegal famous.  Six months after the capitulation of the South the last combatants of the war arrived in Liverpool.  The CSS Shenandoah was raiding Union Commerce Shipping in the Pacific when she learned of the surrender.  Rather than return to the USA and risk imprisonment the crew sailed to Britain.

Shenandoah was the only Confederate Ship to circumnavigate the globe.  In her one year campaign the CSS Shenandoah captured or sank 38 ships.  Her crew were the last combatants of the war.   In Liverpool the captain of the Shenandoah surrendered his flag to the HMS Donegal.  6th November, 1865, on this day.


There are many famous Paisleys.  There is the great Bob Paisley, the famous Liverpool FC manager who brought the club to so many victories including three European cups.


Then there is the Rev Ian Paisley, who passed away today.  The physically and morally imposing Presbyterian dominated the hardline Unionist position in Northern Ireland politics for many decades.  Some may see his passing as a reason to celebrate the removal of a granite blockage on the path to future progress.  Others will abuse him, using him as a receptacle for all the negative emotions of the Northern troubles.  I see his passing as the end of an era and a positive progress towards closer integration between the people of this island.  Ian Paisley was a contemporary of my father, and his passing reminds me of the loss of my own dad.  My sympathies to his children.  May he rest in peace.


Paisley is also a Persian cloth pattern based on a repetitive drop pattern, which yields a multitude of rich fabric in silks and carpets.  For me is the embodiment of richness of eastern cloth.


And Paisley is a town in Scotland which will vote on Independence next week.  And here is a preview of the Union Jack should Scotland take its leave.  Just not the same, is it?  Will Scotland grasp the thistle and vote for independence?  Are ye men or mice?  All shall soon be revealed.  Yes or no this cut will leave a scar.  Nemo me impune lacessit, as they say up North.


To a Mouse ; by Robert Burns
On Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough, November, 1785

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickerin brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave
’S a sma’ request:
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss ’t!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary Winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee-bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

Success and Failure


I don’t know what to say really.  Three minutes to the biggest battle of our professional lives all comes down to today.  Either we heal as a team or we are going to crumble.  Inch by inch, play by play, till we’re finished.

We are in hell right now, gentlemen believe me and we can stay here and get the shit kicked out of us or we can fight our way back into the light.  We can climb out of hell.  One inch, at a time.

Now I can’t do it for you. I’m too old. I look around and I see these young faces and I think, I mean, I made every wrong choice a middle aged man could make.  I uh…. I pissed away all my money believe it or not. I chased off anyone who has ever loved me. And lately, I can’t even stand the face I see in the mirror.

You know when you get old in life things get taken from you.  That’s, that’s part of life. But, you only learn that when you start losing stuff.  You find out that life is just a game of inches. So is football. Because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small.  I mean one half step too late or too early, you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow or too fast and you don’t quite catch it.  The inches we need are everywhere around us. They are in every break of the game, every minute, every second.

On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us to pieces for that inch.  We CLAW with our finger nails for that inch. Cause we know when we add up all those inches that’s going to make the fucking difference between WINNING and LOSING between LIVING and DYING.

I’ll tell you this in any fight it is the guy who is willing to die who is going to win that inch. And I know if I am going to have any life anymore it is because I am still willing to fight, and die for that inch, because that is what LIVING is. The six inches in front of your face.

Now I can’t make you do it. You gotta look at the guy next to you. Look into his eyes. Now I think you are going to see a guy who will go that inch with you.  You are going to see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team because he knows when it comes down to it, you are gonna do the same thing for him.

That’s a team, gentlemen and either we heal now, as a team, or we will die as individuals. That’s football guys. That’s all it is. Now, whattaya gonna do?

(Al Pacino’s motivational speech from “Any Given Sunday”)


You’ll Never Walk Alone:  (R. Rodgers – O. Hammerstein II

When you walk through the storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark

Walk on, through the wind
Walk on, through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone