'We knew this s*** would happen'


FROM THE ARCHIVES THE IRISH TIMES, THURSDAY FEBRUARY 16TH, 1995: TOM HUMPHRIESwas at Lansdowne Road for the ‘friendly’ match when England supporters went on a rampage on a night when aggression and abuse took over from the football

FROM THE back of the UB section of the upper West Stand at Lansdowne Road, the chants of “Rule Britannia” and “F*** the IRA” are drowning out the disapproving roar of “Scum, Scum” which is rolling across from the other side of the ground. The footballers of Ireland and England have just disappeared down the Lansdowne tunnel. Up in the UB section, where the fighting is most intense, two gardaí are standing watching in wide-eyed amazement.

“How many gardaí were up there?” asks The Irish Times.

“None. One or two. Not enough. I don’t know where they are, I’d get the f*** out of here if I were you,” comes the reply.

England and Ireland fans at the stairwells are complaining about the lack of segregation. Irish fans standing to celebrate David Kelly’s early goal had suffered retaliatory abuse and bouts of violence before play had even resumed. A disallowed English goal some minutes later sparked the outright violence which ensued.

All around the upper deck of the West Stand at Lansdowne Road, England fans are standing on their seats, jabbing their fingers in frenzied aggression towards the pitch below. Ireland and England fans alike are streaming out of the exits while dodging missiles and gobs of saliva and streams of abuse.

It is some five minutes since the players have left the pitch. A handful of gardaí has arrived. England fans keen on joining the affray are streaming up the stairs from below, and those attempting to escape are streaming down.

One man in an England jersey is roaring that he has lost his two kids, he’s looking for a policeman, but none is available. He tries to get up the steps back towards his seat but is pushed back by fellow supporters. He finds his two boys hiding in the toilet in the passageway below.

More minutes elapse. About 20 gardaí arrive from downstairs, half of them in riot gear, others in soft hats. They peer at the England fans from the steps which give access to the upper deck and decide to withdraw again. All along the length of the passageway at the rear of the upper West Stand, Ireland fans are streaming out, and nothing stands between them and catastrophe should the England mob desist from chanting and throwing seats.

England fans keen on trouble are still streaming up to join the affray upstairs and to escape the gardaí who are arriving gradually underneath. Seats and cans and bottles and pieces of balustrade are hurled at the throng below.

A chant of “Judas, Judas” goes up as Jack Charlton is escorted from the field, having intervened to restore some order.

“We knew today this s*** was going to happen,” says one supporter in an Aston Villa jersey.

“Everywhere English fans go, we are taken by the police from the airport or boat or train straight to the ground and taken back again. You don’t like it, but it stops the animals.

“Today, our fans were all over town. Drinking and having fun. We saw some fights in Dublin. We walked out here. There were blokes drunk all over. We couldn’t believe it when we got here. Could not believe it.”

How the mayhem unfolded

6.10pm – Teams emerge on to the pitch at Lansdowne Road and there is booing during the playing of both national anthems.

6.15 – Game kicks off.

6.37 – David Kelly scores for the Republic of Ireland.

6.37-6.42 – Trouble starts in the Upper Deck of the West Stand where the English fans are sitting.

Missiles rain down on the people sitting below.

6.42 – Referee Dennis Jol from Holland halts the game and takes the players from the field.

7.0 – Announcement at the ground that the game is officially abandoned.

7.0-8.30 – England supporters are kept in the ground while the remainder of the fans are escorted from the ground. Running battles within the ground between the Garda and the England supporters.