I went to see The Eels on Friday night in the Iveagh Gardens. Originally it was going to clash with Bray against Sligo but the club moved the fixture to the Sunday, anticipating a reduced gate due to the clash with The Eels concert. Not. They were more likely concerned with Brazil versus Belgium in the World Cup quarter-final being staged on the same night. Good call either way.
The Eels did a song called ‘’Prizefighter’’ from their 2009 album ‘’Hombre Lobo’’. I guess it’s a song about triumphing over adversity, about hanging in there when things are tough and not giving up hope that you will eventually triumph. This is a common theme in a lot of their work, and if you’re familiar with some of the stuff lead singer Mark Everett has had to live through you could have nothing but respect for him for channelling adversity into triumph through his wonderful music.
The song stuck in my head all weekend and seemed apt for Bray Wanderers in light of Sunday’s win over Sligo Rovers. Bray are prizefighters. To dig that win out of the bag after the week the club has had was nothing short of heroic.
I heard a call during the week for us to be thrown out of the League. Thrown out, like curtains. A very populist thing to suggest. Like all populist chants it got a lot of whoop whoops from the masses for the person who used his platform to suggest it, but the people that would suffer the most from such a dire move, if it came to pass, would be the fans, the people who are there through thick and thin.
No, throwing us out of the League won’t help things. This is a time for cool heads, not populist rhetoric. Cool heads and mercy. If I can’t pay my mortgage I’d expect mercy, not a call for me to be made homeless. Bray did the right thing by saying the players could leave if they found other clubs. They made them free agents. They gave them some control over a difficult and unwelcome situation.
The League has deep-rooted problems. Lots of clubs are struggling. Suggesting one of them walks the plank to be fed to the sharks because it keeps getting into financial trouble isn’t the answer. It reminds me of that film The Wicker Man. Sacrifice Bray this year and if the apples still don’t come next year, what then? Somebody else’s club? Sligo maybe, or Drogheda or Limerick?
The FAI and SSE Airtricity League need to shoulder the blame for the way our league is structured. The games are front-loaded in the spring months, with disproportionately few games over the actual summer. With mid-season breaks, Cup draws and so on, clubs can go for more than a month with no home gate. It’s no surprise that financial reality bites at this time of year.
Back to The Eels. They headed on to Belgium after Dublin, leaving behind a country gripped by heat fever for a country gripped by World Cup fever. As for Bray, they head for Bohemians next. The prizefighters are still in the ring. In the words of another Eels song [‘’On The Ropes’’] we’re ‘’on the ropes but we’re not knocked out’’. Limerick, Sligo, Bohemians; we’re going to try our best to chase you down.