Blaise and myself got to our first game of the seasonon Friday, albeit a friendly. Tolka Park was the venue for Shelbourne hosting Waterford United. The visitors ran out 3-0 winners against a Shelbourne side deprived of some of their new signings through injury. Hopefully they have a full squad to choose from ahead of their next game – the visit to Galway for the opening game of their First Division campaign.
Blaise didn’t really get the term ‘friendly’. Is it a real game or not? That would be an ecumenical matter, as Father Jack would say. The term pre-season friendly sets the scene a bit better, as does pre-season game. If you want to be really different you could say warm-up match, preparation match, demonstration game or even scrimmage.
At least the match wasn’t cancelled, unlike the Bohemians versus East Fife game we’d intended going to the week before. Much has been written about the subsequent exit of Bohs from the IrnBruScottish Challenge Cup. It was unfortunate but The Gypsies did the honourable thing. It’s a pity as I think they could have beaten East Fife. An away semi-final at Ross County might perhaps have been a bridge too far though.
There was nothing friendly about Erik, who huffed and puffed angrily through Friday but thankfully never really threatened to pull the plug on the game. The night was cold though, and I had to invest in a Shelbourne beanie for Blaise to keep him warm. Lots of others had the same idea – they were selling like the proverbial hot cakes.
The game was entertaining without being spectacular. Waterford’s double-whammy just before half-time killed it off as a contest though. Blaise wanted to know what Waterford would get for winning the game, seeing as it wasn’t league points or progression to the next round of a cup. I told him the Erik Trophy would be going back down south with Waterford. He laughed; I think he gets my sense of humour at this stage.
Half-time passed with a conversation about Eriks. Or rather, Erics. Eric Burdon of The Animals is a hero of mine, as was the late darts player Eric Bristow, to bring in a sporting Eric. Blaise had never heard of the greatest sporting Eric of them all, the soccer Eric. No not Kung Fu Eric; I’m talking about Eric Gates.
You’d have to be ‘of a certain age’ to remember Gates. He played with Ipswich Town, Sunderland and Carlisle United in an 18-season career between 1973 and 1991 that saw him win a UEFA Cup medal in 1981 and score both goals in the 1979 Cup Winners Cup quarter-final first-leg win for Ipswich over Barcelona at Portman Road. A brace of England caps in 1980 also came Gates’ way.
If you’ve never heard of Eric Gates then I’m presuming you have heard of Bill Gates, the Microsoft mogul. Believe it or not, Eric Gates had a brother called Bill Gates. He wasn’t a computer magnate, but a professional footballer like Eric [he played with Middlesbrough between 1961 and 1973].
Eric’s full name is actually Eric Lazenby Gates; store that away for the pub quiz question you might someday be asked about the former Ipswich footballer who’s middle name is the same as the surname of the James Bond who had the shortest tenure drinking the shaken-not-stirred vodka martinis. If there’s a bonus point for knowing what he does now, the answer is pig farmer.
So that was it. 3-0 to Waterford. Appetites whetted for the season proper [how about ‘appetizers’ as another name for friendlies?!] later in the month. Bring it on!