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Friday nights and the gates are high


I thought of Liverpool band Half Man Half Biscuit recently, after reading an article confirming the worst kept secret in football. No, it wasn’t the announcement of OGS as permanent manager at Old Trafford, or Niall Quinn as the new CEO of the FAI, but official confirmation that there has been a massive increase in attendances this year at League of Ireland games.

So why did Half Man Half Biscuit came to mind?You have to admire the genius of a band that loves football so much that they took a line from an ABBA song [‘Friday nights and the lights are low’ from ‘Dancing Queen’] and turned it into a football song, namely ‘Friday Nights And The Gates Are Low’[from the ‘Some Call It Godcore’ album]. I’ve paid tribute by taking the idea a step further and calledthis piece ‘Friday nights and the gates are high’.

Attendances in general are up a massive 11.3%. This was only a snapshot after the first 56 games across the 2 divisions, which had seen more than 100,000 people attend games. Perhaps the numbers will be even more impressive as we move into even-better weather. Having the 2 divisions quite open in terms of the teams battling for honours is certainly helping too.

To make an analogy with Arlo Guthrie’s ‘Alice’s Restaurant’, one or two more going to games are lone voices, but hundreds or thousands more can’t be ignored because they represent a movement. In the film [and song that inspired it] Arlo’s movement wasan anti-Vietnam War movement; here in Ireland we are seeing a movement to get the League of Ireland back where it belongs.

Back to Half Man Half Biscuit. They’re not everyone’s cup of tea – or pint of bitter – and that’s even amongst the people who have heard of them. They’re a kind of mix of Weird Al Yankovic, The Sex Pistols, Billy Bragg, The Fall and John Cooper-Clarke. One of the things that drew me to these guys – apart from the razor-sharp wit, wry social commentary and the intelligent documenting of life’s minutiae – was the love of football that shone through in many of their songs.

This is a band who first came to prominence with a song called ‘All I Want For Christmas Is A DuklaPrague Away Kit’; furthermore they once turned down a chance to appear on UK television because Tranmere Rovers were playing that night. Legends in my book.

Some of their choicest football offerings, aside from ‘Friday Nights And The Gates Are Low’, include the songs ‘Mathematically Safe’ and ‘Gubba Look-a-Likes’ [from the ‘Trouble Over Bridgewater’ album] – fans of all struggling teams will empathise with the struggle to achieve mathematical safety from relegation, at least for another season; as for the Tony Gubba reference, viewers of Match Of The Day were treated to Tony’s commentary for decades before his untimely passing; he was up there with John Motsonin the top ranks of football commentators.

Then there was the song ‘Dead Men Don’t Need Season Tickets’ [from the ‘Voyage To The Bottom Of The Road’] album. How about ‘Dickie Davies Eyes’ and the aforementioned ‘All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit’ from ‘Back Again In The DHSS’. My favourite of their football tracks is possibly ‘The Referee’s Alphabet’ from ‘CammellLaird Social Club’. Even bands named after football teams, such as Kaiser Chiefs and Saint Etienne, couldn’t ascend to these heights of football-music crossover genius!


I’m not sure where HMHB stand on Brexit, but I’d imagine there’s a whole album worth of material there for them to get their teeth into. An idea for the obligatory football song would be to commemorate the ‘Three versus Six’ football game that saw a team made up of British, Danish and Irish players line up on 03 January 1973 against a team made up of players from Belgium, West Germany, Luxembourg, France, Holland and Italy. The game was to celebrate ‘The Three’ joining ‘The Six’ in the EEC [EU] and saw Johnny Giles tog out for ‘The Three’ [who won 2-0]. Perhaps any updated version of the game [and a song about it] could refer to ‘The One’ leaving ‘The Twenty Seven’!

Brian Quigley

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