So will you be going to Dalymount Park or July 10? Or Richmond Park on July 13? Frank Lampard will be in charge of Chelsea by then and these will be his first games.
There are two schools of thought on games like these. The first is that it is a great opportunity for Irish soccer fans, many of whom are fans of the English Premier League, to see one of that league’s leading lights. Plus, bringing people into League of Ireland grounds who mightn’t otherwise frequent them might encourage them to come back and keep coming back.
The contrasting view is that these games are a blatant money-grab and poor value for that money. 30 euro for my ticket, plus another 15 if I want to bring Blaise; that’s just to get inside the gate. Chelsea won’t put out a full team and those that do take the field may either be unfit or taking it easy for fear of getting injured. As for the Irish teams, we’re in the middle of our season and these games are a distraction [in St Pats case the Chelsea game comes between legs of their Europa League game against IFK Norrkoping].
I’m neutral on this, and can see both sides of the argument. I wouldn’t criticise anyone who goes to the games, and will probably go to one or other myself. On the other hand I won’t be expecting anything more than a novelty game, and can fully understand why some Bohs and Pats fans will stay clear.
I enjoyed friendlies against cross-channel teams a lot more back in the days when we had a winter-soccer season. I wasn’t waiting for the glamour names to come to the Carlisle Grounds; the chance to see Bray take on lower-league teams from England and Scotland appealed to me more and were a better preparation for Bray for their season, even if these games only brought in a handful of people.
The friendlies I’ve enjoyed most against high-profile teams in recent years were when Bray played a Manchester United XI in 2014 and a Liverpool XI a few years before that. It was known in advance that these teams would be playing academy players. The crowds swelled because of this; people wanted to see the stars of the future when they were on the cusp of breaking through. The ticket prices stayed reasonable.
I’m sure Frank Lampard will be made welcome in Dublin. I remember when Bray played Celtic in 2000 in Martin O’Neill’s first game in charge, and we made a big fuss for the future Ireland boss. Talking of Martin, I wonder what the future holds for him after being forced out of Nottingham Forest by player power. If I was him I’d go into TV punditry. He could start with the pair of games in Dublin featuring Chelsea!