Blaise and myself were all set to travel to Longford on Saturday to see Longford Town host Bray Wanderers. Music had been selected for the journey and Match Of The Day set to record in case we didn’t get back in time for it [Blaise doesn’t like to miss Match Of The Day; I have rarely missed it since I first started watching as a boy].
I’d picked out The Clash’s ‘London Calling’ CD for the trip. I played it anyway on Saturday night, even though there ended up being no trip as the game was cancelled due to a waterlogged pitch [thankfully we checked social media before we left].
Why ‘London Calling’ for a trip to Longford’s Bishopsgate stadium? It’s an album I’ve associated with trips to Longford since 2014, when the stadium was renamed The City Calling Stadium in a sponsorship deal with the recruitment agency City Calling Group. This season though it is no longer The City Calling Stadium, having been renamed Bishopsgate in a new sponsorship deal, with Bishopsgate, a payroll solutions company.
When I first went to see Bray play away in Longford in the 1980’s they were located in Abbeycarton. They moved to the current ground in the 1990’s, and the first few times I visited it was the rather unimpressive Strokestown Road. All that changed though after the refurbishment in 2001 when it was renamed Flancare Park [or ‘The Flan Siro’] after the club began a 12-year association with Flancare.
While we have never sold the naming rights of our Carlisle Grounds stadium in Bray, it has to be said that I’m envious of Longford Town, who are one of the few League of Ireland clubs to actually own their ground. Being in that kind of position would have saved us a lot of trouble in Bray in recent years, but I won’t mention the war.
Bishopsgate has quite a lot of credits to its name. As the City Calling Stadium it won the 2018 FAI Pitch of the Year and hosted four group games [including England versus France] during the 2019 UEFA European Under-17 Championships. In its Flancare Park days it also hosted international underage matches, UEFA Cup ties and the 2004 League Cup final [which Longford won].
So no Bray game on Saturday, and no first-ever trip to Longford for Blaise. I did get to introduce him to the wonderful ‘London Calling’ album by The Clash, even if it was at home waiting for Match Of The Day rather than in the car driving to see Bray. What an album that is, the range of styles covered as the band put distance between themselves and the limitations of punk rock.
Saturday’s game [or rather non-game] also gave me the opportunity to tell Blaise all about the Pools Panel. It has existed in the UK since 1963, to adjudicate on postponed games. Some weeks they have nothing to do, the odd week they are incredibly busy, but nonetheless they sit every week in private session and release their verdict on what would have been the result if postponed games had gone ahead, after half time but before full time in the games that did go ahead. Long-time members of the panel over the years have included football legends Gordon Banks, Roger Hunt, Tom Finney and Ted Drake.
Blaise and myself decided that a ‘score draw’ would have been the outcome of the Longford versus Bray encounter, in our own private Pools Panel. Hopefully we don’t have to sit too often – we’d much rather be sitting in the stands in Bray next Friday for the visit of Cobh Ramblers.