The great Jock Stein played his part in changing the face of football. The legendary manager was famously quoted as saying, “football without the fans is nothing” how right he was!
Here at 90 Minute Cynic, we want to reinforce the great mans words and give the games most important people, the fans, their say.
Today we speak to Ryan Clarke, follow him on Twitter @ryaaanjc
What team do you support?
I grew up supporting Celtic (and still do) although the past couple of years I’ve started following my local club, Bohemian FC – more commonly known as “Bohs”.
What’s your first memory of “going to the football”?
My first memory of “going to the football” was when I was still a nipper and picking out Henrik Larsson with a pair of binoculars when my Dad took me to Parkhead.
How often do you get to see your team?
I get to see Bohs play at home in Dalymount Park every second week as I literally live around the corner from the stadium, I also try to make it to all our away games that are in and around Dublin.
What are you most excited about for the new season?
The League of Ireland is back after the mid-season break and Bohs had a particularly poor start to the season but went into the break on the back of an unbeaten streak, making it into a Cup final and a 5-1 victory over St. Pats in a Dublin Derby. What I am most excited for the rest of the season would be making a push up the table towards the European places, hopefully winning some silverware and a win over Shamrock Rovers.
Do you buy club merchandise from official club outlets if not why not?
Yes, I do as it is the only option available. As the League of Ireland is so underdeveloped not even the major sports shops in Ireland sell club merchandise despite the fact they sell a variety of strips from around the UK and Europe.
Do you think your club could be doing more to “connect” with fans?
Yes, I do think that Bohs could be doing more to connect with fans but in the League of Ireland this problem is an epidemic. I feel like more could be done on the social media front to engage with current fans and entice new fans to the League, this is not just limited to Bohs, but the entire League of Ireland is lacking in this regard. Bohs would have one of biggest attendances hovering around 1,000 per game on average. At this moment in time, there are 2 clubs (Waterford Utd & Athlone Town) that are in serious financial trouble and are close to going bust. Unfortunately, this situation is all too familiar in Ireland and Bohs themselves have only just got things back on track recently. This isn’t helped by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) who totally ignore our domestic league to the point of collapse whilst trying to deflect all the attention onto the national team so nobody notices their gross mismanagement of our domestic league. I’ll finish this with a fact, the chief executive of the FAI, John Delaney, will “earn” more money than the League champions will receive in prize money and while his local club, Waterford Utd, go bust.
Are you in favour of reintroducing standing areas at stadiums?
I am absolutely in favour of reintroducing standing areas. It is quite clear to see the benefits of standing areas when they are implemented safely as is the case in Germany. With Dalymount Park being redeveloped in the near future I hope that a safe standing area is under consideration.
What’s your favourite football kit of all time?
It’s a toss up between the Ireland and Germany kits from Italia 90.
Do you play at any level?
Yes, but not anymore due the numerous ankle injuries.
If so what do you think of the cost of playing?
Membership is €100 a year plus subs. I think that it’s worth the money as it will inevitably be reinvested into the community and it can be a factor for good in keeping kids on the right path.
Do you or would you consider coaching at any level?
Yes, it is an interest of mine to try my hand at coaching. I have a particularly keen interest in the sport psychology side of the game and it is what I am currently studying at university.
What do you think of salary caps?
Generally, I would be interested in exploring the idea of salary caps in football as there needs to be controls put in place before the football bubble inevitably bursts. The inflation in transfer fees and wages is mind boggling and there should be attempts made to transition to a more sustainable model.
Are you happy that the League of Ireland is a “summer league” or would you prefer it to run at the same times as the major European leagues?
Yes. I think it would be a disaster if the League of Ireland was to run concurrently with the major European Leagues, so I am happy that the League of Ireland is summer league for a number of reasons. Firstly, like Scotland the weather throughout winter is abysmal and coupled with the severe lack of finances available to clubs in the League of Ireland, trying to maintain a pitch that is even semi-playable during winter time would be almost impossible.
Secondly, because of the popularity of the English Premier League in Ireland and our traditional GAA sports, trying to get people out to League of Ireland matches when they could sit at home or in the pub away from the poor Irish winter weather would only further decimate the already shrinking attendances.
Finally, the fact that the League of Ireland is summer league helps tremendously, with regards to fitness levels and match sharpness, when our clubs embark upon their adventures in Europe. An example of this would be Cork City beating Linfield in Windsor Park in the first leg of their Europa League qualifier, which would earn Cork more money than what they will get in prize money.
If you could implement one thing for the good of the game what would it be?
Without a shadow of a doubt it would have to be some sort of video referee system. A video review system to help referees is vital with how fast the game is becoming. I think if you were to apply the TMO system from rugby that would slow the game down too much, but a solution could be, both managers are entitled to appealing a maximum of 2 or 3 decisions per match to use at their own discretion. If something along those lines was implemented it would result in the right decision being made more often.
Favourite moment following your team?
My favourite moment would have to be our 3-1 win over Shamrock Rovers last season.It was the Club’s 125th anniversary and we were having a fantastic season after coming through a few dismal seasons as a result of our dire financial situation. Many had tipped Bohs to finish in the bottom half but ended the season 5 points off a Europa League place. Here is a a video COPA 90 made about the rivalry and this very match:
Favourite football moment not featuring your team?
It would definitely have to be Ireland beating Italy 1-0 at Euro 2016. The sense of national pride and optimism was a breath of fresh air and something I had not experienced. I know this is a bit of a cop out but having not been around for Italia 90 I’ll justify it!
If you could have been at any game in history what would it be?
Borussia Dortmund vs Malaga in the quarter-final of the Champions League 2013. Their comeback was simply magical but the build up for Dortmund’s first goal was majestic Götze’s pass, the flick from Reus onto Lewandowski and then the finish from Lewandowski was simply sublime. They should have won the Champions League that season.
The thing that annoys you most about football?
Transfer Deadline Day and Sky Sports News.
What do you think of the transfer window? Should it stay or should clubs be allowed to buy at any point of the season?
The transfer window should definitely stay. It would be tremendously unsporting if (for example) Real Madrid could have bought Antoine Griezmann from Atletico before the Champions League final, even the speculation of such a transfer before such an important match would have a negative effect on the player.
What’s the best bit of “banter” you’ve heard or seen at a football game?
While at a match recently it was 25°C and the assistant manager from the other team ran on with water for his player but when the Bohs player asked for some he was refused, later on in the match both players were taking a drink so the Bohs player called the opposition’s assistant manager over and squirted the water all over him.
What makes your club so special?
Bohs are the only club with a non-broken membership of the league since its inception and are one of two teams that have never been relegated from the League of Ireland Premier Division. In addition, our stadium, Dalymount Park, was the “Home of Irish football” where the Republic of Ireland played all of their matches before moving to Lansdowne Road (The Aviva Stadium) and there is a plan in place for Dalymount to be completely redeveloped in the near future.
Anything else you want to say?
Despite the grim picture that I have painted about the state of domestic football in Ireland it is still a wonderful place to come and watch football. There is no better feeling than watching your local club score a goal and win matches and at some point watch a local lad that will go on to represent the nation in major international tournaments like Euro 2016, start his career right in front of you, as Stephen Ward did with Bohs. Not to mention all the wonderful people who give up their time for their local club. So for every Irish person that might be reading this feature, please get out there and support your local club because it might be dying on its feet.
And finally, what’s your favourite biscuit?
Tough one, but it has to be a milk chocolate butter biscuit. The balance between milk chocolate on top and biscuit underneath is simply magnificent.
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