There’s always an interesting dynamic among football fans in Ireland, in that people rarely support their local teams, instead opting to follow a team across the sea in England. You have Liverpool, Man U, Chelsea and Arsenal fans in spades, usually depending on how successful they were when the person in question was a kid. While means that most of you reading this will follow one of the aforementioned clubs, some of you (especially our mature student readers) may follow a more off-beat club. Some of these clubs were successful twenty, maybe thirty years ago, and fell of for some reason, whereas some others were never really that good at all.
Thought I would start off with a more personal story. In the late 1940s my then-14 year old grandfather left Cork in search of work in London, like many before and after him did. My granddad didn’t talk about this part of his life much, as he was your typical Northside man, not too talkative; but after he passed away a few years ago I did learn some things about his time in England. He boxed professionally at one point, and, more relevant to this article, played professional football for a small London-based club: Dulwich Hamlet. If this name doesn’t jump out at you immediately, don’t be worried, it probably shouldn’t: despite being the “oldest club in the Isthmian League” the only accomplishment of note I can find is that they’ve won the aforementioned League a number of times since the 1920s, as well as the FA Amateur Cup. My grandfather returned to Cork some time in the 1950s (or possibly the 60s), later being the founding Chairman of Mayfield United football club. Dulwich Hamlet still exist today, currently sitting in 5th in the Isthmian Premier Division.
Bolton are a bit like Dulwich in that they were never really that successful, though admittedly Bolton were a lot more successful than Dulwich were. Bolton had its hey-day in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, regularly competing in FA Cup Finals and challenging for the league. In fact, their last major cup win came in 1958 as two goals from Nat Lofthouse were enough to defeat Manchester United in front of over 100,000 people in Wembley Stadium.
More recently, however, Bolton have not been too successful, being relegated from the Premier League by just one point in 2012, and, having been under serious financial risk for most of the season, were relegated to the third tier of English football in April of this year. At the time of writing Bolton are sitting in third place, three points behind League 1 leaders Scunthorpe United.
Notts Forest, to most reading this article, may seem out of place as they haven’t been overwhelmingly successful for some time now. Corkonian readers will know it as Roy Keane’s first club, though others may remember it for their glory under notorious manager Brian Clough (1973-1993). Clough, whose years at Derby & Leeds United were portrayed in the film ‘The Damned United’, is often referred to as the best English-born manager to never manage the national side. Notts Forest’s biggest accomplishment was undoubtedly their winning of the European Cup (now Champions League) two years ‘back-to-back’, with players like Peter Shilton, current Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill and ‘the Million Pound Man’ Trevor Francis.
Forest were relegated from the inaugural season of the Premier League in 93, later selling star midfielder Roy Keane to Manchester United for a then-British record of £3.75m. They would bob up and down between the top two divisions of English football for a few years, before dropping to the third tier of English football in the mid 2000s, the first European champions to do so, and the first time Forest had done so since 1949. Notts have never truly recovered, not leaving the second flight of English football since that brief dip into League One. At the time of writing they are in 20th place in the Championship, one point away from the relegation zone.
I may be showing my age here, but I remember when you could easily buy a Leeds United football jersey in pretty much any sports shop in Cork. I’ll admit, I haven’t tried to buy one too recently, but it’s a rare enough sight to just see one in the city that I reckon it’s a safe bet to make. Leeds United’s most successful era came under former-player Don Revie, who lead them out of danger of relegation to division three, right to winning the First Division (equivalent to today’s Premier League) twice and four FA Cups. Revie left to manage England and was unsuccessfully followed by the aforementioned Brian Clough; Clough would have the last laugh, though, as Revie’s England career was notoriously bad, leaving under suspicious circumstances to manage the United Arab Emirates.
Leeds would never really capture Revie’s 1970s success again, flirting with the second division right until the mid 90s, when Leeds won the league again under Howard Wilkenson. Financial mismanagement by club Chairman Peter Ridsdale doomed Leeds, as the Noughties were fraught with insolvency, causing the club to sell any player with promise or talent. Leeds entered administration on the 4th of May 2007, which caused them to be automatically docked 10 points and their own relegation to the third tier of English football, the lowest they had ever been.
Since then Leeds have recovered, to some extent, being promoted to the Championship in 2010, having already caused an upset that season by knocking Manchester United out of the FA Cup in the third round. Leeds are currently in 9th place in the Championship, one point away from a promotion place.
Honourable Mentions: MK Dons (formerly Wimbledon FC), Derby County, Shelbourne FC, Glasgow Rangers, Crystal Palace.