Eamon Dunphy’s Biggest Fan
Posted on October 15, 2007
Filed Under Guest Articles
I’m delighted to say that MerseyPete has written another article for the blog. In this tale, he talks of a surreal experience many years ago at The Den.
‘Made in Brum’ is currently running a series called ‘The best games of our lives’. This is where old fans (sorry – ‘older fans’) send the kids to sleep by recalling past glories, usually involving a scrap with the opposition. Well, far be it from me to do that, but the latest one did have me all misty eyed. It was about two games from 1971-72, probably the last season where I followed Blues home and away every game.
One of the games in the article is the away trip to Millwall, the scene of a little tale I’m always boring people with – so now it’s your turn. This was of course our great promotion season, with Trevor Francis and Bob Latchford leading the way. I was on the dole most of that year so I’ve no idea how I managed to afford it, especially travelling from Liverpool, but I went all over the country to what I remember as a series of Trevor inspired 1-0 wins, though the records might not bear my memory out (there actually seem to have been three). In my mind’s eye the last five minutes of most games were spent with Trevor standing on the ball by the corner flag – Freddie Goodwin’s lasting contribution to football tactics.
My experiences were different to those of the MIB veterans. I’ve never got into a fight at a football match. I’m probably too much of a coward, but in any case I never saw the sense in personal violence. I might fight for some things but football isn’t one of them and in fact I saw remarkably little aggro over the years.
Millwall’s Den wasn’t a place you went to lightly, and I had to go to this game on my own. Millwall fans had a fearsome reputation and I knew I’d be no match for them, so a low profile was the order of the day. That said, there was no real segregation in those days and I had no worries about standing and chatting with their fans. It was just the shaven headed Neanderthals behind the goal I was anxious to avoid. (Unfair to Neanderthals that, as it happens – I gather they were actually rather cute).
Anyway, Millwall were one of our main rivals that year and had a good team, including ex Blue Barry Bridges. One of their stars was called Eamon Dunphy. He was an ex Busby Babe, a skilful midfielder, though, not, in my view, a dangerous one. Dunphy is now of course better known as a journalist – Roy Keane’s biographer and apologist. His book ‘Only A Game’ was one of the first, and still probably the best, footballers’ diaries.
After a slightly tense tube ride to the ground I parked myself on one side of the Den terracing, and struck up a conversation with a Millwall fan. He was a big fan of Dunphy, but had a low opinion of his fellow fans. ‘Fackin great player, Danphy’, he told me. (Sorry, this is the best I can do for his South London accent). ‘But this lot don’t appreciate him. They’re all fackin idiots’. I looked around nervously at this – he was entitled to his view of course, but I didn’t want to upset anyone more than I had to. ‘You wait’, he went on, ‘as soon as he doesn’t lash the ball up the pitch they’ll fackin boo him. He’s fackin wasted on them. Great player Danphy. Fackin idiots’. There was plenty more in this vein, occasionally interrupted by my trying to tell him how good young Trevor Francis was. I don’t think he was listening.
The game started and after a couple of minutes Dunphy misplaced a pass. My new friend exploded – ‘YOU FACKIN IDIOT DANPHY…….’. This carried on for most of the half, only interrupted when Millwall scored. At half time he reverted to his previous self, apparently completely unaware of the fact that he appeared to behaving like a case of advanced split personality. Freud would have had a field day, but I thought it tactful not to mention it. Ironically, he was the only fan around us who had a go at Dunphy – everyone else seemed to be much more tolerant.
We lost the game three nil. It was one of the great Kenny Burns’ first games for Blues and our worst defeat of a memorable season. At the end I sneaked off down the perfectly named Coldblow Lane, avoiding the series of fights which the future MIB columnist was, unbeknown to me, getting involved in, and headed for the safety of my mate’s flat in sunny Islington.
The postscript to this was the return match towards the end of the season. We badly needed the win to make up lost ground; Millwall would have been delighted with a point. I’ve truly never seen such concerted time wasting in a game. At one point, early in the first half, the ball ran towards their manager Benny Fenton in the dug out. He stood up as if to kick it back, but actually rolled it further away from the pitch! Jose Mourinho would have had nothing on Fenton when it came to the dark arts of management. Fat lot of good it did him as we won one nil, on our way to pipping Millwall to promotion in the last game of the season.
That game – at Leyton Orient – is in the same MIB article and I …………………… oh, it’s OK, I can tell you’ve had enough, I’ll save that story for another day.