FOOTBALL: In This Land of Clocks and Watches It's High Time We Got to a Finals Again; Switzerland V Rep. Ireland, Euro 2004 Showdown in Basel, Today 4.30pm

The Mirror (London, England), October 11, 2003 | Go to article overview

FOOTBALL: In This Land of Clocks and Watches It's High Time We Got to a Finals Again; Switzerland V Rep. Ireland, Euro 2004 Showdown in Basel, Today 4.30pm


Byline: Garry Doyle

AS AN exodus it hardly ranks alongside that which followed the potato famine during the 19th century but it is impressive nonetheless.

With 7,000 Irishmen expected to land in Basel for today's do-or-die clash - 4,000 of them ticketless - a hunger of a different kind has afflicted the country and it's one Brian Kerr is desperate to satisfy.

It's 15 years since Ireland last qualified for a European Championships and, following last year's successful World Cup campaign, the fans would love another chance to dine at UEFA's top table.

That's why Kerr will urge his players to beat Switzerland for the hordes of fans who have filled the pensions and guesthouses around Basel's old town since last night.

And the Irish manager has told the Swiss authorities not to worry about crowd trouble - even if Irish fans obtain tickets on the black market for the Swiss end of the ground.

Kerr said: "These are good people, football people, and there is absolutely no need for the Swiss to worry about hooliganism.

"These fans never cease to amaze me. In general the numbers of Irish supporters who travel to away games is superior to most other countries in the world.

"I have a lot of time for these people. For a long time I was one of them, a fan who went across Europe to cheer on my national side.

"I'm delighted to see so many here - especially those who do not have tickets - because that shows the depth of their passion and their love of the game.

"I've no doubt that more than 3,000 will get into the game and the Swiss police can feel secure in the knowledge that our people will behave themselves.

"We come from a culture where we can host 60,000 people in a stadium and have no need for segregation. There could even be four teams in one stadium and you would never get a problem.

"I'm sure our fans will behave themselves. They will be vocal and passionate because the type of fan who goes to an away game tends to be the most passionate.

"They also tend to understand the intricacies of the game a little more. They've spent a lot of money on coming here and my players will be aware of that."

Kerr's players will also be aware of what is at stake - what they need to do to qualify for the play-offs and the effort they will have to show.

Kerr said: "I think over the years we have seen that Irish players in general have shown no fear at taking on major tasks and overcoming tough odds.

"To come from a small population such as ours and to continually bring out good teams shows that we have some special formula. …

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FOOTBALL: In This Land of Clocks and Watches It's High Time We Got to a Finals Again; Switzerland V Rep. Ireland, Euro 2004 Showdown in Basel, Today 4.30pm
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