Making headlines for the wrong reasons
What a weekend that was. I mean, Friday night and Saturday morning we have the Carling Premiership projected into the limelight with the news that former Northern Ireland international Keith Gillespie is going to sign for Glentoran.
By 5.00pm on Saturday afternoon we have an idiot on the pitch trying to attack one of Gillespie's new team-mates and, but for the intervention of most of the Glentoran players and to his great credit manager Alan McDonald, we could have had a repeat of the Oval riot on our hands.
I was unfortunate enough to be at the Oval that fateful day, I was also at Pittodrie commentating when Rangers and Aberdeen fans confronted each other during a game that had to be stopped for 20 minutes.
But it is the first time I have ever witnessed a fan making his way onto the pitch and throwing a punch at a player. I hope it is the last.
As for the brainless idiot involved, I hope he never sees the inside of a football ground again.
He has taken Irish League football from the back pages to the front pages for all the wrong reasons. He has tarnished the good name of many good people at Portadown Football Club and in one mindless act managed to undermine a lot of the good work pre-season to market the new Carling Premiership.
Players should not have to run the gauntlet of thugs just because they happen to score a goal against a former team. That applies to any team. If our friend on Saturday at Portadown could not stomach the thought of Gary Hamilton scoring a goal against his former club then he should have stayed away. It should be a criminal offence for a fan to enter the field of play at an Irish league game, end of story.
The IFA have 'issued a statement' at this stage. Action is sure to follow, but it raises once again the role of a steward at Irish League games.
Now, to avoid any misunderstanding, let me get this on the record before I go any further.
I have the highest regard for stewards who give of their time freely at Irish League games and take physical and verbal abuse without provocation or justification. I admire them all and their efforts should be applauded, especially those who acted swiftly at Shamrock Park to remove the intruder.
The question that I would like to ask is whether these stewards are receiving the instruction and training that they deserve in order to help them do the job that they want to do as effectively as possible. Why is it that when you attend a game in England or Scotland that the stewards sit facing the crowd. At an Irish League game they all seem to be watching the match. Just a thought.
And while we are on the subject of unanswered questions, can somebody please tell me if they can come up with a logical reason why a round of derby fixtures in the new Carling Premiership is being played on a Tuesday night?
They are the biggest fixtures in the calender, so let's shunt them onto a midweek date when attendances are usually lower and when there is football on the TV. Brilliant idea!
I suppose it was the big fixture computer that just threw them out that way. The one that just happens to make sure the derby games can be played on Boxing Day.