Month: June 2022

Home / Month: June 2022

Edge spoke with Bleacher Report for a new interview discussing his return to WWE, his match with Randy Orton at WrestleMania and more. You can check out some highlights below: 
On getting a sustained ovation at his return at the Royal Rumble: “You visualize it. You hope—you truly hope—that it will be that way. But you don’t know for sure. When I heard that kind of reaction, it overwhelmed me, and it really overtook all of my senses. There were a lot of different nerves that night too, because there were different things in play this time. I was coming back after nine years. Am I in good enough shape to do this? Can I keep up? I have kids now. I’ve never wrestled having had kids before. I can’t get hurt. … Those things are all running through my mind, and it’s the first time that I’ve ever been nervous before a match. And that was a very, very odd feeling for me. And I didn’t like that. But I kind of did too.” 
On the TLC match at WrestleMania X-Seven: “It was six young, hungry talents, truly trying to steal the show and to get noticed and make our mark. I think we’d all started to at that point. We’d had the first tag ladder match with the Hardys, and then the Hardys had the tables match with the Dudleys. But this was the first time where all of those combustible elements came together. And I think we all knew. We just all knew. And as a performer, you know when you have the right people in a match and you have something that can be special. We had all of that in spades, and it was time to go out and do it. That doesn’t mean a classic match is always going to happen, but when it does start to happen and you can feel it and you know it, there’s no better feeling. There really isn’t.” 
On the TLC match setting a precedent for people to take big risks: “There is that part of me that feels we pushed it too far. At that time, we were young and we were hungry, and we were just champing at the bit to get noticed and to make our mark. And how do you do that when you have Steve Austin firing on every cylinder? When you have The Rock firing on every cylinder? When you have The Undertaker and Mankind and Kane and Triple H—what do you do to stand out, to get noticed, to start creating some kind of a groundswell? Well, we were willing to take risks. And we’d like to think that they were calculated and that they made sense. But I still think we’ve pushed it so far. And when I look at young talent now and I see matches like, ‘Oh, they’re doing so much.’ But then I have to temper it, remind myself, ‘Well, dumbass, you’re partly responsible for this because of the TLC matches.’ I really would love for it to become more story-driven, more selling and more just that type of thing. But I’m also proud of it, you know? And I’m proud of the work we all did. I’m proud of all those guys. And we’ll always share a special bond because of that. Being involved and then on the ground floor of something like that, it’s special.” 
On his retirement in 2011 due to spinal stenosis: “It wasn’t really walking away. I feel like it was ripped away. So there was some adjustment, without a doubt. But I also realized that I’d better come to terms and come to grips with it, because I’m told I have no choice. When you’re told you have no choice, it somehow makes it easier because you don’t have to go, ‘Oh, can I still get more out of this?’ No, it’s taken out of your hands.” 
On his physical condition: “Now don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely limitations. There’s going to be things that you used to see me do that won’t happen now. I want to be able to craft and tell more nuanced stories and tell more stories with my face and my eyes—definitely more than jumping off ladders.” 
On his Last Man Standing match with Orton: “I’m so proud of the whole story and process that we put together. Is part of me disappointed that my first singles match back in nine years is in front of no audience, no live audience? Yeah, of course. You always thrive and feed off of that live reaction. That being said, again, it’s a challenge, and I have to look for the positives. How do we make the best of this? How do we turn this into chicken salad? That’s the goal. That’s a huge challenge. I get off on that. And I truly think that with a performer like Randy Orton, and knowing what I know and knowing what I feel and the ideas I have—man, I cannot wait for people to see this. I think I’m thinking of this in terms of storytelling and being able to emote with facial expressions and drama, and that is just so much fun to me.”
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STRANDED MONACO FANS were offered free accommodation by supporters in Dortmund after last night’s Champions League match was called off following the attack on the Borussia Dortmund team bus.

Hundreds of French fans had nowhere to sleep in the west German city after the quarter-final, first-leg, was called off just before the 1945 kick-off after three explosions hit the Borussia team bus en route to the match.

The Dortmund team was left badly shaken by the attack and defender Marc Bartra underwent wrist surgery after being hit by glass.

Many Monaco supporters, who had planned to travel back to France directly after the game, found they had nowhere to sleep when the match was postponed until 1745 today, with their tickets still valid.

However, a heart-warming spontaneous initiative from Dortmund fans via Twitter meant many found a place to sleep for the night under the hashtag #bedforawayfans.

Borussia Dortmund’s official account promoted the initiative.

“Dear supporters of @AS_Monaco_EN! If you need accommodation in Dortmund, please check #bedforawayfans. #bvbasm,” the German club tweeted and the Monaco account also highlighted the action.

Several Dortmund fans posted pictures of themselves at home with relieved Monaco supporters and the solidarity drew plenty of praise on social media.

“All together! Solidarity has developed between the fans of both teams,” wrote French sports newspaper L’Equipe.

German Sky sports reporter Rolf Fuhrmann tweeted: “#bedforawayfans Dortmund & Co, you are all simply brilliant”, while one fan tweeted: “Thank you for showing that football is not just football#bedforawayfans.”

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IF THE GAME goes ahead, no spectators will be permitted to attend the Republic of Ireland’s upcoming meeting with Germany in the 2021 Women’s European Championship qualifiers.

The first of two meetings between the top two sides in Group I is scheduled to take place at the Preußenstadion in Münster on Saturday, 11 April. 

With the game just over four weeks away, the DFB – German football’s governing body – said today that the current plan is for it to be played behind closed doors.

The decision has been taken by local authorities from the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia due to the ongoing spread of coronavirus.

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“The DFB will give updates on refunds for purchased tickets via the online ticket store,” a DFB statement added.

On the back of Wednesday’s 3-0 win away to Montenegro – which was also closed to spectators – Ireland hold a one-point lead over the Germans, who have the benefit of a game in hand.

In their bid to qualify for a major tournament for the first time, Vera Pauw’s side are also scheduled to play away to Ukraine on 5 June before concluding their Group I campaign with a home game against Germany on 22 September.

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CZECH REPUBLIC DEFENDER Frantisek Rajtoral, who played for Turkish side Gaziantepspor, has been found dead in his home.

The club’s president Ibrahim Kizil said the 31-year-old’s body was found in his home in the southeastern province of Gaziantep by police after he failed to attend training.

Kizil also confirmed that he had taken his own life.

He added that the club had not been aware of any family problems and described Rajtoral as a “very good footballer”.

Rajtoral earned 14 caps for his country between 2012 and 2014 and was on the Czech squad at Euro 2012.

He signed for the Turkish club from Czech side Viktoria Plzen in August last year.

European football’s governing body UEFA on Sunday paid tribute on Twitter.

Turkish Sports Minister Akif Cagatay Kilic offered “condolences to Frantisek Rajtoral’s family, Gaziantepspor and the football community”.

– © AFP 2017

If you need to talk, contact:

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 1800 247 247 or email – (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

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IF I WAS to ask you to name the five Irish players that have played in the group stages of the Champions League with non-British teams — how many could you answer correctly?

There’s a good chance you would name the two active players; Aiden McGeady and Cillian Sheridan.

McGeady faced some of Europe’s best during his spell in Russia with Spartak Moscow, while Sheridan entered the continent’s premier club competition with Cypriot side APOEL in 2014.

Former Ireland striker David Connolly may also come to mind for his exploits with Dutch outfit Feyenoord in the 1990s. But what about the other two?

Bonus points are awarded if you named Phil Babb and Alan Mahon, who played in the competition for Sporting Lisbon in 2000.

The pair made the surprise move to Portugal on free transfers earlier that summer as Babb departed Liverpool — after a brief loan spell at Tranmere Rovers — where Mahon also caught the eye of the newly-crowned Portuguese champions following a couple of impressive seasons at Prenton Park.

“For me it was a hard decision. I was away from home anyway in England, but to live in Portugal would be difficult. However, there was an opportunity to play in the Champions League there.”

Alan Mahon pictured at Tranmere in 1998.

Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Before leaving Dublin to travel the well-worn path taken by many Irish footballers to England, the former Crumlin United man carefully weighed up his options, with offers from Chelsea, Leeds United and Middlesbrough on the table.

“I sat down with my dad, who was my hero and my idol, and he was always honest with me.

“In front of my eyes, my dad ripped up the Chelsea contract, and then he ripped up the Leeds and Middlesbrough ones.

Tranmere, who have since dropped out of the Football League, were a competitive mid-table Championship club in the 1990s, and had hoped that one year they would be able to gather enough late-season momentum to sneak into the play-offs for the chance to gain promotion to the Premier League. But it wasn’t to be.

“I managed to make my debut when I was 16 or 17. Every year we were pushing for the play-offs, so as a club it was the perfect start for me.

“It made me understand the pecking order of football, the respect within football.

“A lot of players speak about that they should have done this or that they should have done that, but I have no regrets about my career, especially at the start.”

Mahon won 2 caps for Ireland.

Source: EMPICS Sport

The midfielder, who was named the FAI U21 Player of the Year in 1999, went on to score 13 goals in 120 appearances in his first spell with Tranmere that also included a run to the EFL Cup final in 2000, where the Birkenhead-based club lost to Martin O’Neill’s Leicester City.

“I actually watched the whole game and I was thinking we actually could have won that — we had plenty of chances in the game.

A taste of Wembley whetted Mahon’s appetite for some potentially big occasions ahead at Sporting Lisbon, but ultimately a lack of chances to impress in the first-team left the then-22-year-old frustrated.

“I was desperate to play. When I went out there, the opportunities were few and far between.”

Mahon, who won the first of his two Ireland caps earlier that year, had to wait until the end of that October to make his first appearance for the Portuguese giants, but it was well worth the wait with his dream debut coming against the Galacticos of Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in the Champions League.

Mahon came up against stars such as Roberto Carlos of Real Madrid.

Source: EMPICS Sport

Although Vicente del Bosque’s men had already secured qualification to the next group stage, their side that day still included the likes of Roberto Carlos, Claude Makelele, Guti and Luis Figo.

Meanwhile, Sporting’s Champions League aspirations were already shattered by the time matchday five came around, but the outside chance of reaching the Uefa Cup — now the Europa League — as the third placed team remained a possibility.

“I got told the day before that I was playing. I’m actually getting quite emotional because my dad and mum couldn’t be there.

The game though did not go according to plan, with Mahon substituted at the break with his side 2-0 down. Fernando Morientes came off the bench in the second-half to score twice to complete the 4-0 rout.

In December, Mahon closed in on a return to England after playing just one more time for Sporting — the same month they sacked manager Augusto Inácio after a poor run of results — this time as a substitute in the league win over Belenenses.

A restlessness over the lack of game time resulted in Mahon swapping Lisbon for a loan move to back to the Championship with Blackburn Rovers.

“In fact, the public were allowed in to watch the training but they also had two local papers who would give you marks out of ten just for your training. There was that type of pressure the team was under.

In the summer, Mahon signed permanently with a Blackburn side managed by Graeme Souness, after he helped Rovers earn promotion to the Premier League. The Dubliner was also part of the Blackburn squad that beat Tottenham to win the League Cup the following season.

L-R: Blackburn Rovers’ Alan Mahon, Damien Duff, Lucas Neill and Garry Flitcroft celebrate a goal.

Source: EMPICS Sport

Mahon would go on to spend the majority of the rest of his career in England’s North West with permanent spells at Wigan — where he again won promotion to the Premier League — and at Burnley, before ultimately retiring in 2011 after a second spell with Tranmere.

“I was getting a couple of niggling injuries and it was the year my father passed away. Like a lot of Irish boys, my dad was a big part of my life. He died in the March and I retired that June.

Despite pursuing other business interests outside of football after hanging up his boots, it was difficult for Mahon to completely remove himself from the sport he had immersed himself in since he was a boy, and he has since progressed to become the assistant coach of the Manchester City Women’s team.

“I missed the hustle and bustle and structure of day-to-day football; it was what I have been doing since I was a child out in Crumlin.

“He was the one that gave me the opportunity. He said: ‘Go off and do your badges, come back to me and we’ll organise something for you, as long as you are willing to work hard.’

“As they hadn’t had much coaching before, he said that the girls would be really receptive; he thought it would be very good for me and very good for them.

“And because the club are so proactive in pushing the team and giving them everything they need to become better players, it became an easy choice for me to come.”

Manchester City Women Assistant Coach Alan Mahon.

Source: Martin Rickett

Fortunately for Mahon and the team, it has resulted in a mutually beneficial relationship with Nick Cushing’s side claiming their first Women’s Super League title last season.

The aim to eventually emulate the Arsenal team that have dominated the women’s game in England with 11 league titles since the turn of the millennium will be a difficult one to achieve.

But to help the team’s cause, the affiliation between the Women’s side and Manchester City has been strengthened and revamped to a more “formal partnership” to provide the team with the extra resources needed to develop into one of Europe’s top clubs.

This has also coincided with the team name changing from Manchester City Ladies to Manchester City Women.

Within the team is current Ireland international Megan Campbell, who joined City last year after the full-back completed her scholarship at Florida State University, and is the sole Irish representative in the side.

Earlier this month the 23-year-old was among the players that voiced her dismay with the way the FAI treated the national Women’s team in the well-publicised dispute, but the facilities and structures appear to be in place for the side to succeed at City.

“The Women’s team are integrated within the City Academy – we’re not stuck in the corner – we’re centre to where everything is.

“Pep [Guardiola] has come to a few of the sessions to see the girls train, even though he is a busy man with a lot on his plate with his own team. The Academy staff then in general too would come over to have a look. It’s quite an open place in wanting to learn.

“It has been an eye-opener for me in terms of people who really want it. The girls really, really want to succeed.

Mahon is not the only former Ireland international who is part of the coaching setup at City, with Mark Kennedy and Lee Carsley Head Coaches of the male U15 and U18 sides respectively.

“I’m still new to the coaching world, I’m still learning and still got a lot to learn, but I am in a very good place to do it.”

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REAL MADRID ARE well aware of the challenge they face after being drawn with Manchester City in the last 16 of the Champions League, but club director Emilio Butragueno remains bullish given Los Blancos’ pedigree.

Madrid would have been braced for a testing tie after they finished second to Paris Saint-Germain in the group stage, with the Ligue 1 champions coasting to top spot.

Like PSG, City made similarly light work of their pool, claiming twice as many points as second-placed Atalanta and avoiding a single defeat.

The contest will see former Barcelona player and coach Pep Guardiola go up against his old foes, as City’s credentials look set for an immediate examination in the knockout stages.

Although Butragueno suggested City’s financial muscle makes them a difficult obstacle, he is taking heart from Madrid’s experience at this level.

“All teams are difficult at this point,” he told reporters. “City are a very powerful opponent. It will be an exciting tie and we have to prepare well. They will demand the best from us.

“They have invested a lot of money, but we are Real Madrid and we are in a position to face anyone. We are accustomed to these types of matches and it will be great for the fans.”

Like Guardiola, City director of football Txiki Begiristain spent much of his playing career at Barca and knows Madrid’s capabilities all too well, but he sees the February tie as an opportunity for the Premier League champions.

“It’s a difficult one, of course,” he told BT Sport. “Real Madrid have won [the competition] 13 times, so they’re the best.

“We want to be the best, so we want to beat them. It is always a pleasure to go to Real Madrid and play in a big stadium like the Santiago Bernabeu.

“We know what we are going to face, but they know our team and our manager too. I think we have to keep connected to all of the competitions and we will have chances to win some.

“In the league, Liverpool are many points ahead, but we have to be connected.”

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MAURICIO POCHETTINO HAS hinted that he would have been willing to consider taking the top job at Arsenal, while admitting that he is “open” to a swift return to the Premier League.

The Argentine spent five-and-a-half years at Tottenham before being relieved of his managerial duties on 21 November, following a poor start to the 2019-20 season.

Pochettino transformed Spurs into title contenders and Champions League finalists on a shoestring budget, but failed to get his hands on any major silverware, which ultimately led to club chairman Daniel Levy’s decision to make a change in the dugout.

A number of top clubs have been linked with Pochettino since he left Tottenham, including Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, while he continues to be touted as a potential successor for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United.

Even Arsenal were credited with an interest in the 47-year-old after they sacked Unai Emery last month, but Manchester City assistant Mikel Arteta ended up filling that vacancy after weeks of speculation.

During his first full interview since being dismissed by Spurs, Pochettino has confessed that he is “open” to all opportunities, suggesting he might have contemplated succeeding Emery at Emirates Stadium had he been approached.

“In football, you never know what can happen in the future. you need to be only free and open to listen and anything can happen,” Pochettino said while speaking in Doha as a guest of Qatar’s Supreme Committee ahead of the 2022 World Cup. “I am a coach and I would love to be in in the best place that you can.

“Now is a moment to recharge the batteries. The Premier League is one of the best leagues in the world. But it’s not only the Premier League, there are a lot of leagues in the world that can be exciting or a very good challenge.”

The former Spurs boss added on his time in north London: “Five-and-a-half years working in Tottenham was a very enjoyable time, a very nice journey and I only keep good memories,” Pochettino said.

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“The journey was amazing. I don’t need to talk about what happened, only that it was an honour for me to be at Tottenham.

“I think what happened in the past, happened in the past and now moving on is the best for everyone. That is happening in life and happening in football.”

Pochettino went on to describe how he is spending his free time while he searches for his next role in management, expressing his belief that “football is going to find a way to put us into the race again”.

“I tried to enjoy relaxing, tried to recharge the batteries,” Pochettino said. “This type of thing helps us to again to feel all the energy. We’ll see what happens. I am a person that is always open to listen to people. And of course, we’ll see about the future.

“But at the moment, I only try to get relaxed, spend time with my friends, my family, the things that before were impossible to do. And we’ll see. Football is going to find a way to put us into the race again.”

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EVERTON BOSS CARLO Ancelotti has admitted Liverpool chose wisely when they rejected him in favour of making Jurgen Klopp manager in 2015.

Ancelotti will experience his first Merseyside derby in an FA Cup third-round tie at Anfield on Sunday.

The experienced Italian could have been on the other side of the divide had Liverpool selected him as Brendan Rodgers’ successor just over four years ago.

Ancelotti held talks with the Reds but conceded they were right to appoint Klopp, who has led the club to Champions League glory and a commanding position atop the Premier League.

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“It was after [leaving] Real Madrid, I had a chat with the owner,” Ancelotti told a news conference.

“They were looking for a new manager but I think they made the right choice with Jurgen. He is doing fantastic work at Liverpool, so well done. He has created a fantastic team and fantastic players.

“They are, in this moment, in a really good shape, really good condition, but we must not think a lot about the opponent.”

Everton last visited Liverpool in December and lost 5-2, a result that proved the end for Marco Silva.

The Toffees have not won at Anfield in any competition since 1999, but Ancelotti got the better of Klopp in a Champions League encounter while in charge of Napoli earlier this season and hopes to deliver an upset for his new club’s supporters.

“I know how Evertonians would like this and we have the same dream, to beat Liverpool at Anfield,” he said.

“It is a dream for us and an opportunity, so we will try. Usually there is a big rivalry when you have two teams in the same city. It was the same in Milan and Rome when I was there and I know how the supporters are excited to beat their rival.”

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JOHN DEMPSEY DIDN’T really know what he had signed up for.

Born and raised in London, he claims the decision to play for Ireland instead of England was an easy one. Yet he could be forgiven a few doubts as he boarded a plane for Dublin, not sure who would be there to greet him when he turned up for his first Ireland training session. The squashed dressing rooms he found in Phibsboro were a world away from the glitz and glamour of playing for Chelsea, but a love for Irish football soon blossomed.  

More of that later, but first there is a major milestone to address. It is fast approaching 50 years since John Dempsey achieved his boyhood dream.  

Old Trafford, April 1970. Chelsea 2 Leeds United 1.  

Chelsea’s first FA Cup win is one of the most iconic in the competition’s storied history. The first game resulted in a bruising 2-2 draw in front of 100,000 spectators at Wembley. A record TV audience of 28 million tuned in to watch an equally physical replay which was eventually decided by a David Webb winner in extra-time. 

“I’ve got old videos of the replay and sometimes I do look at it or see certain things on YouTube which bring back all those memories, and then it feels like only yesterday,” Dempsey says in a thick yet gentle London accent.  

“The FA Cup was a big thing for me as a young boy. My Dad used to take me to watch football from the age of six. We used to go and watch Chelsea one week and then the following week we’d go watch Fulham because they were local. That was kind of the done thing. Football was in me from day one as such.

“When I seven or eight and playing with my mates in the park, your dream was to play just once in an FA Cup final. The fact of actually being involved in an FA Cup final with of those teams, which was the biggest thing at that time, meant a lot. It wasn’t about winning the league back then; it was getting to the cup final for the big day out.” 

There were household names dotted all over the Chelsea team. The London club had Peter Bonetti in goal, John Hollins and Charlie Cooke in midfield, and Peter Osgood – who achieved the rare feat of scoring in every round of Chelsea’s cup win – up front. While remembered for their stylish approach to the game, Chelsea’s defence was as mean as it got, and even alongside a granite character like Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris, Dempsey, who signed for Chelsea from Fulham in 1969, stood out as a tough, hard-hitting defender.

He remembers facing a Leeds team who, while not shy of a tackle themselves, were equally comfortable in possession.  

“Johnny Giles was in midfield for Leeds with Billy Bremner, and they were such an outstanding pair. Both were tough little individuals who put their foot in, and it didn’t matter if they went over the top of the ball or not. They were strong players. But Johnny Giles was also very skillful, a very good passer of the ball, and he could read the game so well and intercept balls. He was non-stop for 90 minutes and covered so much ground. A very difficult player to contend with. And then Bremner alongside him as well? You can imagine it. They had such a good team.” 

Dempsey (second left), Peter Osgood (third r) and Peter Houseman (r) celebrate Chelsea’s winning goal against Leeds as Jack Charlton (second right) looks on

Source: PA Archive/PA Images

The launch of Match of the Day in 1964 and England’s World Cup win in 1966 heralded the emergence of the English’s game’s first real superstars. By the time Dempsey was cementing his place in that great Chelsea side of the early 1970s, Kevin Keegan was starting to make his name at Liverpool, Francis Lee was leading the line for Manchester City and Jimmy Greaves was still banging goals in for Tottenham Hotspur. 

Yet one man was a cut above the best. 

“George Best was only about 5’8″, but the thing is he could use both feet,” Dempsey explains.

“That made him very difficult to mark. If he had his back to you, you stood a chance, but once you let him turn and run at you, you had a major problem because you never knew which way he was going to go, left or right. 

Chelsea had their own share of superstars, and winning the FA Cup only added to the aura of glamour that had attached itself to the club. The swinging ’60s had just pulled down the blinds on a decade of decadence and debauchery, but being a stone’s throw from the vibrant scene found along the King’s Road helped the West London club retain a certain level of chic. 

“You had teams at the opposite end of the county, like Leeds for example, where it was more, ‘Have a cigarette and go to the pub.’ Completely different to what the King’s Road scene would have been like. You had all the fashion there, so it was all flared trousers and God knows what else.  

Dempsey tracks Leeds United’s Mick Jones in 1970 FA Cup final replay

Source: S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport

“For us it was about playing football… but yeah, we had lots of famous people who used to come and watch Chelsea play because of where we were in London. Michael Caine would come, Steve McQueen came over from America, Michael Crawford was a big Chelsea supporter. Richard Attenborough was a director at the club. Eric Sykes, the comedian, Arthur Askey was in loads of films around the ’60s. Different people like that. That gave us a connection to the whole showbiz side.” 

Dempsey’s international career could hardly have been further removed.  

His first cap came during his time with Fulham. While expecting a call-up to the England U23s, an approach came from the across the Irish Sea, and Dempsey would soon become one of the first players to line out for Ireland under the ‘Granny Rule’. While the green jersey brought nowhere near the level of success he enjoyed at Chelsea, Dempsey says he never had any regrets about his decision to play for Ireland.  

“My mother was from Kildare and my father from Waterford, but I was born in Hampstead in London. So that was the connection, and in those days it was probably a strange thing (to be born in England but play for Ireland), but it did start to become a thing around then. I was happy with the decision.” 

His loyalty would soon be tested. With extremely limited resources, the Ireland set-up was a very different environment to what Dempsey knew from Fulham and Chelsea. 

“We had professional players coming over from England, players like Jimmy Conway, Eamonn Dunphy, Don Givens, Shay Brennan, Johnny Giles, Tony Dunne, myself, but the thing was you weren’t sure who was going to turn up because people might be injured or whatever. Then we also had League of Ireland players, at the time it was Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians, Limerick and a few others.  

“You didn’t know those players at all really until you joined up with Ireland. It wasn’t a wholly professionally team, it was a mixture of League of Ireland and players based in England. Then when there were injured players, they had to build up by getting more League of Ireland players in. It wasn’t very professionally run.” 

The trips became easier when Dempsey’s Chelsea team-mate Paddy Mulligan, himself a graduate of the League of Ireland, also joined the Ireland team.  

“Paddy was such a nice fella. An outstanding full-back, always getting forward and a good crosser of the ball. Being Irish himself he knew much more about the League of Ireland players and that side of things. We became room-mates and were quite close. He still comes over to Chelsea occasionally and I’ll see him there. ” 

Paddy Mulligan and Johnny Giles during an Ireland training session

Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Given the make-up of the team, expectations were low throughout Dempsey’s international career. Ireland picked up just one point from six games in their 1970 World Cup qualifying campaign, and a 2-1 win against Iran at the Brazil Independence Cup – a tournament to mark the 150th anniversary of Brazilian independence – in June 1972, represented a first win since November 1967. In the middle of that 19-game winless run, Dempsey became the first Ireland player to receive a red card after he threw the ball at the referee during the first-half of a 4-0 loss away to Hungary. Fifty years later, he still protests his innocence.  

Despite the lack of results on the pitch, Dempsey’s memories mainly focus on the raucous atmosphere’s that greeted the team at Dalymount Park. 

“You noticed the difference because it wasn’t the biggest crowds like Stamford Bridge or Old Trafford or wherever, it was completely different, but the atmosphere was always really, really good. I enjoyed playing there and playing for Ireland. 

“I played under Johnny Carey, then Noel Cantwell, Liam Tuohy, Mick Meegan. They were all different in their own way. Noel Cantwell was a tough sort of person, obviously an ex-Ireland player as well. They were all really nice men, but it was tough for them because of the situation. 

“It became difficult for us in games because we were playing against a lot of international teams who were really well-drilled and well-coached. Not many teams we played against had a bunch of semi-professionals like us. 

“We had League of Ireland players who were only training twice a week, and so they obviously would get tired quicker. That did come into it at times, where we would look drained of energy and that allowed teams to put pressure on us.  

“Even though those League of Ireland players would never stop running, coming up against teams that were just so quick and had players with these great skills, it was completely different to what we had as a team. But everyone gave 100%, and I think we all found it an exciting time, whether you were based in England or were a League of Ireland player. 

“There were loads of good League of Ireland players, they gave 100% and so did we, and in the end we became a team. We didn’t think about it as us and the League of Ireland players, even though results weren’t great and to win a match was a big thing really. If we lost, we lost as a team.

Dempsey’s Chelsea club photo from 1970

Source: PA Archive/PA Images

“It was hard. But the other thing was the association probably didn’t have the money to give us the best training facilities or improve the ground or whatever. We just accepted it.” 

Dempsey admits that despite their semi-professional status, he was struck by the quality of the squad’s League of Ireland contingent. 

It made a lasting impression. Dempsey’s Chelsea career ended in 1978, and following a two-year spell with Philadelphia Fury, he trickled down the leagues in England. 

Then, in 1983, the phone rang.  

“I was at Maidenhead, then I was player/manager at Egham, and someone in Dundalk found out I was with them and they gave me a call,” he explains. 

“They asked if I would be interested in coming over to be player/manager.” 

Dempsey was in the mood for a fresh challenge. 

“The League of Ireland was another world completely. We were only training a couple of nights a week, and that was difficult because we had some players living in Dublin too. That was a bit of a headache. Teams like Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians had everybody all together for training, but two-thirds of our team were in Dundalk and the rest were down in Dublin training on their own.  

“They were really nice people in Dundalk, all the supporters I met were nice people. It would be wrong to say it wasn’t 100% professionally run because you could see everyone was doing their best for the club, but it was just so difficult. We would train on the pitch and then it might be cut up for the games as a result. But that was the way it was for most teams, so we all got on with it. We never thought negatively about things. It was just a case of getting on with it and doing your best, and just look at them now. Dundalk have grown into a top team, playing in Europe and doing really well. It’s great to see.  

“But like any team at that time, it was tough for them financially. Their facilities were not too bad actually, particularly when you think of some the grounds we went to in the 1980s. Tiny dressing rooms where the team would barely fit inside, but clubs didn’t have the money to improve things.” 

His stay in Dundalk was brief but eventful. Following some run-ins with referees and a dip in results which saw Dundalk slip from third to eighth, his two-year contract was ended early by mutual consent. Fans would later pass a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the board following the decision.  

It proved to be Dempsey’s last job in football, as he decided to dedicate his time to working with people with special needs at a care centre in London. 

Now retired, the 73-year-old continues to cast a critical eye over Chelsea and Ireland, mainly from the comfort of his couch.  

Yet every now and then he steps back into the limelight. His status as a Chelsea legend was rubber-stamped thanks to a fine goal in a 2-1 win over Real Madrid in the 1971 European Cup Winners’ Cup final – Chelsea’s first European trophy – and he is regularly invited back to Stamford Bridge as a guest of the club.

“We drew the first game against Real 1-1 and the replay had to be two days later,” he recalls.

“A lot of the fans weren’t prepared for that, so they had to go back to London because they couldn’t afford to stay on.  

“It was unbelievable really. Charlie Cooke took the corner and the ball just dropped right to me around 18 yards out. Ninety times out of 100 that ball could go anywhere, but luckily it went into the roof of the net. As a defender, to score a goal like that in a European final against Real Madrid, I knew I’d remember that for the rest of my life. Real Madrid were the team at the time. 

Dempsey is regularly invited back to Stamford Bridge as a guest of the club

Source: EMPICS Sport

“We came back the next day, a bus picked us up at Heathrow and brought us back. It was the same when we had won the FA Cup the year before. That time a bus brought us from Euston Station all through the streets of London up to Kensington, into Fulham and back to Chelsea. Both times there were thousands of people out in the streets and that’s when you realise what you’ve achieved, you know?  

“Gosh, great memories…”  

For the first time in our long conversation, Dempsey pauses.  

Recent events have ensured some of the emotions of that time remain close to the surface. Earlier this month he was introduced at half-time during Chelsea’s defeat of Nottingham Forest at Stamford Bridge, as the club marked 50 years since the start of that milestone FA Cup winning campaign. Dempsey was joined on the pitch by old team-mates John Hollins, ‘Chopper’ Harris, Tommy Baldwin and Marvin Hinton, and while he enjoyed catching up with some old friends, those absent loomed just as largely in his thoughts.  

“Peter Osgood’s ashes are in an urn under the penalty spot in front of the Shed End,” he continues.  

“When we went out on the pitch for the Forest game, it all comes back flooding back. It becomes quite sad in some ways, but in other ways you’re happy. It’s a hard feeling to explain. The emotions all hit home when you step out there. 

“Like I said, I started going to Chelsea with my father when I was six, and the biggest crowd I saw there was over 75,000. A few years later I was playing on that pitch in front of crowds of 60,000. When I go there now, it still feels like the same place despite the smaller capacity and how modern it is. And they still play ‘Blue is the Colour’, which we recorded in 1972. It’s amazing really. That always brings back memories. 

“Sometimes I look down and think to myself, ‘Wow, I played on that pitch.’” 

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