Pallister hopes the game wins
Published 05/06/2015 | 06:46
Gary Pallister is hoping football will be the winner 20 years after England's last visit to Dublin ended prematurely in violence.
The Three Lions will be seen again in the city on Sunday after an absence of two decades following the riot which erupted at Lansdowne Road in February 1995 and forced a friendly against the Republic of Ireland to be abandoned after just 27 minutes.
Pallister was in the England team on a night when predictions that trouble would mar the fixture proved depressingly accurate.
The former Manchester United defender said: "The whole build-up, it wasn't about football hooliganism per se, it was about more than that with the Troubles and how that would be perceived with England playing the Republic of Ireland.
"The build-up was all the talk about it. We obviously read about it so, I don't think it was a shock to many of us, but you were kind of hoping that football would be the winner on the day and it wouldn't come to that. But that wasn't the case."
Trouble flared after David Kelly fired the home side into a 1-0 lead with some of the travelling supporters - far right group Combat 18 were later identified as the source - in the Upper West tier ripping out seats and hurling them at people below, prompting referee Dick Jol to take the players off the pitch and ultimately bring a halt to proceedings.
Pallister said: "We were aware that there was something happening and I can remember looking up to the stand and seeing things being thrown, and immediately you think, 'Well, that's not good'.
"It kind of escalated and got worse and spread. I think we all knew we would get taken off and eventually then the referee had no choice to whip us all off the pitch.
"We sat in the dressing room for about a quarter of an hour while they all discussed whether the game would go ahead or not, and eventually the decision was taken that it would be cancelled and we'd head off home.
"I saw the stuff that was getting thrown across. I wasn't aware who was throwing it, but I could just see there was mayhem in the stands and I was thinking, 'Someone's going to get seriously hurt'."
English football had been tainted by hooliganism for some time, but the events in Dublin were played out in front of a shocked Irish audience unused to such scenes, and Pallister admitted a sense of embarrassment at the behaviour of a section of his compatriots.
He said: "You're representing England and if it's English fans causing the mayhem, then you're disappointed and let down by the people who provoked all this kind of trouble.
"There is nothing we can do, or the English FA. I look at clubs who have minorities who cause trouble around the country and think 'what else can the clubs do?'
"You can't police everyone and there is always going to be someone who goes out and makes trouble - and that's what happened on that night."
The football landscape has changed somewhat since that evening, and the two nations met at Wembley without incident two summers ago.
Pallister, who was speaking in Dublin at the launch of Ford's exclusive '152' Summer Sales Event, is hoping a landmark fixture will be played out in similar fashion at the Aviva Stadium.
He said: "It's a new stadium and maybe things can be better organised as well. It was an old stadium, Lansdowne, wasn't it? It probably didn't lend itself to good segregation.
"But I think the climate has changed and I don't think there's any talk in the papers of any trouble in the offing or any hangover from 1995. I expect it to go off pretty well."