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Young James's look of terror became defining image

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15 February 1995; An English fan is arrested by Gardai during Republic of Ireland v England, International friendly Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Soccer. Picture credit; David Maher/SPORTSFILE

15 February 1995; An English fan is arrested by Gardai during Republic of Ireland v England, International friendly Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Soccer. Picture credit; David Maher/SPORTSFILE

15 February 1995; An English fan is arrested by Gardai during Republic of Ireland v England, International friendly Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Soccer. Picture credit; David Maher/SPORTSFILE

HIS terrified expression was the defining image of the 1995 Lansdowne Road riots.

As English hooligans went on the rampage, seven-year-old James Eager gazed on in horror.

The youngster, dressed in a duffle coat and wrapped in a green scarf, was the picture of innocence as skinhead, Nazi-saluting thugs spewed xenophobic hatred.

 

Celebrity

The image went around the world and the youngster was a celebrity even before he and his father Seamus had arrived back at their Co Wicklow home.

Seamus, realising events at the match were about to take a serious turn for the worse, had taken James onto the Lansdowne Road pitch.

Cameras were able to focus on the boy, who was being held tightly by his father.

Speaking ahead of next week's England v Ireland clash at Wembley – the first between the two countries since the riots – Seamus (65) recalled: "There was an atmosphere around before the match that I had never experienced before.

"James would not have picked up on it as much as I had. There was a lot of drink taken. We were sitting in the West Lower Stand. Seats started coming down from the top of the stand. We were right underneath.

"I brought James out onto the football pitch itself. What I was looking for was to get out in the safest manner. Riot police started to arrive. There was a lot of bad stuff going on from the (English) supporters up on the Upper West Stand.

"We had to go up to the very top of the ground to get out."

If the events of February 15 at Lansdowne Road were terrifying, what followed was a whirlwind.

"I got a call on the way home (from the match) to say that James and I were all over the TV. The next two or three weeks became a media scrum. People were looking for us left, right and centre. He became a celebrity over night," Kilcoole auctioneer Seamus told the Herald.

Ireland striker John Aldridge took Seamus and James to Tranmere to watch a match, while David Kelly, who scored the goal for Ireland that sent the English hooligans into overdrive, brought them to see Wolverhampton Wanderers play.

A trip to see Manchester United against QPR was also arranged. James met the now retired Alex Ferguson, as well as Roy Keane and Denis Irwin.

James, now 26, has not spoken publicly about the riot for a number of years.

comurphy@herald.ie


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