Renaming of Brandywell Stadium is wrong!

The latest moves to have Brandywell Stadium re-named in memory of our late lamented centre-half, captain and heartbeat of the team is, in my own opinion, and indeed that of every football man I've talked to, totally misguided.

Thursday, 20th September 2018, 6:47 pm
Updated Thursday, 20th September 2018, 7:53 pm
The Brandywell Stadium is set to be renamed the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium which has divided opinion.

Among a plethora of reasons which I will discuss here the main one is that Ryan, if he was anything, was a football man; and this was not a football decision.

It seems to have been instigated by someone who, while emotionally motivated, had no understanding of the history and customs of the game. Quite simply, the game has NEVER honoured the memories of its great players, or managers, by naming their stadiums after them. If it had, surely the likes of Tom Finney, Stanley Matthews, Bobby Charlton, George Best or Bobby Moore would have had this accolade conferred on them. Or managers like Sir Matt Busby, Sir Alex Ferguson, Bill Shankly, Jock Stein, Brian Clough and Kenny Dalglish.

Even closer to the Ryan case would be the great Duncan Edwards and his colleagues who died in the Munich air disaster. The main reason for this scenario is that, when this course is taken in honour of ONE outstanding club servant, it automatically rules out EVERYONE else – not something which can stand up to scrutiny.

In our own case here there is one further complicating factor. While Mark Farren’s and Ryan’s cases are tragically similar – both great club icons who died long before their time – how could differentiation between them, in terms of a stand and a stadium, possibly be justified?

There is also the strange means by which this ‘decision’ was reached, an internet poll! For starters this would exclude those who are not IT savvy. Older fans (myself included) non-facebook addicts, etc, etc.

And what it includes is even more bizarre. As the internet has no boundaries (after all it is the World Wide Web) we had people voting from Cork to Copenhagen to Cincinnati; people who have no standing at all in the matter. This is strictly a subject for Derry City FC and its fans – our average gate now would be around 2,000 – so where the 7,000 votes came from is anyone’s guess!

I regard this ‘vote’ as totally bogus, and irrelevant. I mean would YOU dream of voting in a Dundalk or Shamrock Rovers internal matter? Ryan’s honour, and there must be one, should be decided by his own people and be a matter of long and inclusive discussion. How many of my readers have actually been consulted on the matter?

And would Ryan himself have wanted to be the subject of such an obviously divisive discussion. Again, I don’t think so.

One of the first things we must do here is to separate the man from the memorial. That he deserves the highest honour the club can provide – incidentally it’s the City and Strabane District Council (more of which later) who have the ground naming rights in their gift – is beyond dispute. It’s just the form of the honour that’s in dispute. In the absence of stadium naming our biggest clubs have come up with some interesting ways to immortalise their legends. Spurs have the Bill Nicholson Way version where a street beside the ground was named after their iconic manager. Man City, too, with their Joe Mercer Way. In Ryan’s case we could have the walk between the car park and the pitch (right under the current mural) named the Ryan McBride Way.

Liverpool have gone for the Bill Shankly Gates option. What about wrought iron gates erected on the Southend Park entrance to the ground – directly opposite to Ryan’s home. Or the Man Utd (Best, Law, Charlton), West Ham (Bobby Moore), Preston NE (Tom Finney), Stoke City (Stanley Matthews), Blackpool (Jimmy Armfield) option of a statue outside the ground. There are two problems with this one however. One is the pretty prohibitive cost; the other the fact that, if the Council took as long with it as they’ve done with the Factory Women tribute, there’d be no one alive today still around to see it!

Which brings us to the Council itself. Not only is it against football tradition but it also seems to be against Council tradition. The examples which spring to mind are our two most recent bridges. When the Foyle Bridge, the brainchild of John Hume whose foresight inspired it, was completed and the suggestion made that it be named after the MLA, it was quickly scotched on the basis of ‘not in the Council’s tradition’. Similarly the ‘Peace Bridge’ (has it ever been formally named?) when names like Seamus Heaney were suggested. So the difficulty with the Brandywell is patently obvious.

Sadly the matter has now been besmirched by politics but I sincerely hope that the Council don’t try to hide behind a discredited ‘poll’ to do what they think might be a populist move. It is all reminiscent of the politician who seeing a crowd run past him said; ‘I must see where my people are going so I can lead them!’

But the real tragedy would be if we ended up besmirching Ryan’s memory instead of honouring it.