Belfast Telegraph

Comment: Gentleman Jim didn't deserve boos from the Blues

Captain marvel: Jim Ervin celebrates a goal for his Ballymena United side against Linfield and all hell breaks loose
Captain marvel: Jim Ervin celebrates a goal for his Ballymena United side against Linfield and all hell breaks loose

By Billy Weir

I received a letter this week. A real letter, not an email or social media missive, a real letter delivered by a man (or woman) whose best pal is a black and white cat. The envelope was sitting on my keyboard, looking up at me when I plonked my posterior on my seat on Monday.

This usually fills me with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, for if someone has taken the time to write a letter, by hand, bung it in an envelope, stick on a stamp and then take it to the post box they clearly mean business.

It can also, quite frankly, be menacing, rude and offer suggestions that are, to be honest, a little disturbing and anatomically, if not impossible, then a tad tricky, but this was different - it was a joke.

It went as follows: The seven dwarfs were crossing a field when they fell down a disused well. A couple of hours later the rescuers arrive and they could not hear any sound. One rescuer shouted down the well 'if anybody can hear me shout something up.' A wee voice replied: 'Linfield are going to win the Irish League this season.' The man turned to the rest of the rescue team and said 'at least Dopey is still alive!'

Thank you to 'Davy, Linfield fan' for that but while we're on the subject of a lack of brains, in yet another mad week from Linfield Football Club, something occurred in Saturday's 2-2 draw at Ballymena United that I could scarcely believe - grumpy and far from bashful Blues fans booing Jim Ervin. Thank goodness Lee Doherty wasn't there, they'd probably boo Doc as well.

His crime? Celebrating the Sky Blues' equaliser against the Blues by cupping his hand to his ear.

This had led to the sort of outcry on social media usually reserved for Donald Trump, while others have also accused him of feigning injury in an effort to have Jimmy Callacher sent off.

From where I was sitting it looked that he came off worse in a challenge and stayed down and subsequently needed treatment - I didn't see much of an effort to get his opponent booked or sent off, so booing him seemed a tad strange.

It would have needed a really brutal challenge like Mark Haughey's second of the day when he was sent off for his vicious assault on Cathair Friel to merit that sort of treatment. By the way, that is a joke, as was that decision but it's laughable that anyone can doubt Jim Ervin's character.

He has more medals than the entire Linfield squad put together, a former ball boy, lifelong supporter, a dyed in the wool Blueman who won everything that could be won for the club and yet he has the audacity to celebrate a goal for the team he now leads with the same professionalism and class he has always displayed. Get a grip.

Jim Ervin celebrates with his son after helping Linfield to league glory in 2012.

David Jeffrey, ironically the man who ended Jim's nine years' service at Windsor Park, summed it up on Saturday when I asked him about the boo-boys.

"I thought Jim Ervin was absolutely phenomenal. I thought his performance was as good as I've seen, he led his team very well, he defended tremendously well and joined in on attack, he played with a calmness and a wisdom and I think it's the biggest back-handed compliment when opposition fans give you a wee bit of stick.

"I think sometimes you judge your performance by the level of stick you get and Jim got quite a bit today."

It's not all Bluemen, far from it, a tiny minority. The silent majority know what Jim did for the club and how they must wish for a few more of his kind as the club approaches icebergs with an alarming regularity.

There's talk of things not being altogether ticketyboo in the dressing room, but the fighting spirit shown by the team after Haughey's ridiculous dismissal, the awful penalty awarded against them and then coming back from 2-0 down against Coleraine on Tuesday night would seem to have snuffed that chat out.

For now.

Stephen Lowry's goal against his former club (I hope he didn't celebrate) not only rescued a point but could have saved David Healy's job.

Of course we're only ever a few hours away from another crisis at Windsor. Newry City, flying high in the Bluefin Sports Championship (B Division), come calling in the Tennent's Irish Cup this weekend.

If the holders were to lose that then the boos will be so deafening you'd think Jim Ervin had walked onto the pitch.

Supporters have every right to vent their spleen, they've paid their cash and they are more than entitled to shout what and, at who, they like, but this is a man who has given blood, sweat and tears and even played when he was a bit sneezy (apologies but I was five dwarfs down and was a bit desperate) for the club he loves.

Don't believe me? Just 24 hours after being booed, he was pulling on a Linfield shirt for a Legends' charity event. Now that is class, and should make the Bluemen happy again. But I doubt it.

Crues brought back to earth by soaring Swifts

Huge congratulations to Rodney McAree and his Dungannon Swifts’ side for reaching the BetMcLean League Cup Final after Tuesday night’s heroic win over Crusaders.

The writing looked to be on the wall at Stangmore Park when Colin Coates put the visitors ahead but they showed great spirit to level through Peter McMahon and won it in extra-time when Ryan Harpur scored from the spot.

It is a fitting reward for the club, their first final since 2007, where they will face either Cliftonville or holders, Ballymena United, at Windsor Park in front of the Sky cameras.

It brought an end to the Crues’ 23-match unbeaten run and talk of bringing five trophies to Seaview this season. They may have to be content with just four now.

ts v Crusaders 53.jpg
Goal heroes: Ryan Harpur and Peter McMahon struck for the Swifts

Paying the penalty for a spot of confusion

It was perhaps one of the most bizarre incidents of the season as Coleraine pair Darren McCauley and Ciaron Harkin wrestled for the ball to take a penalty at the Oval on Saturday.

And to think we thought it was just Derry Girls who had bad tempers, but after the squabbling, and a directive from the dug-out, it was Harkin who hammered home the spot kick.

Oran Kearney took the blame, saying that he hadn’t passed on the message to McCauley that as he had missed his last spot kick, he was no longer the taker.

“It would have been even more scary if no one wanted to step up and hit the penalty,” he said afterwards, but then again, the way Glentoran’s season is going, a gust of wind would probably have blown the ball past Elliott Morris.

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Coleraine's Ciaron Harkin celebrates his goal at The Oval. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

Final word

Congratulations to new Crusaders striker Darren Murray on the birth of his son, Carter James, this week and on the subject of hospitals, a speedy recovery to Michael Gault who went under the surgeon’s knife this week.

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