Saints v Jeunesse

In one of the more fun aspects of being involved in League of Ireland football we get to talk about UEFA competitions! I preview St. Patrick’s Athletic’s match v Jeunesse of Luxembourg tonight here for

I have also written a short preview of Jeunesse and done an interview with Jeunesse president Jean Carazzo and their manager Carlo Weis for the club programme, The Saint. Please pick up a copy if you head to Richmond Park tonight!!

‘Mon the Super Saints!

The Demise of the Air Header

Modern football has seen us lose many things in the wake of a mixture of new additions to the game; new technology, new rules and new techniques but the thing I miss the most, and which is increasingly disappearing from view, is the air header.

Yes, the air header. The ten yard sprint and jump at an imaginary ball usually coming straight at you which is boomed back in the opposite direction (I can’t say I’ve ever seen anyone do an imaginary flicked air header but now I’ve thought about it I’d very much like to see it).

At a wild guess, anyone older than 20 will have memories of this forming part of the jog around the pitch warm up as the polar opposite to touching the floor (another essential technique required for playing football).

If you didn’t play football or go to training sessions you will have seen an air header at a football ground somewhere. Provided you were paying attention – and most people pre-smartphone era were – you will have been treated to, arguably, the best bit of the pre-match entertainment when the players run out of the tunnel for kick-off.

Now, this was a regular appearance prior to the introduction of the much maligned fair play handshake. Eager players at all levels of the game would tear out of the tunnel in all manner of directions and sprint for 5, 10, 15 and sometimes even 20 yards and then jump toweringly to meet an imaginary long ball that had presumably just been chucked in from the stand opposite.

Once this odd ritual was complete the usual thing to do is simply take up your position on the field. What baffles me about the air header is its total pointlessness. The key point in heading the ball well is timing. You have to practice with a ball to be able to judge its’ speed and trajectory in order to improve at it.

If you are going to “get up and head it” (as the cry used to go in warm-ups) you might as well throw in a couple of air kicks like an opening England batsman does with his bat having seen yet another Australian fast bowlers ball fly past his off-stump.

Despite its total ridiculousness, it does have a few lingering stalwarts. These can be found in that brief yet fruitful window between the fair play handshake and kick-off.

The main culprits are usually defenders. They do after all have the furthest to travel from the fair play shenanigans and are often prone to brightening up such a tedious journey with a quick run and jump.

A good air header can be enhanced with a quick shimmy or side step after landing but total enthusiasm is normally the only requirement. You can’t exactly do a half-hearted air header can you? That would be ridiculous….