This article will look at the experiences and achievement levels of Irish-born post-war football migrants to England using player interviews and secondary sources. The problems of cultural adaption, ‘bullying’ and anti-Irish abuse will be examined. The majority of Irish footballing migrants between 1945 and 2010 have not played in English football’s top division or gained senior international honours. Increasing recruitment of foreign players means that the number of Republic of Ireland-born footballers featuring in top-flight English football, and gaining senior international caps, has declined significantly over the last two decades. In addition, there has also been a decrease in the number of Northern Ireland-born footballers playing at the highest level of English league football since the 1986–1995 period. Despite this, there are no plans in place at government level or within Irish football’s administrative bodies to create an alternative structure to English professional football strong enough to prevent Ireland’s aspiring players from migrating at an early age and without sufficient education to fall back on should they fail to make it in the game.
Source: Soccer & Society, Vol. 16, Issue 2-3, 2015, Special Issue: 150 Years of Association Football. First published online 10 Oct 2014.