When a Rod Stewart song nearly started an Irish League fight

Rod Stewart and fellow pop icon Elton John enjoy a bath after a training session at Watford FC in 1973
Rod Stewart and fellow pop icon Elton John enjoy a bath after a training session at Watford FC in 1973

What Irish League football lacks in quality, it more than makes up for in charm.

That's why we come back to it every year. It may not be the Champions League, but it's ours.

And more often that not, it delivers entertainment, both on and off the pitch. On it, the players produce moments that belie the league's modest standard.

Off it, the characters that populate local football keep us laughing with their stories of years gone by.

The obvious one is Liam Beckett, whose ebullient brand of punditry keeps listeners entertained throughout the season on BBC Radio Ulster's Sportsound.

But even the former Cliftonville manager will have trouble topping Philip Major's tale of Rod Stewart, mischief and grown men in baths once upon a time at Inver Park, home of Larne FC.

Central defender Philip Major won four league titles with Portadown
Central defender Philip Major won four league titles with Portadown

Major joined fellow Portadown legends Ronnie McFall and Brian Strain on the penultimate episode of this year's Summer Club.

And when the former defender was quizzed on why he opted for Rod Stewart's 'I Don't Want to Talk About It' as his first music choice, few expected his response to be quite so raucous.

"It reminds me of a time when we played at Larne," Major said of Stewart's cover of Crazy Horse's 1971 song. "They were a different side to now, but they had a really good side."

"About the third game I played at Inver Park, they managed to beat us, and we were sitting in the bath, back in the good old days when there were baths for each of the teams. They started to belt this out at the top of their voices.

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Rod Stewart tune lands Ports players in hot water

"So I asked one of the boys, 'why are they singing that?'. He said 'oh, that's their song'.

"Being the mischievous person that I was, the next time we were down at Inver Park, we beat them and I belted it out."

Now we can't be certain, but it's safe to assume we won't hear Rod's raspy tones bellowing out of the home dressing room at Inver Park this year.

"Now, I wouldn't advocate violence or fisticuffs at any stage," continued Major. "But it was almost comical that a couple of them got out, absolutely dripping wet, still naked from the bath, wanting to give off to us for singing their song.

"To see grown men fight is one thing, but to see grown men about to fight completely naked was fantastic, so that stuck with me.

Bath-time for Leicester players after they secured promotion to Division One in 1983
Bath-time for Leicester players after they secured promotion to Division One in 1983

"Every time subsequently I've tried to get that song sung every time we beat them, but nobody was really keen on it because it was their song."

So, there you go. Rod Stewart may be a fanatical Celtic fan, but he is responsible for one of the funniest - and admittedly most bizarre - slices of Irish league history.

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