They're the second best team in the world, and there's no higher praise than that.
Kevin Keegan
 
         
 
 
Heroes Of Our Time
2. John Sinbad Aldridge

 

Aldo gesticulates furiously - not for the first time.

Like last week’s hero, Raymond Houghton, football pin-up boy John Sinbad Aldridge took his place in the hearts of the Irish people alongside other sporting over-achievers like Frank O’Mara and Christy O’Connor Junior.


Friends across the divide

Though Aldridge grew up near Carrig On Suir, the opposite end of Tipperary to Houghton, he and Raymond managed to cross the North/South Riding divide to become firm friends after a chance meeting in an Oxford nightclub. Raymond invited Aldo - as the imaginative Houghton immediately christened him - to turn out for his local parks team, Oxford United, and there Aldo’s love affair with the Beautiful Game really began.


Stunt double

Before football brought meaning to his life, Aldo’s career had been at a crossroads. Modeling himself on 80’s private investigation legend, Magnum, Aldo was torn between a career in Television and the champagne lifestyle of a playboy’s personal sleuth. Eventually, Aldo’s film star looks ensured the lure of the small screen won the day and, in the mid-eighties, he enjoyed a successful spell as stunt double and warm-up man for lookalike buddy Roland Rat.


Impressive scoring rate

While Aldo still reckons he could have gone all the way in broadcasting - and even today looks enviously at the kind of work another hero, Marty Whelan, is getting - all that was left behind when he gained instant celebrity as an Irish football star. Bursting on the scene with a long-range screamer against Tunisia in just his 200th game, Aldo continued his impressive scoring rate with a goal in every 45 important internationals.

Legs run to stumps

The highlights of his Irish career were many. In 1991, Aldo earned the sympathy of the nation when he protested against the tyrannical regime of Irish patron saint, Jack Charlton. Though his one man picket outside Dail Eireann brought Dublin traffic to a standstill, Aldo’s plaintive claims that mere highly paid professional athletes couldn’t be expected to both run about tackling people and score goals as well, brought tears to the eyes of even hard-nosed football hacks like Vincent Hogan and Michael Carwood. As was widely reported at the time, Aldo’s legs were soon “run to stumps” and, in fact, he played many games for Ireland in a specially commissioned wheelchair.


Big stage player

A man for the big stage, football people still fondly remember Aldo’s magical performances when it counted most for Ireland. His brace against Malta couldn’t have come against a more determined bunch of fishermen and accountants. And a crucial hat-trick in a tight 5-0 win over Turkey included a penalty quite unlike his tragic attempt to seal a double for Liverpool in 1988.

Dignified protest

However, Aldo’s proudest moment in an Irish shirt came in America in 1994, when his dignified and eloquent protest against an official who briefly detained him, earned new respect for the Irish around the world. Back home, his keynote speech was lauded throughout the land, and no doubt enthusiastically emulated outside the pubs and chippers of South Tipperary for years afterwards.


Brookie Addict

Ironically, by the time Aldo embraced stardom, he had shed his trademark Tipperary accent. Unlike Houghton though, a shyness of celebrity wasn’t behind the vocal makeover. Instead, a long-time addiction to Brookside first saw Aldo begin to jokingly refer to the “bizzies” and to “going down the ozzie”, and eventually led to him permanently adopting an impenetrable scouse accent.

Rat Pack

By no means, though, has Aldo turned his back on his native land. His long-term plan to become a Fianna Fail TD was boosted by his high-profile attempts to slip an extra player onto the pitch during a Tranmere cup-tie last season. And together with superstar buddies, Noel King and Brendan O’Carroll, Aldo has formed the Rat Pack, a group of high profile celebs who hang around Dublin dressed in tracksuits and bothering old people at bus stops.

A giant among men, a prince among goalscorers! Aldo, may the Oles forever ring in your ears.