Northern Ireland on fire despite lack of Grigg goals

Northern Ireland fans will return to France's capital city today to take on Wales in the last 16 of Euro 2016
Northern Ireland fans will return to France's capital city today to take on Wales in the last 16 of Euro 2016
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Not many fans at Euro 2016 will have heard of Northern Ireland’s Will Grigg before they set off to follow their team in France.

In fact, if truth be told, many of the travelling green and white army – or GAWA as they like to be called – would have known much about the Wigan front man given his fleeting and unremarkable appearances for his country prior to the tournament.

That latter statistic won’t have changed much given his wait to make his debut at these championships.

But don’t let that get in the way of a good, old-fashioned chant that has become the unofficial anthem of Euro 2016.

The ‘Will Grigg’s on Fire...’ song, sung to the tune of Gala’s ‘90s smash hit ‘Freed from Desire’, was penned by Latics fan Sean Kennedy after the striker’s goal heroics in League One last season ensured promotion.

Little did the Wigan diehard know back then that the chant would be sung so much by Northern Ireland fans that it would enter the UK’s top-10 single charts and be adopted by the vast majority of fans out in France.

Whether in Nice, Lyon or Paris, I couldn’t walk down the street without an opposition fan singing it to me, or be among the Northern Ireland fans without a rendition of it breaking out!

I even see the England fans are using it in homage to Jamie Vardy as they build up to Monday’s last-16 game with Iceland!

One rendition of the chant, though, stands out more than any of the others – at the Parc des Princes in Paris on Tuesday.

The final whistle had just gone to confirm Northern Ireland’s 1-0 defeat to world champions Germany.

But despite the result there was no need to spoil the party, with progress to the last 16 at that stage virtually assured, so out came the Will Grigg song!

In all my years going to football matches, I’d never seen anything like it.

Twenty thousand-plus fans, all decked in green and white, jumping up and down and singing non-stop for 20-30 minutes – leaving those Germans who stayed behind in awe!

It was a spectacular sight – and one Grigg himself must get embarrassed about given his lack of minutes on the pitch.

I still reckon he could walk out of the team hotel and take in the sights without anyone recognising him!

That, apparently, did happen to goalkeeper Michael McGovern in Lyon, with the Ulster man taking in the fan zone without anyone batting an eyelid at him.

No doubt that will have changed, though, after his heroics against Germany!

He singlehandedly kept the scoreline respectable and ultimately ensured Michael O’Neill’s side line up against Wales in the French capital today (5pm).

During that game I was thinking how the out-of-contract Hamilton stopper would be a good addition to the Pompey squad, and a realistic target, given Paul Cook’s troubles in that department last season.

However, with the likes of Celtic and Rangers now reportedly showing an interest, Cook may have to look elsewhere – especially if Norn Iron can continue their French adventure with victory against the Welsh!