Joxer Goes to Stuttgart

I can think of loads of songs that help me to recall certain people and places, but only one that reminds me of a certain event. Joxer Goes to Stuttgart by Christy Moore is a modern-day folk song about a “day that will be the highlight of many people’s lives.” It’s set in the summer of 1988 and follows a group of Irish football fans as they support Jack Charlton’s Ireland at the European football championships in Germany. In particular, it tells the story of Ireland’s opening match against England in Stuttgart on June 12th. Moore focuses on a fictional group of Dubliners who travel across Europe to be present at Ireland’s first game at a major football tournament. Joxer is the unanimous choice to drive the van and this may be due to his apparent efficiency as he packs jump-leads and a German phrase-book for the trip. Later, he also shows good communication skills as he manages to chat up a German lady who later visits him in Dublin

Moore plays on the historical rivalry between Ireland and England throughout the song, both musically and lyrically. The melody is a slowed-down version of the well-known theme from the popular BBC show Match of the Day. Moore also draws on his knowledge of Irish ballads by referencing a couple from the nineteenth century that were sung from the point of view of Irish emigrants. Spancil Hill was written by Michael Considine and is narrated by an Irishman who has been living in California for many years. His nighttime dreams are filled with memories of people and places from his earlier years in Ireland until he is brought back to reality in the morning. Moore parodies the song’s final couplet in his own composition: “The cock he crew in the morning, he crew both loud and shrill. Joxer woke up in his sleeping bag, many miles from Spancil Hill.” In the live version below he changes it to Arbour Hill, a reference to the military barracks where fourteen of the executed leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising are buried. “Revenge for Skibbereen” is another quotation in Joxer that’s taken from the last line of another nineteenth century ballad that’s narrated by the son of emigrants. The song is known as Dear Old Skibbereen or merely Skibbereen, after the town in county Cork. These subtle references throughout the song situate this sporting fixture between Ireland and England within its historical context and also position Moore’s song within the corresponding musical tradition

Back in Stuttgart, it’s the eve of the match and Joxer has a dream that he and the English-born manager of the Irish team argue about the next day’s team. In the dream, they both select a group of Irish-born players who formed the backbone of the team. A disagreement emerges between Joxer’s choice of fellow Dub Niall Quinn as opposed to Charlton’s preference for the English-born Tony Cascarino. Joxer, like the protagonist of Spancil Hill, awakens from his reveries the next morning many miles from home. He is in Stuttgart and the Irish team are rank outsiders against their neighbours and one of the tournament’s favourites. Despite these historical and competitive differences between the sides, it was also the case that they both had much in common

The Irish team was managed by one of the heroes of England’s 1966 World Cup winning team and half the squad was born in the UK. In addition, most of the Irish squad played alongside their opponents in the English football league. It was Glasgow-born Ray Houghton, however, who opened the scoring for Ireland after just six minutes. He had another chance later in the match, but it was England who dominated the second half. A combination of solid teamwork and defending by the Irish team, wasted opportunities by the English players and a rub of the green meant that Houghton’s was the only goal of the game and Ireland had a surprising but deserved victory on their big day. I still have happy memories of watching the match on a Sunday afternoon at home with my family. And, thanks to this song by Christy, I have a song that will always remind me of this memorable day in Irish sporting history

Joxer Goes to Stuttgart (Live) – Christy Moore

30 Day Song Challenge Archive

Image taken from here