My First England Game / by Simon Mooney

Image On 29 May England drew 1-1 with the Republic of Ireland at Wembley. The newspapers remembered how the last meeting in Dublin 18 years ago was abandoned when England fans rioted.

Back in February 1995 I was just starting as a sports photographer and had done a few jobs for Empics, the Nottingham photo agency. I had a meeting there with Ross Kinnaird just before the Dublin game and heard which hotel they'd be staying in so booked myself into the same one.

It was the first time I'd shot the national team. I'd managed to get a photo pass from Andy Oldknow at The FA who we worked with as the governing body became more commercial.

On the night of the game, I met the Empics photographers Ross and Steve Morton as they were preparing to leave the hotel. I said I'd give them anything interesting I shot.

After nearly half an hour of the game, I had almost nothing and couldn't believe how dark it was. My international debut had started badly. Then the Irish scored and it went seriously wrong. Fans were coming onto the pitch as the players left it, objects were being thrown from the top of a stand and police and stewards moved in. The game stopped and confusion started. A photographer was seriously injured by a missile and some of us packed up. Others focused their long lenses on the crowd and some moved onto the pitch towards the fans, police and stewards.

I hardly remember taking my best picture. These days I would have seen it on the camera's LCD but back then I was shooting film. Scuffles flared up and I shot a few frames of one in particular with my wide lens. I bumped into Nick, the Empics technician processing the film, and gave him the roll I'd just shot.

It took ages to get back to the hotel but when I did, Ross told me he thought I might have got a big picture which had been wired with a few others. The neg was thin (I'd forgotten to tell Nick I'd uprated the film) but it was a good frame of three England fans attacking a steward in front of a Union Flag. I was so relieved it was sharp.

I woke up next morning and put the television on. The riot at Lansdowne Road was headline news and, as the papers were reviewed, my picture was on the front page of nine out of ten of the UK nationals.

A Dublin landlady had also seen the newspapers and called the police - the three fans were asleep upstairs in her guesthouse. They were arrested and convicted with the story continuing for a couple of days in the tabloids.

At least one of the men I photographed said it had ruined his life. I only hope it was a temporary, if very public, low point.

www.mooneyphoto.com