England Scotland
England fans during the match with Scotland Getty

Since England last played Ireland in Dublin 20 years ago, we have seen only sporadic spasms of the vile hooliganism which blighted our domestic game in the 1980s.

England's travelling fans have occasionally made the front pages with loutish behaviour, notably during Euro 2000, but not since that match in Lansdowne Road have we seen a group of English supporters ruin a match with sustained violence.

Yet we would be naive to think English football has been 'cured' of the disease which made it notorious throughout the world and culminated in the horror of Heysel. Our fans might be less pugnacious than they once were, but they are still capable of becoming bigoted troglodytes, as was demonstrated by Chelsea fans in Paris earlier this year.

And Sunday's match (7 June) at the Aviva Stadium will provide the perfect stage for the mindless minority to slither to the surface once more.

This time they are likely to channel their malice into a medley of inflammatory chants about the IRA – a group which, for most rational people, is now little more than a regrettable chapter of history.

The Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which introduced a power-sharing structure in Northern Ireland, effectively robbed the IRA of the grievance which powered it. The organisation hasn't carried out a terrorist attack for 13 years; in 2005 all IRA units were told to put down their weapons by the movement's leaders.

Today the people who once led the IRA hold senior positions in the Northern Irish government, attempting to pursue their aims with the pen rather than the pipe-bomb.

You'd have to have been living in a cave for the last 10 years to believe that the IRA was still a viable force in British life. But then again, looking at some of the people who follow the England football team, that certainly isn't beyond the realms of possibility.

Heysel 1985

'English football now boasts the best league in the world, a stunning spectacle played out in shiny new stadiums. But we have come from a very dark place, and it shouldn't be asking too much for us to go back there once a year.'

Read Gareth's article on Heysel here.

England fans, in their pathetic attempts to stir up hatred during the match in Glasgow, gave a rendition of their time-honoured favourite "no surrender". But no-one is actually talking about yielding to the IRA any more; it's pretty hard to surrender to an army which has already disbanded.

Those fans who joined in the anti-IRA songs back in November probably thought they looked fearsome and defiant. In fact they looked pathetic and pointless, a bunch of beer-bellied dinosaurs clinging to the past. Middle Englanders say they bring shame on the country, but in fact they only bring ridicule.

The anti-IRA brigade probably do pine for the "good old days" of the Troubles. A time when you could still watch top-division football for a fiver and have a proper tear-up after the match. A time when Britain was happily detached from the rest of Europe and we didn't have to worry about bloodthirsty zealots plotting attacks on our country from thousands of miles away.

But sorry, chaps, the world's moved on. The causes you attach yourselves too, in a bid to justify your cowardly xenophobia, are no longer relevant. Maybe it's time to start dreaming up some witty ditties about Isis, but then again, they don't have a football team.