Irish fans showed 'togetherness' in response to Darren Rodgers' tragic death says Jonny Evans
PRIDE in the Northern Ireland supporters and praise for their Republic of Ireland counterparts came from Jonny Evans in the aftermath of the devastating death of Darren Rodgers in Nice.
There was incredible support in Nice against Poland, but tragedy followed, as Evans recalled: “What the fans did that day [Sunday] and the atmosphere they created for us, then we wake up next day and one of them has passed away - it's hard to take.”
Republic of Ireland supporters applauded during the 24th minute of their match against Sweden, marking Darren’s age, and Evans was impressed by that gesture of solidarity.
“It was really nice… I hadn't seen it, but we were told about it. Ourselves have put a request in to Uefa and we'll definitely try and pay our own respects in some sort of way.
“It shows from the Republic of Ireland fans, the togetherness that's been in the tournament, especially towards Northern Ireland fans. I think, as players, we've been very proud of the way they've conducted themselves. Everyone I've spoken to speaks about how the atmosphere they've created has been unbelievable.”
The West Bromwich Albion defender acknowledged there is a close bond between the players and the NI supporters: “I think so, over the years that's always been the case. Every away trip we've gone on, there are always fans in the hotel.
“When I played for Manchester United, the bigger the club you're at, it ends up becoming a bit of a distance. I speak to the England players and they're always locked away in their hotel. We've always had that bond with our fans. There have never been any barriers between us and them. That's something we've also got to be proud of.”
Asked about the players’ reaction to Darren Rodgers’ death, Evans replied: “We've only really read what's been in the papers. There's not been much information on what's actually happened.
“One of the lads said that he knows some friends who know him… I spoke to my dad last night. He's still down in Nice and said that, where the accident had taken place, there were people laying flowers and crying. It's a really sad thing to happen.”
However, he still hopes he and his team-mates can bring some joy to those fans at Euro 2016: “We've got a lot of people behind us. Obviously, the result on the pitch, it's difficult to always say we're going to bring a smile, win our games, this and that.
“But we're really proud of our fans. The atmosphere they created for us in the build-up to the game was out of this world. I can't explain it. We're proud of the way they've conducted themselves and are representing our country on this stage.
“I've spoken to family members since who were down in Nice and they were in the fan zone. Polish and Northern Irish people were all together singing and travelling on the bus to the game.
“Someone even said they were in a bar last night and a Polish guy came in singing ‘Sweet Caroline’.”