Football without the fans is nothing. The famous Jock Stein quote that resonates with every fan across any level in football.
Sadly due to the COVID-19, there is no football at the moment and when it returns there will be no fans there to watch (so the government warned today). Without vital match day income smaller clubs are unable to survive and in Wales one of the countries most successful clubs Rhyl Football Club are in grave danger due to this situation.
In a Football CFB exclusive I spoke senior members of the football club who told me exactly how stark the situation is for the club.
Rhyl Football Club is over 140 years old, they have played at the Belle Vue ground for over 100 years. One of the most successful North Wales football clubs (winning (inc Welsh premier league winners 2003/4 and 2009/9), they have represented Welsh football in Europe 6 times lastly in 2009/10 playing FK Partizan.
Currently playing in tier 2 of the Welsh footballing pyramid, the club has a full boys academy and u19s team in addition to the mens first team alongside ladies and girls teams.
The club have 4 years left on the ground lease – rent commercially overpriced and increasing year on year as some similar clubs are paying peppercorn lease to their local councils of around £100 rent per year – Rhyl are paying nearly £24,000.
The clubs fixed costs don’t go away not including inflation and they are close to £5k without the variable running costs on top leading them to needing well over £100k for a full season and requiring £24k to guarantee the lease for a season up front.
The club have had only two competitive games in the last 10 weeks initially due to bad weather impacting income badly then the Coronavirus has given the club the perfect storm with no signs of income for potentially months yet.
The big issue for Rhyl is that they won’t be able to use the ground during the 6 weeks from what’s normally the end of the season mid April until the end of May when they they normally would host many fundraising events and tournaments at the ground on the pitch that fund a good chunk of the next season. This period in known commercially as the clubs ‘golden month’ as its when the club bring in the most money in the year.
To quote a senior members of the club ‘We always knew this issues with the ground was coming over the remaining 4 years left on the lease as we shared the issue with the ground and finances transparency in December at a supporter open meeting but….
The issue has been brought forward by the Coronavirus however we at the club are also really conscious that there has to be a priority focus on health and lives ahead of football.
We are also conscious that when football returns most games may be played behind closed doors and we will still have to incur costs to host them. Grants will support but will be no where near enough to the money we need, then on top there will be potential impacts to businesses who will reduce and threaten some or all of our much needed sponsorship, fundraising will become difficult and games may not start until September or later – so no guarantees at all on income during 2020 – we have to bills and rent to guarantee for 12 months now.
We have approached the Welsh Footballing Association who have told us they are not in a position to support or help us other than a small loan as long as could guarantee it, which would be difficult as we don’t own the ground or have anything to guarantee against.’
Another club source also stated that the Rhyl Fans Association have been amazing along with other volunteers in trying to raise funds – we must have the best supporters in North Wales and they are now accepting that they may have to consider a Phoenix club as the town is too big and footballing history too rich not to.
So far, the Club has received multiple enquiries from a number of parties interested in possible investment / sponsorship of the Club but these have either failed the required due diligence or fallen away when they realise there is nothing to invest in.
Worryingly, the club state that they are now at the end of the road unless there is something that comes out of the blue as they have to discuss and consider the unpalatable unthinkable option of entering liquidation.
The club told CFB that we will issue a further news release will be issued on any outcomes arising.
“Football without the fans is nothing.” – Jock Stein.
Football without the fans is nothing. A statement that resonates with fans of the game all across the world. Forget TV money. Forget sponsorship deals. Forget the hyperbole of the transfer window and the fees that follow players and managers around. At the end of any given day, it is the fans that matter in our game. Without fans, there would be no game.
I recently wrote an article about the worry I had for many clubs in the UK out-with the Premier League’s financial monopoly. The examples I used to highlight my concern were Bury and Macclesfield.
Macclesfield Town football club founded in 1874. Bury Football Club founded in 1885. The Premier League founded in 1992.
Two historic footballing institutions: Macclesfield – formed by volunteers enthused by both rugby and football in their town and Bury – formed local footballing enthusiasts with links to church football with the aim of creating clubs that a community could follow and support for generations to come. The other – The Premier League – a modern phenomenon founded by television executives and elite club chairman and chief executives with the aim of maximising financial rewards from television to aid the progression of the beautiful game.
Fast forward 145 years since the formation of Macclesfield, 134 years since the formation of Bury and 28 years since the dawn of the premier league and football has reached what feels like a cautionary time. 28 years in the premier league has 20 clubs within it who share the spoils of £5.14bn of income from television alone. The EFL on the other hand has just agreed a £595 million tv deal to be shared between 72 clubs over the next 5 years. With such a cataclysmic gulf in finance and marketability of EFL clubs compared to their fellow English – albeit world renowned Premier League – clubs, it is no real surprise that the reality and future for fans of football league clubs compared with those of the premier league paint a stark contrast.
Bury football club were expelled from the English football league due to financial complexities in 2019 and go into the new 2020/21 – whenever that will eventually be – having formed a phoenix club – Bury AFC – who are will play in the tenth tier of English football after applying to join North West Counties Football League. Meanwhile, Macclesfield plagued by financial worries in recent years languish towards the relegation zone in the Football League with concerns over what relegation could mean for them.
So what is the way forward for clubs well outside the elite and the holy grail of guaranteed millions even for finishing bottom? For me in the case of many clubs competing in the tiers below the elite the answer in has to be some form of fan ownership.
The two examples close to my heart are Chester Football Club and Greenock Morton Football Club.
Chester FC are fully fan owned by the fans group City Fans United. I am a part owner of the club through my membership of City Fans United as I like many other followers of Chester contribute at least £12 a year for membership of CFU which in turn grants us voting rights at the club, access to important board/club meetings and crucially a say in the day to day running and future of the football club.
To quote City Fans United “Chester Football Club is founded upon the Club motto, ‘Our City… Our Community… Our Club…’ Having a club that is a cornerstone of our community is of paramount importance. This not only includes working with local schools but also embracing the local footballing community and reaching out to the wider community.”
This sense of community has seen the club rise from the ashes of the old Chester City FC to become a sustainable club currently in National League North with aspirations of returning to the Football League in the years to come.
Greenock Morton on the other hand are not a fan owned club. However, that may change in the future due to the work of an independent fan-led group called ‘Morton Club Together’ that works in partnership with the football club. They formed in 2019 and their vision is ‘to contribute to the delivery of a viable, sustainable, successful Greenock Morton Football Club into the long term future, both on and off the park, for and with the Morton community.’
So far they’ve been a success in the sense that they’ve now got over 400 members contributing financially to back their vision and in partnership with the club they now contribute just over £7,000 per month to the clubs wage budget. This is something that has been acknowledged by the club on numerous occasions – namely in the case of new signings and contractual renewal agreements for players currently at the club – therefore, it is clear that the relationship between the club and MCT is strong and united.
Ultimately, the aim of MCT is to make fan ownership of Morton a reality. However, it may also – unintentionally – have shown another way in which football can became sustainable outside of the elite – through a hybrid ownership model.
Rather than have an all encompassing owner who runs the club on their terms, is a structure that fans can have a credible voice in as well as a financial stake in the way forward? Time will tell of course. However, it is my personal view that fans need to have far more of say in their football clubs whether that be through direct fan ownership, a hybrid model of both a benefactor working in partnership with a fans group or by having members of a supporters trust on the board with the duty of representing fans and reporting back to them on all key matters to ensure transparency in how their football club has been run.
Chester FC means a lot, an awful lot to me. If you were to sink a knife into me then there would be quite a high chance that blue blood would trickle out, because Chester is truly my lifeblood.
It all started on a dreary, damp Novembers afternoon back in 2010 against Skelmersdale United, in what was our first season as a reformed club.
My dad, who has been a supporter since the early 1970’s, took me to my first game that day, and ever since then I have caught the bug of going every week. Winning 4-0 obviously was a major factor in that hook, even though we have experienced worse since. In resonance to my dad, I am jealous of him in a way because I often kick myself due to the fact I missed the good old days of the 70’s and 80’s. I really do wish I was around in those days because I often hear stories from him (and other fellow Chester supporters) about the famous five in the sixties, the night that little old Chester put the mighty Leeds United to the sword in our run to the semi finals of the League Cup in the mid-70’s, our promotion to the old Third Division, amongst a whole host of other memories.
The music was also brilliant in those times too, and that’s all I listen to nowadays as I can’t stand today’s modern day stuff at all. Also, I am very envious of our old Sealand Road home as of course I have the misfortune of not visiting there. To be honest I think our current ground is quite nice, but it’s the location that lets it down a lot.
Sealand Road was a lovely old-school ground close to the Deva heartland, and sadly there aren’t many of those knocking around now, especially with the likes of York City, Brentford, and Boston United all moving into new stadiums in the near future.
Anyway, enough about what could have been, and more about what has been. In 2015 I got given my first season ticket, and from then on I attended Chester matches more regularly. Funnily enough, my season ticket wasn’t put to much use as halfway through that campaign a steward offered me a role as a ball boy (where I got in for free anyway), which over the years certainly produced its moments.
Along with going to every home game I got dragged along to the odd away game too, with my first being a miserable 2-0 defeat at Tranmere Rovers on a humid Septembers afternoon. My second was some six months later in a huge relegation six pointer in Yorkshire (at Guiseley). On the subject of Yorkshire, I was all set to watch us play FC Halifax Town away in the FA Trophy a month earlier, but having just arrived into the town centre we had to divert back due to a very late postponement. That Guiseley game though had everything. In monsoon conditions, it certainly was a late Easter cracker as the goals lashed in, with Tom Shaw saving our blushes in the 92rd minute to keep our survival hopes alive by snatching a dramatic 3-3 draw.
From 2017 onwards I have gradually upped my away day tally, as ever since then I have only missed a handful of matches. From Barrow to Newquay, and from Gateshead to Torquay (and all points in between), I have been to an array of places that I otherwise probably would never hear of. You just can’t beat going to a random town 200 miles away to watch a game of football with your fellow mates or family, as that’s what it is all about. Meanwhile, in January 2018 I set-up my own YouTube channel which started off with me vlogging Chester FC matches, and I love it as I want to pursue a career in sports media when I am older. It started off with me just recording the games, but since then I now upload a match preview for every match, have compiled ‘Goal Of The Month’ competitions, and now do a ‘Chester FC Digest’ series where I talk about all things Chester.
I don’t only do these videos for the benefit of myself though, because I also do it for the benefit of fellow Chester FC supporters, which is the perk of my relationship with them. Also, it enables exiles from far away to keep updated with our club and to sample what a matchday is like via the atmosphere, etc. Last January I parted ways with ball boying to allow me to sit back and watch the action from the terraces, but to also take up a new role as our club mascot, Lupus. Again, that brought its moments with a particular standout being at half time on a scorching August Bank Holiday Monday against Hereford FC. In front of our then-biggest crowd, it was only typical me for Lupus’ head to fly off from a football striking my head right in front of a packed Harry Mac, to frighten plenty of children alike. What a way to expose me as the mascot!
A few months ago I passed Lupus onto somebody else, although I still volunteer in our club shop for an hour on a matchday, in a role I have been doing since July 2018. I just love being a Chester supporter, volunteer, and a co-owner as I have had some fantastic memories in my ten years as a supporter, and have forged some brilliant connections with plenty of fellow supporters, volunteers, and players too! The beauty of supporting a lower league club is that you make friendships with people forever in an environment that you all have the same passion for, and as I touched on before the players also mix in too. Would you get players in the Premier League knowing your name off by heart? Absolutely not!
I have had one or two disagreements and tough moments with the odd person, but we all do and with us being very tight-knit we just get on with it and forget it in a hurry. I absolutely cannot wait to see what the future for Chester FC is, and I will firmly play a part in it, as well as many others, and can’t wait to be supporting and volunteering here for many decades to come.
We are a family, a blue and white one! Chester FC means a lot, an awful lot to me.
We delve in to the numbers game, when they first appeared and why the football shirt and the number on the back are now inextricably linked.
Numbers on football shirts were first worn in professional games in 1928 when Arsenal took on Sheffield Wednesday at Highbury. When first introduced the numbering was simply a 1 to 11 configuration representing the 2-3-5 formation of a players position on the pitch.
It wasn’t until the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland that football shirt numbers were worn for the duration of a competition, again using the traditional system with number 1 as the goalkeeper up to number 11 left midfield or wing.
Legend has it that the, at the time unknown, 17 year-old Brazilian, Pele was assigned his, now famous, number 10 by a FIFA administrator. Just before the World Cup of 1958, when submitting their team, the Brazilian officials simply forgot to attach a number to each player, hence it was left to an administrator to do so. This is also the reason why the goalkeeper, Gilmar was given the number 3
Gradually over the ensuing years the 1-11 format was abandoned. During the 1974 World Cup, Argentina decided to number their players alphabetically according to their surname with the exception of the goalkeepers who were given 1, 12 and 21.
This continued for two subsequent World Cups, however in 1978 the keeper was included in the alphabetical line up, hence the Argentinian goalkeeper, Ubaldo Fillol, wore number 12 in 1974, 5 in 1978 and 7 in 1982!
Interestingly this system was disrupted for one player during the 1982 World Cup when Diego Maradona who, alphabetically should have been wearing the number 12, but expressed his strong preference for the number 10!
But it was only at the start of the 1993/94 English Premier League season that squad numbers became the rule and with the ever changing formations creating new roles in football, numbering has become a more and more fluid affair ever since.
Although numbers can help referees and fans distinguish between players on the pitch, their evolution means that, in some cases they are now chosen to send a message or deliver a deeper meaning.
One example is the squad number 34 which has been adopted by Justin Kluivert, Philippe Sandler, Amin Younes and Kevin Diks in tribute to Appbelhak Nouri.
Nouri, a promising young Ajax player, collapsed during a pre-season friendly and was left with severe brain damage. His fellow teams mates now wear the number 34 at their new clubs to show their continued support for him.
Lucy Staniforth the Birmingham City and England midfielder chose the number 37 in tribute to her brother, again a promising young player, who died after turning to drink and drugs to self-medicate when arthritis curtailed his football career.
Alvaro Morata, the Spanish forward, changed his number whilst at Chelsea from 9 to 29 when his twin boys were born on the 29th July. Giafranco Buffon also elected to change his number. Not without controversy, whilst at Parma he went from number 1 to number 88, said to signify four balls, to number 77, the year of his birth.
Socceroos’, Tommy Oar was unable to choose his favoured 11 so plumped for 121 as it represented 11 x 11.
And the desire to wear a certain number can impact heavily on the game. West Ham’s Paulo Futre refused to wear the number
16 shirt he was handed and, when given an ultimatum by Harry Redknapp, he chose to leave before the match had even begun. Shortly afterwards lawyers were brought in to negotiate the number 10 and he got the number he wanted!
Then there are the ‘modifiers’, those players who choose a number but change it in some way to reflect another meaning.
In the case of Zamorano’s shirt at Inter Milan this involved the use of a plus sign. Originally number 9 he gave this number up to Ronaldo and went for 18 instead but modified it with the addition of an addition! With this in place the 1+8 became 9 again.
Infamous keeper and vegan footballer, Carlos Roa, also chose to use a mathmatical symbol to convert his 13 in to a 1.3 Previously known for his strong, Seventh Day Adventist, religious beliefs, when asked about it Roa is said to have explained that the point, placed between the numbers 1 and 3, represents Jesus and the Most Holy Trinity.
Other number changes tend to involve one off events or publicity campaigns.
Steven Gerrard and James Beattie donned 08, during the Merseyside Derby of March 2006, to celebrate Liverpool being awarded the European Capital of Culture for 2008.
Brazilian international superstar, Neymar Jnr wore the numbers 100 and 200 to commemorate his 100th and 200th matches for Santos and Usain Bolt wears 9.58 – his 100 meter world record time – when he plays in the Unicef World XI for Soccer Aid matches.
Meanwhile some numbers are ‘retired’ by a football team to honour a particularly outstanding player such as the number 6 worn by West Ham’s Bobby Moore, the 14 shirt donned by Ajax’s Johan Cruyff and Paulo Maldini’s number 3 at AC Milan. The same is true of the infamous 10, retired by Napoli, to respect the tremendous influence Maradona had on the club.
Del Piero on the other hand, refused the Juventus board’s offer to retire his number 10 stating that “I’ve really had so much that I would never want it to be retired, this way, every child can dream one day of wearing it.”
With number 12 often being the number of the fans, some clubs, such as Portsmouth FC, Dynamo Kiev and Bayern Munich have even retired that in order to pay tribute to the loyalty of their followers.
In Spain however retired numbers are curtailed by the one to twenty-five rule, meaning that there’s only 25 for any squad to choose from.
And if you want to know more about the shirt numbers game take a look at www.squadnumbers.com Dennis Hurley, a football shirt number enthusiast, has taken the subject to a whole new level with his rather niche but totally fascinating website.
Join the conversation on Twitter too. Follow us @OSFshop and hear more about shirt numbers and follow @Football_CFB for truly unique football content.
Would you like to go back to the more traditional assignment or do you like the stories behind players numbers and why they choose them?
On the 24th October 1857 the world’s first football club, Sheffield F.C. was created. The two founding members, William Prest and Nathanial Crestwick, team-mates at the local cricket club, were looking to stay fit during the winter months and football proved the perfect pursuit. Arsenal was founded 15 years later in 1886, with Manchester United created in 1878.
Sheffield F.C. joined the Football Association in 1863, but remained an amateur side when the FA allowed professional football in 1885. They reached the F.A. Cup quarter finals in 1874, 1876 and 1878 and were Football Association Amateur Cup Winners 1904
Since 1999 Richard Tims has masterminded Sheffield Football Club’s revival, moving their home ground to the Coach and Horses Stadium in Dronfield. And in 2003 they founded a women’s team, something Man. Utd. only managed to make a priority this year!
In 2004, the club received the FIFA Order of Merit for their ‘historic importance and contribution’, an honour bestowed on only two clubs, with the other being Real Madrid. And in 2007, when the club celebrated their 150-year anniversary, Pele attended a non-league friendly against Inter-Milan.
They are currently playing in a non-league Senior Division with opponents like Cleethorpes Town and Ilkeston.
Many of the rules and innovations that the club implemented back in the 1800’s, including free kicks and corners, are still in use today.
Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley or Jonno and Bern as they are more commonly known. Two football managers – Co-managing Chester Football Club in the National League North – who are very well known to football fans the length and breadth of the UK due to their time in charge of Salford City owned by the Class of 92 and Peter Lim that saw them feature as part of a BBC prime time documentary followed by a multiple series follow up on Sky Sports.
However, there is far more to both men than all that you see on the Salford documentary series. However, before we get to that, how do they reflect of life in the limelight and how they were portrayed in that documentary?
Anthony Johnson summed up the documentary experience for CFB, “You’ve got Paul Scholes, Phil Neville, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs stood over your shoulder. You’re in the limelight. You’re on BBC at prime time, there were cameras in our homes, speaking to our wives and kids and our mothers.
No one trains you for any of that. There’s no training. We don’t have PAs. There aren’t people who come round and say “don’t say this, you can’t say that.”
“I’m not saying there are any bad bits in the programme, but because of the type of characters we are, we provoke opinion so people come away and think a couple of aggressive bullies. Everyone that knows us and has worked with us knows that is not the case and that we take our roles very seriously and work as hard as we can to achieve success at every club we work at.”
Bernard Morley echoes this view and sums up the dilemma they faced at Salford due to the high profile nature of the owners and coverage the club received, “If we won leagues it’s because we had money and if we didn’t succeed it’s because we’re clueless.”
Both men are far from clueless as their record in management together has shown. The duo won three promotions in four years at Salford and had title-winning success at Ramsbottom United before that. Following their departure from Salford, interest in the pair was very high and they were linked with a host of clubs including Barrow, Chesterfield and Carlisle. However, the pair swiftly chose Chester Football Club as their next step being appointed just seven days after they left Salford.
So why did they choose Chester over a host of other clubs?
On the day of their appointment they both stated that, “We are an ambitious management team and whilst we know there are challenges ahead, we would not have taken the job if we didn’t believe that we could get Chester into a position of challenging for promotion.”
Crucially, they also stressed the importance of patience and realism from fans as they both fully acknowledge that it’ll take time to ensure that Chester – a fan owned club – can challenge for a return to the Football League in the future. Despite the call for patience, their passion and determination has not waned in the slightest in this new challenge. Anthony Johnson sums up the work rate of the pair and their determination to succeed, “We immerse ourselves in the football club, we’re massive on it. We don’t travel from Bury up to Chester and just have an hour there and then go home. We believe having sustained success comes from us buying into Chester and Chester buying into us.”
So far after just over 18 months in charge the pair continue to work hard to compete for promotion to the National League. In their first season – 18/19 – Chester finished the season in 9th place and just three points off the playoffs. A stop-start season in many ways but an education for both men in relation to the task at hand.
This season has been a different story with Club sitting comfortably in the playoff positions with games in hand over their nearest competitions. Unfortunately for both men and Chester as a club, due to the COVID-19 outbreak when and if the season resumes remains a mystery but you’d have to be a brave man or woman to bet against Chester competing in the playoffs for promotion under both men in the near future.
Their work across all levels of the club has not gone unnoticed either. Paul Bodman – Chester FC Board member and the club’s Commercial Director – explained the power of their impact. “When Jonno & Bern first became joint managers at Chester FC, I wasn’t sure what we would get, they had been the focal point of a TV documentary about their time at Salford.
What we got was totally committed, dedicated and driven managers who wanted success. They bought into the clubs fan ownership model and embraced everything the club was all about.
The last two years have been a building project to get the club promoted to the National League then challenge for a place in the Football League. Their work ethic, honesty and leadership is a major reason why our club is going forward.
Added to all the above they are two of the friendliest people you could meet, always happy to chat to fans regardless of the result and to promote Chester FC in the best possible way. We are delighted and proud to have Jonno and Bern as our managers.”
Furthermore, both men are incredibly happy at Chester and the fans are incredibly happy with the job that they’ve done so far. This resulted in the pair signing new two years deals at the club that will take them until 2022 at least.
Upon putting pen to paper on their new deals they both had a rousing message for fans: “Stay with us. Our ambitions are limitless. Chester FC’s ceiling is as high as we want it to be. This isn’t a small little club punching above it’s weight, where we are right now is the absolute minimum. We believe where we can get to over the next two-and-a-half years is scary.”
To conclude, as stated in the title of this article there is far more to Jonno and Bern than meets the documentary viewers eye. They are both hardworking, family men with solid records in management and with momentum building at Chester; another promotion may just be around the corner.
Aldo wis never a supporter ae Leith Star and he wis never yin fur keepin his thoats oan the matter tae himsel. Then there wis me and Craig who huv followed thum religiously since we wur auld enough tae wipe oor ain erse. It didnae matter whether it wis pishin doon wae rain and no even the sight ae the four horsemen oan the horizon wid deter oor support fur the team. Nae doubt we wid still be there freezin oor baws off in the famous rid and white hoops ae the mighty Leith Star. Though that didnae stoap Aldo forever takin any opportunity he goat tae shite aw oor the team’s chances ae tastin victory.
‘’That shower ae useless shite’’ he wid often say. ‘’Ah’m fuckin tellin yae no yin ae they eleven fannies wid even make the bench fur The Edinburgh Athletic Wheelchair Team’’
You’ve goat tae remember, likes. His open contempt fur the club and its players wis alweys said within earshot ae the boays oan the team. Especially, since the majority ae thum are local lads and they wid spend their weekends boozin doon at The Spiders Web, jist like everyboady else. But when yur talent’s bein cawed intae question by a six-fit two, coked up, steroid induced mountain. Then understandably, eh? That initial urge tae react becomes somewhat diluted. Jist oan Wednesday passed, eh? ah wis roond at Craig’s flat tae sort oot numbers fur the supporter’s buses. Fur oor big trip oor tae face the mighty Bonnyrigg Rose in the Scottish Cup. This game is huge fur us, likes. As the winner gits Clyde at haime in the nixt roond. And no only that, but the match will be televised live oan BBC Alba.
Soon as we ironed oot the details fur the buses. That’s when Aldo’s new foond love fur the team came up. Ah thoat this wid be a gid time tae git his thoats oan suttin that hus been nigglin awey at me lately. Everyboady kent this wisnae a love that wis gonnae stand the test ae time. But still, ah wise curious as tae what someboady else thoat.
‘’Craig’’ ah said. ‘’Kin ah ask yae suttin?’’
‘’Sure man, shoot?’’
‘’It’s jist, see how Aldo usually hates the Star sae much? Dae yae hink it’s just he lacks a bit ae community spirit? Or is he just a cunt? ’’
Craig paused fur a bit before answerin and ah could tell he wis geein the question some serious consideration.
‘’Ah dunno, Dougie, man. Mean he did kick the shite oot ae Santa last year, eh?’’
Fur some unknown reason ah hud completely furgoat aboot this. It wis probably due tae the fact there’s been a thoosand incidents involvin Aldo since then.
‘’Aw, aye’’ ah telt him ‘’Refresh ma memory again? What wis that aw aboot?’’
‘’Suttin tae dae wae his HO,HO,HO bein too festive, mate’’
Ah jist stood there in the kitchen as ah tried tae process and understand why Aldo hud done what he did tae Santa. But nah, ah drew a blank. And ah couldnae quite git ma heid roond what hud happened.
‘’Too fuckin festive?” ah said “but it wis Christmas? ’’
‘’Aye, ah ken, man” Craig says, sympathetically “but then again, Dougie. Aldo is a Muslim’’
‘’Aye” ah said “Ah huv fuckin noticed. But yae say that as if it should aw make fuckin sense noo. What the fuck hus bein Muslim goat tae day wae anyhing though?
‘’Well” Craig explains “Tae Aldo, Santa’s jist some fat fuck in a rid suit, eh? And it didnae help that yin ae his runner’s hud been pinched wae two oonce ae Ching’’
That wis aw the info ah needed. Suddenly it aw made fuckin sense tae me. Aldo didnae spread Santa acroass the street cos he wis actin too festive, at aw. It coulda been anyboady, eh? he wis simply littin oaff a wee bit ae steam.
Ah mind the very moment Aldo went fae wishin a thoosand deaths oan The Stars players. Tae embracin thum as a bunch ae long loast brothers. Although he wid oaften deny it. Aw ae his initial negatively taewards them stemed face the failed trial he hud when he wis a bairn. But it took the win against BSc Glasgow fur aw they year’s ae ill will tae supposedly disappear.
Whether it’s a glorious victory or another hert breakin loass. Me and the rest ae the boays end up back at the Spiders Web. It’s a sortae tradition, Ken? And oan that particular day, aw the wey back fae Glasgow. Ah found massel dreamin ae the moment when ah’d set eyes oan Aldo. And the satisfaction and relish ah’d git in rubbin his puss in it. Ah made a conscious point ae gittin tae the boozer before everyboady else. Darted oaff the bus, so ah did, it wis practically a sprint. Ah wanted tae be the first cunt tae tell him aw aboot oor great triumph. Ah hud it aw planned oot in ma heid. Pure premeditated mind fuck. Make him hink the team hud went doon in calamity. Before ah revealed that we’d actually only gone and fuckin won. As soon as ah walked in a caught sight ae a familiar picture. Aldo proppes up against the bar. Whilst Auld Maggie wis stood behind it, busy pullin pints. The baith ae thum wur chattin awey tae each other and as soon as Aldo cloacked ma presence ah could tell ma depressed puss hud done jist the trick. Cos ah could see in his eyes and the wey he wis tryin no tae smirk that he wis jist readyin himsel tae start dishing oot his usual pish aboot how shite the team wur.
He wis stood there aw smug and proud ae himsel. And ah kent right there and then that ah hud him oan a string. He wis basically foamin at the mooth, eh? Salivatin at the mere prospect ae wipin his erse wae oor dreams and aspirations ae liftin the Scottish Cup.
‘’Loast did they?” He asked. Aw gleeful and confident that this wis jist another glorious failure fur the club. ‘’Useless Motherfuckers’’.
‘’Naw” ah telt him “We fuckin won!!’’ ah roared sae hard ma lungs felt as if they wur ready tae jist explode, there and then. Although this cunt still seemed unable tae accept ma gid news and didnae hink twice aboot expressin his doots
‘’Pish! ’’ he scoffed. ‘’ Fuck knows what yur smokin the day, Dougie. But be a pal and send some ma wey, eh? ’’
‘’Ah’m tellin yae, we won.” ah telt him. ” And if we beat Bonnyrigg Rose then the next yin will be televised here, live oan the BBC. They’re gonnae be at the game, n aw. Tae talk tae some ae the supporters if we win’’
It wisnae until maire and maire boady’s started tae pile in the boozer and the choruses ae ‘’Wur gonnae win the Cup!’’ rang oot. That the cunt looked as if he believed ah wis tellin the truth. He did seem startled wae aw the noise and a bit overwhelmed wae the sea ae rid and white he wis now faced wae. As he turned and faced firmly in ma direction it wis clear tae me his mind wis gone intae overdrive. Processin the possibilities ae the nixt roond.
‘’The BBC yae say?’’ he asked. As his eyes began widening at the thoat ae gittin his five minutes ae fame oan the telly.
‘’Aye Aldo, its fuckin quality’’
‘’Sure is, Dougie son, sure is. Listen, ah’ve jist remembered ah’ve goat tae be somewhere’’ He shouted back at me as he made a hasty exit oot ae the pub withoot mutterin even as much as a ‘gidbye’.
A gid oor passed by and there wis still nae sign ae him. Then, jist as everycunt hud seemed tae huv settled down. In he comes, chairgin through the doors. As if he’s John Wayne in yin ae those auld westerns who’s come tae save the toon fae destruction. It wisnae even his dramatic entrance that caught ma attention, either. It wis maire tae dae wae what he wis wearin. The cheeky bastard wis stood there, in centre ae the pub, dressed heid tae tae in the rid and white ae the mighty Star. Fuck knows where the cunt goat it fae, likes. But he even hud yin ae they big rid and white foam finger hings. Ken, like the yins yae see at American fitbaw games. Yae could huv heard a prin drop, ah’m tellin yae. Everyboady there seemed tae be frozen in a state ae shock. And the sense ae disbelief which contaminated the atmosphere grew stronger yince he began beltin oot the fans chant ae
‘’There’s only yin Leith Star!!’’
He went roond the hale room embracin anyboady he could find who wis also wearin a Leith Star strip. And he kept mutterin the same words, oor, and oor again ‘’Wur in this taegether, lads’’. Honestly, it wis fuckin ootrageous. And ah doot ah wisnae the only boay who wis observin him wae clenched fists. Fur we aw kent fine well what he wis up tae. Glory hunters are, efteraw, aw the same. Aldo wid only be aroond fur the gid times. He hud nae intention, whatsoever, in stickin aroond fur the bad.
The big match wae Bonnyrigg Rose hus seemed tae arrive in nae time. Three supporters buses left fae the Web at aroond quarter tae two. Bonnyrigg is a wee workin class toon oan the ootskirts ae Edinburgh. Ah’ve heard a lot ae stories aboot these Bonnyrigg cunts but ah try no tae listen tae that sortae hing. Better jist judge fur masel when we git there. The bus hus been rockin fae the moment we departed and it’s only comin up fur the back ae two and everycunt is either half cut or coked up. Or, in Aldo’s case, a deadly combination ae baith. Efter he seeminly tires himsel oot wae aw his signin and questionable chants. He decides tae join me and Craig at the back ae the bus.
‘’Yae seen that film Groundhog Day?’’ he asks us. Aw ootae breath and pishin wae sweat.
‘’Aye’’ Craig sais. ‘’Bill Murray’s in it?’’
‘’Aye, that’s right’’ sais Aldo, who seems tae appreciate Craig’s knowledge ae the film.
‘’Murray’s awrite’’ sais Craig
‘’Aye he is, but ah’m tryin tae make a point here. No discuss his fuckin actin credentials’’
‘’Well’’ he sais. ‘’Ah wis watchin the hing oan the telly last night. And it goat me hinkin, eh? that boays like us are jist like him in the film. We wake up repeatin the same day. Oor and oor again. Wae the purpose ae makin some posh cunt rich’’.
‘’That’s an interestin wey ae lookin at it, man’’ ah tell him.
‘’It’s the only wey tae fuckin look at it. Listen, the opium ae these posh cunts is the blood, sweat and tears ae the workin class. And the opium ae the workin class is anyhin that blanks oot the realisation ae kennin wur a mere slave tae the capitalist machine’’
Ah never hud Aldo doon as nae Karl Marx. But ah’ve goat tae admit it. Fur yince he seems tae be talkin sense. And that’s jist what’s scarin the fuckin life ootae me. As he appears tae make himsel comfy oan the seat he gestures fur us baith tae come closer. Before uncharacteristicly whisperin
‘’Lads, ah’ve goat gid news. Ah’ve takin care ae it’’
‘’Takin care ae what?’’ ah ask him
‘’The fuckin match’’
Me and Craig gee each other a worried look. Efteraw, this is Aldo we’re dealin wae, and absolutely anyhing is possible
Craig tries tae make a wee joke aboot the situation by indirectly askin him a serious question.
‘’Yae didnae kidnap Bonnyrigg’s managers wife or suttin, did yae?’’
‘’Tell me yae never, Aldo’’ ah plead wae him. Cos ah wisnae sure whether tae laugh or phone Justine fur an alibi.
‘’Of course, ah didnae kidnap the boays wife. Fur fuck sake, lads. What dae you pair ae miserable bastards take me fur?”
“okay” ah tell him ‘’So, what huv yae done then, exactly?’’
‘’You’ll see fur yursels during the match” he tells us ” But trust me, you’ll no want tae miss this’’ as he hus a wee sinister laugh tae himsel.
Wae the colour fae Craigs puss quickly drainin awey and ma hert beginnin tae beat at an alarmin rate. It wis clear suttin wis tellin us baith that this is gontae be a long day. Regardless ae the actual result ae the match. We arrived at Bonnyrigg’s groond ‘New Dundas Park’ fur aroond quarter past two. The place wis situated behind some shitty lookin boozer cawed, ‘The Calderwood’. Jist as everyboady else oaff the bus makes their wey inside the stadium Aldo drags me and Craig inside the pub fur a wee pre-match pint. Fae how busy this shitehole is ah kin tell Bonnyrigg is oot in force tae cheer oan their team. Ah wis a bit hesitant aboot comin in here due tae the real possibility we might jist end up gittin oor heids tae play wae. Especially if Aldo decides tae cause yin ae his infamous scenes again. Fae the moment we walk in everyboady jist seems tae stoap what they’re daein tae hae a gid look at us. Aldo scans the room and the first words oot ae his mooth dinnae endear us tae the natives
‘’Fuck me’’ he sais. ‘’The only hing worth pullin in here is a pint. Grab a seat lads, ah’ll git the beers in’’
He goes and makes his wey through the crowded pub and doesnae seem tae gee a fuck that he’s left us starin back at a room fullae pusses who look as if their ready tae reach fur the nearest pitchfork. Wuv only been in here fur nae maire than twinty seconds and Aldo’s awready pissed off maist the cunts in the room. Even as me and Craig hastily try and find an empty table ah kin feel aw they glarin eyes bearin doon oan us. Thankfully though, it’s no too long before ah cloack a few spare seats located near the karaoke machine. Me and Craig dart taewards them and wait fur Aldo tae return. The pair ae us hoapin tae fuck that nuttin kicks oaff. Cos ah widnae miss this match fur the birth ae ma firstborn. Five or so minutes later and he comes swagerrin along wae a welcomin sight ae three cauld beers in tow. No that either ae they two clowns are too bothered aboot a pint. The bastards dash tae the bog wae their big bag ae snow, leavin me aw oan ma lonesome. By the time they come the cloack doesnae seemed tae huv moved. And hings are aboot tae drag oan even maire. Ah notice a lassie standin at the Karaoke machine. She looks aboot oor age and even though she’s aw dolled up, the makeup clearly isnae workin. She soon starts tae belt oot a poor rendition ae Tina Turner’s ‘Simply The Best’ and ah kin tell wae the look oan his puss Aldo is jist waitin tae say suttin cheeky.
‘’Excuse me, pal?!’’ he shouts oor tae the barman, who is busy servin customers.
‘’Aye, what is it?’’ the boay sais, in an impatient sortae wey
Fae Craig’s nervous demeanour ah kin tell he’s as worried as me aboot where this conversation might end up. We’re no like Aldo, we’re actually proper Leith Star supporters and this game is a big deal fur us.
‘’Nuttin in particular, mate’’ Aldo tells the boay. ‘’It’s jist nice tae see yae gee yur local comedians a platform tae humiliate thumsels’’ as he nods in the direction ae the now mortified lassie who’d jist finished her song.
‘’That’s ma wife, yae cheeky cunt!’’ the boay snaps.
‘’So, yae love her anywey?’’ Aldo remarks ‘’ Then that makes you a better man than me’’
This boay seems ready tae explode. Yae kin jist tell by the wey his puss hus turned pure rid that he’s a tickin time bomb. Ah kin sense wae the tension fillin up in the room that wuv clearly oot steyed oor welcome. So, ah dually signal fur the the lads tae drink up and lits git the fuck ootae there. It’s no long before wuv legged it oor tae the shabby lookin stadium behind the boozer and joined up wae the rest ae Leith Star’s faithful. Straight awey ah kin see that baith clubs are well supported. Probably aloat tae dae wae the telly cameras but the atmosphere in here is definitely that ae a big cup tie. The three ae us are stood right behind Bonnyrigg’s goals and their keeper looks maire like a cannonbaw wae legs than an actual fitbaw player. As we stand there freezin oor baws oaff in anticipation ae the referee blowin his openin whistle. What Aldo hud said earlier aboot fixin the result, suddenly comes floodin back intae ma mind. He did, at that moment, appear tae be in his best behaviour, likes. But, still, ah couldnae help but be fixated oan what the cunt hud meant.
The game started jist like a typical cup tie. Neither team wantin tae gee anyhing awey early oan. It wis a pretty borin affair, ken? Cagey n that. That is until Alan Smith, oor midfield dynamo, ootae naewhere bursts straight through oan goal. But composure somehow evades that useless bastard and his weak effort trickles intae the keepers airms. Me and the rest ae oor support dinnae hud it too much against him though. Or at least, no voicing it openly, but no Aldo, he’s hellbent oan geein poor Alan a right piece ae his mind
‘’Ma Granny coulda hit that baw harder ya fat usless cunt, git yur erse in gear!!’’
Efter that wee hertless remark, ah kin see that the real Aldo wis startin tae bubble up tae the surface.
‘’Aldo, it’s still early days, man’’ ah tell him ‘’take it easy, will yae?’’
‘’Fuck that’’ he barks ‘’What ah telt you boays earlier, eh? That still stands. Ah’m winnin this match fur us’’
‘’Aye, what the fuck did you mean there, Aldo?’’ Craig asks, almost pleadin.
‘’Well, see uncle Fester oor there?’’ Aldo tells us, noaddin in the direction ae the plump, bald dafty, in the Bonnyrigg goals.
‘’Aye, what aboot him?’’ ah ask
‘’Well’’ he explains ‘’lits jist say he’s aboot tae hear a few haime truths’’
Ah’m intrigued by this comment and bein the nosy bastard that ah um, ah decide tae investigate further
‘’What dae yae mean by that, Aldo?’’
He glares at us baith. ‘’Ken Three finger Louie?’’
‘’Aye’’ ah sais. ‘’His sister’s a doactur?’’
‘’ That’s right. So yae ken the cunt?’’
‘’ Well, it wid be some fuckin coincidence if it wisnae him. Ah mean how many cunts steyin in Leith are cawed ‘three finger Louie?’’
‘’Well, it’s cos he’s goat four fuckin fingers, ya thick cunt!!’’ bawls Aldo in a blind rage.
‘’So, what aboot Louie then?’’ ah ask.
‘’His cousins a private investigator and ah hired the boay tae dae some diggin intae these Bonnyrigg cunts. And that fanny oor their hus maire secrets than the royal faimily. Anywey, a grand well spent, ah thoat’’
‘’A grand? that’s very reasonable fur that sort ae hing. Ah alweys imagined it wid be dearer than that’’ sais Craig, who seemingly fails tae address the bigger question. Which is why hus this fuckin lunatic hired a PI in the first place’’.
‘’Ah thoatsae tae, a three wey split. It comes tae £349.48, caw it 350 fur cash’’ Aldo informs us.
‘’ Caw it fuck aw’’ ah snap at him. ‘’ That’s against the fuckin law. Yae kin git done fur that sortae hing. Invasion ae privacy, or some pish, they caw it’’
‘’Invasion ae privacy? Laughs Aldo. ‘’You’re precious Dougie, yae really are. When that cunt pit oan that jersey he became public property. Dae yae want tae win or no?’’
‘’Well, of course ah want tae fuckin win, Aldo. But this is some shameless pish’’
Hinkin Craig will back me up oan this, ah gee him a wee glance. Tae ma surprise though ah cannae see any looks ae disgust, but insteed, he hus this expression that sais ‘why no?’ plastered acroass his puss.
‘’Dougie, lit’s no be too hasty here, eh?’’ he tells me ‘’A win’s a win, who gees a fuck how we git it. Cannae dae any herm, kin it?’’
Ken, suttin? This cunt is actually makin sense fur yince. It’s no like playin by the rules hus goat me anywhere before. This win wid set the the club up fur a gid few years tae come. And lit’s be honest. Huvin morals isnae what it’s aw cracked up tae be. Yae jist end up gittin fucked. This is why ah’ve decided tae gee Aldo a wee nod oan the unsuspectin goalkeeper.
Aw Aldo does at the beginnin isnae exactly an act ae brutality. It’s aw mind games, eh? As he repeatedly roars in the keeper’s direction ‘’Pishwater! Pishwater!’’.
Before the boay’s defences finally relinquish and he snaps ‘’Ma name’s Westwater, ya cheeky cunt’’ clearly demonstratin that Aldo’s awready in his heid.
And it’s pretty obvious that by the wey he’s twitchin inside the boax. That Aldo’s words are gittin maire and maire annoyin.
The game itsel hus started like a typical cup tie. Wae baith teams playin cautious. A quiet start that hus offered Aldo the opportunity tae step up his efforts tae brek this perr bastard.
‘’Oi, Pishwatrer, fae what ah wis telt. Accordin tae yur last medical. You’re only yin fish supper fae a hert attack, that right, aye?’’ then he produces a crisp new twinty quid note fae his poacket and begins tae gently wave it in the air ‘’Ah actually saw a nice wee chippy acroass the road fae the boozer cawed, Pias. Take this, eh? and tell Mr Pia he’s tae gee yae the greasiest supper he hus. Tell him its oan Aldo’’. Still though, this cunt seems tae surprisingly retain his composure. But it’s no escaped ma attention the colour ae his skin hus went fae milky white, tae pure beetroot. A fact which does nuttin except gee me hope that Aldo’s plan might actually work.
Ah’ll be the first tae admit it, likes. This game so far hus been nae ‘El Classico’ and Aldo will need tae pull suttin definitive oot ae the bag, sooner, rather than later. Especially since the keepers will change sides in the second half. And gone by the time oan ma watch suttin will need tae gee in the nixt twenty-five minutes. By the wey, Aldo’s personal attacks huv been gittin darker wae each passin minute. It’s pretty evident he’s cautious ae the time, tae. This fuckin lunatic hus went fae questionin the boay’s ‘true motives’ fur volunteerin tae coach bairns fitbaw. Tae implyin that his Victoria Cross winnin grandfaither wis actually a secret Nazi sympathiser. Yit the stubborn bastard still appears no quite ready tae bite back and by the wey Aldo’s pacin up and doon oan the side ae the pitch it’s clear he’s gittin agitated by the boay’s lack ae willingness no tae fold.
‘’Ah’m tired ae walkin oan eggshells wae this fanny’’ Aldo announces tae me and Craig. ‘’Time tae stoap bein merciful’’
‘’Eggshells?’’ ah giggle. ‘’Fur fuck sake, Aldo. Yae jist cawed him the Jimmy Savie ae Scottish fitbaw. Yae even tried tae pin an unsolved murder oan him fae five year ago. He’s no taken the bait, ah hink its oor noo’’.
Jist as the Star seem tae be buildin some momentum in the centre ae the park. It’s then that Aldo goes tae make yin last attempt tae git inside the keepers heid.
‘’Pishwater!’’ he begins yelling again. While the boay tries tae remain focused on Leith’s impendin attack.
‘’Ah wis sorry tae hear aboot yur daughter, Katie, is it?, Nae cunt imagines their wee lassie will grow up and sell their erse fur a poond ago tae dirty auld men. Jist fur a taste ae the broon stuff. Yae must be so proud, eh? fuckin Nickeledon’s faither ae the year, standin oor their’’
Fuckin hell, man. Oor forward, Andy Peters, is straight through oan goal. And the daft cunt hus hit a feeble shot which looks like a waste ae time. But ken what, eh? it’s somehow managed tae roll under the goalies airms, Fuckin Yes! Naeboady kin deny Aldo took hings too far wae the boays daughter but it looks as if it’s done the trick cos there’s nae wey the boay shouldnae huv saved that yin. Oor supporters have come unglued and everyboady’s jumpin up and doon like dafties. The boay is stormin towards us as the referee blows his whistle tae signal the end ae the half and he looks pissed.
‘’You’re fuckin deid, ya cunt!’’ he’s screamin as he points towards Aldo. ‘’Nae cunt talks aboot ma bairn like that!’’.
Jist as he gits close tae the barrier where wur standin, a few ae the stewards stoap him, jist in time. Even wae three ae these cunts huddin the boay back it’s obvious they’re strugglin tae contain him.
‘’Me and you’’ He says, pointin at Aldo ‘’efter the match. Ah’ll fuckin end yae!’’
In typical Aldo fashion he doenae gee a fuck aboot the guy’s threats and if anyhing seems tae welcome thum.
‘’Yae promise, dae yae? sweetheart?’’ he sais sarcastically. A comment that only seems tae enrage the boay further.
Wuv only went and fuckin done it, eh? held oan fur a famous victory. Shite game, dinnae git me wrong, but who gees a fuck aboot the standard ae play. Aldo’s masterplan tae fuck wae Bonnyrigg’s keeper hus proved tae be nuttin shoart ae a masterstroke. Oor supporters are walkin oan air right noo and every cunt is chantin ‘’Wur gonnae win the cup!’’. Craig’s made a quick run fur the bog and Aldo’s standin here amongst the fans, smug as yae like. As if he single handily won us the tie. Which, tae be fair tae him, isnae that far fae the truth. Of course, he’s went tae droap an E in celebration ae the win. But wae everybody jumpin aboot and aw the airms gittin flung, it’s been knoacked right oot his hand.
‘’Fur fuck sake!’’ he roars. Before he collapses tae the groond tae search fur the hing.
‘’Jist leave the fuckin hing. The BBC should be here soon tae interview some ae us’’ ah tell him.
‘’Bairns train here, yae dafty’’ he hisses at me. ‘’Did yae no notice that poster at the entrance? You kin be an irresponsible bastard sometimes, Dougie. Yae really kin’’.
Ah’m left absolutely dumbfoonded wae that response. ‘’Ah’m the irresponsible yin? You’re the bam who broat that shite intae the groond’’.
Maist ae the fans huv begun tae trickle oot ae the stadium. Aw ma fuckin god, eh? here comes Pishwater bargin his wey through the supporters and he looks as if he’s a madman oan a mission, headin straight oor wey.
‘’Aldo, that boays comin’’ ah beg wae him.
‘’Doesnae matter tae me Dougie, son. Yur still ma mate’’
‘’Eh?’’ ah sais ‘’Will yae look up!’’
He’s closin in oan us at lightnin speed. So, ah try tae bloack his path as Aldo’s still oblivious tae oor impendin problem.
‘’Mate, it wis jist banter’’ ah tell him.
Withoot a moment’s hesitation he gees me a swift right hand. Which dually sends me tumblin tae concrete.
Aw ma god, ma heid is bangin. Fuckin hell, how hard did that cunt hit me? Where the fuck um ah? is this that boozer fae earlier? It fuckin is, n aw.
There’s a wuman gone aboot collectin the empties.
‘’Excuse me love, where um ah?’’
‘’The Calderwood. Yur mates dumped yae in here.’’
That sounds jist like that pair ae miserable bastards, ah hink tae masel. Lookin at the corner ae the room ah notice suttin oan the telly. But it cannae be right, is that? Ah mean, is that Aldo? it fuckin is tae.
‘’Kin yae turn that up please?’’ ah ask her, which the wuman kindly does.
Jim Spence is standin there wae Aldo. Who’s aw but booncin as he awaites tae be interviewed.
‘’Ah’m standin here wae a supporter who hus followed his team through the gid times and the bad. What’s yur name, sir?’’.
‘’Aldo’’ he answers, aw gleefully.
‘’Well, Aldo. Why don’t you tell me how proud you are of these players?. This is a great achievement fur yur club’’
‘’Aye, that’s right, Jim’’ Aldo tells him ‘’ We at The Star are yin big faimily, eh? Mean, ah’ve been a supporter ae the club since ah wis auld enough tae crawl. There’s nuttin like the feelin ae community spirit. And kin ah tell ma missus suttin, who’s back at haime watchin?’’
‘’We did it, baby! And you owe me ma hole when ah git back!’’
‘’ Apologies there, for the language, ladies and gentlemen. But forgetting that last remark for a moment. The party currently going on behind me does go to show that community spirit and football do certainly coincide as one. This is Jim Spence, reporting fur BBC Scotland. Back the guys in the studio’’.
Ah’m loast fur words right noo. The absolute audacity. He jist goat interviewed by Jim fuckin spence! This hus goat tae be the maist surreal moment ae ma life. Aldo, ya dirty glory huntin bastard!
Back in 2017 when people asked what football team I supported I was always ready to follow up my response with an explanation of who they were and what league they play in. “I support Kelty Hearts, it’s my local team, we play in the 6th Tier of Scottish Football and it’s a tremendous team to follow”
Supporting Kelty Hearts requires many things but first and foremost a resilient soul is required just to get by week to week. In the last 3 seasons alone we’ve seen our local team make the switch from a successful position in the East Region Juniors to the Scottish Football Pyramid, take their challenge for the EOSFL Title to the final day of the season, sign ex-Scotland captain Barry Ferguson as Manager and now guide us to within touching distance of SPFL League 2.
Saturday is Football and I support Kelty Hearts for the Saturdays, same as every football fan out there, but why I support my local team like I do goes beyond those Football Saturdays for Saturdays only scratch the surface of why I support Kelty Hearts…
The weeknights are filled with 250+ youths who are out being active and participating in a team sport working towards their Saturday and Sunday mornings. They’re time for the under 20s and under 17s to continue their development as they work towards their Friday Nights and for the women’s game to continue to grow as they train for their Sunday games in the SWF Championship North. The over 35s train and the walking football teams play their game, all outside that big Saturday football game.
The Annual Calendar is filled with events raising money for local and nationwide charities, Club Chairman, Ian Thomson, most recently shaving his head in aid of Maggie’s Centre at Kirkcaldy’s Victoria Hospital and raising not only over £1,800 for the local organisation but awareness throughout the local community. The club has hosted Respiratory Courses in conjunction with Local Fire Services, Lung Cancer Screening days and most recently Food Collections for those in need throughout the Coronavirus outbreak.
The Community days throughout the year include an annual summer kids’ day at New Central Park which see’s kids from Kelty and beyond come along and spend the day enjoying the sunshine, games and entertainment. In the winter the community day see’s Santa make the trip down from the North Pole to see the children of Kelty and hand out presents.
Supporting Kelty Hearts comes with some tremendous highs, and some devastating lows (playing live on BBC comes instantly to mind), it can also come with a fair bit of stick, Gretna 2.0 is something you see thrown about regularly on social media and football forum. In the grand scheme of things the attention and focus put into Saturday’s pales in comparison to what the club has done for the village and it’s inhabitants (you’d be hard pushed to find many views differing from this throughout the community) and every bit the club puts into the community the community puts back into the club (you’d be hard pushed to find many views differing from this throughout the club),
Supporting Kelty Hearts isn’t just going along to New Central Park on a Saturday afternoon to watch the boys give everything for those three precious points, it’s not all about the pregame pints and half time pies, it’s not only reading the weekly programme and debating the team sheet, it’s not just cheering on the future stars on Friday Night or our Ladies on Sunday, it isn’t always hearing the hustle and bustle on weeknights as local school kids learn the art of the game, it’s not seeing the great work the club does for the community and it’s not just the friends and familiar faces you see when you’re there. Supporting Kelty Hearts is all of these things to the local community and to me.
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My Morton journey began way back in the later 70’s when a certain Mr Andrew Ritchie had just joined the Club. I was a fresh faced pupil of St Columba’s High in Gourock when my friend, Chris McLoone, invited me to go to a game. I think it was against Montrose but I could be wrong. I remember the atmosphere as I stood down the front of the shed and loved every minute of it.
From that point onwards I was hooked, scarf was aqquired, songs learned and my life long affection for the Blue and white hoops had begun.
Throughout my school days I watched Morton all over Scotland, financed by my part time job in Prestos, where I packed shelves 3 evenings a week after school. In these early days my hero was Andy Ritchie, followed by Jim Holmes and Bobby Thompson. The night we beat Airdrie to win the League was a special special night. The fans sung long into the night as we looked forward to playing the big guns the following season.
There have been many ups and downs during my 40 odd years of following the club, highlights for me would be the affore mentioned Airdrie game, being top of the Premier League in 79 of course that game against Peterhead to win the 3rd Division (even though I only made the after match celebrations due to having to work}
Lowlights! Seeing Bobby Thompson banned for so many games due to a certain Rangers player feigning injury in the Butt’ incident at Cappielow, Fearing Morton would die due to Hugh Scott destroying the club and the year we flung a huge lead away and the club being under that betting scandal.
Nowadays as I reach ‘bus pass’ age my love of the club has moved to being on the pitchside capturing the action as my love for Morton was mixed with my hobby of photography. This came about due to me not being able to afford to attend many games due to my role as a Carer (my partner Ann Marie has MS) and I wrote in to see if i could try capturing match images. Morton said yes and I have never looked back.
Its great seeing images I shot appearing on Morton’s website, program and social media and it helps to make me feel part of the club. I sometimes miss my ‘spot’ up in the cowshed, but being so close to the action brings a whole new perspective to my viewing (and a lot less sweary words). In my early days of this role I had to try and remember I could not have my ‘fan’ head on when it came to wanting to slag other clubs etc, Jonathan Mitchell had to remind me a few times due to my miss spelling of the word Mirren, was sure it had two d’s in the middle…
On a matchday I usually spent the first half concentrating on our defending half as its usually the attackers that get most coverage due to the goal scoring and celebrations etc, so i just love to capture the defenders doing what they do best. Second half I spend capturing the attacking action. ‘Watching’ the game through a lens is a challenge as you simply can not switch off for a second, as there is always something happening, off the ball incidents, fan or manager reactions etc.
After a game comes the longest part of my role. Cutting down and editing my game images to get ready to submit to Morton or social media. I have two Cameras and they each take ten shots per second, so as you can imagine thats a lot of images taken over 90 mins.
Average shoot for me is about 2000 images and it takes me a good few hours to sort out the best ones, but I really enjoy doing these edits because it lets me replay the match in my head and of course visually.
I also try to cover the Reserves at home and more recently I have started to cover the Morton Ladies when possible.
I have many favourite images from my time photographing Morton but my favourite is this one (attached) taken at Falkirk when we well and truly got our own back on Ray McKinnon. I just love the emotion of the faces, happiness shines out from everyone in the frameand for me it was just one of those precious moments which summed up what Morton means to me.
We’ve all witnessed the rise of retro in football over the past few years.
Whether it be a match-worn shirt or a replica retro piece, the proliferation of vintage charity shop finds or the effect of historical kits on the designs of new ones, there is no denying the influence nostalgia is having on the football apparel we’re wearing right now.
The beautifully minimalist, commemorative FA Cup shirt released by Chelsea recently sold out within 24 hours and when @The_Kitsman recently polled his Twitter followers on their shirt purchasing rationale, when it wasn’t the team they support, the results were resounding: of the 720 votes, 56% claimed ‘nostalgic and retro’ as their main motivation.
But what is it about the psychology of the past that keeps us so interested in the designs and badges of club history?
Colin French from the irreverent Half and Half Scarves podcast suggests that the shirts evoke memories we want to feel again “I do not support Manchester United but the kits, that they achieved those incredible things in, transcend the basic idea of a football kit and to me represent incredible victory on the biggest stage of them all.”
“When I see them I don’t just see a shirt, shorts and socks, I see those players winning the treble or the many, many league titles that they conquered, as I sat wide eyed witnessing it. I don’t even support that club but my history with the game ties me emotionally to them and the shirts that they wore”
Is the retro shirt fulfilling our need to remember the past?
According to the dictionary definition nostalgia (noun) is ‘a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past’, however the word’s origin relates to the Greek for ‘homecoming’ and ‘pain’.
Originally, back in the 1600s, nostalgia was considered to be a debilitating, and possibly even fatal, mental disorder which was suggested to cause fever, loss of appetite, brain inflammation and even heart failure!
At the time it was specifically treated in relation to soldiers at war, some of whom were probably experiencing severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One Russian General buried his troops alive as a lesson to others that nostalgia was to be stamped out if they were to succeed on the battlefield!
The medicalised view of the term appeared to change during the 1800s and it took on the more ruminating, bittersweet harking back that we are more familiar with today.
But what is it about a romanticised version of football past that encourages our love of the retro replicas and vintage shirts?
As a fan, I don’t just support my club in the moment of now, I have been part of it’s history, just as it has been a part of mine. I grew up with football; it defined my weekends as it still does today. Retro shirts from throughout my childhood activate a sense of happiness in me because I witnessed heroic players wearing them and I watched heroic teams playing in them,” says Colin
“Of course, age must play a large part in nostalgia. As I grow older, accumulate responsibility and the world around me changes, I have a strong hankering for the things of my youth….A Chelsea shirt from the 96/97 season will always remind me of one of the greatest days that I have ever experienced as a football fan, meaning I want to own it even now “
And psychologists would agree that we are most likely to remember with fondness, the football of our youth.
Cognitive science tells us that after the age of 30 we begin to re-model the memories of our formative years, to look back on them with more affection than they, perhaps, deserve. It serves our mental health better to recall the good times rather than the bad, so this ability to bring out the proverbial ‘rose-coloured spectacles’ serves us well.
A phenomena known as the ‘reminiscence bump’ was indicated by a 1980s study, by Rubin & his colleagues, of what psychologists call ‘autobiographical memory’ – the memories of our life. Previous memory studies had shown that the farther away an event was for young student participants, the less likely it was to be remembered, however when the same test was conducted on older participants the findings revealed something very unusual: Yes they remembered things from their recent past the best but looking at all the data there was clearly also an increased recall for events right around their 20s!
A big ‘bump’ in the data suggested a significant recall of memories from young adulthood; a result that has been seen many times over in subsequent studies. It’s like we have some ‘flagship’ memories that our brains hold on to.
Colin Webster, the brains behind the fantastic football strategy board game Counter Attack, concurs that our memories of those formative years massively influence the shirts we want to own now “we hold a (sometimes mistaken) belief that times were better back in the day and the retro craze is in part driven by the memories we hold of the football teams and great moments we grew up with”
In this way the iconic, red, round-necked, England away shirt of 1966 is inextricably linked to someone’s memories that historical victory over West Germany. According to the experts if you witnessed that event in your youth, your brain’s storage of such victorious times, and in particular your amygdala’s role in it’s recall, will influence your love for the shirt’s design. Similarly a current love of Arsenal’s ‘bruised banana’ could well be traced back to a wistful longing for years gone by at Highbury.
Some organisations have harnessed the power of nostalgia to improve mental well-being in their communities. The Award winning Sporting Memories Foundation welcome isolated older people to meet once a week too share their memories and shared love of sport in order to combat loneliness, depression and dementia.
Following on from their successful Memories of 66 Project, The National Football Museum works in conjunction with the foundation to run free Sporting Memories Groups, fortnightly, to support the wellbeing of older people.
When the recollection isn’t pathological or linked to grief, much of the research suggests that nostalgic thoughts can really improve our mental state. Dr Clay Routledge says that that, after reminiscence, people rated significantly higher on self-esteem measures and indicated that life had more meaning, whilst Cheung and her colleagues (2013) found participants to be more generous and optimistic.
Professor Constantine Sedikides of Southampton University has studied the psychological benefits of reminiscence extensively over the years, concluding that our sentimental longing for the past, often triggered by feelings of negativity about the here and now, is a defence mechanism which helps us counter-act feelings of meaninglessness, and even depression, when the going is getting tough.
He and his colleagues have also discovered that when in that state of remembering we are more likely to reach out to strangers and be altruistic, so it appears that looking back on football’s past will actually strengthen our bonds with others.
This may explain why our Twitter feed @OSFshop is filled with retro football chat and a belongingness that transcends football allegiances, individual circumstances and political views.
Sedikides suggests that this kind of reminiscent interaction can help to boost self-esteem, lift mood and improve our feelings of connectedness, both with others and with our past.
And so it may be worth remembering, as you browse www.classicshirts.com and the guilt starts to creep, that this hankering for all things retro is actually good for your soul.
Nostalgia connects us with the past and our fellow humans. It helps our mental health to reminisce about those times on the terraces when we were first introduced to the beautiful game, the shirts worn, the badges kissed, the pain and the glory.
Colin French sums it up perfectly “Nostalgia is history. History is the glue to relationships. History is why I have a passion for retro football items.”
Cheung, W. Y., Wildschut, T., Sedikides, C., Hepper, E. G., Arndt, J., Vingerhoets, A. J. J. M. (2013). Back to the future: Nostalgia increases optimism. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39, 1484-1496.
Gluck, J., & Bluck, S. (2007). Looking back across the life span: A life story account of the reminiscence bump. Memory and Cognition, 35, 1928-1939.
Rubin DC, Wetzler SE, Nebes RD. Autobiographical memory across the adult lifespan. In: Rubin DC, editor. Autobiographical memory. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press; 1986. pp. 202–221. [Google Scholar]
Football. A game involving two teams of 11 players, a football and two goalmouths. A simple game some may say but there is no doubt that it’s a beautiful game.
It’s by far the most popular sport on the planet with some estimates that 3.5 billion people call themselves fans and it’s a game that so many young boys and girls fall in love from at a young age – myself included.
I should state that when I’m talking about falling in love with the game, I’m not talking about the elite level of football with the multi millionaires and the sensationalised exposure that it receives. Yes watching the highest level of any sport helps grow interest and of course it did for me too but most growing up fall properly in love the game by playing it themselves.
Therefore, I’m talking about the game at grassroots level. Our game.
I captured this image last month in North Wales and it immediately took me back to my childhood.
Playing the game around my back garden with jumpers or bricks as goalposts pretending I was every team on my very own episode of Sportscene and Match Of The Day. Playing for hours on end without wanting to stop. Running home from school to get changed as quickly as possible and head straight to the local park – that is football for me.
It’s how I fell in love with the game and it’s how I’ll always remember the game. My worry is that the raw passion for the game itself and playing for enjoyment is dwindling among young kids.
In the modern world, FIFA is a game that many young kids play and love (not that there is anything wrong with that) but in my experience as a teacher it seems to their main love of the game. YouTube is another wonderful platform but again it’s a platform that kids seemingly would rather watch football on than play the game themselves.
Now, this article is not a criticism of modern technology and a slight on the younger generation. It’s just an observation of how things have changed in my personal opinion.
The children I’ve taught over the last few years who love the game seem to only really play the game at boys club level or when a game is ‘organised’ which is good in some respects but sad in other ways for me. What I mean by this is the lack of spontaneity in the young generation to see the beauty and joy of playing at the local park or by using jumpers as goalposts and playing a random unorganised game with friends for the fun of it all saddens me.
Of course I am not naive enough not to understand the causes of this. 24 hour news has shone a greater light on the dangers within society especially when the well-being of children is concerned and I can totally understand the reasons that parents don’t like sending their children out alone to local parks like they would have without questioning it only a decade or so ago.
So how can we as a society combat this?
The answer for me and many others within the game is build more indoor football facilities.
I recently spoke with Craig Brown and Robbie Crawford who both highlighted Iceland as the prime example of a country that is reaping the benefits of investing in indoor facilities and ensuring that football is safely accessible for children of all ages in this more cautious and considerate world. Craig argued that greater indoor facilities is a must to ensure children can play football in a safe environment in order to produce more top class players and a greater love of the game.
This view was backed up by Robbie – who having played in Iceland with FH has experienced this first hand – who backed Craig’s viewpoint up by emphasising that the standard of facilities that each team had was also used for the benefit of the local community. This was in his view a win-win situation as not only did the first team and academy set up have opportunities to develop but the local community also had the exact same opportunities to develop their love of football further too.
To conclude, football in my view is the greatest game in the world and it’s a game we especially here in Scotland should be looking to protect and further enhance and encourage to future generations. In my view, an investment in indoor facilities and making the game more affordable recreationally are two main ways that could do just that and should be done as soon as possible.
As for me, football can be a major force for good and the younger we can allow children and young people to see that and experience it for themselves the better.
February 29th 2020. The day I travelled down to Chester after being invited down to experience hospitality at Chester Football Club by the amazing Paul Bodman who was a great help to me last year during a tough spell for myself.
Sadly the Chester game against Gateshead was cancelled due to the poor weather causing a waterlogged pitch but the club and Paul have been ever so kind to rearrange my experience of the club for later in the season which I am absolutely buzzing about. For that I am very grateful.
So, a 216 mile trip down to England to watch what I thought was Chester was left with no game.
I didn’t know what to do but having researched nearby clubs there was only one that I was desperate to attend if Chester was cancelled and that club was Connah’s Quay Nomads’. The reason was their involvement in Scottish football – the game that I love.
I watched them eliminate Falkirk from the Scottish Challenge cup last season and this season watched them eliminate Kilmarnock from the Europa league to send shockwaves through our game up here. Therefore, I was very intrigued to visit the club and experience what they were all about first hand.
Well, I cannot speak highly enough of Connah’s Quay as a club. WOW. The welcome they gave my girlfriend and I from the moment we arrived at the Deeside stadium was incredible. We were greeted by Roma Gray who leads the clubs hospitality and who was excited to meet us. Her welcome made me instantly realised we were in for a great day.
Roma then introduced us to Trevor Green – Matchday Co-ordinator – who showed us around the Deeside stadium and showed us key memorabilia that showcases highlights from the clubs history. Trevor explained everything detail of the background of the clubs historical highlights with his unique charm and then introduced us to manager Andy Morrison.
Andy greeted us like he had known us for years – being fellow Scots helped I’m sure – and spoke candidly to us about his aims for the club and told us that he’d make sure we had a great day and welcome.
From Roma, Trevor and Andy we thought our welcome couldn’t get any better. But amazingly it did. Supporter liaison officer Will Catterall and Carl Jones introduced themselves to us and just like all three others they immediately made us welcome and invited us over to the clubs social club – opposite the stadium – and introduced us to the fans who congregate there before games. Being outsiders, you never know how passionate fans of a club will take to you but yet again the fans we spoke to were very welcoming and asked us to join their table and have a beer and chat about the game. Again, an incredible welcome.
We then went over to the Deeside in time for kick off and took our seats.
Following the game, the club even arrange for me to interview both managers – Christian Edwards of Cardiff Met and Andy Morrison.
Then what they arranged after the game will stay with me forever. Not only did they treat me like one of their own from the moment we arrived at the ground but they even presented me with a signed jersey from all the players presented to me from manager Andy Morrison.
An incredibly classy gesture from the classiest of clubs. I was speechless at such incredible hospitality.
Following the game, we then ventured back to the supporters bar were we sat for hours having a few drinks and laughs with clubs officials and fans before former chairman of the club and current club president John Gray kindly drove us back to the train station to top off one of the most incredible days I’ve had as a football fan.
To conclude, I would just like to express yet again my sincere thanks to everyone at Connah’s Quay Nomads – the most incredible time at a wonderful well run community club!
Now go & win the title! You deserve it!!
I now hope that the club go on to win the league this season – which would be a historic first for the club & trust me I’ll be back! WHAT A CLUB!
The club will forever hold a very special place in my heart from here on out and it’s safe to say I now have a Welsh time that I will support going forward. #MonTheNomads
Shock as The Nomads exit the JD Welsh Cup at the quarter final stage.
Quite a few games across England were called off due to the horrendous weather we’ve been experiencing recently but this crucial quarter final cup tie was on in North Wales.
I arrived at the stadium at 1:15 ahead of the 2:30 kickoff with a view of a bright blue sky hovering over the Deeside stadium.
Connah’s Quay Nomads are very well known to myself and many Scottish football fans the length and breadth of the country after eliminating Kilmarnock from the Europa league this season and through their many impressive appearances in the Scottish challenge cup in recent years. So, although this was to be my first experience of Welsh football I felt strangely at home as I arrived at the ground.
Both teams warmed up and were watched closely by their respective managers – fellow Scot and former Man City player Andy Morrison (Nomads) and former Wales international Christian Edwards (Cardiff Met) with a sense of intrigue in the air at the ground as although the Nomads went in to the game as favourites Cardiff Met are no minnows as recent results have shown.
The game kicked off at 2:30 and by this time the high winds brought by Storm Jorge was evident. The Nomads had first half advantage as they attacked into the wind hoping to create a comfortable first half advantage over Cardiff Met.
The Nomads dominated from the off in the game and this was shown early on with Craig Curran and Jamie Insall looking to get shots away early on.
The first big chance in the game came 8 minutes in, after the impressive Curran was fouled just on the edge of the Cardiff Met box which led to a free kick to Nomads. Kris Owens stepped up to take the free kick and his incredibly well driven effort smashed off the crossbar. What a goal it would have been if it had rustled in the net.
A few minutes later the Nomads had another opportunity, this time through former Hibs striker Jamie Insall who audaciously attempted bicycle kick from six yards that he narrowly missed and was eventually cleared.
George Horan and Kris Owen’s showed incredible composure on the ball throughout the first half and I was very impressed by both of them. They also had came close on a fair few occasions with headers that went just over the bar from a series of impressive crosses from John Disney.
In the first 30 minutes, the Nomads were dominating possession and creating chance after chance and in all honesty their dominance deserved at least two or three goals.
Despite their dominance they had to wait until the 37th minute to get their opener. The Nomads’ goal coming from the impressive George Horan, who rose highest in the Met area to head home from a corner to give Nomads the lead.
The hosts were on top as half time neared and with Cardiff Met not getting out of their half often it seemed inevitable that the hosts would go in at half time in the lead.
However, football is never that straight forward and this was shown when Cardiff Met equalised through the run of play with an incredibly well worked move led to them getting down the right side of the nomads defence where Baker clinically converted an impressive cross into the bottom corner of the Nomads net right on the cusp on half time.
As the cliche goes Football is a game of two halves and this cliche was well and truly put into practice today.
In the second half it was the Nomads turn to experience playing against the strong winds. At first, it didn’t look like it would be a challenge as they wasted no time in getting the ball forward after the restart, with another chance falling to Jamie Insall who just missed connecting with a shot from yet another impressive nomads cross.
However, as the half went on, Cardiff Met, with the wind on their side began to take control of the game and increase the pressure on the Nomads nomads. They forced two very impressive saves from Nomads keeper Lewis Brass from an impressive Evans free kick and also from a header in the box followed a Met corner.
The Met deservedly took the lead when Eliot Evans got in front of the Nomads’ defence following a ball over the top and slotted home from 12 yards.
The goal left the Nomads with everything to do in the last 25 minutes and just as they needed a goal to get back into the game the conditions worsened as Storm Jorge brought strong winds and heavy rain.
They attacked valiantly in the last spell of the game but sadly for them to no avail with their best chances falling to Wilde and George Horan after more impressive wing play from Disney.
Right up until the final whistle the Nomads never gave the game up and pushed time and time again for the equaliser. Unfortunately for them it didn’t come and after 3 tense minutes of injury time the referee blew the all important full time whistle leading to wild celebrations from Cardiff Met.
What a result for all at Cardiff Met and their manager Christian Edwards – who has battled back after suffering a heart scare in late 2019 – summed up by all fans in the ground even the nomads clapping the Met off the pitch after an incredibly impressive second half display that will leave them dreaming of a fairytale JD Welsh Cup victory.
Meanwhile, the Nomads – 4 points clear at the top of the Welsh league with 7 games to play – know that the title remains in their hands ahead of the crunch part of the season. A title win would be the first in their history and a landmark moment for Welsh football.
This was my first experience of Welsh football and I can assure you that it won’t be my last. What a game. What an atmosphere. Two incredibly well run and respectful clubs. Thank God for football: our beautiful game.
GAME OFF. Sadly today’s game has been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.
In the last few weeks in Scottish football, these two messages have appeared more and more across our game from the Premiership to the Juniors as another long winter takes its toll.
No fan wants to see games off and it’s been argued many times over the years by a variety of people – journalists, football executives and broadcasters – that a move to summer football in Scotland would make the most sense for the game in Scotland and especially the fans.
I understand both views and I’ve tried to assess both arguments – for and against – as honestly as I can.
In favour of summer, it could be argued that such a move would take away the host of bitterly cold December and January games dominated by howling wind and rain. However; this is Scotland and in March and April those bitterly cold days dominated by howling wind and rain may still ruin many a game like we’ve seen recently.
Another argument is that a move to summer football may attract younger fans as they’d be more likely to vacate their Play-stations and Xbox’s for a live game provided they wouldn’t be soaked to the bone as part of the experience. Again, this argument has some degree of sense but it could be countered by more sensible ticket pricing for parents with children to encourage a younger generation of fan to experience Scottish football without the need for a change of schedule.
Those against summer football have argued that it would belittle our game to be playing at the same time as major tournaments like the European championships and the World Cup. This argument would present issues for sides with a range of international players but it could be argued that this issue already exists when Scottish teams play early European qualifiers and that it wouldn’t cause the chaos many have forecast in the past.
Another argument against summer football is tradition. In Scotland (and the UK in general) the Christmas football calendar is legendary with Boxing Day and the festive period traditionally being a feast for football. I must say as a fan I love nothing more than finishing work for Christmas and being able to feast on a variety of football from derby matches to lower league games with games aplenty.
It is this argument that I think many fans would resonate with as the tradition of our football calendar has long been engrained and any change to it after all of these years would be a monumental change for many and arguably a change too many.
To conclude, the notion of summer football never seems to gather much momentum here in Scotland and even though this winter has been particularly grim and robbed us of many a game so far, I doubt it’ll gather much momentum this time either – whether that is sensible or not – as we are creatures of habit when it comes to football.
Enjoyed this article? Why not check out the Football CFB podcast here – https://anchor.fm/footballCFB or subscribe to it on your favourite streaming platform such as Spotify, Apple podcasts and many others.
To quote the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson: Football. Bloody hell.
Today’s game at Cappielow wasn’t so much a game of two halves but a game of ever-changing moments: a Yo-Yo encounter for me.
Morton started the game very well and were in control from the offset. This was shown with them immediately having a chance through centre half Sean McGinty in the first few minutes from one of Lewis Strapp’s long throws. This continued for the first 20 minutes as Aiden Nesbitt continually harangued Alloa full back Liam Dick and had the beating of him every time they came up against each other in a one vs one.
From an Alloa perspective those first 20 minutes were terribly sloppy and they were penned in their own half by Morton who deservedly took the lead from a Kyle Jacobs opener. His 3rd header of the season converted from an Aidan Nesbitt corner on 15 minutes.
From there, I fully expected Morton to kick on but that wasn’t to be the case. Alloa equalised through the run of play with a goal from former Morton striker Alan Trouten after sloppy Morton defending.
That goal sparked Alloa and Peter Grant into life – Grant continually barked instructions at his side and encouraged them okay football on the ground and they responded with some very impressive football over a 15 minute spell that saw them take the lead through a Kevin Cawley wonder strike from 25 yards. The game and the first half by 35 minutes had swung to Alloa. Or so it had seemed…
Amazingly, in a bonkers first half Morton were to respond by scoring a delightful goal that saw Aiden Nesbitt beat Liam Dick with some nice trickery before passing the ball down the right channel to Reghan Tumilty who whipped a lovely cross into the path of Luca Coalville who headed home from inside the box to equalise.
Tumilty wasn’t done there either. Just 4 minutes later he rifled in a “thunderblaster” of a volley to quote the Greenock Morton Twitter feed. A thunder-blaster it was as well! Very impressive from Tumilty. Now by 40 minutes, it was 3-2 Morton and the momentum of the game had swung from one side to the other again.
The swing in momentum towards Morton was further solidified just over a minute later when Bob McHugh deftly finished from an impressive Nicky Cadden cross.
Half time 4-2 Morton and game over surely?
That’s what I thought and most of the fans in the stadium – both home and away – must have thought ahead of the second half.
However in this crazy game anything is possible as the second half showed. Morton started well and had a few clear cut chances that would surely have out the game well beyond Alloa’s reach through Bob McHugh (header off the bar from a Nicky Cadden cross) and Kalvin Orsi (shooting narrowly wide after an impressive mazy run).
Goals – and missed opportunities- change games as we all know and that was evidenced today in a hectic last 10 minutes. After failing to put the game out of Alloa’s reach, Morton duly paid the price with yet more chaotic defending. Firstly, the impressive Tumilty let a ball bounce over his head on the left touchline that helped Kevin O’Hara get in behind the Morton defence to slot the ball home under Danny Rodgers to make it 4-3.
Tension in the stands at Cappielow was evident after that goal as Morton fans have read the script too many times over the years when it comes to Morton throwing away leads in games that they don’t deserve to lose.
That ever familiar script was written in the end for Morton and their fans by Alloa centre half Robbie Deas who scored a very impressive looping header to make the game 4-4 in the 92nd minute.
Even at 4-4 the game was far from over and both sides could have won it at the death with Liam Buchanan missing a clear cut chance for Alloa and Sean McGinty heading wide with the last hit of the ball for Morton.
Full time. Morton 4 – 4 Alloa. The Yo-Yo had stopped bouncing and a point a piece was to be the final result on a day at Cappielow when all four seasons of our climate were showcased over the course of 90 pulsating minutes.
For Morton and David Hopkin, complacent defending cost them dear in a game that simply put they should have won – no ifs, no buts no maybes. On the other hand, for Alloa and Peter Grant, a point bourne out of resilience, a commitment to playing football their way and a never say die attitude will please their fans immensely as they battle to stay up this season.
Ultimately, both sets of fans leave Cappielow today feeling that today should have been there day and I left with that same quote from Sir Alex replaying itself in my head: FOOTBALL. BLOODY HELL.
For me this was our game in Scotland at its best. Goals, passion, never say die attitude and as always in Scotland utterly mental weather. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
To have reached the 38th most popular football podcast in the UK within 5 weeks leaves me speechless. Thank you once again to everyone who has supported me so far – to be in the same list as the likes of @opengoalsport @GreatestGamePodand @GHpodcast – WOW ☺️⚽️🏴 #DareToDream
I am a self confessed football fanatic and the reason I started Football CFB is because I watch a silly amount of football each week and consume a crazy amount of football content each week online, by reading books and watching documentaries.
In this article, I have picked out my top 10 footballing reads from over the last year or two.
1. Done Deal by Daniel Geey
If you are looking for an insightful, enlightening insight into the inner workings of Modern football then this is the book for you.
Whether it is a manager being sacked, the signing of a new star player, television rights negotiations, player misconduct or multi-million-pound club takeovers, lawyers remain at the heart of all football business dealings. Written by leading Premier League lawyer Daniel Geey, who has dealt with all these incidents first hand, this highly accessible book explores the issues – from pitch to boardroom – that shape the modern game and how these impact leagues, clubs, players and fans.
Featuring insider anecdotes and expert contributions, Done Deal provides football fans with a fresh and authoritative perspective on all off-field football matters. One of my favourite reads in recent years.
2. The Manager by Mike Carson
If you are a fan who loves the insight of top coaches from the footballing world talking about how they’ve achieved and sustained success as well as battled back from failures then this is the book for you.
The Manager features 30 of the biggest names in football management who reveal what it takes to success in a management role. In The Manager they explain their methods, offer lessons they’ve learned along the way, and describe the decisions they make and the leadership they provide.
Managers featured in the book are: Roy Hodgson, Carlo Ancelotti, Arsène Wenger, Sam Allardyce, Roberto Mancini, José Mourinho, Brendan Rodgers, Harry Redknapp, Sir Alex Ferguson, Walter Smith, Mick McCarthy, Gerard Houllier, Tony Pulis, Martin O’Neill, Neil Warnock, Howard Wilkinson, Kevin Keegan, Dario Gradi, Andre Villas-Boas, David Moyes, Alex McLeish, Hope Powell, Martin Jol, Glenn Hoddle, Chris Hughton, David Platt, Paul Ince, and George Graham. An excellent read and incredible insight.
3. Sir Matt Busby: The Definitive Biography by Patrick Barclay
Sir Matt Busby is one of the icons of world football. He took Manchester United to unprecedented glory before seeing the club through their most painful tragedy and helped create the global entity that Manchester United is today.
A player with Manchester City and Liverpool before the Second World War, Busby remained at the forefront of football through four decades and made an extraordinary contribution to the game in terms of both style and substance. In this definitive biography, Patrick Barclay looks back at Busby’s phenomenal life and career, including the rise of the Busby Babes in the 1950s, the Munich disaster that claimed 23 lives and the Wembley victory ten years on that made United the first English team to win the European Cup. Denis Law, Pat Crerand and such other members of that great side as Alex Stepney, David Sadler and John Aston are among the host of voices testifying to the qualities that set Sir Matt apart.
This is the story of one of the greatest figures in football history, and of the making of a legacy that will last for ever from one of the best footballing writers in the game Patrick Barclay.
4. Barca – The Making of the Greatest Team in the worldby Graham Hunter
If you love Spanish football then Graham Hunter’s books are the ones for you. For me this is his all time best work.
In my view this book is simply one of the best books about football you can read if you love the beautiful game and are in awe of the level that the Pep Guardiola Barcelona team operated at. It is far more than just a superficial, breathless account about a remarkable set of players and an equally remarkable coach, it is an in-depth and stunningly insightful book that reveals a deeper story that includes the club’s philosophy and values, its education of young players and its executive leadership. It is a story that can only be told by someone with exclusive access to key personalities in the club over an extended time and Graham is that man.
5. Saturday Bloody Saturday by Alastair Campbell and PaulFletcher
I’ll be very honest – I am not a great reader of novels as I am more of a factual reader however this book CHANGED everything for me.
The book focuses around football manager Charlie Gordon who is struggling with one defeat after another at the club he loves. Only a decent Cup run is keeping him in work, but tensions are running close to the surface ahead of the next round: Chelsea away.
Footballers fall into two categories: artists or assassins. Soon Charlie is going to find out which players can deliver – and just how much pressure they can all stand.
Meanwhile, as the country prepares for a general election, one of the most dangerous political assassinations in the IRA’s history is being planned in London. An active service unit await the critical signal to proceed…
Both sides will converge on the capital for a result that will shake everyone’s lives, with consequences far beyond football.
Trust me when I say this, it is a MUST READ.
6. How Not to be a Professional Footballer by Paul Merson
Paul Merson has his critics but what an amazing footballer he was and what a great story teller he is. This book is arguably the most honest account of the ups and downs that a career as a high profile footballer in the limelight brings.
Merson was a prodigiously talented footballer in the 80s and 90s, gracing the upper echelons of the game – and the tabloid front pages – with his breathtakingly skills and larger-than-life off-field persona.
His much-publicised battles with gambling, drug and alcohol addiction are behind him now, and football fans continue to be drawn to his sharp footballing brain and playful antics on SkySports cult results show Soccer Saturday.
The book delights and entertains with a treasure chest of terrific anecdotes from a man who has never lost his love of football and his inimitable joie de vivre through a 25-year association with the Beautiful Game.
The DO NOTs include: DO NOT adopt ‘Champagne’ Charlie Nicholas as your mentor DO NOT share a house with Gazza DO NOT regularly place £30,000 bets at the bookie’s DO NOT get so drunk that you can’t remember the 90 minutes of football you just played in DO NOT manage Walsall (at any cost)
How Not to be a Professional Footballer is a hugely entertaining, moving and laugh-out-loud funny story that I couldn’t put down once I started reading it.
7. Be Careful What You Wish For – Simon Jordon
There is no denying Simon Jordan splits opinion among football fans but I admire his no nonsense approach to radio broadcasting and writing.
Like him or not, you can’t dispute that he has a unique story.
Multimillionaire at 32. Youngest Premier League football club owner at 36. His club and a fortune lost at 42.
His book focuses on the premise of owning your childhood club – that’s the dream, isn’t it? Simon Jordan made his fortune building a mobile phone company from scratch. When he sold it for £75 million, he bought Crystal Palace FC, the club he’d supported as a boy, and led them into the Premier League.
Ten years later Palace was in administration and Jordan had lost nigh on everything. Be Careful What You Wish For lifts the lid on being the owner of a football club and how the game really works. Hopes and dreams sit alongside greed, self-interest, dodgy transfers, boardroom fights and dressing room dressing downs. Throughout no one is spared, least of all Jordan himself.
8. 5 League Titles and a Packet of Crisps – By Stevie Nicol (And Mark Donaldson)
Stevie Nicol. A boy from Troon made good. 5 league titles and a European Cup isn’t bad is it?
He became a mainstay in the record-breaking Liverpool sides that steamrollered their way to trophy after trophy. From the teams of Paisley and Fagan to Dalglish, he played dream football with the likes of Rush, Barnes, Beardsley, Aldridge, Whelan and McMahon. He topped it off with a Player of the Year award and represented his country in a World Cup.
It was laughter and glory all the way. Then he hit a brutal turning point in his life. It was hard to take. He drank too much. Kenny left. Souness arrived. He wore the captain’s armband and won an FA Cup… but it felt like the end.
Stevie Nicol: 5 League Titles and a Packet of Crisps is the entertaining autobiography of a man who took the good, bad and ugly of his football life on the chin, shrugged it off and ended up having the last laugh.
9. Pep Guardiola – Another Way of Winning by Guillem Balague
Any book with the foreword written by Sir Alex Ferguson is a must listen as is any book on the genius that is Pep Guardiola. The best coach in the modern era in my opinion (definitely the best post Ferguson).
Pep’ Guardiola has transformed Barcelona into arguably the greatest club side of all time, and this entertainingly perceptive biography explains how.
Guardiola spent the majority of his playing days with Barca and was an integral part of Johan Cruyff’s European Cup-winning ‘dream team’. But it was on retiring from playing that he really made his mark on the club. After travelling the world, he became a coach of the Barcelona reserve team, and a year later, in 2008, he was appointed the first-team manager. The club went on to win an unprecedented 13 of the 16 competitions they entered under his leadership, and he became the youngest ever manager to win the Champions League. Then, at the end of the 2012 season, after having been awarded the FIFA WORLD COACH OF THE YEAR, he resigned following four years of unprecedented achievement. He immediately became the most sought-after free-agent in football, and his next move was keenly anticipated.
Some call Guardiola’s influence on Barca revolution, others evolution. Whatever the answer, the impact he has had goes beyond football. He represents a style, a club, a country and even old-fashioned values, at a time when they seem so scarce. Guillem Balagué’s insightful book reveals how Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona played the ‘Beautiful Game’ – and won.
10. Pep’s City – The Making of a Superteam by Pol Ballús and Lu Martin
As I said Pep Guardiola for me is the best coach in the modern era.
So far, in just over three seasons in England, Pep Guardiola has built something the Premier League has never seen before: a team that dominates games like no other, scoring goals and collecting points and trophies at record-breaking pace.
Throughout that journey, the Spanish journalists Lu Martín and Pol Ballús have been embedded with the club, reporting this inside account of how a phenomenal team was constructed: from the recruitment of Guardiola himself, to the backroom staff that provide the platform for his team and the superstar players that have set a new standard in British football.
No other sportswriter has had this kind of access to Guardiola and his team during their three seasons in Manchester. The result is exclusive, in-depth interviews and profiles of every key figure at City, and the inside stories on the decisions that have shaped the team, including the defensive transformation that saw Guardiola change his goalkeeper and full-backs ahead of his record-breaking 100-point season of 2017-18; the dinner date with Sergio Agüero that changed the course of the City striker’s career; and close-ups on every big game in the thrilling finale to the 2018-19 title race.
If you enjoyed this article why not check out @football_cfb on twitter and the Football CFB podcasts if you enjoy unique football content at – https://anchor.fm/footballCFB
Clydebank Football Club have a rich history in Scottish football. Over the years they’ve had Scottish football icons like Davie Cooper and Terry Butcher on their books as well as many cult hero’s of the Scottish game such as Owen Coyle, Chick Charnley, Bobby Williamson among many others.
They also spent three years in the top flight of Scottish football all and were the first club to play in all three Scottish League divisions after the reconstruction of the league in the year of ‘75. The club also reached a Scottish cup semi final in 1990 such was their pedigree at the time.
The club were last in the top league in Scotland in the year 1987 and since then they’ve had arguably more downs than ups following multiple ground sharing arrangements and financial decline which ultimately led to them leaving the professional game in Scotland in 2002 to be replaced by Airdrie.
Since then Bankies fans have had to face up to supporting their club in the junior reaches of the Scottish game but that hasn’t diminished their passion for the club. They have a loyal following who have supported the side passionately since their new inception in the junior game and we have now reached a point where a return to the senior ranks of Scottish football for clubs like Clydebank (and many other junior sides in Scotland I must add) is becoming closer to being a realistic possibly.
How you may ask? Because of the proposal for more Junior clubs in the west of Scotland to follow in the footsteps of the Highland, Lowland and East of Scotland leagues in joining the SFA pyramid as early as next season as part of a newly created West of Scotland League.
This is exciting news particularly for Bankies fans and the club alike as in March 2018, they made it clear through the United Clydebank Supporters Trust that they had voted overwhelmingly to pursue a route back into the Scottish FA pyramid.
That statement is getting ever closer to becoming a reality for the Bankies and many other junior clubs alike the dream of joining the pyramid and setting their sights on the senior game can’t come quick enough.
Added competition in Scottish football is healthy and the introduction of the pyramid system has been long overdue. Hopefully the pyramid shake up can come into fruition for the start of next season so that teams like Clydebank can dare to dream of the glory days coming back.
I attended their match against Benburb yesterday and I have to say that I was very impressed by Gordon Moffat’s team and in particular the class of Aaron Miller who scored a brace to put Benburb to the sword. Credit to all the fans who attended the game and both sides for playing the game to the best of their abilities as the conditions were absolutely awful. Hopefully the next time I visit Holm Park, the sun will be shining and by then the Bankies hopes of returning to the professional set up will be even closer to reality.
Some say he’s too ‘old school’. Some say he is just another ‘long ball manager’. Some say that is just ‘an angry man’.
However, my view is that Dick Campbell has to be the most underrated manager in Scottish football bar none. Yes at times he can be angry, yes at times he’s maybe played direct football in the past and yes he is old school – whatever that means anyway.
But most importantly, he has – at the time of writing – managed 7 clubs within Scottish football over 20 seasons and has an average win rate of 41% with 10 promotions from the lower leagues to his name so far. That win rate alone is something that most managers especially in lower league football would snap your hand off for.
Without doubt, Campbell is a very successful manager at the levels he’s worked in so far.
But for me for whatever reason he hasn’t received the credit he deserves. Although, that tide is quickly changing.
Campbell took over Arbroath in 2016 and he took over a club who had played in League Two of Scottish football far more recently than Championship football in Scotland. Arbroath aren’t a club you would call ‘a Championship club’ by nature but boy do they deserve to be a Championship club now.
In 2019/20, Campbell assembled a team that not only played attractive football but won the League 1 title by 7 points. A feat even more impressive when you consider that one of the clubs main title rivals was full time Raith Rovers who would be considered ‘a championship team’ by nature. The manner of the success raised eyebrows in a positive way as Campbell’s side led League 1 from the off and were relentless in their quest for Championship football.
After celebrating the impressive league win, Campbell appeared on Off The Ball with Tam Cowan and Stuart Cosgrove. He was asked the question – ‘How tough will the championship be for a part time team and is staying up the priority?’
As quick as a flash without needing even a moment to think, Dick Campbell responded passionately with the phrase ‘I’m tell you know we won’t be going to the championship just to make up the numbers.’ Some may have laughed at that statement and thought no chance but Campbell was serious and Arbroath have went from strength to strength in the Championship as he was adamant they would.
This season the club have well and truly held their own impressing fans of all clubs with their never say die attitude and big scalps in the division so far including beating big spending Dundee United away at Tannadice as well as defeating Inverness Caledonian Thistle home and away.
Arbroath and Campbell, now sit 4th in the Championship in the Premiership promotion play offs and only a fool would laugh at the possibility of Campbell keeping his team there.
For as Dick Campbell passionately said on Off The Ball ‘we won’t be going to the championship just to make up the numbers.’ He’s been proven correct on that front and just maybe come what May he’ll be saying the same again only this time about the Premiership.
Why shouldn’t Campbell and Arbroath dare to dream? Stranger things have happened before in football…
December 29th 2019. Celtic 1 – 2 Rangers. An incredible performance by Steven Gerrard’s side at Celtic Park who in truth blew Celtic away in central areas of the pitch on the day to thoroughly deserve their victory.
Crucially, victory at Celtic Park put Rangers within 2 points of Celtic with a game in hand. At long last, the chance for Rangers to be the torch bearers in the SPFL title race once again seemed upon us.
But when you look at Celtic’s business in January – the arrivals of relatively unknown Ismailia Soro and Patryk Klimala – you would hardly say that the Celtic board backed Neil Lennon and the club to such an extent that they had blown Rangers out of the park in the window.
Just as I said in my previous article, Rangers had to keep their key men fit and at the club – Jack, Morelos and Kamara – and they did. So what changed?
Both Celtic and Rangers ventured to Dubai for a winter break but only one of the sides has returned from that break looking fit and firing while the other has returned and performed as if they are at breaking point.
Since the break Celtic have scored 27 goals and conceded 3 and won 8 games on the bounce in all competitions. Meanwhile, on the other hand Rangers have scored just 12 goals, conceded 6 and have won 5 out of their last 8 games in all competitions- losing two crucial league games to Hearts and Kilmarnock while drawing another at home to Aberdeen. The question surely has to be why?
During the break, both Glasgow giants went to same location at the same time with the ascendancy seeming at the start of the winter break appearing to lie with Rangers. Furthermore, as stated earlier Celtic hardly blew their rivals out of the water in the January transfer market. So how can we now be in a position within a matter of weeks that Rangers trail Celtic by 10 points – albeit with a game in hand.
The responsibility for that – in my view – lies at the door of one man – Steven Gerrard.
Gerrard was a world class footballer – one of the very best in class – and he may well grow into being a world class manager as well. I would also add that he has undisputedly improved Rangers as a footballing entity to the point that they are rightfully considering serious challengers for the major trophies in Scotland again which wasn’t the case under Pedro Caixinha. So, in that regard he’s done his job to an extent but failure to win a single trophy this season – barring an incredible Europa League run- would mean that Gerrard’s position would have to be untenable.
No Rangers manager who succumbs to 9 in a row is surely the man fans would have confidence in to stop a potential 10 in a row? I could be wrong of course but that’s how I see things from the outside looking in regardless of much of a footballing legend Gerrard is.
If my prediction is true that a trophy-less season would result in Gerrard leaving Ibrox then there is only one many who I think could realistically galvanise Rangers as a club and a fan base to stop Celtic achieving a potential 10 in a row. That man is Walter Smith.
Whether Walter Smith would risk his status as unquestionably one of Rangers greatest ever managers to try and stop a Celtic bid for 10 in a row is ultimately unknown and only Smith himself could answer that.
However, one thing is for sure the question at the very least will have to be posed to Walter Smith in my mind if Rangers indifferent form under Gerrard continues. The next 3 months of the season are massive not only for Gerrard and his fate at Rangers but also for Scottish Football as a whole because if Celtic do win 9 in a row and are going for a potential 10 in a row then for me we will enter the most important and high profile season arguably in modern Scottish football history next season with so much to gain for one side and so much to lose for the other.
“What do teams like Hamilton and Livingston do for our image of football in Scotland?”
“Teams with low attendances don’t belong in our top flight!”
“It’s a shambles that big teams like Dundee Utd and Falkirk are in the lower leagues at the expense of Hamilton and Livingston.”
These are just some of the views you are regularly online or on message boards regarding the so called merit of smaller clubs like Hamilton and Livingston playing in our top flight.
However, when did attendances replace on the pitch performances as merit for a team in any league? Football without the fans is nothing as the legendary Jock Stein famously said and that statement is entirely true as fans are the game. But, at times I think critics forget that Hamilton and Livingston do have very passionate fans – albeit not as many as some of our so called bigger clubs like Kilmarnock, Hearts, Hibs, etc.
Critics of these clubs also forget that lower attendances lead to lower playing budgets and lower scouting budgets which should inevitably lead to sides like Hamilton and Livi with their fan bases being stuck in the lower reaches of Scottish football as that realistically should be their so called natural glass ceiling based on attendances. However, both sides have consistently shown over the last few years that such glass ceilings – thankfully – do not exist in Scottish football.
Like attendances, Hamilton and Livingston have two of the lowest wage bills in the Scottish Premiership and even trail behind the wage bills of some clubs in the Scottish Championship yet that doesn’t stop them from competing year on year in our top flight and for me that should be celebrated.
Take Livingston first of all, under David Hopkin they were promoted from league 1 to the premiership in consecutive seasons with a nucleus of players who stuck together from the lower leagues. A wonderful achievement.
Follow that up with Hamilton, who regularly produce high quality young talents from their academy to help sustain consistent top flight football. An equally wonderful achievement.
Both clubs have shown that you don’t need a blank cheque book and 5,000 season ticket holders to be taken seriously within the top flight in Scotland and earn the right to stay there. Clever recruitment, local community values and believing in young Scottish talent are three major values that both clubs hold and have reaped the benefit of and I for one believe that this should be celebrated and praised in a footballing landscape within the UK were far too often we see unsustainable levels of money spent to try and achieve success – see Bury, Gretna and many others in the modern era as evidence of that and the stark consequences that brings for the fans of these clubs.
I would like to conclude by repeating my opening statement – performances not attendances represent footballing merit and both Hamilton and Livingston are incredibly well run examples of this in action. If only other clubs and critics of our game around the UK and beyond would take note. Football would be a better place if they did…
Ant and Dec. Tea and Toast. Raith Rovers and John McGlynn.
Somethings are just better together for whatever reason.
Raith have suffered badly for quite a few years now following relegation from the championship under Gary Locke and then John Hughes in 2017.
Many football fans expected Raith to bounce back at the first attempt after they appointed Barry Smith as manager and announced the they were staying full time in a league with mostly part time opposition and Ian McCall’s Ayr looking to provide full time competition.
Overall, Smiths men lost fewer games than eventual league winners Ayr but it was a tale of far too many draws (9 in total) that left them in Ayr’s rear view mirror by a mere point when it really mattered. The disappointment of losing out on automatic promotion led to a hangover in the championship playoffs when they were beaten 4-1 by part time Alloa.
Fast forward to 18/19, surely now as the only full time side in the league Raith’s return would be sealed. However, the familiar tale of too many draws would again seal their fate of failing to return to the championship. 5 draws in the first 10 games of the season sealed Barry Smith’s fate as he left the club to be replaced by John McGlynn – a man who was very successful in his first spell as Raith manager with a win rate of 43% over six years from 2006 to 2012.
The question was: would McGlynn be able to work his magic with Raith again or would they be condemned to yet another few years in the dreaded league one bubble.
Well, McGlynn couldnt have got off to a better start with a 5-1 on his return away to Dumbarton that left many Rovers fans thinking their league one journey would finally end in season 2. Sadly for them, that wasn’t the case as the incredible Arbroath team put together by lower league legend Dick Campbell were simply too far ahead for McGlynn and raith to catch and they ended up winning the league by 10 points.
Another season of playoff disappointment ensued even under McGlynn as rovers fell to playoff final defeat to a Queen of the South side featuring the impressive Lyndon Dykes and the clinical Stephen Dobbie. Not that the season was a complete disappointment as the 3-0 hammering of rivals Dunfermline in the Scottish cup had fans daring the dream that the good times would be returning to Starks park very soon.
This season though, things feel different. McGlynn has Raith sitting at the top of League 1 4 points ahead of big spending Falkirk – the side with all of the expectation considering their financial muscle in comparison to the feast of the teams in the league. Even a bad injury to Lewis Vaughan – one of the best lower league players in Scotland in my book – hasn’t halted their consistency. The side have played some very good football this season and have scored over 3 goals in 6 games so far this season and although they’ve conceded double the goals that Falkirk have their never say die spirit has kept them going even when times have got tough in games.
With only 12 games to go and their destiny in their hands, it would be hard to look past McGlynn taking Raith back to the Championship where they – at the very least – belong. Come what May, the question the return of Raith Rovers? will be answered one way or another but for what it’s worth, I believe that whether it’s automatically or through the playoffs that return is closer now than it ever has been over the last few turbulent years.
This weekend each of the Scottish cup games started one minute later than usual to promote the mental health awareness campaign: Heads up.
Such a campaign in football and in society in general has to be welcomed as the figures at the moment are stark: in the UK alone it is said that 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health issue each year.
I myself have experienced a battle with mental health over the last 12 months and having started the Football CFB podcast in late 2019, I have further realised just how important it is to speak about mental health issues and to encourage those struggling to release that it’s okay not to be okay.
For example on my podcasts with Kerr Waddell and Christian Nade – both players spoke openly and admirably on their own battles with mental health.
On the football CFB podcast, Christian Nade described battling with mental health as like being in a car crash except those around you can’t see the bruises and the bleeding but internally you feel it and you hurt like many people would never believe.
His view was echoed by Kerr Waddell – on another episode of the football CFB podcast – who spoke about how tough battling with an injury is for a footballer both mentally and physically. Kerr explained that “Everyone told me it was quite a bad injury but I couldn’t accept it.
“I knew I couldn’t play, I couldn’t even train, I couldn’t run and I could hardly get out of bed.
“I couldn’t get out of bed because of the injury but there were days when, because I felt so down about it, I couldn’t get out my bed mentally either.
“I just wanted to lie there all day. There were days that I just sat in bed for three days at a time
“I didn’t speak to anyone at all. I shut out all my family and I actually lost quite a few friends over it.”
Both players also discussed how tough it can be at first to talk out on mental health but both players – like I have – would encourage anyone struggling with mental health to speak to a close friend or family member whenever they are struggling.
On my podcast – @football_cfb on twitter – I have discussed mental health in football in numerous episodes so far and the words of those who have experienced mental health are very inspiring.
Several charities are also doing incredible work to encourage people to seek help with their mental health through the medium of football such as Kick Mental Health, Back Onside and Time to Tackle. All of these charities can be accessed on twitter and online and I must say their work is very inspiring.
To conclude, I would like to finish by saying this: if you are struggling with your mental health please speak to a family member, a friend or your GP. I’ve been there myself, it’s tough but it does help. My email is also always open for anyone struggling with mental health – firstname.lastname@example.org
Absolutely delighted to be working with my hometown club Greenock Morton FC – The club are serious about improved fan engagement and I would encourage all supporters to get onside with this podcast in the coming weeks and months ahead. #Morton #SPFL
A massive thank you to everyone at the Greenock Telegraph for interviewing me to promote my new venture. Today really has a been a dream come true – to have the support of my family, friends and the local community is all I could ever ask for. I am absolutely speechless and overjoyed. 🏴⚽️ #SPFL #ScottishFootball