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An Away Trip

I remember football.

(Just.)

I remember away games.

(Dimly.)

The reason for our visit up north via Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven and finally Aberdeen last January was for one such away game; Sons’ 4th Round Scottish Cup tie at Pittodrie on 18/1/20.

Ticket to Aberdeen - Dumbarton Scottish Cup Tie, January 2020

Before the game we met up with my younger son and his wife, who were making a day of it, in a pub in Aberdeen city centre for some lunch. The pub had also attracted other Sons fans:-

Dumbarton F C Fans in Aberdeen Pub

They don’t half make a fuss before a game at Pittodrie.

Razzmattazz prior to Scottish Cup tie, Aberdeen v Dumbarton, 18/1/20:-

Razzmattazz at Pittodrie, 18/1/20

More Razzmattazz, Pittodrie, 18/1/20

Teams coming out:-

Dumbarton F C at Pittodrie, 18/1/20

Sons players:-

Pittodrie, 18/1/20, Dumbarton F C Before Game

Teams line up, Pittodrie, 18/1/20

Apart from the result it was a good day out.

I wonder when I’ll be able to have another away day.

Snapshot by Daniel Gray and Alan McCredie

Scenes and stories from the heartlands of Scottish football, Nutmeg, 2020, 208 p.

The introduction claims this book to be “a love letter to the charms of football …. a portal into a different kind of Scotland.” Well, maybe; but it’s a portal through which many people have travelled.

As an aside I notice on the cover photo (of a pitch on Eriskay) there are flags marking the halfway line. I thought those had been done away with years ago.

For each “chapter” we have a page or three of narrative. These describe in turn the unsung background people, the beating heart of every club, “ensuring our Saturdays have purpose, comfort and melancholy;” the return to normality and focus of a new season’s start; the contrasting fortunes of the two “wee” Rangers, of Berwick and of Cove; the bright promise of a ground you’ve never been to before; the “gentle pleasures” of football in the Borders (notwithstanding the brutalist concrete splendour of Gala Fairydean’s main stand;) the rigours and dangers of blaes pitches; the magic of a floodlit game, forever enchanting; the glory and misery of away trips; the local team as the heart of a community, embodied in its social club especially in Junior football; the joys of park football; the content the writer senses in the Highland League.

The match day experience of attending a midweek floodlit game in a minor league is highlighted by a photograph of a neglected bottle of orange juice and a mug with the word “Twat” printed on it sitting on top of a dugout.

Football’s past is given its due with photos of an iron fence and gate before where the main stand stood at The Gymnasium; trees striding down the terraces of Cathkin Park; a single Art Deco style wall still bearing the name Shawfield; the sole survivor of Brockville, a turnstile acting as a memorial in the car park of the town’s Morrisons; the overgrown terraces of Tinto Park, Benburb; Meadowbank stadium’s “oddly alluring air of otherness …. a little pocket of Leningrad tucked behind Arthur’s Seat.”

An even more melancholy note is struck by the mention of two Hibs supporters, one photographed on an away trip, who succumbed to Covid-19, with the final paragraphs devoted to the loss the average fan has experienced as a result of the pandemic’s suspension of the Saturday ritual.

Pedant’s corner:- “a 1,000” (either ‘a thousand’ or ‘1,000’. 1,000 does not stand for ‘thousand’, it is specifically ‘one thousand’; no one ever says, ‘a one thousand’,) “their 54 years of league football had ceased” (Berwick Rangers joined the Scottish League proper in 1955; 64 years, then; 68 if you count the Division C years,) Berwick fans in August “singing ‘Back to school tomorrow’ to visiting young fans of Scottish clubs” (unless it was a midweek game more likely ‘Back to school on Monday’,) Rangers’ (Rangers’s,) Rovers’ (Rovers’s,) “the club … are familiar” (the club … is familiar,) “the first senior league game at Cove’s Balmoral Stadium.” (Okay, the writer used a lower case ‘s’, but…. Cove have been Senior ever since they joined the Highland League, so, ‘their first game in a nationwide league,’) “Galashiels Fairydean Rovers FC” (the club’s name is Gala Fairydean Rovers FC.)

Suspended

I was looking forward to actually seeing a Sons game again tomorrow.

However today’s suspension of Scottish football below its top two tiers means that it will now not be until February 13th when the home game against Montrose is due – or just possibly the 9th if the Cup game against Huntly is scheduled for then – that I will have that pleasure.

With the coronavirus now spreading at a higher rate than ever I suppose this was an inevitable decision. People’s safety must be the main priority.

It’s still a blow to morale, though.

Dumbarton Football Stadium

I’ve posted Footy Adventures’s video of Dumbarton Football Stadium from Dumbarton Rock elsewhere.

Now, in another video (posted on 7/1/21) he took advantage of the club granting him access to the ground (well there was no-one else around) and he’s very enthusiastic about the place.

He waxes lyrical about the surroundings but bemoans the fact the fans can’t see the Rock when they’re seated in the stand.

However from the stand there is a very good view of the range of hills known locally as the Long Crags but whose formal name is I think the Kilpatrick Hills, which also overlook the town and are scenic in themselves.

Posting this means I probably don’t need to inflict my own photos of the Rock on you all.

The First Kings of Scotland:

Colin Bell

Manchester City’s best team may have been the one of the very recent past. Certainly in terms of trophies won it is the most successful. However City’s last great side, the one of the late 60s and early 70s, is worth mentioning in the same breath.

That side’s outstanding performer, one of the greatest players Manchester City ever had, if not the greatest, Colin Bell, has died. The only one of City’s players ever to be dubbed ‘the King’, in his case ‘King of the Kippax’, after the Kippax Street Stand at City’s old Maine Road Ground. He was also nicknamed Nijinsky after a famous race-horse of the time due to the seemingly effortless way he covered the ground. The team was an attacking force to be reckoned with and Bell was its driving creative hub.

His stature at the club was such that one of the stands at City’s new ground, the Manchester City Stadium, aka the Etihad, was named for him.

There was a fine appreciation by Simon Hattenstone of what the man meant to City supporters in yesterday’s Guardian.

By all accounts he was a decent man as well as a great footballer.

Colin Bell: 26/2/1946 – 5/1/2021. So it goes.

The Doc

So 2020 continued to be a miserable sod right till the end, when it took Tommy Docherty away from us.

The Doc was probably most famous for being manager of Manchester Uinted though he had previous spells at Chelsea and other clubs, plus as Scotland manager. After Man U he managed seven more clubs.

His senior playing career began at Celtic but he could not displace Parkhead legend Bobby Evans from the team and moved south to Preston North End and later Chelsea.

He played for Scotland 25 times including in the 1954 World Cup (but we’ll swiftly draw a veil over the 7-0 defeat to Uruguay – I read once of a player’s recollection that the Scotland team were in heavy woollen jerseys as if playing in winter rather than the heat of a Swiss summer and were shod in big old-fashioned boots – with the Uruguayans in more modern footwear he described as like slippers in comparison. We were lucky it was only seven was the verdict.)

It was as a manager that The Doc made the most impact, taking over a very declined Man United and not able to turn the club’s fortunes round till after a relegation but leading them to a swift – one season – return to the top flight and then to an FA Cup win against Liverpool (denying that club what would have been a first ever treble by any English side.) Who knows what might have transpired if The Doc had not had an affair with the wife of the club’s physio Laurie Brown and as a consequence got the sack? (I note from the obituaries that Docherty was still married to Mary Brown when he died.)

Despite plying his trade mostly in England Docherty, like most of his ilk, remained a proud Scot.

There was a tale told – I think it was of Joe Donnelly, Dumbarton’s perennial substitute in the 1971-1972 season (only one sub allowed in those days and that for injury) that the player had once been involved in an altercation with an English team mate who had called him a “Scottish b*****d.” Docherty, as their manager, took them into his office, got them to settle the matter reasonably amicably then let the Englishman leave the room. Whereon he immediately turned to Donnelly and said, “You didn’t hit him hard enough.”

A character, then.

Thomas Henderson (Tommy) Docherty (The Doc): 24/4/1928 – 31/12/2020. So it goes.

Jim McLean

I’ve just seen a report of the death of Jim McLean, the man who led Dundee United to the greatest successes in their history (bar a Scottish Cup win.)

Following two earlier League Cup wins (themselves the club’s first major trophies,) in 1983 his stewardship found them winning the League and becoming champions of Scotland. With hindsight that seems even more remarkable than it did at the time. As I recall (but don’t quote me) they achieved that using no more than 15 players in total over the whole season.

The next season saw an even more incredible achievement, a European Cup semi-final (matching the effort of their city rivals, Dundee, from 1963.) Then there was a UEFA Cup final appearance (thereby eclipsing their neighbours) in 1987. The most astonishing statistic of the club’s European games under McLean’s leadership is their two wins against Barcelona (OK, they were not the force at the that time they were to become but it was still a huge scalp) in that EUFA Cup run. Curiously the club had also beaten Barcelona home and away in the equivalent competition, the Inter Cities Fairs Cup, in 1966.

Some controversy surrounded McLena’s treatment of players, especially as regards the details of their contracts, but he nurtured many who went on to forge big careers in the game. His relationships with members of the press were not always rosy though. He was a personality, no doubt.

As a pure manager, though, his record is nothing short of amazing.

James Yuille (Jim) McLean: 2/12/1937 – 26/12/2020. So it goes.

Gateshead International Stadium

As well as hosting athletics, Gateshead International Stadium is home to Gateshead FC, who now play in the English sixth tier, the National League North. The club is successor of a sort to both Gateshead United and Gateshead AFC, the last of which I can remember playing in the Football League.

We visited the stadium to attend an antique fair so I took the opportunity to photograph it.

Stadium east end exterior:-

Gateshead International Stadium

Entrance. The sign says, “Welcome to Gateshead FC”:-

Gateshead International Stadium Entrance

Gateshead FC logo:-

Gateshead FC Logo, Gateshead International Stadium

Interior from Main Stand:-

Gateshead International Stadium

East goalposts and east seating area:-

Gateshead International Stadium

West goalposts and seating:-

West End, Gateshead International Stadium

Running Track:-

Running Track, Gateshead International Stadium

Main Stand from west:-

Main Stand from West, Gateshead International Stadium

Main Stand to right and east seating beyond:-

East Seating Gateshead International Stadium

Paolo Rossi

I’m sad to note the death of Paolo Rossi, who was in effect the prototypical Italian striker, arguably the best ever such.

There is an argument to be made about whether one man can be said to have won a World Cup for his country, the usual example given being Diego Maradona.

However it is almost certain that without Paolo Rossi, Italy would not have won the World Cup in 1982. His contribution to that success was profound – and indispensible.

He had only recently come back from a two year ban resulting from the Totonero betting scandal (in which he said he was unjustly implicated,) and had endured, as did his team-mates to be fair, a non-descript start to the 1982 tournament. But his hat-trick buried an extremely talented Brazil side in what was effectively a knock-out game in the second phase in one of the best-ever World Cup matches. Was there ever such a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles as in his third in that game?

Italy 3-2 Brazil:-

Rossi then scored the two goals which defeated Poland in the semi-final and set Italy on their way to the Cup with the first in the final against West Germany – a goal which he said most exemplified his style in anticipating where the ball would be before the defender could react in time.

Six goals, the Golden Boot, and Golden Ball for most valuable player, with the 1982 Ballon D’Or added in for good measure.

All six goals:-

In his career he had multiple Italian domestic trophies, and all but the EUFA Cup in European competition. One of the greats.

Paolo Rossi: 23/9/1956 – 9/12/2020. So it goes.

2022 World Cup Qualifying

Gosh, it comes round again.

The draw for the European qualification round for the 2022 World Cup (to be held in Qatar) was made today.

Scotland’s fate could have been worse I suppose – we managed to avoid holders France, world ranked no 1 Belgium and also Spain, England, Germany, Italy and Portugal, nemeses in previous qualification campaigns, but Denmark, Austria and Israel (yet again drawn in a group with Scotland) are no mugs; and I always get the fear over games against countries like the Faroe Islands and Moldova.

Our last two games were 1-0 defeats too let’s not forget, but I’ll give the team a pass on those as they were hungover (in the nicest sense I hasten to add) from managing to reach the Euro finals.

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