Twenty years ago I worked in Cowdenbeath. I didn’t live there though. Of course not. Why would I when Edinburgh was just a short drive away? Every morning I’d head north over the Forth Bridge against the flow of traffic that was coming in to Edinburgh and then in the evening I’d make the return journey after work. As you might have expected my social life was much better than it would have been in Fife and I suppose the only downside that I can recall is that I never made it along to Central Park to see Cowdenbeath play.
Twenty years on, Jen and I were up in Edinburgh for a couple of days and so I decided to put matters right. Our hotel was a five-minute walk from Waverley station and the trains run from there every half hour or so to Cowdenbeath.
The journey was brightened by the sight of a young lad opposite me swigging Buckfast from the bottle. Never mind Iron-Bru or deep-fried Mars Bars, can you get any more Scottish than that?
It took me forty minutes to get to Cowdenbeath as the train stops a good few times on the way there. It’s a pleasant journey though with decent views as you cross the Forth.
I followed the crowd out of the station, or at least half a dozen or so of those that were heading for the game. It’s only a few minutes walk to Central Park, down to the High Street and then across to the other side. I asked a steward where I would buy a ticket and after checking that I wasn’t a Raith fan, he directed me straight to the turnstile. He then spoiled the good impression that he’d made by asking me if I was an old age pensioner. Charming.
I’ve no idea how much pensioners are charged but it was sixteen quid for me. That seemed expensive for Cowdenbeath, but I keep forgetting that they are now a Championship team, the same league as Rangers, Hearts and Hibs. I also keep forgetting how expensive things are in the UK.
I‘d paid over a quid for a bag of crisps at the motorway services a few days earlier. Not much over, a pound and five pence, but more than a quid nevertheless for a normal sized bag of crisps. In fact, that’s a guinea. At the risk of sounding old, I’ll repeat it. A guinea for a single packet of cheese and onion crisps! I’m beginning to think that maybe the steward had good grounds for thinking I was a pensioner.
Central Park has two stands, both next to each other along one side of the pitch. Whilst I’d have been okay with sitting down, the sun was shining directly into those seats and so I made my way across to the terracing on the opposite side.
The first thing that I noticed was that my view was obscured by a large fence. There’s a racing track around the edge of the pitch which, if I remember rightly from my Cowdenbeath days, caters for stock car racing. I suppose if wheels are going to be flying off the old bangers you probably would be grateful for the protection.
There was a tea hut at the back of the terrace and I bought a coffee and a scotch pie. I’m never really sure what goes into a scotch pie, perhaps I’m better off not knowing. It was okay though, once a layer of gravy had been added.
The Raith Rovers fans had the end to my left and around two hundred and fifty of them had made the ten-mile journey. That’s pretty poor in my book at the time of year when I reckon most people are gagging to get out of the house.
It didn’t take long for the visiting fans to sing the “Cowden Family” song, although it was different to the version attributed to East Fife. The lyrics to that one draw attention to the suspect personal hygiene and lack of electrical appliances in Cowdenbeath. The Raith effort is a wee bit darker, focusing more on inter-breeding and incestuous desires. Perhaps it needs codifying into a standardised multi-verse ditty.
The standard of football was as poor as I can ever remember seeing. If a martian had turned up to escape the Christmas telly I doubt that he’d have had any idea that the object of the exercise was to try to direct the ball into the nets at each end of the field.
It was as if a group of people were just running around randomly, occasionally colliding with each other before looking down at their feet, discovering a football and then kicking it in the manner that you would a stone in the street.
With the sun going down I moved to the newer of the two stands for the second half. The game didn’t look any better from that side though and the nearest that anyone got to scoring was when a big Cowdenbeath defender sliced the ball towards his own goal, forcing his keeper to tip it over the bar.
I cleared off five minutes from time to save myself a further half hour wait for a train. As I reached the station I could hear the Raith fans singing a lot louder than they had been for most of the game. Sure enough I’d missed an 89th minute winner.
I might pop back in another twenty years time in the hope of seeing a goal for myself. I’ll probably not mind being asked if I’m a pensioner then.