Posts Tagged ‘Buckfast’

Ross County v Celtic, Sunday 31st January 2016, 3pm

April 2, 2016

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The second Scottish game of our UK trip was a league cup semi-final at Hampden Park. I hadn’t been too confident about getting a ticket, but applied online via Ross County and a couple of weeks later our tickets arrived in Australia. Twenty quid seemed decent value, particularly when compared with the thirteen pounds that I’d paid at the fourth tier game the day before this one.

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We took the train into Glasgow from Stirling and then walked for an hour or so in the direction of Hampden. Parts of Glasgow have been tarted up over recent years, but the area of the Gorbals that we walked through still looked pretty run down to me. I’m sure it will be better when some more of those tower blocks are gone.

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We got talking to a Celtic supporter who unsurprisingly was heading in the same direction. I quizzed him about Mowbray and it turned out that he wasn’t a fan. I suppose he was too young to be influenced by memories of him as a player in the way that I probably am. He rated Strachan though. Odd.

The best bit of the walk was passing the former ground of Third Lanark. The pitch is still there, but the terracing that remains has been overgrown with bushes and trees, with the barriers hidden among the undergrowth. It looks a perfect Sunday League location to me.

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Despite our walk we were still about half an hour early upon arriving at the stadium and after a tray of chips and cheese and a brief look at the Queens Park pitch outside, we went inside to keep out of the rain. Hampden looks very impressive after its renovation and if I’d waited until I’d got inside to eat I could have had a goat cheese tart.

The game was nowhere near sold out which surprised me a bit. I’d have thought that Celtic fans would have paid a lot more than the twenty quid admission for their regular games and I doubt a trip to Hampden was a regular occurrence for Ross County.

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With Ross County being the underdogs, I suppose I would probably have been hoping for them to upset the odds. As we were in their end we had a further reason to get behind them. The clincher though, was that they had not one, but two ex-boro players in their match-day eighteen.

Andrew Davies was captaining the Dingwall side. I remember him as the star of the youth team in the year or two before we won it. He played that night in the Olympic Stadium ten years ago when we qualified for the next round of the UEFA Cup at the expense of Roma. I’ve also got a slightly less clear recollection of him returning for a loan spell with us three or four years ago.

Jonathan Franks went to school with my kids. I remember him coming on a sub at Upton Park in our last game in the Premier League and him looking like a decent prospect for a while in the Championship. He started on the bench in this one.

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Davies wasn’t popular with the fella behind me who referred to him before the start as “a fucking liability” and was further incensed within a minute when a ball between the two County centre halves lead to an opening goal for Celtic.

It could have all turned sour after that but a penalty equaliser following a DOGSO sending off gave Ross County the advantage. Franksy appeared from the bench within the first half hour to replace a fella who looked as if he was making every effort to give the referee the chance to even up the numbers.

He did ok too, finding space on the right and making some good runs.

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The fella behind me was temporarily speechless when Davies headed back across goal for a team mate to put County into the lead, although he was quick to point out “oh, he’s a good header of the ball, just cannae defend”.

A third goal quickly followed for Ross County and Celtic never really looked like getting back into it.

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We didn’t stay for the presentation and the fun. It wasn’t really our place, although I do remember a first visit to Verona and driving around town after the game honking the car horn whilst Tom waved a flag out of the window as we got caught up in them clinching promotion.

Not this time though, Jen and I walked alongside the Celtic fans back to the railway station and were probably back in Stirling before the celebratory Buckfast was finished.

Cowdenbeath v Raith Rovers, Saturday 3rd January 2015, 3pm

January 25, 2015

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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?

A post-lunch aperitif.

A post-lunch aperitif.

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.

View from the train window.

View from the train window.

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.

Pay on the gate.

Pay on the gate.

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.

View from the terracing.

View from the terracing.

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.

Cowdenbeath fans in front of the tea hut.

Cowdenbeath fans in front of the tea hut.

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.

Cowdenbeath were in blue.

Cowdenbeath were in blue.

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.

View from the seats.

View from the seats.

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.