Scottish Sojourns

31 03 2012
Motherwell 4 Queen’s Park 0
Scottish Cup
6/1/12

Platini’s vendetta against me  (EVIDENCE PART 1 EVIDENCE PART 2 , EVIDENCE PART 3  ) has gone up a notch. This year he has scheduled all possible European club matches and international matches that I may want to go to (possibly involving Bangor City in June/July) at times when it is impossible for me go. It’s actually worse than I’ve just described however, the curly despot wants Wales to play on the wrong days in the wrong months in perpetuity. This represents another move against European public sector workers if you ask me.

Anyway enough of this justified paranoia, thanks to glorious winter break instituted by the man I had to decide what I would do with a Bangor City free weekend. Instead of fretting I used the weekend as a blank canvas without closed options. As a nominal Queen’s Park fan – when I’m pushed into an answer about my favourite Scottish club – I decided that this weekend would be the perfect opportunity to go and watch them again so I scanned the internet. Alas Queen’s Park weren’t playing at home. However it was Scottish Cup day and Queen’s Park were away to Motherwell. This sounded like the trip for me! Yes, my European trip this year will involve going to watch Motherwell v Queen’s Park!!!!!!!! Screw you Platini, you’ll never stop the Jet Set!!

After a bit of internet research, and posting a few questions on the When Saturday Comes message board I not only had a trip, I had a minute by minute itinerary, a map, a contact, with a t-shirt, to meet and a chance to go for a few pre-match refreshments with a Motherwell fan. Don’t you just love the internet?

When I left Rhyl it was dark. I always think that leaving in the dark adds an epic tone of a trip. Unless you’re a moron long train journeys provide wonderful opportunities to see a lot of a country around you, I find that train journey offer the space to relax, to think, to dream. They offer enough of a taste of other places to allow one to speculate about what it must be like to live in other places. I’m particularly drawn tothe idea isolated farmhouses on hillsides, I imagine what it would be like to see the sunset as I pulled open the curtains, the windows would shower the bedroom in warming sunlight….. ahem, please excuse me, I appear to turned into the smug presenter of a channel 4 property programme. Please let me assure you, I haven’t turned into Kirsty fucking Allsopp.

Right, on with the main story…..

Long train journeys offer the chance to catch up with When Saturday Comes. I always try to take two, one for the way there and one for the way back. At some point last year I started to wonder whether the convergence of me, copies of When Saturday Comes and a train had some greater cosmic significance.

On one journey I read a WSC article about the use of reclaimed parts of stadiums in other football grounds. The article talked about how Bangor used seats from Ninian Park in Farrar Road. As I was reading that WSC on a train to watch Bangor City in south Wales I started to think something was afoot;  Firstly I was one of the people who unloaded the seats, secondly I was making the same journey as the seats. I thought things were spooky for roughly 5 seconds.

It wasn’t until this journey up to Glasgow that I was reminded of the spookiness. During the journey I began to realise the extent of the cosmic triangle I was part of. At about 9:05 I was looking at pictures of a ground, Lancaster City, that I’d never even thought about before. At about 9:20 the train passed by that very ground. At about 10:55 I was introduced to a place called Uddingston in a review of John Robertson’s autobiography (He came from there), at about 11:10 the train passed through that place. This was too god damn spooky. I hoped that I would read about the liquidation of the XXX XXX XXXXXX on the way home (Unfortunately I didn’t).

Unfortunately my cosmic powers didn’t extend to making the train run on time. We were half an hour late getting in to Glasgow because of a cracked windscreen. This was the first blemish on my day;  I missed my contact in Glasgow Central, which meant I missed out on the pinnacle of fashion – a “I Still Hate Thatcher” T-Shirt – BUGGER, BUGGER, BUGGER.

Eventually I found myself in a Celtic shop. I saw an intriguing poster that advertised Celtic match tickets for £25, an idea was planted. I managed to find a 1970s style silk-esque scarf for £2 but this didn’t cushion the blow of the missed t-shirt. The bloody Virgin train delay meant that I suffered a second blemish; I missed out on my pre-match refreshments as well because I had to get a later train to Motherwell, curse you Branson and your corporate hippy ways.  I left for Motherwell in a mood.

Luckily I was able to find Fir Park quite easily after a few questions. Whilst I was in their spacious club shop I managed to find something I’d actually planned to bu;y a Motherwell Fridge Magnet for my fridge and a Motherwell scarf for Bangor’s club shop.

It was when I was standing in the Davie Cooper suite that I finally realised that wearing a blue Bangor City polo shirt to a match near Glasgow probably wasn’t the best idea I’d ever had. Despite Bangor’s worldwide fame I tend to forget that some people have yet to be touched by our appeal. As I sat there I felt stares burning into me. No-one seemed remotely inquisitive about the badge on my polo, the colour, Rangers blue, was obviously clouding  their view. I left while I still could and bought a match ticket off the incredibly polite staff. I then went the wrong way and ended up in a school car park, unfortunately you can’t walk all the way around Fir Park. This may have been a problem for some people but I like to envelop myself in the urban landscape, I love it when football grounds are surrounded by houses, it shows that football clubs are part of a community.

My ticket was for a stand with a few empty seats. When I’m presented with such a situation I like to mingle, I like to find the best place because I need a bit of legroom for my chronic 6-a-side wounds. I thought that it would be fun to sit near the away fans. When I saw the Queen’s Park fans putting out their flags and then start to sing I wanted to be up there with them, especially on account of me being a nominal Queen’s Park fan – when pushed about it of course. The desire to be among my nominal brethren was strengthened by the fact that Motherwell’s  teenage ultras also choose to stand next to the away fans. I wasn’t quite sure why they wanted to taunt the fans of a famously semi-pro club but that’s the football culture we enjoy nowadays.

When Queen’s Park conceded their first goal the taunting began. This was an unfortunate goal to concede because the Queen’s Park keeper let the ball slip out of his grasp. There’s nothing more wretched than that for a semi-pro team than that. You’re already up against enough; the aura of fitter professional players, a big, unfamiliar ground, lots of fans, that you don’t need luck to go against you.  I felt for the keeper on this big day for the Spiders. When Motherwell doubled their lead the taunting continued briefly.

There wasn’t much action after the second goal, the Motherwell attackers now looked confident but their last touch continued to let them down. As is my wont I began to look at my surroundings and the most noticeable detail about Fir Park is the unfinished stand. I already knew a bit about the stand thanks to finding out where the ground was on various websites. It turns out that the stand was unfinished because Motherwell tried used the money from the sale of Ian St. John and others but …….I’ll leave the rest of the tale to wikipedia;

“To minimise disruption to the old stand, the steel frame was built over and behind it.Construction of the main stand stopped 20 yards short of the south end, however, because a local resident successfully objected to a completed stand.The objection was made because it would have restricted light to the garden and reduced the value of the property.By the time the property owner had decided to sell, Motherwell did not have the funds or will to complete a full length main stand. The club instead bought the house and used it for their offices.”

Consequently there is a skeletal feel to the main stand. To judge from the seemingly good condition of the exposed part of the stand there was a lot of skill in1960s civil engineering, the stand has been exposed to 50 years of changing seasons and it’s still standing firm. Anyhow, the scoreline remained unchanged until half time.

I moved to the other end of the stand at half time and this led to Queen’s Park enjoying enough second half possession to push Motherwell back. They even created enough chances to make the match very uncomfortable viewing for the Motherwell fans, to judge from the cursing and the sucking of breath through teeth. When the Spiders began to force a few corners and then miss the goal narrowly the tension and he amount of tutting rose tangibly.

In the week preceding the match I discovered that Motherwell had signed an Estonian international. His arrival on to the pitch seemed to change the course of the second half. He was quick, as were the other subs,  and this pace was too much for tired semi-pro limbs. Motherwell managed to score an extra three goals. The Estonian scored a particularly good goal.

I didn’t manage to speak to anyone until the last five minutes, I tried to speak to people of course but I didn’t get past a grunt or three on a couple of occasions. When I did manage to have a conversation it turned out to be with a bloke that used to live in Blaenau Ffestiniog. Unfortunately the warmth of this human contact couldn’t warm my frozen feet. Not even the mad dash to Motherwell station helped my feet.

I must say that I enjoyed my trip to Scotland. The poster in the Celtic shop had planted an idea in my head, I’m sure that I’d be back soon.

Queen’s Park 3 Stranraer 2
Scottish League Division 3
25/2/12

Another Bangor City free weekend, another chance to go somewhere different. I can’t think of a better way to go somewhere different than visit the same place that I went to 7 weeks ago? I couldn’t help but hear Glasgow calling. The idea planted by the poster in the Celtic shop began to germinate when I checked the SPL fixture list and saw that Celtic were at home. Queen’s Park were also at home; I had two options!!

I was definitely charmed by the idea of watching Celtic, who wouldn’t like to go to see one of Europe’s great clubs?  We’re not talking Newcastle, Chelsea or Lyon, we’re talking about a club with a genuinely rich European history, isn’t it? you know………………..

…………………….Finals, semi-finals, Lisbon Lions, glorious floodlit nights , Jinky on the wing, Kenny up front, Chalmers banging them in, McGrain and McNeil unmovable – the very definition of rock-like, shirt numbers on shorts, jumpers for goalposts, wee urchins in the park “Oi, Yer cannae play there son!!!”……………………………..

I can’t say I wasn’t tempted by the tangible weight of history but the hurdles of making  accounts, leaving details, premium rate hotlines and the like put me off.  Then it looked as though there were only tickets for seats with obstructed views left. It felt like I had to make too much effort for just any old league match and I’m sure Celtic will still be there next season. I just wanted to turn up without needing to prove my identity in triplicate, is that too much to ask for? This meant Hampden Park was going to be my destination, now I could go to the Scottish Football museum as well!

At first the train up to Glasgow felt blissful, I had a history of Italian cycling and When Saturday Comes to read, I had a raison bagel for breakfast. I had a table all to myself. I had the legroom………. Then THEY showed up , Mr. & Mrs. Nimby. They arrived like clouds to the sunshine of my reverie with their petty, moaning, middle class ways.

You can always tell their sort so when I come across these people I like to play Nimby Bingo.  I unfolded my mental bingo card. A certain style of attire, dabbed!!!!! A certain sort of hairstyle, dabbed!!!! A certain way of handling their luggage, dabbed!!! Barely concealed judgemental opinion in every sentence; “They bought that house for……..They want to put something in the garden……My god did you hear the language back there, there’s no need for that so early in the morning!!!” , dabbed!!!. Then they pulled the Daily Mail and Sun from their bags. I was able to call “HOUSE!!!!”; I’d awarded myself an imaginary £20,000.

I imagined how happy Bangor fans would be when I donated this money towards building a covered terrace. I’d meet the architect and discuss designs. I’d make sure we had an eco-friendly ground with ethically sourced materials, I saw myself helping with the murals. I had to visualise this,  I had to take my mind off the fact that I was stuck with these two legroom thieves  for 2 and half hours, oh how the nagging pain of my historic astroturf wounds nagged. Not even the extra wide tables of the Virgin Pendolino helped. Needless to say when the Nimbys left the train they did so in a contemptuous shuffle, thinking their rubbish was a Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen-esque embellishment on the lives of ordinary people.

The streets of Glasgow were slightly damp by the time I sauntered around the centre of the metropolis. I cut quite a dash in my new New York Cosmos tracksuit top. Then I saw another bloke in one and I sauntered no more, oh the scandal of wearing exactly the same clothes as someone that I casually passed!!!! I felt like horsefaced Carrie from Sex in the City until the bloke’s friend saw the humour in the situation of two men passing each other whilst wearing the same clothes and turned to say; “Up the Cosmos” to me. What had been monumentally embarrassing moment became an affirmation of human solidarity. I went to the Gallery of Modern Art with a spring in my step.

To be truthful I wasn’t sure what to make of the museum’s  installations. For example one piece was an old wooden dining table suspended from the ceiling. The top had been removed and one of the legs had been pointed upwards. I looked at the piece for fully 4 and a half minutes without grasping the point the artist was trying to make about society. I couldn’t decide whether I was a philistine or not.  After a brief promenade around salubrious Sauchiehall Street I set off for Hampden, via Catkin Park.

I managed to find Catkin Park by accident, I was actually standing by the road that the ground was situated on when I asked for directions. This was very lucky because another helpful person had sent me off in the wrong direction when we were outside Mount Florida station. Catkin Park was quite an eerie sight; it was redolent of glory days and failed promise.

After a quick walk around Hampden I found my way to the entrance for the museum of Scottish football. The museum is as much a museum of Scottish social history as it is a museum of Scottish football. The less than genteel parts of football culture; hooliganism, mammoth drinking sessions, clubs going out of business, Billy Bremner, were also covered. I heartedly recommend the museum as it contains loads of interesting items that not only provides another view on football they provide a better view of the past as well, for example there’s the lifesize sculpture of Archie Gemmil’s goal against Holland and the collection of begging letters sent by pro clubs in England to entice skilful Scottish amateurs southwards. There were also mementoes of an old British olympic football team from an obviously less contentious time.

There is also David Will’s collection of mementoes on display. Mr Will was a vice president of FIFA until he passed on and as you would imagine his collection provides an insight into the gilded existence of a FIFA dignitary. At each World Cup these people receive a small solid gold replica of the World Cup with the particular tournament’s  symbol on the base. If you’re like Mr. Will you will need those symbols to keep track of the replica world cups. Speaking of gold trinkets, did you know that the FA of the countries that qualify for the world cup receive a gold plague stating as much, I didn’t know this until I went to the museum of Scottish football. After I bought an SFA fridge magnet I went to find the right turnstile to go in. As expected there was only one section open.

Maybe it was the vague sense of drizzle in the air that led to me think I had made a mistake by swerving Celtic Park. Did I really want to go in and see semi-pro footballers? The reason I’d gone all that way, the reason that I’d made all that effort was to watch semi-pro footballers, something I did every week. Was I an idiot?

My doubts had vanished about 10 minutes later; firstly I wasn’t going to change my mind as I’d already bought a match ticket as part of museum ticket deal. Then several happenings happened; I’d bought a Queen’s Park / SG Wattenscheid 09 pin badge, I’d had a chat with the bloke in the club shop (Bangor’s has more stock by the way).  I’d taken my seat in Scotland’s national ground after making a choice between a left opening and a right opening. Most importantly I had held two pies for a bloke as he climbed over a row of seats to get to the rest of his friends.

It wasn’t just the simple act of holding two scalding hot pies that changed my view, it was the way it happened. The bloke just thrust them into my hands. At first glance it may seem odd that I chose to find this act appealing; the act of  aggressively thrusting pies in someone’s direction can result in violence. But I’m not like everyone else, I chose to see the act an expression of Scottish civility. The bloke was obviously expecting to be helped to his seat without complaint; he was expecting me to help him. I was touched by this little display. But then Glasgow does seem full of polite people, full of people who say thanks when you hold a door open, full of shop workers that say Cheerio when you’re about to leave.

The fact I had taken the decision to go left meant that I had placed myself amongst the Stranraer fans. When the players came out there was a small crescendo of noise but like the last time I went to Hampden  I was struck by the cavernous space in which the match was being played. Queen’s Park is one of the anomalies of football; an amateur side playing in a national stadium. Sadly there aren’t enough anomalies.

I found the match to be quite entertaining. Queen’s Park controlled their possession quite well but Stranraer looked quite dangerous. To continue the friendliness theme I’m sure that the bloke sitting next to me was being friendly but I struggled to make out what he was saying. All I could make out was “Offside”, “Cunt” and “For F____ Sake Stranraer”. I just nodded at the right time.  I couldn’t quite pinpoint the constituent parts of the Stranraer  accent; I noted a lot of Scots, a hint of Northern Irish, a touch of Cumbrian. Halfway through one of our one-sided conversations Stranraer scored a fantastic goal, their striker (I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t know his name) scored with a skillful curling shot into the top corner. There was relative pandemonium in the Stranraer end, well it was a fantastic shot.

Shortly afterwards Queen’s Park equalised and some of their young fans acted in a rather unseemly way, they turned to taunt the Stranraer fans, even though the Stranraer fans had remained placid. This is the legacy of Sky’s hype, a world where people feel compelled to taunt at everything possible opportunity.

Queen’s Park certainly deserved something for their play but they couldn’t relax with Stranraer’s attacking players looking very dangerous. needless to say Stranraer scored again. The shot was quite good but it wasn’t that good and it looked like it wasn’t going in. Then the Queen’s Park keeper made a cock up for the second time in succession that I’ve seen him play (I checked and it was same keeper as the Motherwell match). To think that some people say semi-pro footballers are too inconsistent!!! I must apologise to the lad if ever I see him because I seem to have a hex over him.

Based on the fact that I sort of identify myself as a nominal Queen’s Park fan – when I’m pushed to –I decided to change sides at half time, I decided to go down the right path. I came out amongst  padded seats. I was almost overjoyed because I’ve never sat on a padded seat at a match before, well posterior protection is not normally for the likes of me. Not only was the seat padded, there was legroom as well. Now I knew how the other half watched football.

It wasn’t long before I released that I was sitting next to a charming group of supporters. They were very erudite, very wind-swept and very interesting. Even when a person behind me started moaning;  “They don’t give 110% any more”, “They don’t tackle properly”,  “They don’t tackle with enough force and that’s how players get hurt” I was charmed rather than annoyed; the criticism was delivered with enough style in a Still Game style accent. Consequently I willed the Spiders onward.

If I needed another reason to be won over by Queen’s Park I had one; their choice of music. There was no clichéd rubbish. Before the start of each half they played a rock version of the Spiderman theme. After each Queen’s Park goal they played the classic tune; “Enjoy Yourself!”

Unfortunately we didn’t hear Enjoy Yourself for the first part of the second half. Then Queen’s Park equalised after about an hour. I was quite happy with this situation, even if I was starting to feel the cold. The match appeared to going the way of the Spiders when Stranraer had a man sent off. The player that received the red card incredulously rooted himself to the spot before leaving the pitch whilst performing a shrug. Queen’s Park continued pressing and brought on a couple of subs to help them. One of those changes directly led to a goal because one of the subs managed to score the winner in the last ten minutes. I left the ground with very cold feet.

On the way to Mount Florida I saw that a restaurant was showing the England v Wales rugby match on TV but I couldn’t see who was winning. I managed to see the score whilst I looked through the window of Glasgow Central’s pub. Wales were losing. I went for a Subway and by the time I came back it Wales were drawing. Thankfully by the time I left Glasgow central Wales had scored a try to go into the lead against the Public School fun boys. I’d had another lovely day in Glasgow.

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8 05 2012
Some Bangor City reports « Llandudno Jet Set

[…] don’t only play “Nimby Bingo” on trains I also play a game called “Short Fuse”. The rules of ”Short Fuse” are […]

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