Monday, 28 February 2011
Saturday, 19 February 2011
Scottish Division 1
Settle in, this is almost novel length.
The alarm goes off far too early.
It was a late night. Emma & I invited our friend Paul over for his dinner and before we knew it it was 2.15am and I had to be up for 8am as we had to be in Stirling for 10.30am.
You'll have seen it was my old man's birthday earlier this month and one of his presents was a family photography session. Strange the things you ask for as you get older.
I was a wee bit dusty this morning and my decision to forgo breakfast for an extra twenty minutes or so in bed was a mistake as I took me even longer than normal to feel awake. Emma & I took only an hour or so to get from flat to photo studio and unbelievably we weren't the last to arrive. My sister was already there with her husband, Alan and their two boys, Boyd and Max.
When the rest of the clan arrived we headed into the studio for our time in front of the camera. I'm hoping the photographer has a good knowledge of photo shop that's all I'm saying.
After the photo session we've got just enough time to nip back to my sister's house in Stirling for a quick clothes change before heading off to the Doubletree Dunblane Stadium. Today my dad and I are being taken for the full hospitality treatment at the Stirling Albion v Dundee game by my brother-in-law Alan.
Alan works for Prudential and they sponsor the home side; as such they have access to three tickets for each home game. He won't let on how much he's paid for today or accept any money from us as payment. He's a good lad Alan, so much so I've managed to get beyond the fact he's a Rangers fan. My dad and I have done well from this year from Alan and Isla. Isla bought us the tickets for the Rangers v Manchester United Champions League game earlier this season. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank them for their generosity.
We're dropped off at the ground by my sister and Alan shows us the pitches were Boyd trains every Tuesday with the Young Reds.
Disappointingly we couldn't find a sign showing that this was Stirling Albion's home ground and were therefore unable to take the usual photo. Hopefully we'll get something later on.
Alan then led us into the reception area where we are greeted by Steven Leiper, one of the Club Executives, who used to be Alan's boss at The Prudential. Steven directs us up the stairs towards the Board Room. The Board Room at Stirling is no bigger than your average lounge but it's walls are covered in memorabilia, photo's of Stirling teams from the past thirty or so years adorn most of the space but there is a small section given over to pendants from various clubs to have played at Stirling over the years. In the corner of the room beside the drinks trolley is a small trophy case. It's mostly full of glasses but on the top the trophies picked up over the years.
We're met in the room by David McFarlane, another member of the Club Executive Team, who asks us if we would like a drink, Alan and I plump for a Budweiser whilst my dad settles for a diet coke. David then asks us if we'd like to buy a book of half time draw tickets. A book, not a ticket. Still for a fiver I'll take the opportunity, my numbers might come up as it should be a big crowd today.
Since going into administration in October, Dundee are unbeaten and if they hadn't been deducted 25 points they would be top of the table and they'll no doubt bring a big crowd with them today. David tells us that they've been informed by Dundee that they should be bringing 1000 fans with them today. He goes on to inform us that it's been 37 years since Stirling last beat Dundee.
It's not to long before we're taken along to our suite for the afternoon and asked if any further drinks are required. Alan and I take another Bud, well you might as well make the most of these things eh? As we take our seats we're each handed a free programme and team sheet for the match. The programme was in fact a double issue as it covered Tuesday's game with Morton as well. A quick look at the programme informs me that Brian Winter is the referee today. There goes any chance of a decent game.
Next in to speak to us is Paul Goodwin and he gives a potted history of Stirling Albion. For many years the finance of a major shareholder supported Stirling Albion. Back in May 2009 a group of supporters got together to form the group 'Buy Stirling Albion' with the aim of raising enough money in the local community to buy out the single shareholder. The campaign lasted over a year and they got some high profile support from the likes of Andy Murray and Ronaldo but the real success came from the sale of £40 shares in the club. One person could only buy one share and this meant that not one person could be in the majority.
In July 2010 it was announced that they had raised the required sum and the Stirling Albion Supporters Trust bought the club. Each member of the Trust is eligible to become a member of the board and influence decisions. Stirling Albion became the first side in Scotland to be owned 100% by its supporters.
Immediate decisions had to be made by the Trust to keep the club afloat in these hard financial times and the decision was made to cut £100,000 from the operating budget for this season.
In our suite there are several others and a couple of them are from Dundee FC. The banter flows quickly after Alan points out the odyssey my dad and I are on. The boys from Dundee want to know how we rated them and their pie.
Lunch is then served and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't lovely. Lentil Soup to start, followed by a huge portion of steak pie with all the trimmings and chocolate gateaux with cream to finish.
Stirling Albion manager Jocky Scott is introduced to the room and he gives us a brief talk on his thoughts on today's game, his plans are for the side and how he's worked his players hard all week in the run up to the game but once his players stepped over the line there was little other than a wee bit tinkering he could do for them. He talks about the great run Dundee are on and how he'd love it if his side brought that run to an end. Jocky was sacked by Dundee last season whilst the Tayside club were top of Division One.
We've just got time before kick off to visit the Club shop so my dad can buy a pin badge for his bonnet. I'm not sure what the figure is up to now but he must have bought at least twenty or so.
Making our way back upstairs we're ushered outside to our seat just in time to hear the stadium announcer say 'Welcome to Alan Ferrol from Prudential and his guests Arnold & David Pattison. Arnold and David are visiting every home ground in Scotland this season and are even writing a blog about it. See what they have to say about today's game at Aroundthegroudsin42days.blogspot.com'. Nae pressure there then.
As we make our way into our seats we notice they're padded and have arm rests. I'm delighted as I've had a sore back since the Dundee United game three weeks ago. Looking across to the far side of the ground we can see that Dundee have filled the opposite stand and the small terracing area behind the goal. They're a right nosy bunch too.
Stirling had the first chance when from a corner Gordon Smith flicked a header towards the back post but Nicky Riley had plenty of time to clear it off the line. Ten minutes in, Greg McDonald crumbles to the ground with no-one near him. His pain is obvious to all and after a few minutes he's stretchered off and straight down the tunnel. Jocky Scott sent on substitute Sean Walsh and changed the formation to a 4-4-2.
It was all of sixteen minutes before Brian Winter gave his first card of the day, a yellow, for Dundee's Craig McKeown. The ref is having one another of his stop start type of games, blowing his whistle for the slightest of touches.
Dundee took the lead ten minutes before the end of the half. Forsyth played a great first time ball down the wing to Lockwood, who used his pace to get to the byline and send over a great cross. Sean Higgins was all alone to power a header past Scott Chritie in goal.
Those of a Stirling persuasion in the Directors box curse the fact that the keeper didn't come out and claim the ball before the striker. The Dundee contingent can't believe that Higgins, the smallest man on the park has scored with a header.
Straight from the kick off Dundee went on the attack again and Christie does well to stop O'Neil's rocket from 25 yards. The away fans, who to be honest have not stopped singing since before kick-off are having a great time behind the goal and there is a small section who seem to have been doing 'the bouncy' for about the last half hour.
Five minutes before the break, Borris is chopped down on the edge of the box by Weston. The foul is awarded and Weston booked. Chris Aitken hits a great free kick around the wall and it looks set for the corner until Rab Douglas makes a brilliant one handed save to deny him the equaliser.
The half time whistle goes and we're whisked back inside out of the cold.
Earlier in the week when my dad phoned to tell me that we were getting the hospitality treatment at Stirling one of the first things I ask is - what about the half time pie?. My dad laughs as he tells me he asked Alan exactly the same question. Alan assured him that we would be allowed to nip out and get one. Plenty of time though I'm taking the opportunity of a warm cup of tea in a hot room with the half time scores on the box.
In the room we're pleasantly surprised to see that there are scotch pies on offer anyway. Soon as my dad takes a bite of his the room ask what the thinks of it. Even though we're guests of the club it's good to hear my dad tell it like is - the crust is too dry but it has a good filling though. It's a seven out of ten he announces. This leads to questions over where has been the worst, best etc. Few are surprised to hear that the Rangers pie scored poorly, Aberdeen so highly and especially that there near neighbours Dundee United are, along with Livingston, the most expensive.
Looking up at the half time scores I notice Aberdeen are beating Kilmarnock two nil. My dad comes out with his usual excuse that the referee must be cheating his side.
We wait as long as possible in the warmth before venturing back outside for the second half.
Stirling start the second half brightly and a cross into the Dundee box is flicked on towards the back post but unfortunately its just beyond the attacker at the back post. Moments later a lovely free kick is floated into the box by Borris, all it needed was a faint touch to deflect it past the keeper but no one took the chance to get on the end of it.
Dundee fought back and an O'Donnell corner was met by Forsyth and his header was just the wrong side of the post.
Stirling went close again on the hour mark when Smith played a great reverse ball to the feet of Mullan who cut back on to his left and took a shot, which went just over. Sean Welsh is next to try his luck with a shot that had Douglas scrambling to tip it round for a corner.
With twenty five minutes to go Dundee's right back Gary Irvine made a crude two footed challenge on the Stirling captain Ross Forysth. It was a poor tackle and referee Winter made the correct decision reaching for the red card.
There's another flash point ten minutes later when Rab Douglas totally over reacted to a sliding challenge from Doyle and it looks like things could boil over. Doyle had every right to go for the ball and from where we were sitting it looked like he tried to pull out of the challenge when he realised the keeper would get to it first. The referee books them both and Weston for getting involved.
Stephen Stirling then has an effort which Douglas does well to save. That's four or five great saves from the Dundee keeper and he's kept his side in this.
Stirlings Scott Buist becomes the seventh player booked ten minutes before full time with a professional foul on Riley as he aimed to race clear.
Three minutes before the final whistle Borris almost even things up but his header from twelve yards went agonisingly wide.
At the final whistle the Dundee fans were jubilant, they'd rode their luck after the sending off and had Douglas to thank for some wonderful saves but they were leaving with the unbeaten run intact and with an amazing 31 out of 33 possible points.
For the record Brian Winter booked seven and sent off one.
Normally that would be us off to the car for the drive home but not today; today we're heading back to the suite for a beverage, Final Score and a chat with the fellas. The Stirling boys are downbeat and resigned to the fact that they are calling out for a goal scorer. For all their possession in the last twenty minutes they lacked that final pass or creative decision. They talk about how their a better side under Jocky Scott and how they hope for more luck and points from the remaining games. The Dundee boys are thankful for the three points and look forward to the trip to Raith on Tuesday although they are critical of the Irvine challenge.
Watching the scores come through on the box I'm delighted to point out the final score at Pittodrie to my dad. Five nil to Aberdeen. First time we've won by five goals in eighteen years. He reckons the ref must have sent off the whole Kilmarnock team.
It's at this point a young fella in a Stirling Albion tracksuit comes in asking if there is an Alan Ferrol in the room. He introduces himself, Jason, and asks if we want to go down on to the pitch to get our photos taken. He's been informed about our blog and wants to offer us the opportunity for some pitch-side photos. We walk past the Sky TV reporter and camera man as well as a hoard of journalists waiting to interview the two managers. Jason bundles folks out the way to get a photo of us in the tunnel, he then walks us onto the pitch for pictures in the goal mouth and with the stand behind us. We're then taken inside towards the dressing rooms for further photos before being taken back upstairs. I made the mistake of letting Jason take all the photos on our little camera and am now informed that I must be sure to forward on the best ones for the next home programme with a section of the blog to go with it.
As days out go this has got to be one of the best of the trip so far. The facilities have been top class, we've been looked after from start to finish, the food was great, the game enjoyable and the staff have been attentive and entertaining.
Alan, thanks again for taking care of us today and anytime the tickets are available and you fancy coming again I'll be up for it.
We took so many photos today that I'll stick them up on a separate post.
Ticket: For my dad and I it was free today. Thanks again to Alan. Normal price - Adult £16 Concession £11
Programme: Free. Normal price £2.50
Pie: Free. Normal price £1.95
Pie Marks: 7 / 10
Mileage: 64 miles
Final Score: Stirling Albion 0 v Dundee 1
Man of the Match: Dad - Sean Higgins (Dundee), Alan - Stephen O'Donnell (Dundee), Me - Craig Forsyth (Dundee)
Fascinating Fact of the Day: Stirling Albion were the first British team to play in Japan. In 1966 they played the national side in a friendly and won 3 - 1.
Next game: Rugby Park (Kilmarnock)
Sunday, 13 February 2011
Emma's kindly offered to drop me off at my dads house as she's off to her mothers house for the afternoon. I arrive at my dads with plenty of time to spare and I'm just in the door when my mother offers me a cup of tea and biscuit. Cheers mum. She's not slow on giving me a clip round the ear however for having the nerve to take on of the plain chocolate digestive biscuits from the tin. Turns out these are special biscuits only for consumption by her two year old grandson (my nephew) Max. He's two year old and already she's buying him his own biscuits.
My dad and I leave the house just after 1pm for the drive over to Falkirk. My dad wants to make sure he can get somewhere close to the ground to park. With no traffic and the dulcet tones of Tam & Stuart in the background the drive over takes no time at all and we find said parking space by 2pm. It's still a wee bit cold outside so we enjoy the warmth of the car until twenty past.
On the wander over we pass a take the opportunity to go for something a little bit different with the pre match photo. There is a huge flooded grassy area about 500 yards from the ground, we've passed it on our way to Stenny & The 'Shire in the last month or so. The first time was in deepest winter and it was no more then a field covered in snow, the second time it was a huge ice rink and now it's practically a Loch. It's even got three resident swans!
Earlier in the week Steve, a friend of mine from my travels, called to say he was up in Scotland for a wedding and would be here for a week or so and could we meet up. It was a delight to welcome him and his friend Tom to our house on Thursday night. I first met Steve in Australia six or seven years ago when we stayed at the Nimbin Rox YHA. When him and Tom were leaving I happened to mention the Falkirk game and if they were up for it. Turns out Tom lives just up the road from Falkirk near Airth Castle.
We meet up with the two of them just outside the ground and after I've introduced them to my dad we make our way to the Club shop to buy our tickets, Falkirk have taken the automated turnstiles approach with their new ground. We couldn't get four seats together but feel quietly confident that the game won't be a sell out and we'll manage just fine.
We find four seats, two of which are reserved for season ticket holders and hope for the best. I leave Steve and Tom with my dad and nip off for the pre match pie. When I get to the booth I notice a pie is £1.90, another extortionate price, I buy two . The young fella senses something isn't quite right and then offers his apology for the price but goes ahead and takes my money
The pie itself merits a pass mark from my dad although he takes points off for its greasy bottom and dry crust offering.
Just before the teams run out we are entertained by The Falkirk Vixens, cheerleaders to you and me. The perform a routine set to Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Two Tribes and then disappear back up the tunnel to retrieve their pom poms before returning to welcome the two sides on to the pitch.
The game kick's off and it's fairly dire for the opening ten minutes until a horror back pass by Morton player Darren Young played in Falkirk's Carl Finnegan. He had time and space to pick his shot but instead he smashed a shot high over the bar. The home fans are raging and one boy behind yells that his granny could have scored that.
Marc Smith became the first player to be booked after a wild lunge at Falkirk's Twaddle.
It was a further ten minutes before the next shot on goal and this time it was a weak effort from 25 yards which the Morton keeper Colin Stewart somehow managed to fumble round the post for a corner. He almost managed to look like an English international keeper there.
It was more than half way through the first forty five minutes before Morton had their first goal mouth action but his volley sailed well over. The chances came thick and fast for Morton as Olejnik tipped a Monti free kick past the post and then got down well to save from a Weatherston free kick.
The home fans grew restless and the fella behind us had the worst language I've heard on the journey so far. I swear every second word was fu*king. He sounded like he was in his 60's at least but when I turned around he was maybe a year or two younger than me. All that swearing has aged his voice thirty odd years.
Falkirks winger Compton skipped pass two defenders and floated a great ball into the middle, where from five yards out, Finnegan wasted another glorious effort by heading wide five minutes before the break.
On the stroke of half time Allan Jenkins tried an sideways scissor kick from a flicked on corner and Olejnik managed to push it past the post.
Half time came and went with Tom & I making another vist to the refreshment booth. I went with the Scotch pie, whilst Tom tried the steak variety.
In the opening minutes of the second half Moutinho hit a shot into the ground that bounced up, hit the crossbar and went over. A flurry of corners were won by the home side but they still couldn't find the break through.
Ryan Flynn came into the game more and more and the tricky winger tore down the left wing before hitting a great cross into the box, unfortuantely there were no Falkirk strikers willing to attack the ball and it bounced harmlessly along the six yard bos to safety.
Compton went closest for Falkirk after skipping in from the right wing on his left foot, he beat two defenders before firing a shot at goal that Stewart did well to tip past the post.
With twenty or so minutes Greenock pressed the self destruct button.
Firstly Monti clattered into Compton in what was a really rash challenge. The Falkirk players were raging and ran towards the Morton player, his team mates responded by rushing at the Falkirk players. It eventually took an intervention by both linesman to bring things under control. The outcome of this was that Monti was shown a straight red card by referee David Somers and Mark Millar of Falkirk was shown a yellow.
Two minutes later and Morton were reduced to nine men when Marc Smyth was shown a second yellow after another crude challenge.
Surely now Falkirk would press home their advantage. Fans all around us were screaming at Elvis, the Falkirk manager, to switch things up and throw on more attackers. Pressley was unmoved.
Falkirk's play was all too narrow and winger Compton found himself lost and all alone on the touch line. The whole crowd could see he was the man to play in but more often than not he was left to spectate rather than participate in the action.
Pressley threw on Marc Stewart with eleven minutes left. He'll claim this was an inspired moment of managerial know-how as Stewart scored the opening goal with almost his first touch of the ball. Compton sent a corner into the box and at the back post Stewart was unmarked to side foot it in from six yards.
This goal may just have saved Pressley. Moments before the fans beside us had started to shout for the return of Yogi Hughes to the managerial hot spot.
The excitement wasn't over yet though as referee Somers had his red card out again in the final minutes when Mark Millar received his second yellow card for an unbelievably stupid foul. Deep inside the opposition half he blantly body checked a Morton player and left the ref with no other option. The fans beside us hurl abuse at Millar as he makes his way off the pitch. The sweary boy beside us might just explode with rage as he screams at him for being so bloody stupid.
Luckily for him Falkirk emerge victorious and move nearer the top of the table.
The game is summed up brilliantly by a Falkirk fan sat behind us as he states: Three sending offs, seven bookings and absolutely nae football played.
Falkirk are now only seven points off the top spot with a game in hand. I for one will be wishing that Raith or Dunfermline manage to stay ahead on the final day so that the home side stay in Division 1 as they don't deserve to get promoted on this or any of the performances we've seen this season.
Next week my dad and I will be guests of Stirling Albion Football Club and we will be sampling the pre match hospitality on show with my brother-in-law, Alan, before settling down to watch them hump Dundee. Cannae wait.
Sunday, 6 February 2011
It's a big day today not only will this take us down to single figures on the grounds left to visit but I've also to try and keep schtum on the surprise 70th birthday party being thrown for my dad after the game.
Emma drops me off at my folks house early doors as she's got to rush back as her old boy is heading to ours with his tool belt to fix a few things in the flat. Cheers Alan.
We make the drive over to Cumbernauld and enjoy the On the Ball show on BBC Radio Scotland. This weeks question is What type of pet do personalities in Scottish football have? The best answer we heard was Derek Riordhan has a pet seal, as neither of them like clubs.
We pull in to park at the stadium just before 2pm. We're informed that you can't park in the car park on match day. My dad and I can't quite figure this out, why have a car park that you can't park in. Anyway we're redirected to another car park on the other side of the ground. When we get there we're charged £2 for the privilege, although this includes a free entry into the half time draw.
Clyde sacked their Head Coach in mid week as a run of 2 wins in 14 matches left them twelve points adrift at the bottom of Division 3. They'll be hoping that Assistant Head Coach Gordon Wylde will have the winning touch today.
We make our way into the ground after the pre-match photo and trip to the club shop so my dad can buy his pin badge. We decide to buy a pie before we take our seat in the hope that we can't possibly have a third dud pie in three matches. First of all I'm pleased to discover that we're not having to pay an over inflated £2 like we have at the last two grounds. Secondly it actually tastes as it should unlike the horror show from Livingston.
We take our seat almost on the half way line and tuck in. It's a massive step forward from mid-week but still only a six out of ten according to my dad.
The game kicks off and the first five or so minutes are a non event with both teams cancelling the other out. The first effort on goal comes from a free kick, it must be a full thirty five yard effort from Annan's Bryan Gilfillan but it's straight down the throat of the keeper.
There is more noise coming from the pitch than there is from the stand and with all of us sitting on the one side of the stand it's difficult to see if there are any away fans at the game.
The game is being played at a pedestrian pace and it's fifteen minutes before we get another effort on goal but it's a weak effort from an Annan Athletic.
The first goal is a horror show for the Clyde fans. First of all the keeper doesn't let his defender know to leave the cross as there is no danger, then the right back - trialist Gary Brown from Kilmarnock - knocks it back toward the goal. It's a poor touch but one the keeper J C Hutchinson should have tipped over the bar. Instead he only managed to push it up in the air, he then dropped it as it came back down right at the feet of Sean O'Connor who, from one yard out, could not miss.
According to a Clyde fan behind us the 'keeper is a fucking dumpling!'
Clyde's left back Neil McGowan tried his luck from just outside the box but his left foot drive is deflected over the bar.
Thirty five minutes in and Hutchinson made small amends for earlier with a brave diving save at the feet of David Cox.
Minutes later Cox fell over under a very light challenge in the box and takes his time getting up, a fan in the stand screams out What's wrong big fella, have you ripped your tights?'.
It takes until just before half time for Clyde to get their first shot on target but McCusker sees his shot saved easily.
At half time I venture down for another pie and whilst I'm down there I hear the half time draw results. If we'd been one car earlier into the car park I would know be the proud owner of signed Clyde football.
The second half starts.
Five minutes into the second half and we witness the miss of the season from ex-Clyde player Iain Harty. Good work on the right wing by Cox leads to a delicious ball across the six yard box, Harty finds himself all alone with an empty net in front of him and he somehow hit it over the bar.
Clyde start to play with a little more purpose and direction and it's the trialist Brown who makes a succession of long runs with the ball into the oppositions half. There is little end product however.
McCusker hits a left foot free kick around the wall but into the side netting ten minutes into the half.
The linesman makes friends with the home fans when flagging for a soft challenge on an Annan player. A boy behind us shouts You're going to cost us the title linesman. It's good to see even down at the bottom of the league that humour still exists.
With twenty five minutes left to play Harty makes up for his previous miss when he scores his sides second. His right foot shot is blocked on the edge of the box, but he is first to the rebound and he strokes a great left foot shot into the bottom corner.
Gilfillan should have made it three minutes later when after a series of passes he found himself in space inside the box but the keeper rushed out to save with his feet.
At this point a bloke behind us comments that he's glad there isn't relegation from Division 3 other wise they would be a shoe in for it.
The remaining minutes peter out and when the final whistle comes my dad and I agree that Clyde deserve to be in the position they are as they are the worst side we've seen this season.
So after seven months we're down to the final nine grounds to visit. Next stop Falkirk a week on Saturday.