Tuesday 23 December ~

The British climate can play havoc with football. We look back to WSC 121 (March 1997) when Ewan Davidson reported on regular soakings in the west of Scotland

Many non-natives believe all of Scotland shares the same climate. In fact, the west coast gets almost twice as much rainfall as the east. And for reasons I’ve never understood, more than half the population lives in the west too (something to do with tobacco I’ve been told, but it doesn’t grow there, although rice might).

Much of this rainfall seems mysteriously drawn to the inadequately protected terraces of lower-league football grounds. And because of the equally mysterious Scottish mini-league structure, a travelling Brechin City supporter such as myself is drawn there, too. Memory compresses umpteen visits to Boghead, Cliftonhill, Broomfield, Cappielow and their ilk into one sodden recollection.

Cursory checks before departure suggest bright promise – so leaving behind galoshes and sou’wester, you set off for the train. But on the journey across the desolate moors of West Lothian, cloud thickens and becomes insistent. When the train stops mysteriously at Croy, big gobs are crashing off the windows. In Glasgow, changing trains, you pass other supporters heading for Parkhead, Ibrox or anywhere with cover. Your socks are already sticking to the soles of your shoes.

After the walk from the station to the ground, it doesn’t really matter whether you’re going to brave the locals in the shed or perch alone on the terraces. The only way to keep warm, and hopefully dry, is to keep moving. Anywhere with seats is a nightmare. Kilbowie Park, Clydebank’s 1960s state-of-the-art stadium, had benches but no roof and a group of Strathclyde’s finest duly policed the away end making sure you stayed in them. By the time of the journey back, socks and trousers would have absorbed so much water that you’d travel in your own personalised cloud, and leave the train moving like John Wayne with a nasty case of piles.

Two sorts of games get played in this weather – the “bar of soap” affair, and in conditions of sustained downpour, the ”sticky toffee pudding”. Thrills and spills in the first, a right stramash in the second with the players being removed from the pitch at the end by a plumber wearing flippers and using a specialised set of Dyno rods.

Douglas Park, Hamilton, was always the place for the “bar of soap” game. When it rained in Hamilton, Brechin got gubbed. Always. The pitch, usually the texture of a well grassed building site, took on the sheen of an ice rink. Even the crossfield hollows, testament to the area’s coalmining past, failed to trip up Hamilton’s specially developed light forwards – Peter Duffield and Colin McDonald to name but two – who would skate rings around our landlubbers. With the Accies lutzing and salchowing to a three or four-goal half-time lead, and resuming in clean strips after the Wet Wet Wet records, the final score usually depended on how much ire the perpetually unsatisfied home support could communicate to their aquaplaning representatives.

In Brechin’s last season in Division One, our first game at Hamilton finished 9–0 – at the time a post-reconstruction league record. In the second, not only did we hold them to 5–1, but their Crawford Baptie departed early for two mistimed (as in the wrong day) tackles. As I paddled back to the station, I was able to reflect: “Ah well, we’re getting the hang of this now. I’ll certainly be back if we’re ever promoted and get another chance.”

Sadly, they closed Douglas Park first and the ghosts of our overbalancing defenders must haunt the strangely uneven floor just behind the cheese counter of whatever replaced it.

Comments (2)
Comment by AYRSHIRE_ANGUS 2008-12-23 13:11:44

The nightmare that is Ayr Utd v Lochee Utd finally comes to an end tonight. Six postponements, one fruitless trip to Dundee, four train tickets to Montrose (to get to Brechin) abandoned due to a rescheduled league game, and a late equaliser at Thomson Park to prolong the agony.

The original game finally went ahead last Wednesday at 1330, and like many others I couldn't get the time off to attend. Both clubs wanted to stage the game at a neutral venue but the SFA insisted on sticking to the rules hence the farcical kick-off time.

Of course, when the 'big boys' enter in round 4 with all their 'hokey cokey' scandals, the official rules are changed to allow a switch of venue.

Comment by gerontophile 2008-12-23 20:58:51

It wouldnt be OTF without someone from the Singer area pointing out that much as Cyldebank were a good team, Clydebank were the league version.

I have a programme (somewhere) that actually says Cyldebank v Queegs Park.

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