It is amazing, for such a small country, the difference in local cultures in Scotland. Having spent the morning and early afternoon in the North East, we were not re-entering the central belt of Scotland. There is just a different vibe to all these places, and especially as begin talking to people.
Stirling Albion were our next club, at a very busy stadium. Like many of these new stadiums, they are rented out to community groups, so there were lots of different activities going on. Amazingly, Ratty, who is from Burnley, was recognised by someone as we entered the ground!
After initial confusion, it was figured out that he had worked with the girl in their younger days, but it was quite amazing, that the person with least connection to the area, is the one recognised.
Next was another real charismatic ground, Albion Rovers. Rovers, that season, started a ticket initiative of charging £10 for a full season ticket in order to increase attendance. We all discussed buy a ticket to support the club, but I don’t think we ever got round to it.
We were met by a young lad who was doing some work in the ground. He was very excited to have people at HIS club, and jumped at the chance to show us around. He told us some tales from the past, and plans for the future, and it was again, very humbling to see someone so passionate about their small club. He talked about their games against Rangers previously, and it is great to hear these clubs battling above their weights against the so-called big boys.
It was here, thought, getting out of the van of all things, that I sprained my ankle! This was to prove a major problem, if not source of entertainment, for the remaining grounds!
Airdrie was next, followed by Clyde. Airdrie’s excelsior stadium was not situated in the best of areas. The fact that policeman Ian, temporarily switched on to work mode as he saw some suspicious characters, made us want to get in and out pronto.
It took some time for us to get into the ground, until eventually a receptionist let us in. The Excelsior is another stadium that is rented out to amatuer clubs in Glasgow, and is a fantastic small ground for football. It really has a modern feel to it.
Clyde’s stadium was rather similar in style, but we had to wait in line to get on the pitch. A school game was going on before we could do our lap, so we sat and watched. We witnessed one of the most brutal performances of any player, adult or child, who to be quite honest, was a thug on a pitch. He must have been 15, and he ran around kicking players and swearing with no punishment from ref or coach. The football developer in me was disgusted!
Anyway, on to the pitch, and I got to have a kick about with a left over ball…Happy Grantie!
On to the team of my Nana…Partick Thistle. My Nana was a Glasgow life, and despite edging towards Rangers, Partick Thistle was always the team she said she followed. Firhill is another iconic ground in Scotland, and I was looking forward to going around the pitch. Sadly, the ground was locked, and there was no way in!
We had to make do with running around the outside, which was like a cross country run down the canal and down hills, over bushes! Piping outside the main door I gathered a bit of an audience, not a sight they are used to seeing in Maryhill!
It was incredible, in a day that started with us “breaking in” to Peterhead’s ground, and touring the Aberdeen trophy room, that we were heading to Dumbarton to finish day two! We had only been away 2 nights, but it felt like a major homecoming, and we were looking forward to our own bed tonight.
First, we had one more ground, Dumbarton, to tick off. With the sun setting, the views over the Clyde were fantastic, and Dumbarton Rock towering over the ground made for the most scenic ground on our tour.
As we ran around the pitch, we planned getting a picture on completion. However, as we reached the far side, and saw the spectacular rock, we stopped in awe on the beauty of it. Claire, who was waiting with the camera, was confused, until we all shouted for her to run around to take the photo from the opposite side! The groundsman, very unlike his fellow professionals, let her run ACROSS the pitch. It really was a great back drop to end a great day.