By my own eccentric rules, last season was a poor one in respect of attending football matches, something I’m determined to put right. As ambitions go, mine probably seem strange to a normal person, but as one of them is to go to as many football grounds as I can before mind and body cease to be much use to me or anyone around me, the Scottish League Cup is an ideal way of increasing that amount of grounds, and as I’ve totally lost the (Never to be found again) enthusiasm to bother with something that just isn’t recognised as competitive, and isn’t anyway, negates trying to use friendlies as a football fix. Thus, I started my season early. The alarm on my phone interrupted the dream I was having, and after initial disorientation, (A state you would think I’d be used to by now, as those who know me would probably say that I’m in constant disorientation) got up, got sorted, got the bus to get the train. Seat found, I jammed earplugs in and my playlist echoed around the empty space that’s my head. After being stuck just before Stafford due to trespassers on the track, the train made its way north to Scotland. The chaotic ant hill on amphetamines left behind, replaced by endless greenery living at its own pace, punctuated by the odd church spire, surrounded by a clump of houses, a soundtrack of my own making and taste, washing away the grind of another working week, the more north we went, the more church spires were replaced by barns, hills and mountains wearing clouds as hats. The driver had managed to make up most of the time that the trespassers, whatever the agenda, had eaten into the schedule, and we touched down at Haymarket, only a couple of minutes late, plenty of time to get the connection to Dunfermline. On the train there, I got chatting with a bloke who enquired as to what the next stop was, it led on to society’s reliance on mobile phones. For the most part, it seems glued to them. Although I’m not a phone zombie, someone who is oblivious to what’s going on around them, I am far too attached to mine for my own liking. To the point of feeling rebellious, if I leave it at home. As for the western world’s reliance on computers and the internet, it leaves me cold now. Computers have made us lazy, and the internet has turned us into slaves to it. I will be doing cartwheels if ever the internet goes down for a week, because the western world would ground to a halt. However, I am a hypocrite, as my blog is internet based, and if the internet went down, I wouldn’t be able to post anything. Yes yes, I know you’re all now hoping for it all to crash.
“The road bridge had given birth”
Going over the Forth rail bridge, I was just as awestruck as I had been as a kid, over 40 years ago. Getting off in Dunfermline, and walking up into the town, I didn’t remember a thing. I know most of the shops will have changed over the decades, but not the buildings themselves, and certainly not the terrain. I couldn’t remember it being so hilly. Maybe I had far too much energy for my own good, and everything felt flat to me as a fledgling teenager. Over 40 years later, I felt like I’d been dropped somewhere in the Himalayas, but without the snow. The Guildhall & Linen Exchange is Dunfermline’s Wetherspoons, but unlike all the others with their totally unique carpet, this place was even more unique to the chain, it hadn’t got one. Was it too presumptuous to think that it was easier to clean the usual weekends stomach contents off it? With not a great deal of real ale pubs to choose between, and a yearning to memory jog, I went for a mooch, East End Park (Dunfermline Athletic’s ground) was closer to the centre of town than I remembered, and also not, where I expected it to be. I also couldn’t remember being able to see the Forth bridges from Dunfermline either. I’m sure my Sister Val would’ve pointed them out to me, but this was probably lost on me, being an obnoxious teenager. Most of life bypasses around your typically inane teenager anyway.
“To be renamed the Judas”
I mentioned that I might post a rant during the summer, I didn’t expect to include one in a ground hop report. There might be a Carling sign on the side of this pub, but it was selling Tenants. I know, because I saw the dispensers on the bar, as I walked past the open door. That isn’t the reason for the rant, but was apt for the pubs name. There can’t be any other person in the history of football that has worked for both clubs in as many bitter local rivalries, as ex Birmingham City player, and later boss, Steve Bruce. Loyalty is in short supply in football, but for this mercenary, it’s not even in his vocabulary. Having started his managerial career at Sheffield United, he was fortuitously appointed manager at Wednesday whilst his chair was still warm after his dismissal at Villa, but ungratefully resigned at Wednesday to potentially take the bosses job at Newcastle United. With Sunderland being on his managerial c.v. I can’t see that going down well on the banks of the Tyne or the Wear. Personally, I wouldn’t trust him to post a letter for me, if I could see the post box from the window. Mooch over, and now rant over, I went in the East Port. Although in the G.B.G., the selection was meagre. There was only one true guest ale, the rest, showed little imagination. Timothy Taylor, Landlord, Moorland, Speckled Hen and Sharps Doombar (Doomed, should be barred). I plumped for the guest ale, it ran out as he was pouring it, just my luck. I made do with a Landlord, and in fairness, it was well kept. There were televisions all round the pub, all showing different sports, but in all honesty, it wasn’t a pub I’d go in unless I wanted to watch a particular game with a pint. The Commercial Inn was a totally different story though. The range was excellent. It also seemed to be a pub that attracted middle aged couples out for a lunch time meal, and bored of Wetherspoons. Much as I was impressed with the range, it was another place I couldn’t see myself frequenting. I decided not to have a last pint, or even a half, as I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get back to the station to catch the train to Cowdenbeath. I proceeded to metaphorically kick myself, as the train was delayed, and I could’ve had a pint, let alone a half. At least when it arrived, I could put my phone on charge. I’ve been wanting to do Central Park and the Blue Brazil since I started following everything Hearts. Much as I tried badgering Val one holiday, she wouldn’t relent, and I didn’t get to go to watch Hearts play Cowdenbeath in a League Cup game there. This was back in the very early 80s, when football violence was at its height, so she was probably right, either that or she was too afraid of what our Mother would say and do, had something happened to me, I was, after all, the baby of the family. Cowdenbeath is a one street town, I was still wondering how on earth the town could have a football club at the level it does, when I paid to get in and then found out that the programmes had sold out.
“Central Park in all its glory”
An odd little ground with a stock car racing track round the pitch, but without the figure of eight crossing. Putting one of those in, wouldn’t do the pitch much good for a start. I love being able to stand at a game, but can’t stand rain. Unfortunately, the dark clouds moving over the ground, decided to unload what they were carrying, thankfully, I didn’t get too wet as I huddled next to the wall of a closed toilet block that was at the top of the open terrace I was on. After what appeared to be a reintroduction to a football, the players settled down and stopped instantly losing possession. It coincided with the rain stopping, although I couldn’t tell you for sure, that they weren’t connected somehow. The Blue Brazil looked like the home club with their football, but not a division below their opponents East Fife. Whether it was because it was a cup game, or that East Fife were in a higher division, or that East Fife are Cowdenbeath’s local rivals, again, I couldn’t tell you, but Cowdenbeath were showing more ambition. Enough ambition to justify them taking the lead. It may not have been the kind of blockbuster that you daydream about during the close season, but the finish from the rebound off East Fifes keeper, signalled the first goal I’d seen this season. The second to make it 2:0, was a much better finish, a low shot, driven in from just inside the penalty area, that nestled in the corner of the net. Graham Taylor was credited with the goal, obviously not that Graham Taylor. Not having been able to get a programme, I don’t know if the spelling of his name was different anyway. The second half didn’t bring a rampant East Fife out, though they were better. The Blue Brazil were having to defend more, but it wasn’t backs to the wall stuff. East Fife should’ve however, halved the deficit, but the home keeper excellently tipped a chance heading for the top corner over the bar. With the game looking like it was trundling towards a 2:0 win, Cowdenbeath were justifiably awarded a penalty to make it 3:0, and thus putting the game to bed, however, the taker contrived to miss the spot kick, and then go and miss the rebound, when it fortuitously fell to him. There isn’t the finances to be able to stretch to an electronic board indicating the added minutes, at this level, and I’d forgotten to check what time the second half kicked off, so instead, I watched for the traffic beaters, to give me an idea when I could leave to make it back to the station to catch the 16:57 back to Haymarket. Dawdling round to exit, with an eye on the football, whilst repeatedly checking the time on my phone, the man of the match was announced. I may not have seen the referee put the whistle to his mouth, I did though, hear him signal the end of the contest.
As I was on a train for a second time that day as it transversed over the 129 year old Forth rail bridge, I still found myself experiencing childlike excitement. Touching down in Haymarket, it felt kind of like home. Not Birmingham obviously, but as a Hearts fan, I’ve got used to it, but certainly not bored of it. I went to Monty’s for my first port of call, I’d got enough time to do a couple of pubs near Haymarket station, and I was determined to make the most of it. Monty’s is well worth a visit, and worth its Good Beer Guide entry. I parked myself upstairs in the mezzanine and downed a lovely raspberry tasting beer. I had indeed got enough time to have another beer, and so moved on to the Nicholson’s owned Haymarket. It was a tough decision, but settled on a coffee stout, as I hadn’t had one all day, and I’m extremely partial to that particular style of beer. On the train headphones were jammed in again, but not because I found myself in the middle of a party of Japanese students that were on a day trip either organised by, or from UCLAN. They maybe very different culturally to us, but they are nothing if not extremely polite, so sitting next to them, wasn’t in the least bit irritating. They got off at Preston, but I could’ve easily have put up with them, all the way back to New Street. Getting off the train myself in Brum, and catching a bus home, it had been a long day, but very much worth it. Next please.