21/7/19 Hibernian v Alloa Athletic, Scottish League Cup 1st round, Group C. Never Mind 100 Miles, I Don’t Even Want To Walk 100 Yards In The Rain.

Throughout the week leading up to a Saturday, I keep watch on the weather forecast. Had it been predicting glorious sunny weather, I would have chosen to take in Edinburgh City v Dunfermline Athletic. It was predicting sunshine and showers. . . heavy showers. I had an alternative game to go to, a new ground too, but it was a game and ground, I was reluctant to do. Edinburgh City are currently temporarily playing their home games at Spartans F.C., where they only have a 500 seater stand, the only cover against the elements. It’s an understatement to say that I dislike rain, and potentially standing in it, wasn’t appealing to me. The alternative was the game I would eventually end up at. I’d designs on grabbing a bit of extra sleep on the train, but I spotted Darryl at New Street, he was heading up to Halifax on an ale trail, and we spent a fair bit of the journey up to Doncaster, where he got off to change for Halifax, (Trains, not clothes, though he could for all the world knows, find a phone box, and become Ale Man, whose super power is lightning fast walking) chatting about pubs and itineraries. Headphones in, I absorbed the latest copy of ‘Back Page’ on the rest of the journey up to a rainy Newcastle, where I changed. (No, not clothes. No phone box, No super powers. Unless you count the ability to bore people into a comatose like stupor with this drivel) I’ve only ever been on the East coast line once up to Edinburgh, that, like this time, was down to engineering works on the West coast line, only because of rightly called industrial action, I found myself having to stand up from Newcastle to Edinburgh. It meant that I didn’t get to appreciate how close the North Sea actually is to it. Berwick on Tweed captured my curiosity as we went through it too, and has now been added to my wishlist of places I’d like to visit. Touching down in Edinburgh, I showed Darryl like super powers, and was in the Halfway House, before some passengers, were still wrestling with their luggage off the train we’d been on. The Halfway House is tiny, probably as small as the Grey Horse in Piccadilly, Manchester, and like the Grey Horse, is a favourite of mine. Although excellent, it tends to get overlooked by the usual tourist crowds. You only tend to get locals, or travelers who know about it, in there. The next place Jinglin’ Geordie, I hadn’t been in before, probably because of its close proximity to the Halfway House. It had Sky Sports on, which due to the rain that had started pelting it down, lost its signal. The pixelation stopped, and the sun came out. Pint finished, I went back through the station, having my eyes open for a new place I’d heard of, and read about on the Camra site, not seeing it, I went to The Booking Office, a Wetherspoons that’s in the GBG, which baring in mind how many decent real ale pubs in Edinburgh there are, is some accolade. I’d stuck it on my itinerary not only because of that, but also that Jinksy had been in it. I’d almost ticked it off before, but the previous time I’d gone to go in there, I’d fancied a breakfast, and the kitchen had been closed, so I didn’t bother. Because of where it is, it gets busy, and it was busy. I was only ever going to have one in there, but in the short time I was in there, I observed an extremely efficient, hard working team of staff. My initial incredulous feeling towards the place had been replaced by one of being impressed. Coming out of there, it was almost make your mind up time. Looking at the dark heavy clouds fighting with the sun and blue sky, was proving difficult to assess whether the weather would be kind or cruel. I crossed over Princes Street and round the corner to where the Guildford Arms is, noting that the revolving doors had been folded open, and so weren’t revolving doors, something that I’d been hoping to see in use, and use myself again, as it’s a unique feature. When I enquired is to why, was told ‘Because it’s got too muggy in here behind the bar’ much as I’d been disappointed, I could totally understand.

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“Muggy or not, still impressive”

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“Very impressive”

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“Don’t get this kind of view in the middle of London”

I made my mind up, I was going to get the bus and take my chances with the rain and watch Edinburgh City v Dunfermline Athletic. I’d done my research, or so I thought. I waited for what I thought was the bus, and when it came, I asked for what I thought was the stop I thought I needed to get off, only the driver informed me that he didn’t go where I was hoping he was going. So Hibernian v Alloa Athletic it was. I’d got ambitions of going to Easter Road to watch Hearts from the away end the very first time, because as I’ve probably already stated, Hibs, or the Hobos as Jambos refer to them, are the equivalent to what the Vile are to Blues. Thing is, tickets for the away end at the Hobos, are as hard to get for a Jambo, as tickets for the away end at Vile are for Blues. If I lived in Edinburgh, I’d watch Hearts like I do Blues, but I don’t, so I haven’t really got much chance, and with wanting to do as many grounds as I can, with trepidation, I headed off down to the ground. Had I definitely been going to this game originally, I would have got a bus, (The right one) to Leith, and done a couple of pubs there, I’d got enough time to do a quick half in the Mash Tun.

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“Who?”

Thankfully, at least I was able to get a ticket and go in the away end. I didn’t manage to get a programme, but then I don’t buy one when I go to a Vile v Blues game.

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“Not many home fans”

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“Even less in here”

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“None whatsoever in here”

I fully expected the Hobos to walk this game, but in reality, they were being refreshingly awful.  There wasn’t many Alloa fans, maybe no more than a hundred, but they all seemed to know each other. As their team battled heroically on the pitch, and after seeing how big the town of Cowdenbeath is, it made me realise that a football club really is the focal point of a community, maybe even more so up in Scotland. I can understand that the lure of the Old Firm could be too much of an attraction to resist for some, but the sense of identity a football club gives a town’s inhabitants, shouldn’t be underestimated. As the game wore on, the more the few Hobos that had bothered to turn up, grew restless. Halftime brought a chorus of boos from the home fans, but nothing but a rapturous applause from the away end. I went down underneath the stand to get something to eat. The steak pies are nowhere near as good as the ones at Hearts, but then you could say I’m biased. The word ‘plucky’ is bandied about a lot in football, so I’ll have my ticket checked as I climb on to that particular cliche bandwagon, Alloa were plucky, the longer the game moved on, the more hope morphed into belief. The belief vanished with three quarters of the game gone, when the expected first goal finally turned up. The Hobos hadn’t deserved it on the balance of their ineptitude, but not only did they take the lead, but they nobbled the keeper in the process. It didn’t seem fair, not at least on the goalie, who had to be replaced. The collective groan that had accompanied the goal, had  been almost as loud as the cheers from the home support, Hibs had a second ruled out for offside, which it obviously was, even with it being the other end of the pitch, (Did I say I was a tad biased against Hobos?) a 1:0 scoreline was about right for the contest, but just at the start of the added minutes, the green side of Edinburgh, (Or moldy, as the maroon bedecked have remarked) scored a second. 2:0, though it felt more like 0:2, was how it finished.

Not knowing how long it would take to get back to the station, and wanting to find Born In The Borders, before getting the 18:06 train home, I put a bit of speed on.

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“Not the coldest steps in the country anymore Sis”

The reconnaissance mission proved fruitless, once I’d got back to Waverly, so I relied on some advice that my Mom gave me as I kid, (Other than don’t eat yellow snow) and I asked a copper. That proved even more fruitless, so I asked a cleaner, who had not only heard of it, he was good enough to give me directions. So Mom, (May she rest in peace) don’t ask a policeman, they’re useless, ask one of your own. I bounded back up Waverly steps to the little shopping mall that they’ve built, (How times change Val) and found Born In The Borders.

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“A Pole poser, not dancer”

I had enough time for a pint, and I wasn’t disappointed with the ale or the service. To my eternal shame, the Polish girls name was beyond my linguistic capabilities, but I tried explaining what this blog is about, to her. She understood until I tried explaining football rivalries, as I mentioned that I’d been on a ground hop to Hibs, but my Scottish allegiances were with Hearts. I initially called Hibs Hobos, and I was a Jambo, (Or part-time) the more I explained, deliberately trying to keep it as simple as I could, the more vacant her expression became. She looked to her work colleague for help, who, having no concept of what a ground hopper was, couldn’t. To them, I was a strange English bloke, so at least that translated across sufficiently. Leaving them confused but entertained, I made my way down to the platform. Boarding the train when it arrived, playlist was soon on shuffle, sleep was not long behind, waking up with enough time to gather my wits about me and get back to the flat.

 

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