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Scotland The Brave

Alba an Aigh

Hark! When the night is falling
Hear, Hear! the pipes are calling,
Loudly and proudly calling, down through the glen.
There where the hills are sleeping,
Now feel the blood a-leaping,
High as the spirits of the old Highland men.
(Towering in gallant fame,
Scotland my mountain hame,
High may your proud standards gloriously wave,
Land of my high endeavour,
Land of the shining river,
Land of my heart for ever, Scotland the brave.)






Friday 20th March 2015  Scottish Sun Lowland League k.o.:- 7.45pm

East Kilbride                                          1

Craig McLeish 69,

Whitehill Welfare                                  0

Referee:- Matthew MacDermid     Attendance:-  491


The invading army rolled over the border in two chariots and eventually decanted briefly at The Holiday Inn in East Kilbride before galloping on to Calderglen Country Park in the gathering gloom. It was Hansel and Gretel country as the chariots negotiated an avenue of trees and pulled up at last in a vast marshalling park under the glowering floodlights of East Kilbride Football Club.


We were late arriving and the magnificent repast, thoughtfully prepared to meet all tastes – eat all you want for seven pounds – had to be rushed. Sadly, I managed only one plateful! It was a pity. Had we arrived half an hour earlier, or more, all of us could have attacked the feast with gusto, but with only forty minutes to kick-off, team sheets were a priority!


The K Park in Calderglen Country Park, is supposed to be a temporary home for East Kilbride. It is a strange stadium with spectators only allowed on ONE of the four sides of the pitch. At least the one side is generously covered and with several rows of seating, but annoyingly, people standing in front mean that even the ones on seats were sometimes forced to stand! The pitch is 3G and there was a significant bounce for the players to negotiate.

This was a game that had 0-0 written all over it until midway through the second half when Craig McLeish broke the deadlock for the hosts and thereafter, despite the slick neat passing from both sides, there was little chance of any further breakthrough.

East Kilbride was Scotland’s first designated new town in 1947. The high rise blocks and the slate grey stone houses look neat and well kept.  It has a population of over 75,000. I hope that they will  soon have a stadium to match the stature of the town!



Saturday 21st March 2015  Scottish Sun Lowland League  k.o.:- 12.00noon

Vale of Leithen                                       0

Preston Athletic                                     2

Jack Bruce 41,

Alistair Roy 57,

Referee:- Colin Pensom            Attendance:-  312


I had a very good room and enjoyed an excellent breakfast in the hotel lobby and by 9.00am we were all ready to board the chariots for the fifty-odd mile journey to our first match of the day in The Tweed Valley, south and east of Edinburgh at a small town called Innerleithen. We arrived in good time and it was a walk of fifteen minutes to circumnavigate the town’s delights, including coffee and cake in a small hostelry.


Victoria Park is a bit of a gem on the outskirts of the town and surrounded by wooded hills. There was an air of genteel poverty about the place, but the welcome was genuine and there was plenty on offer to tempt the unwary hopper. There was even a fish ‘n’ chip van (Graeme would have been pleased!). This stand had no seats, but it would provide welcome cover in inclement weather!


On the field outside the ground, as we arrived, fifty or sixty youngsters were enthusiastically taking part in football training and small sided games, affectionately presided over by small groups of doting parents.


Up in town, Les and Frank were enjoying a substantial coffee sitting outside a coffee shop on the main street.


Vale of Leithen are not enjoying the most successful of seasons.  They lie fourth place from the foot of the table and some nine points ahead of today’s rivals, Preston Athletic, who are only one place off the bottom!


This is the second season of The Scottish Lowland League and, combined with The Highland League, the plan is that the two champions shall play off for an opportunity for a place in The Scottish League – if the winners can overcome the team (currently Montrose) in bottom place in Scottish League Two!


Today’s game was memorable for Alistair Roy, who played for the visitors and who was the only genuinely skilful ball player I saw over the whole weekend. It was a joy to watch him taking on players, making runs, dribbling and even scoring a goal! It might be too much to suggest that he was the difference between the two sides, but he played a big part in the visitors triumph, courtesy of goals either side of half-time, including Roy’s 57th minute strike. It was a deserved victory, even if it seemed unlikely at the start, given the home side’s points advantage!


I really thought that the sponsors of the Lowland League were some Mutual Assurance Company until I saw this poster!!! 



Saturday 21st March 2015 Scottish Sun Lowland League  k.o.:- 3.30pm

Selkirk                                                    1

Ouzy See 58,

Spartans                                                 1

Alan Brown 83,

Referee:- Alan Hogg           Attendance:-  281


It was a reasonably short journey of some 16 miles from Innerleithen to Selkirk, further along the Tweed Valley. Getting to Yarrow Park involved a walk along the back of Selkirk RFC (see below at the rear left of the picture). There were no floodlights and the small ground with its fifty seat Meccano grandstand, had been recently fenced off. A raised, standing area of ‘decking’ gave a good view – if uncovered – for perhaps fifty more spectators.

The club have only been at the ground for ten years or so and hard by is the scene of a Civil War battle (Battle of Philiphaugh) from 1645 when many of the forces of King Charles 1st were slaughtered – women and children as well!

Prior to moving to Yarrow Park in 2003, they had inhabited Ettrick Park, their previous ground for some ninety years. The new ground was opened with the visit of Manchester City.


The welcome was warm and the club had gone to a great deal of trouble to lay on a feast – including, much to Jack’s delight, a vegetarian option! Besides the curry and the macaroni, there were cakes and scones and pies and all the while the exciting climax to The Six Nations Championship was live viewing in the bar.


Selkirk’s playing record for the season is fairly mediocre. They have won five of their eighteen games, lost nine and drawn four and before today’s match they lay third from bottom in the league, but with several games in hand over most of their opponents.


 In a singular gesture of welcome, Ross Anderson, the chairman of the club, came to greet all the hoppers as they arrived through the gate. 


Spartans, on the other hand were involved at the upper end of the table, in fourth place, having won ten and drawn six of their twenty-one games. It was a dour match, however, following the pattern of previous games, with relentless tackling but few goalmouth opportunities. A goal arrived after nearly an hour and it went, unexpectedly, to the hosts. However, as was to be expected, Spartans equalised with six or seven minutes to go and the spoils were deservedly shared.



Saturday 21st March 2015  Scottish Sun Lowland League    k.o.:- 7.00pm

Gala Fairydean                                     1

David Bonnar 50,

University of Stirling                          2

Lewis Bonar 44,

Chris Geddes 90,

Referee:- Alan Mac Fadyen        Attendance:- 323


It is not far from Selkirk to Galashiels, but although we arrived in daylight, the match kicked off in darkness! This was a revisit for me as I had been inveigled by Chris to abjure the blandishments of The Eastern League Hop in October 2013 and, instead, to visit Netherdale for a Scottish Cup tie against Clyde. Memories of that day include the long, long walk into town to replenish victuals and only just getting back to the stadium in time for kick-off!


The stand-out feature of Gala Fairydean Rover’s Netherdale Stadium is the cantilever stand which can just about be made out in the photograph above. It is built of concrete and is a listed structure. It holds around 1,000 spectators and this evening, it felt pretty full.


The playing surface is 3G and there is not much on the other three sides of the ground. Even so, it had more of a feel of a real football ground than any of the others seen so far. Perhaps if promotion to The Scottish League were to become a reality, Gala Fairydean Rovers would not need to make many improvements to their stadium to achieve it!


There is little chance of that pipe dream becoming a reality at the moment! Rovers are becalmed in mid-table, having won eight and lost nine of their twenty-two games. Their opponents this evening were University of Stirling, who are coached by Shelley Kerr. Shelley is one of the UK’s highest qualified and experienced female coaches. She has fifty-nine caps playing for Scotland and has managed at club level with Arsenal Ladies and at International level with Scotland’s Women’s U-19 team.

On the field of play, this match followed the pattern of other matches on this ‘hop’ and there was no score at the interval. Both sides traded goals shortly after the interval, but it was the visitors who made the decisive strike in the ninetieth minute and it was a stunning effort worthy of winning any match!

The army of hoppers piled aboard their chariots to be whisked back to East Kilbride via Edinburgh and The M8!



Sunday 22nd March 2015  Scottish Sun Lowland League  k.o.:- 12.00noon

Dalbeattie Star                                    2

Jack Steele 2,

Lewis Sloan 77 (pen),

Edinburgh City                                    1

Dougie Gair 45,

Referee:-  Lloyd Wilson    Attendance:-  400


There was another long chariot journey this morning, some eighty-six miles south and west of Glasgow and just beyond Dumfries to the town of Dalbeattie. It is a tiny town of less than 5,000 souls, but the football stadium is impressive and the welcome genuine with a bagpipe band providing a traditional Scottish flavour!


The Galloway Pipes and Drums were half pipers and half drummers and they gave an excellent account of themselves, entertaining a large crowd of hoppers prior to the match.


Dalbeattie Star’s Islecroft Stadium is a fully enclosed arena with steep banking behind the goal to the right of the large wooden stand. Behind the stand, there is a bar and boardroom with changing rooms underneath. At the entrance to the ground are purpose built turnstiles and a coffee bar. The pitch itself is railed off but there is only grass underfoot surrounding it.


Edinburgh City came to Islecroft with a pretty impressive record in this, the second season of The Lowland League. Of the nineteen games they have played, seventeen have been won (including the return of this fixture which they won 2-0 at Meadowbank) and the other two matches have been drawn. Today, however, although he was down on the team sheet, they had to make do without influential defender Joe Mbu who was replaced, just before kick-off by Chris McKee.


Dalbeattie Star have won seven and lost five of their twenty games this season and from our perspective before the match, it appeared that they would be no more than cannon fodder for the champions elect.


There was a healthy crowd for this much anticipated fixture and Star welcomed back Frazer Paterson, the Edinburgh City defender who had played for them before chancing his arm with Annan Athletic and, later, with Sandringham City in Melbourne, Australia.


John McClure, staunch supporter of York City (and Tadcaster Albion) and proprietor of “Your Football Page” on Facebook! 


This was a good match! The Stars got off to a great start with a goal in the second minute. There was a slight slope and they had the advantage of it in the first half. However, right on the stroke of half-time, the visitors drew level  and we all expected them to walk away with the match in the second half. It was not to be, however. Both teams contested the second half robustly, but it was the hosts who gained the advantage after seventy-seven minutes when Lewis Sloan made the decisive strike and the visitors were condemned to their first league defeat of the season!


This young lady, who couldn’t have been more than twelve or fourteen years old, was a picture of concentration as her cheeks puffed on the airbag and her fingers skated over the pipes. Well played!



Sunday 22nd March 2015   Scottish Sun Lowland League   k.o.:- 3.00pm

Threave Rovers                                   2

Jamie Struthers 8,

Andrew Donley 43

Ian Miller s/o 87,

Edinburgh University                         3

Fin Daniels-Yeomans 12,

Joe Aitken 61

Dan Ward 81,

Referee:- Calum Haswel                 Attendance:-  462


Threave Rovers play in Castle Douglas, some six or seven miles from Dalbeattie. They take their name from the castle in the town (so I’m told) and this is their second season in The Lowland League, having finished in a creditable eleventh position last season. They play at Meadow Park which is a tiny ground (the official capacity is a mere 1,700), but it has a seated stand, hard standing all the way round the stadium and floodlights.


Today, despite the biting cold, the whole place had a gala atmosphere. There was a real ale bar behind the main stand, a hog roast and several other food outlets as well as a conventional bar behind the goal at the entrance. Another good idea (which I took advantage of!) was the packed meal at the end for eating on the long, long chariot journey back down into deepest darkest England.


Threave Rovers may have achieved a reasonably creditable position last season, but this year, they are rock bottom of the pile with only two victories all season from their twenty-one games and sixteen defeats!


The visitors were Edinburgh University who were themselves ensconced in the lower reaches of the table with six wins and twelve defeats from their twenty-two games.


This was a match that ebbed and flowed. For long periods of the game it really looked like the hosts could carve an advantageous result from the contest and even right up until the final whistle it looked possible that they might salvage a point. However, the sending off of Ian Miller on eighty-seven minutes for violent conduct sealed their defeat after they had twice been in the lead.


As soon as the game was over, the chariots were loaded and the hoppers began the long journey south. It would be after midnight when the last of them was decanted and much later before we they were all safely home and tucked up in the dreamworld of the magical foray into Scottish football!



This season:-   Matches:- 177              New grounds:-   106

Total:-              Matches:-  3,148         New grounds:-  1,060


This weekend was a giant coup for Groundhop UK.  To persuade the Scottish Sun Lowland League to put on a “hoppers'” weekend was a remarkable achievement, considering some pretty stiff opposition to previous sorties. Once again the organisers and in particular, Chris Berezai, are to be congratulated, not only on achieving a groundhop north of the border, but more importantly on the well planned organisation of the event. It was inevitable that there would be glitches – we were late arriving at East Kilbride, for instance, but these were minor details and in the great scheme of things, nothing really went badly wrong and THAT is some achievement in itself! More importantly, there was plenty that went right, much of it without us realising it. The hotel was wonderful and so were the patient coach drivers. The itinerary had been thoughtfully calculated and the response from the clubs involved was very positive!

I hope those Scottish clubs enjoyed our company as much as we enjoyed visiting them. They were all excellent in their welcome and in the splendid fare they provided and I VERY much look forward to a visit next year!

And ……….. finally ……………… Never let it be said that I had my eye on the ball ALL the time!


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