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For football fans everywhere

This may be particularly relevant to supporters of teams going through a bit of a bad run……

Thanks to Claret and Amber

Words on the plight of Dumbarton FC

In the style of William Topaz McGonagall

It was in the year two thousand and twelve
That Dumbarton FC into their deepest resources did delve
Amidst the doubters and others’ scoffs
They reached the SFL first division play offs

Now things were hard in the two ties both
Particularly in the away leg at Arbroath
But just as it looked as if at Airdrie they might fail
By 4-1 did the Sons prevail

And so although it had been an average season
Dumbarton were up with the play offs the reason
Some of the fans thought the team were plucky
But others concluded they had just been lucky

So they found themselves in division one
Getting stuffed each week just wasn’t much fun
The terrible run no one knew how to halt
But many thought it was the manager’s fault

“If only we could get him out of here
We’d get a silk purse from this old sow’s ear”
Others thought that faced with division two
This might not be the wisest thing to do

The chances of survival were looking teeny
It would surely be a challenge for Roberto Mancini
And looking at history some could see
That rash decisions could mean division three

There’s change required but maybe they could be subtler
To bring contentment to the Stadium Bet Butler
To hump an octopus there’s more than one way
William Shakespeare was once heard to say

So we hope amidst the continuing intrigue
That the Sons survive in the higher league
I’m not being dramatic or indeed satirical
At this moment it looks as if we need a miracle

So we sit in Dumbarton glum and depressed
Even though the team are doing their best
And as we look ahead plottin’ and mappin’
Miracles occasionally and surprisingly happen

Buffalo Bill and the Wild West (of Scotland)

This rather splendid statue is in Dennistoun in the East End of Glasgow. It is of Western hero William Cody aka “Buffalo Bill”. Cody came to Glasgow with his wild west show in 1891/1892 and the visits remain in Glasgow’s folklore enough for the above commemoration to have been made a few years ago.

In fact Cody’s manager, in town for the shows, kicked off a friendly match at Celtic Park on New Year’s Day 1892 between the home team and Dumbarton.

A transcription of the old newspaper article is here. The result (0-8) remains Celtic’s record defeat.

Apparently Buffalo Bill’s shows proved so popular in Glasgow that they attracted the biggest crowds for the shows outside the USA.

Here is a clip of the pre-show parade in 1902 although I’m not sure of the location here.

There is a book by Tom F Cunningham which chronicles the visits.

There is an article here about how one artefact from the show donated to the city by Buffalo Bill, a Sioux “ghost shirt” was returned to its rightful owners in 1998.

The Lakota Ghost Shirt

Thanks again Jim J


This was the scene in Glasgow Road Dumbarton this evening

Fancy a drop at the Stag's Head?

And this is Gilbert Lawrie, Chief Executive at Dumbarton FC.

He’s trapped there – possibly overnight!

Send beer!

Do you think we'd better have a pitch inspection?

A long time ago……

I’ve only just discovered the Google newspaper archive and what a treasure trove it is.

Newspapers from the nineteenth century to the present day with searchable archives. It’s the type of place I could get lost in for several days.

I had a look at some archives from the Glasgow Herald and Evening Times. Reflecting on my recent loss of interest in the fitba’ I ruminated on the days when I was very much interested and found this about the Sons (I was there)

Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous I found this:

And this may be no consolation to Hearts fans but there may be more embarrassing things than losing five goals at home to Tottenham:

The Fitba’ and my part in its downfall

It all started in the mid 90s when Jean Marc Bosman took on UEFA via the European Court of Justice. It ruled that football clubs were not entitled to compensation when a player’s contract expired and that player decided to move on to another club.

Fair dos said many, the previous transfer system had been tantamount to slavery said others. Why should employment law governing other jobs and professions not apply to footballers? said yet more.

The name Bosman has slipped into everyday use in football. Almost on a daily basis, media reports speak of players being signed “on a Bosman”

Bosman was encouraged to progress the case by FIFPRO, a players’ union which financed the proceedings to the tune of £200,000. Bosman himself was said to have profited to the tune of £1 million.

Sadly his victory seems to have been a pyrrhic one in the long term as he has had to battle against depression and alcoholism.

Despite all the reasons and apparent good intentions behind the Bosman case, the unfortunate fact is that the old transfer system was an important source of income for smaller clubs. It provided a system of wealth redistribution. The bigger club got a player who had experience in lower league football who was ready to step up. The selling club got maybe £100,000 or more to help with the running costs and invest in their scouting and youth schemes to progress more talent – which in turn would create more income.

Whilst transfer fees still exist and have rocketed, sometimes to more than £50 million (!) they are now pretty much the preserve of big clubs trying to sign a player who has time left on his contract.

In the 70s and 80s my own club Dumbarton sold on the likes of Kenny Wilson, Ian Wallace, John Bourke, the McAdam brothers, Murdo McLeod, Graeme Sharp, Owen Coyle etc. etc. at each turn bringing in much needed income to keep the club on an even keel.

The then managing director of the club told me that the transfer of a player to Celtic in the late 80s kept the club afloat when the banks were closing in….

Thanks to Bosman, and although there are exceptions for the transfer of young players, that income has disappeared. The last player I can remember leaving for anything like a meaningful sum was Neil Collins almost a decade ago.

Now, small lower league part time clubs play an annual game of pass the parcel. Players sign on for a season and then move on seeking another contract. Any signing on fee is their own.

At the higher level money which previously would have been reinvested in the game now accrues to eejit footballers to buy the latest frippery, be it a collection of ostentatious property and cars or blonde girlfriends with tattoos.

Even ordinary players at that level can earn £25,000 A WEEK!

There is no money at lower league level in Scotland and what little is attracted via sponsorship is soon devoured in wages and running costs.

At Dumbarton’s level (SFL division 2/3) there are twelve or fifteen clubs who see themselves as natural first division material. The problem with this is that when one club does make it up there, they last one or two seasons and then find they’ve spent up in the effort of staying there. There is no plan B and they soon descend to the toilet bend again. Just ask Alloa, Stranraer and Clyde.

SPL 2 has happened in all but name.

If one looks at the current SPL and SFL tables, clubs are pretty much at the level they should be in terms of the population of their town and attendances.

This may be a good thing for administrators but it sure as hell makes for a boring game. Maybe that’s why the game is haemorrhaging supporters at an alarming rate. The same two teams win the SPL every season, the same teams are battling for promotion and relegation and the same teams emerge and descend from and to the toilet bend on a cyclical basis.

My own interest in football has been declining for years, and if it weren’t for the fact that I see good friends when I go there I’d have given up long ago. Last week I didn’t even know that Scotland were playing until I heard the result.

I read the comments on the Dumbarton supporters forum and can hardly bring myself to care about any of it. The new strip isn’t available for sale, a steward had an argument with a supporter, calls to sack the manager (after two league games).

The other night I went to my first game of the season, a cup match against Berwick Rangers. The cup is sponsored by Ramsdens who buy and sell gold and currency. They are also pawnbrokers.

I managed to watch the first 45 minutes which was as an inept display from the Sons as I had seen for many a day. I then, almost involuntarily found myself heading for the exit. Knowing that there was no way my team were going to win the game (against third division opposition) and even if they did it was very poor stuff.

I’d had enough.

As I made my way to the car I heard an announcement on the Tannoy. I may paraphrase but it was along the lines of “Ramsdens, supporting communities and football throughout Scotland” or some such tripe.

I mused that this may be the epitaph of my 45 year interest in the beautiful game.

I got home to discover the final score had been 2-0 to the visitors.

Hearing that the Sons had lost 5-1 again at home to Stirling Albion on Saturday elicited a reaction in me somewhere between resignation and indifference.

I could have attended.

I didn’t.

In Belgium a former footballer pours another glass of red wine.

It’s all his fault.

Photies, fitba’ and finance

This striking photo was taken by my regular correspondent Sonsdiary at the Airdrie United v Dumbarton match on Saturday.

Striking because of the number of empty seats at the Airdrie stadium which has variously rejoiced in the name “Shyberry Excelsior” and the rather more prosaic “New Broomfield”.

Airdrieonians (founded as Excelsior) were a club who usually hovered at the high end of the second tier of football in Scotland. They had occasional forays into the top league and had a reputation as a cup team, reaching a couple of finals in the 90s and also causing a few upsets against higher opposition.

They  sold their old ground (above) to a supermarket chain and spent four seasons ground sharing before the completion of the admittedly impressive stadium you see at the top of the posting. This was in the days that the criteria for premier league teams was that they should have a 10,000 all seater stadium.

Airdrieonians wanted to be in with the big boys so 10,000 seats it was.

Complete madness.

The club survived only three years after moving to their new accommodation, went bust (thanks mainly to the financial burdens of their plush accommodation) and then were re-incarnated as Airdrie United. A consortium headed by Jim Ballantyne, bought the struggling Clydebank FC, promptly closed them down and took their league place with the newly assembled club. Clydebank survive as a junior club thanks to their supporters trust buying the badge back from Ballantyne.

Airdrie United and Dumbarton played the Scottish second division match above in front of 887 souls on Saturday. The stadium less than one tenth full.

The club don’t own the stadium.

They need crowds much, much higher than that just to exist, let alone progress.

There is no indication that they will be rolling up any time soon.

As for the football, Airdrie rose above the lack of atmosphere to send the Sons home with a 3-0 defeat which is a sore one to take on the first day of a new league season.