Friday, 10 May 2013

Three Scottish Football Grounds: Castle Park, Blantyre Victoria FC

The castellated entrance to Blantyre Victoria's Castle Park ground.
Firstly, I'm lucky enough to have a job. Secondly, I'm fortunate that sometimes I get to travel to places with my work. Nowhere too glamorous! In the last few months, I've been to Bristol, Manchester, and a hotel in the middle of Leicestershire where it rained solidly for 24 hours and I couldn't work out how to open the boot of my hire car.

Watching the match from the railway sleeper terracing.
My latest assignment was for four days in East Kilbride, just outside of Glasgow. I worked hard all day long, then come the evening, it was time to party! Monday evening's party destination was a West of Scotland Cup match at Blantyre Victoria, five miles from my hotel...

The noisy youths were just beyond this cover. Smoke was dissipating at this point after they set something on fire.
The Juniors broke away from the Scottish FA in 1931 - I forget why, but I'm glad they did. Most of Scotland's best non-league clubs play in the Junior set-up (they're actually adult teams - "Junior" is just a name to distinguish them from the "Senior" clubs admistered by the Scottish FA).

The ramshackle cover.
Rules regarding ground grading seem to be non-existent at Junior level, which for someone used to the sterile, anodyne grounds produced by the English FA's overbearing ground grading rules ("Despite only having 25 regular fans, you must have a fully enclosed ground; you must have 50 seats even though no-one sits in them; you must kick off at 3pm on a Saturday and must therefore have floodlights; you must have this; you must have that, blah blah blah, or we shall relegate you forthwith..."), is utterly brilliant and made for a relaxing, fun-filled atmosphere.

The results of the raffle were displayed on this chalkboard at half-time (£10 for the winner, £5 for the runner-up).
Blantyre Victoria v Kirkintilloch Rob Roy, separated by three divisions, with the underdogs at home - it was already set to be an interesting match, but the stadium and the fans made it a night to remember! Castle Park is ramshackle, cinders and sleepers for terracing, homemade cover, patched up only when needed. The gents toilet was just a brick wall with leaves to soak up the liquid and a bright orange traffic cone for something to look at whilst doing your business.

This dog cowered when the firecrackers went off.
There were two different sized dugouts, one of which (the home dugout) wasn't used as a group of around thirty youths were standing on it during the match, including the obligatory kid with callipers, waving them in the air. The same youths set fire to something during the first half, and let off at least three firecrackers at various points. Nobody batted an eyelid. This must be normal for Blantyre, and for all I know, normal for Junior football.

Blantyre Vics in blue, Rob Roy in white - note the youths on the dugout.
The same youths were banging a drum throughout and singing and chanting and swearing loudly at the opposition. The sort of atmosphere you just don't get at Wessex League matches! The only problem I had with them was that I was a little hesitant to walk past them to take a photo of a roller at the far end of the pitch...just in case they let off another firecracker as I was creeping past. Never did get a close-up view of the magnificent rusty Beast of Blantyre (or, the groundsman's roller, as it's more commonly known).

These are all the seats I saw at the Junior grounds which I visited! If people wanted to sit down, they brought their own camping chairs! English FA, take note...
Oh, and the match? Kirkintilloch Rob Roy took an early lead, Blantyre equalised half a minute into the second half (cue pitch invasion and conga by youths), but then gave away a penalty a minute later, which Rob Roy converted. The away team then scored again a few minutes from the end to win 3-1. And then had a player sent off for calling the referee a *censored*

Brilliant night out! My kind of party!

1 comment:

  1. "The sort of atmosphere you just don't get at Wessex League matches!"

    I don't know, the Fareham fans are a bit rowdy with their flags and chants...