Thursday, 23 May 2013

Three Scottish Football Grounds: Tinto Park, Benburb FC

Kickaround at half-time for Benburb's young fans.
It's three weeks now since I went to Benburb. It all seems like a dream, but then it seemed like a dream whilst I was actually there. So much history, so many bygone ghosts of matches past. The Brylcreem, the Woodbines, the laced up leather footballs soaked with freezing Glaswegian sleet...

There were around 50 fans watching The Bens v Greenock.
My second Scottish Junior match of the week, chosen because of its location in Govan, not far from the city centre, which is where I met up with my workmates afterwards. This time, it was a Central District League Division One match (effectively three levels below the Scottish Football League). There were tempting matches on at Pollok and Arthurlie on the same evening, but beers and curries were calling at 9:15...

Walkies!
I've never been to a ground like Tinto Park - the English FA would never allow football to be played at a ground like this. Built in the 1930s for crowds of up to 10,000, the only changes since are the trees growing out of the terraces.

One of many holes in the roof of the stand.
Around twenty rows of cinder and sleeper steps beneath a huge busted roof, extending the whole length of the pitch on the west side. Terraced steps alive with plant-life circling around the south side. More terraces literally buried beneath years of weeds on the east...

Tinto Park's overgrown South Terrace.
But its not all ancient and broken. The north side of the ground has a new, small concrete terrace, and the east side has a length of new hard standing leading to the away dugout (being Scotland, the dugouts are on opposite sides of the pitch). Extraordinary ground.

Sunset at Benburb FC.
The match was Benburb v Greenock Juniors, who had already won the league title (Benburb were mid-table). I don't remember much, and what I do remember may be from dreams or reality - I get the two confused so often. Greenock took an early lead. The Bens equalised with an overhead kick a few minutes in to in the second half. Were they The Bens? Or The Cheeky Hens? Did I mishear one of their fans call them The Cheeky Hens? May even have been The Cheeky Wee Hens....either way, what a superb nickname!

A few minutes later, and the sun is still setting!
Was I hallucinating, or did the home linesman throw his flag to the ground and refuse to carry on when a Greenock player bawled him out for not giving a throw-in? (He was right not to give it - the ball never crossed the line). The away linesman gave up soon afterwards as well, leaving the young ref to give offsides as well as everything else. He did well though.

Sat on the hump on the east side of Tinto Park at a quarter to nine.
All this, and they also produced the best programme I've seen all season! If I lived in Glasgow, The Cheeky Wee Hens would be my team, no doubt about it. I could watch match after match here and never tire of it. So much to see, so much to imagine.

There were photos of the game on Flickr, but they have been removed. The dog featured in one of the photos above is also on Non-League Dogs here. Benburb's superb website WAS here, but appears to have gone in the last couple of weeks :-(

2 comments:

  1. Teuchy Hens, from the old neighbouring housing scheme

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  2. Thank you! Sad to see that the Bens are moving soon, but I guess that was inevitable sooner or later. I feel privileged to have had the chance to have watched a match there. I'll never forget it.

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