Sunday, January 30, 2011

Matchday 2: Albion Rovers 2-0 Elgin City

29th January 2011

Irn-Bru League Division 3
Cliftonhill, Coatbridge
Attendance: 323

Mossy Mossy giz a song.......Mossy.....giz a song!

One of many entertaining tunes from the "singing section" of the Albion Rovers home support on a day when the team also entertained on the park, beating title rivals Elgin City by two (going on 6 or 7) goals.

I ended up at this game more by accident than design (original plan was to take in Raith v Falkirk in Kirkcaldy) but it didn't disappoint, providing a lot of what I'm looking for from a Scottish Football experience.

Happening upon the ground, which is just off a busy main road, my initial thoughts were "!thole" but it wasn't that bad. I sat in the Main Stand, which is a strange looking piece of work with a mix of TINY wooden seating to the rear and terracing to the front, with several supporting pillars which, at times, almost completely impede your view! Opposite is the small, covered terrace (unused) running about half the length of the pitch. Both ends are completely bare and not used by spectators at all.

I say the ends aren't used by spectators, but as I took my seat in main stands (genuinely what I imagine it'd be like to try and sit in a baby's high chair) I spotted a massive bear-like Dulux dog playing fetch with one of the Albion subs as the home side did their warm up. Not quite the San Siro. Hell, not even Cappielow but if the surroundings didn't make me realise I was about to watch Division 3 football, that dog certainly did!

We (the wife and I) were then quickly joined by a crowd of very excitebale local lads, all of whom clearly go to Albion games every week....but most of whom....from their chat....appeared to actually support Celtic. An obversation shared by the wife who,  less interested in the warm up and more in people watching, also noticed that the younger fans in the stands seemed more focused on having a laugh, talking about the Old Firm and playing on their i-phones.

The older fans, on the other hand, stood quietly with their pies and Bovril, taking in the warm up and early stages of the match as they've clearly been doing every week for the last 50 years. One old man even took the ball square in the face as he stood at the front he's clearly been doing every week for the last 50 years.

The younger guys did entertain though with the follically challenged linesmen getting an unsurprising but highly amusing "Two baldy linos!" ribbing. However, the most popular chant of the day was that of "Beast Beast Beast Beast".

I looked around, to see if they were singing at the Dulux dog behind the goal. Nope.

I looked around, to see if Beth Ditto had just sat down in seat G3. Nope.

I looked around...and I saw the object of their attention: John "The Beast" Gemmell - Albion's no.9 and targetman. The man is an absolute monster, easily 7'9 and built like a tank. Gemmell gave the poor Elgin centre halves one HELL of a day.

Albion were dominant, playing entertaining direct football and using the wide men Love and Lawless (potential Mills & Boon novel?) to good effect, with Scott "Chappy" Chaplain and "The Beast" constant dangers. It was Chaplain and Gemmell that combined for the Albion opener after only 11 mins, with the former slotting home at the second attempt after the latter's knock-down.

Soon to be released John Gemmell action figure

Gemmell really did make the Elgin defenders look like slipper dogs, using his massive frame and great first touch to bring his team mates into play at all times and, after nearly getting in a few times earlier in the game, was finally rewarded with only 10 mins to go with a beautiful lob over the Elgin keeper from the edge of the box to finish the game off.

Action wise, it truly was one way traffic. Well, except for Elgin's single effort which was a missed penalty with 5 mins to go but to be honest, they deserved absolutely nothing.

As well as being fun, the overall experience at Cliftonhill turned out to be extremely interesting. 

Although entertaining, the younger supporters certainly don't have the same loyalty and passion for their team in the way that the older lads do. The way they spoke about Celtic & Rangers was with passion and feeling. The way they spoke about Albion was with affection, but this game (regardless of how vital it was to the guys on the park) clearly wasn't their main event.

I am looking forward to visiting other "smaller" teams, especially those on the West coast, to see if similar trends exist elsewhere. Certainly in Albion's case, you do fear that the next generation of supporter may not have the same passion for the club and, if replicated within the fanbases of some of Scotland's other lower league sides, the future for these teams may be bleak.

Star Man: John "The Beast" Gemmell

Time for the judge's scores.

Atmosphere: Good. Passionate home fans. Some entertaining singing. Couple of mentalists but also child friendly. - 8/10

Facilities: As with Cappielow, a very old ground that has undergone little renovation. This time, in less good shape, but 2 leagues down & comfortable enough. 6/10

Catering: Pie and a cup of tea for £2.50. A bit steep for what you get but filled a hole. - 6/10

Quality: Good - home side played old school, direct football using the big man well. Fun to watch. 8/10

Access: 25 mins from Glasgow Queen Street and 10 mins walk. No problem. 8/10

Recommendation: "I loved it" says the wife. As did I - maybe better in the warmer months though..

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