Last month, players and fans paid tribute to Cyrille Regis, a pioneer of equality and…
I confess, I am not a good football fan. In the era of ultra dedication to prove your fan authenticity, often by defending your club to the hilt regardless of how heinous their crime and how much you hate your rivals, I have a second team. In addition to supporting Hibs, I follow Elgin City. To double down on this crime: there have been points where supporting the latter has brought me more joy than the former.
With two sets of grandparents living in Elgin, I’ve been watching the Borough Briggs outfit almost as long as Hibs. From the Highland League to their now 18-year stint in League Two. I’ve witnessed the ‘glory’ of going into the final day of the season with promotion or playoffs being a mathematical possibility and the ignominy of being dumped out the Scottish Cup 5-4 by Bo’ness United.
What I’ve found is there is a joy to be had from the intimacy of lower league football that is not replicated in the top tiers. You can’t have a civil conversation with an opposition player about how bad the referee is in the Premiership, but you certainly can at Galabank.
People in Scotland are quick to criticise Scottish football, whilst the rest of the world at best looks on uninterested or with disdain at worst. Partially, I believe this is because we aren’t aware of what we have and what others would love to have: a rich heritage. We just haven’t capitalised on it. Yet MLS does a better job of celebrating its history and it was established under a Bill Clinton presidency, whereas Ulysses S. Grant was in the Oval Office when Kilmarnock were formed.
The choice that faces those in charge of football in Scotland is pretty clear: you either value your heritage or you don’t. You can’t play up centuries of footballing tradition in Scotland whilst simultaneously trying to destroy the very fabric that makes Scottish football what it is.
You cannot forget your past. In this country of ours, for better or worse, and I make no bones about thinking it’s for the better, our clubs are rooted in their community. That community centres the club and gives it a fan base.
What is special about Scottish football is the supporters base. We all know this. You’re reading this piece on a site whose premise is based on the fact that we’re wild about our football. Scottish football is more than the game on the park. It’s a culture. It’s still a vehicle for the largely emotionally stunted Scottish male to express themselves.
On footballing grounds, I have little truck with experiments like Edusport Academy. But on an emotional level, it’s a vulgar creation. A club without a fanbase isn’t a club. It’s a franchise. It has no roots. It makes no difference to the players if they are playing home games in Annan, Anniesland or Aberdeen.
Like Edusport, there’s another proposal surfaced that might have some merit on a football level but is ultimately bad news for Scottish football: the Colts in League Two campaign. The proposal and how it was delivered says something more than it is. The proposal document was flimsy and un-evidenced. It was patronising to our great League Two clubs. It treated them with contempt. I suspect many inside the Old Firm bubble expected these clubs to lie down and have their tummy’s tickled and roll over. Thankfully the ‘minnows’ were made aware by their supporters how unpopular such a scheme would be.
Scotland is not unique in a world that sees the rise of cities at the expense of towns. Politics, media, culture all becomes tied to a handful of metropolises. Towns become excluded from the nation’s narrative. Just think: when was the last night you saw coverage from Arbroath or Stranraer or case in point, just this last month, Fraserburgh that wasn’t football-related? Football gives these towns identity and allows them, however briefly skirted over in the classified results, to remind the rest of the country that they exist. We risk writing these places off at our peril.