Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Solid as a rock

First published in Sons View, 30 July 2007, Dumbarton -v- Celtic Reserves

Let’s get this straight. I may be a poor benighted Sassenach, I may live in the south-west of England, I may only get up to Dumbarton once in a while… but I’m a Sons fan through and through, and have been for 37 years.

Certainly, I have a season ticket to watch Exeter City and hope they reclaim their football league status. They’re my local team, and I’ve always made a point of lending a cheer to my neighbourhood sides.

Indeed I still look out for Brentford (where I saw my first match with my grandfather in 1968) and Southall – the west London outfit who now languish in the Cherry Red Middlesex County Football League Division One Central and East, believe it or not.

Even so, for me “the football test” is easy. Whoever played Dumbarton tomorrow, I’d be cheering the Sons on without hesitation.

In fact I often wear my yellow and black scarf to St James’ Park – hoping that I’ve rightly remembered what colour the opposition’s away strip is. “Honestly officer, I didn’t mean to start a riot!”

How did my Sons addiction begin? It started at approximately 4.50pm on Saturday 13 December 1969. That day, Dumbarton got whopped 6-1 away to Stranraer. We were in Division Two and eventually finished seventh.

So there I was, aged 11, watching the results on telly. At the time, like most of my schoolmates, I was a Manchester United fan. And my idol was Denis Law (I got some things right).

But I wasn’t a champagne Charlie in the making. I was becoming, er, a ‘fully rounded football fanatic’. And I especially looked out for the Scottish results. This was partly because my late mother’s family has Scots ancestry. She and I always backed Scotland against England, to my father’s mild annoyance.

What’s more, I liked Scottish team names better than English ones. It was a far away land (I hadn’t been north of the Watford gap then) and somehow ‘Queen of the South’ sounded a bit more exotic than ‘Scunthorpe’.

Thankfully, I didn’t end up casting my affections on the Doonhamers. What a mistake that would have been! No, on account of their spectacularly bad afternoon at Stair Park, I felt a compelling twinge of solidarity with the Sons. So I checked out their strip on my Subbuteo wallchart. It gained my approval, and that was it.

My mother pointed out, I recall, that the wee trace of Scottish blood we could claim was nowhere near the Leven. But to no avail. Questioning only toughens youthful conviction. And when my parents told me that supporting “an obscure Scottish team” was “just a phase you’re going through”, it made me really determined.

I wrote to ‘Inside Football’ magazine, found out how to contact Boghead Park, and asked to join the supporters’ club. Somebody sent me some programmes a few months (!) later, and I returned a postal order for 12 shillings.

Since my London schoolmates didn’t really believe that Dumbarton existed, and had decided I was plain nuts (not entirely without justification), being able to wave a programme at them did my cause a lot of good.

Indeed, though the concept of ‘cool’ hadn’t properly been invented back then, being a Dumbarton supporter acquired an odd glamour. Not least when news of the Sons' heroics against Celtic in the 1970 Scottish League Cup semi-finals appeared in an English newspaper. Proof!

So, here I am. Still following Dumbarton from the far post in 2007. Yup, that’s me with the dodgy machine-knit Sons scarf on the Great Wall of China in 2004 – overcoming my natural aversion to tacky tourist stunts for the sake of a bit of much-needed club publicity.

Don’t fear, I won’t bore you with too many tales of Sons dementia down south. There are plenty of other fitba issues to scribble about. But at least you know who I am now.

Oh, by the way, no-one ever did get back to me about the supporters club. Was there such a thing in 1970? I’m not too bothered. Long live the Trust!

[Picture: Caroline Fielder, with thanks]

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