Saturday, 19 April 2008

Look to the future

First published in Sons View, 19 April 2008, Dumbarton -v- East Stirling

The last home game of the season already? It hardly seems possible. They say time flies when you’re having fun. Well, you’d be hard pressed to describe much of what’s happened this term as “game for a laugh” as far as Dumbarton fans are concerned, but the weeks have still disappeared at an alarming rate. In just seven days we’ll be counting the hours to another campaign; or possibly getting a life for a few months – one or t’other!

There are a couple of Scotland games to look forward to, of course. Away to the Czech Republic in May and then home to Northern Ireland in August, by which time Sons’ pre-season friendlies will be upon us. Fabio Capello’s new England (much like the patchy old England so far) couldn’t be tempted into a scrap with the Auld Enemy in Hampden’s cauldron or Wembley’s shiny void, sadly. Too much to lose, I guess.

Of course Scotland deserved to be at Euro 2008. As ever, it was a whisker between gloom and glory, and we ended up in the mousetrap rather than with the cats at play. But it will still be a tournament full of incident, and a useful barometer for how the Beautiful game is fairing across our expanding continent.

Meanwhile, after what we all hope will be a resounding wrap up to the SHS season against East Stirlingshire today, it’s time for the annual awards and celebrations, in spite of the poorest finish in the league for a number of years. There’s no point being down, and I don’t think I’m tempting fate too much to say that the only way is up.

It won’t be instant, mind. Jim Chapman will no doubt strengthen the squad and the Sonstrust has no intention of resting on its laurels. But the path to a better future for the Sons is going to comprise of hard work and careful stewardship, rather than trick ponies and bottomless pockets.

More often than not, things have not gone well for The Famous DFC on the pitch this year. That much is obvious. But it doesn’t mean the players and coaching staff haven’t been working hard. By tonight we’ll know who the fans have chosen as player of the season. I suspect I may have voted for the likely candidate, but being a 760 mile round trip away from SHS I’ve only seen five live matches this season, so I’m suitably circumspect about offering further comment.

One thing I do know, however, is that there’s a lot more to a player worthy of the Footballer of the Year accolade than a bit of flash and brass. That goes for the national game too, as journalists, pundits and sponsors bandy about their Big Names to remember the season by.

In the Sunday Herald the other week, reader Victor Murray from Glasgow made his own nomination of a player likely to slip by the official judges’ panels, but a great exemplar of what football is about nonetheless. Lee Wilkie doesn’t ply his trade for the Old Firm, where you have the bonus of other top performers and some stiff European lessons. These days he’s part of Craig Levein’s revamped Dundee United.

Wilkie made his name across the road at Dens Park, however, before a promising career, already adorned by a few Scotland caps, was hampered by a cruciate ligament injury which had ‘end of story’ written all over it. But Lee fought back, several times. Now, by all accounts, he’s inspiring many younger players and turning in the kind of backbone performance that all teams depend upon.

Such heroes of hard work and dedication, inflamed by more than the odd bit of inspiration, are undoubtedly what Dumbarton is looking to add in 2008-9. Where they’ll come from, who knows. Sometimes it’s the anticipated idea and sometimes the quite unexpected gamble that pays off.

At our level, the stakes are naturally smaller than we’d like and the risks seem bigger than those contemplated by teams with the necessary dosh to pile on a few bets and twist the big wheel of fortune. But if we all look to the future I reckon Sons will be there or thereabouts next season. So let’s get those piggy banks jangling and see if we can use the impending football half term to keep the Sonstrust and DFC on the road to better days.

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