First published in Sons View, 02 August 2008, Dumbarton -v- Montrose
One of the great things about football is that every season it gives your team, no matter how downbeat it might have been a few weeks ago, the chance to draw a line under past shortcomings. It also offers fans an opportunity to dream anew of fortune’s favour falling on their side once more.
OK, the Challenge Cup trip to Airdrie United last Saturday didn’t prove to be quite the start Sons supporters might have been hoping for. But both in that match and in recent friendlies there have been more than enough signs to indicate that Dumbarton will be a decidedly tougher proposition for league opponents this time.
Last season rapidly descended into something of a nightmare. We knew it was going to be hard. But until the last couple of games, the serious possibility of taking the wooden spoon was still around, and even then we depended on the woes of others to salvage a barely respectable finish.
When Jim Chapman faced a question and answer session at the end of March, there were plaudits for a plucky performance from the new manager, but also predictable mumblings of discontent and cynicism.
Would he really be able to bring in players of the quality and commitment we needed, given a minimal budget? Did he know which players he wanted? Was the promise of being promotion contenders anything other than a pipe dream?
The first home game of the season won’t be sufficient to answer the doubters one way or the other. We’ll all have to be patient – not a football follower’s natural instinct. But the scale and extent of the manager’s activities in the close season has surely shown that he means business and deserves the wholehearted backing of fans, Club and Trust.
That includes young fans too, which makes it good to see a forward-looking youth policy on the pitch matched by an opportunity to have more youngsters coming through the gates this afternoon.
Meanwhile, we recall that as our attention drifted towards domestic activities or Euro 2008 (which turned out to be a thoroughly entertaining competition) during the ‘break’, progress at SHS was being marked by a steady stream of announcements on the DFC website.
The resulting new blend involves youth and experience; a few familiar faces and a number of fresh ones; those who have plied their trade in the vicinity of the lower leagues and a couple whose skills have previously adorned bigger stages.
Training started early for the new look Sons, and no doubt there is still a good deal to be worked out in practice, in the dressing room and on the pitch. But there’s also reason to be hopeful – and nothing would give a greater boost to our confidence than a robust start against Montrose today.
The Gable Enders were among the stronger teams in the Division Three last season and will want to be in contention this time, too. So it’s likely to be a keenly fought contest.
While familiarising ourselves with the new faces, we shouldn’t forget those we’ve left behind, either. Many of the ten players who didn’t get new offers at the end of last season took some stick when we were losing games and looking forlorn.
But as Stephen Dobbie said in a press interviews in the run up to Queen of the South’s Scottish Cup Final appearance (when he singled out his time on loan with Sons for particular praise): “It taught me that full-time footballers are lucky.”
“At Dumbarton, I was sharing a dressing-room with part-time guys who turned up for training from their work on a building site. They are doing that for the love of the game and I took it all for granted.”
One of those he mentioned was Chris Gentile, whose shirts Denise Currie and I sponsored. In the end Chris ran out of time at SHS. But we shouldn’t forget that two years ago when he’d come through an operation he was determined to stick around even though finding the money to pay him was proving a bit tricky.
So as rightfully demanding fans, let’s not forget that loyalty is a two-way street. Good luck to the new lads, and to those who’ve passed on, too.