Thursday, 25 September 2008

Sing to keep them winning

First published in Sons View, 20 September 2008, Dumbarton -v- Cowdenbeath

Usually when you read this, I’m hundreds of miles away lost in the wilds of Devon or somewhere equally removed from Castle Road. If I’m at another game, I’ll be checking my mobile phone or the BBC Football online updates to see how the Sons are doing. Then, later, the hunt for match reports and reactions begins.

Being a long distance fan is a strange business. Thankfully, today, I’m sitting not far from you at SHS, all being well. I might even have sold you the programme if Denise Currie puts me into action with the sales patter. So this column is The Near Post for a change.

Today is the second ‘Raise the Rock’ event in a row I’ve managed to get to. Whether and when I can make it to Dumbarton games partly depends on my work and domestic schedule, partly on whether I have any pennies in the coffers, and partly on finding a suitable excuse to get within striking distance of a Sons match!

This time it’s worked out well. And I don’t just mean my own plans. Last Saturday’s 3-1 away win against Albion Rovers was just the boost the team and manager needed. Deep down we all believe this can be the season to get Dumbarton on track to higher and better things, but there’s still problems to overcome, confidence to build, and defining chemistry to be created between squad members old and new.

Being fans, we all have our pet ideas about what should be done, who should play where, what tactical changes are needed, and so forth. But when you’re in the dug out, stopping the shots, moving into midfield or taking to the wing theory melts into air and reality bites.

Progress is clearly being made at Dumbarton. This is a more durable, flexible side than last season’s. We have a well-qualified manager who loves the Club and craves success. If Sons can now take the momentum from that Cliftonhill victory into this afternoon’s encounter with Cowdenbeath (who have made their own intentions very clear in the initial games of the season), then we will get a result and really feel we’re ‘on the way’.

To achieve something creditable on the pitch for ‘Raise the Rock Day’ would be especially fitting. Because this is an occasion designed for family fun, for showing off the facilities here, for encouraging the youngsters, for getting the message across with Your Radio FM, and for persuading more people that coming down to SHS to cheer on Dumbarton on a regular basis is a fine way to spend a Saturday afternoon – and occasionally a Tuesday night!

I’d be here every time if I could. Indeed one of my ambitions is to live within three hours train travel of Dumbarton East, to make that possible. Since my work mainly involves writing, much of it can be web based. Not so for my wife, unfortunately. But she talks about Edinburgh from time-to-time, so you never know…

Back to today’s proceedings, and the quest for some goals and points – which is what will surely persuade those who live a bit nearer than me that SHS is where they should be. When the supporters really get behind a team, it always makes a difference. And Dumbarton has great fans. It’s something those who share their story in the new Sons View ‘Fan of the Week’ column almost always mention. ‘Raise the Rock’ is about getting more of them.

I’m certain the Apache Army will be in good voice. They’ve made a big impact, home and away, showing that although Dumbarton fans are never going to be less than hard bitten (we’d have to be, wouldn’t we?), there’s a deep reservoir of loyalty, dedication, enthusiasm and – dare I say it – optimism, alongside the quips and the cracks.

Nick Hornby summed it up well in Fever Pitch: you’re not a football fan because it always puts a stupid grin on your face. No, you’re hooked because in spite of many setbacks this really can be the Beautiful Game, and it carries with it those moments of unexpected, shared delight that make a few damp afternoons and some less than stellar results worth it after all. And right here, right now? You sing, the boys will try to win. That’s what we want to see.

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