Saturday, 1 November 2008

Back to the future

First published in Sons View, 01 November 2008, Dumbarton -v- Berwick Rangers

You know, I think we should get used to this winning lark! Sons’ hard-fought victory away to Montrose the week before last solidifies our challenge for a sustainable promotion-winning position. Cup games apart, that has always been the goal this season. This means we must remain determined to take all three points from Berwick Rangers this afternoon.

It will likely be another tough match, though. There’s a good deal of history between the clubs, and the Wee ’Gers are well motivated. Their away record is something they are determined to transform, having taken only one point out of a possible 15 so far in this campaign.

Yet that is only part of the story. For our opponents have the best home record in the lower half of the table. It is also equivalent to the fourth placed Gable Enders (superior in terms of goals scored) and exactly the same as the side currently perched in second place in the league – the mighty Dumbarton. Our task, then, is to ensure that a Berwick ‘away revival’ doesn’t begin here at the Strathclyde Homes Stadium and to keep our results tally on the up.

Lat year ’Gers had an even more humiliating time than Sons – being relegated from the Second Division after shipping 101 goals (nine in one match against Peterhead) and finishing bottom. The bitter disappointment of taking the drop came only one season after their triumphant Third Division Championship success in 2006-7, their first since 1979.

For Sons fans with long memories, Berwick shared the stage for the crowning moment in one of our own great successes. On 3 May 1972, Dumbarton claimed a 4-2 home victory over ’Gers that saw us secure the old Second Division Championship and a long-awaited return to First Division football.

A number of landmarks were achieved that day. It was Sons’ Centenary year, some 9,000 fans packed Boghead, we’d been outside the top flight for a full 50 years, and the title was achieved on goal difference – the first time this had occurred in Scottish football. Mind you, if goal difference had counted in 1890-91, Sons would have claimed the first-ever Scottish Champions title rather than having to share the honour with those other Rangers.

But back to ’72 for a moment. There’s a good chance that a few of you reading this were at that amazing match. As for me, I was a fourteen-year-old who’d been following the Sons for two-and-a-half years (I seemed to have sensibly picked the Jackie Stewart era to kick start my unlikely Dumbarton fandom!), but I was languishing down in Worthing on the south coast of England.

At that stage in my life, it would have taken about twenty years worth of pocket money to make it up to Boghead, and in the days when the internet hadn’t even been imagined I had to rely instead on BBC radio to keep me up-to-date with what was happening.

After the initial elation of going in front after three minutes came the anxiety provoked by Berwick’s equaliser and a slender 2-1 half-time lead. Then the news seemed to dry up altogether until the late news, when the glad tidings came through that we’d made it. Elation! Though nothing compared to the scenes at Boghead, I’m sure.

The goal heroes for Dumbarton that day were Charlie Gallagher, who scored a brace and had played a huge part in propelling us through the season, Peter Coleman (who gave Sons the lead), and Kenny Wilson, who netted an astonishing 43 goals in the 1971-2 campaign. All three had also played a crucial role in the Scottish League Cup semi-final tie and replay heroics against Celtic in 1970.

Of course there’s no point simply trading on past glories. But in leaner times we do well to remind ourselves that this small Club has some outstanding moments to its credit. In that sense alone, we need to go back in order to reach out to the future.

A good result today would be a further small contribution towards bringing better times to the Rock. Whatever the outcome, it’s going to be a long haul. But if effort and willpower remain a substantial part of what’s needed to carry us forward, then the signs remain decidedly positive. ’Mon Sons!

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