First published in Sons View, 21 February 2009, Dumbarton -v- Cowdenbeath
When I started to follow the Sons nearly 40 years ago, communications operated more at the speed of pigeon post than a lightning fast Internet connection. Well, with hindsight. At the time it seemed fairly normal. Basically, if you missed the results service on the telly, you had to listen out for the radio (with no online ‘listen again’ facility). Either that, or it meant waiting for confirmation in the papers the next day.
What made me think about that was picking up a copy of the Guardian the day after Dumbarton’s Scottish Cup replay exit to Ross County at the end of last year. According to the Grauniad (as old school sub-editors still lovingly know it), the Sons won 2-0! If only. I have kept the cutting for posterity.
Years ago a mistake of this kind could have seriously scuppered me. I might well have taken a day off college and embarked on an exhausting and expensive round of celebrations… before discovering the terrible truth. These days, I have no such excuse. The BBC and other news outlets keep me up-to-date before, during and after the match. Friends fill in details by text. And the official DFC website has a match report and pictures available within 24 hours. Lucky, or what?
The problem now is a different one. Information addiction. Apparently, one enterprising soul is contemplating putting up Pro-Zone style statistics for every professional team and player on a website which would be available to any fan by subscription or a pop-up advertising deal.
Now I’d like instantly to say “no way” to the suggestion that I might start mainlining fitba facts to that degree… but I notice a slight hesitation before my inevitable denial. After all, being a football fan is essentially an affliction, and many would argue that being a Dumbarton fan is an extreme variant of this. So in principle, nothing can be ruled out in the “feeding the habit” department.
Much the same can be said about football programme collecting, of course. When I started writing this column, a Sonstrust luminary who will remain anonymous (at least until the drinks have been bought down the Counting House next time) urged me not to tackle this topic.
Or more precisely, he she or it (I’m giving no clues) said: “At least it’ll stop Robbo from going on about programmes.” How touchingly naïve! Is it really likely that a writer interested in penning some regular thoughts for the august Sons View would not have a large collection of paper merchandise on his beloved club?
By really serious Sons fan standards, my collection is probably rather modest – around half of the home programmes issued since the first one in 1968 (a friendly against Tranmere Rovers which we drew 2-2, as I’m sure you know), plus around 200 ‘aways’. Mind you, it’s been growing in leaps and bounds lately. When my wife looks disapproving about this, I plead “research needs”. If that doesn’t work, I suppose I could always try “diminished responsibility”. She’s a lawyer, after all.
Just before Christmas, I added one new treasure to my collection which I had been aspiring to own for years – the 6 August 1988 Centenary Challenge Match programme versus West Bromwich Albion. This was the day when ‘Big Ron’ Atkinson finally sat on the bench at Boghead. The encounter commemorated the ‘Championship of the World’ match won by Renton FC in May 1888, and also the fact that both West Brom and Dumbarton had won their respective national Cup competitions in that decade, in the Sons’ case 1882-3.
Sons did the business 21 years ago too, triumphing in the celebratory friendly. I should have mentioned that back in August last year, had I been paying proper attention to our glorious historical inheritance. So that’s my excuse for shoehorning it in now.
As for ‘one that got away’ in 2008, I’d have to cite an away programme: Dumbarton’s visit to now extinct Third Lanark on 3 December 1955 in the old ‘B’ Division. We lost 1-0 but at least finished 4th in the League. That particular ‘memory’ (two and a half years before I was born!) would have cost me over £26, incidentally.
All of which leads me to remind you to keep buying programmes and memorabilia from Tommy Hughes on eBay (his tag is dfc1872), since proceeds go to the Club’s important youth development work.