Monday, 23 March 2009

Too much excitement

First published in Sons View, 21 March 2009, Dumbarton -v- Annan Athletic

Normally I write this column from the remoteness that is southwest England. This one comes to you from the very far post of New York City, where time runs four hours slow and football is something you routinely play by picking up a projectile and then smashing somebody else in the ribs before hurling it downfield.

I know what you’re thinking: “I’ve seen games like that in the SFL, too.” Not this afternoon, hopefully. After a disappointing defeat at Links Park we need to get straight back to winning ways at the Rock – especially as our guests include heroes from the famous Sons side that won promotion to the SPL in the mid ’80s.

This 25th anniversary season is one we’d all like to celebrate in style by beginning the climb back to the top with a prompt return to Division Two. But we’re going to have to fight every match, every goal and every point – as the trip to Cliftonhill will no doubt have shown, though the outcome of that particular encounter is unknown as Sons View goes to press.

Indeed by the time you read this I should be sitting somewhere nearby at SHS, feeling very happy to be here again… if slightly jetlagged. The plane will have touched down on Friday afternoon, and after a quick lunch with my wife, it’s straight on the train to Glasgow. Even if my head is still spinning a bit, I still intend to put my vocal chords to full use in encouraging the Sons to victory.

Back in December I managed the daytrip to a rather damp and muddy Galabank, via Birmingham, for our last meeting with the Third Division new boys. The social club hospitality was fine, but we went away with our tails between our legs after losing the game right at the end, when a stalemate would at least have felt a fair result and would have put one more vital point into the chest. I also nearly managed to miss my connection back to the Midlands because of a broken down train between Annan and Carlisle – so the Black and Golds owe me one, I feel.

Annan Athletic have enjoyed a significant resurgence of form of late, especially at home. The 6-0 thumping of basement boys Elgin and last week’s 3-1 defeat of leaders Cowdenbeath, who suddenly seem to have lost the plot, will have given them a real boost. But let’s not forget that interlaced with those two impressive results came defeats away at Forfar and Albion.

Indeed, aside from a 3-0 win against our most recent vanquishers two months ago, our opponents’ form on the road not been great. So while we hope their fans have an enjoyable day out, there’s no need for Dumbarton to feel obliged to show any charity on the pitch.

Meanwhile, we can be thankful that other results have been going our way. Last weekend, all the promotion contenders lost. Indeed, overall Sons made a gain in terms of goal difference. This afternoon, the Shire and Cowdenbeath meet at Central Park, which emphasises the need to capitalise on someone else’s inevitable slippage. You can’t expect the rest to do it all for you.

At this end of the season, pressure builds remorselessly, especially when you have the kind of fixture pile up the Sons have been enjoying. My memory is that it used not to be quite like that in the late ’60s and early ’70s when I was in my first flush of my football enthusiasm. But I am probably being misty-eyed.

Anyway, at least some people’s minds are on the finer points of the Beautiful Game. Annan midfielder Chris Jardine has been doing a regular blog on the BBC’s football website, charting the adventures of the newest Scottish League club. His latest offering included a paean of praise to Spanish magic, following the second half of the Madrid derby last Saturday night – “just about the most amazing 45 minutes I have ever witnessed in football.”

I agree with Chris that La Liga is probably the most exciting in Europe at the moment. That said, Real got hammered by Liverpool in the Champions League recently, and Atletico were outwitted and ground down by Porto. It’s a cruel old results-driven world. So prepare for some Sons alchemy, you Galabankies!

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