Saturday, 11 April 2009

The view from the seat next door

First published in Sons View, 11 April 2009, Dumbarton -v- Berwick Rangers

Unless you are a more occasional visitor to the Rock, the chances are you’ll be sitting next to people you know for today’s match against Berwick Rangers. When I make the trek from way down south I like to spread out a bit, chat to new people, and get a feeling for how things are at the Club from a variety of vantage points.

There’s no one way of taking in a game of football. In a certain spot you might be swayed by optimism, in another equally submerged in despair. Besides, being a Sons fan can involve spanning a whole gamut of emotions in fewer than 15 minutes.

When Annan Athletic came calling on us at the end of March (a match and a result best banished from memory, to be honest), I found myself perched next to somebody who recognised me from the picture on this page. Hello there, Gordon. I confess that you were correct. It wasn’t all going to come right in the last ten minutes.

However, given that my wife says she sometimes doesn’t entirely recognise me after my footballing forays north of the border (a cynic would say she’s just trying to make a point!), I was naturally pleased to learn that the pixelated version of my face in this programme bears some passing resemblance to the real thing – especially since it was taken two years ago… in a good light.

Most of us don’t end up in conversation with the Dumbarton fan on our left or right purely for identification purposes, though. We do it for solidarity, to discover who owns that surprise elbow in our pie, and occasionally to find out whether what we thought we just saw on the pitch really did happen, or whether we (like that match official) might simply have been “seeing things”.

According to a newspaper article I’ve been reading, there could be other motives at work, too. If you are seated next to an unknown, inquisitive member of the opposite sex and out of the blue they ask, “Do you play football yourself?” the chances are they have been mugging up on Lucy Ann-Holmes’ new book, Fifty Ways to Find a Lover.

Apparently, Ms Holmes reckons that a football match is one of a number of ideal places to meet the right man. I presume this is because she’s going on fable rather than experience, but I could be wrong. (She is 32, charming, lives nowhere near Dumbarton, and is now in a steady relationship, in case you were wondering.)

So if your eyes first met those of your beloved as you both cast them heavenward in an attempt to figure out where that scrambled clearance went in the opposition final third, you have a story which I am sure the editor of Sons View will be delighted to recount… and which might even make it into the (inevitable) follow-up volume to Lucy-Anne’s treatise. It’ll be called A Life of Two Halves, I’m guessing.

Incidentally, the most common response to that enquiry about your personal football prowess apparently goes something along the lines of: “Yes, I nearly went professional at one stage, but I had to give up because of an injury.” To which the prospective suitor is advised: “Look fascinated”. Or in the case of a match at the Rock like that Annan one: “That’s no excuse, get some boots on and get out on that pitch straight away. I’m never going to marry you… but we’re desperate!”

As for my own memories of conversations with Dumbarton fans, they are of a less romantic tone. On one occasion, making my way to dear old Boghead Park, I got talking on the train to a fitter from Clydebank, whose name also turned out to be Simon, curiously enough. He spotted my Sons scarf and presumably saw few enough of those adorning strangers that he must have thought it worth finding out who I was… especially as I had a strange English accent.

Anyway, the train was delayed a bit and we arrived on the terraces a few minutes after the game had begun. “You’re late,” a mate of his noted, observantly. “Aye, points failure,” he explained. “Here too” came the riposte. It was already shaping up to be that kind of game, apparently. But not this afternoon, I hope. Love match or no, we need three points!

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