Saturday, 8 August 2009

No team like the Sons

First published in Sons View, 08 August 2009, Dumbarton -v- Alloa Athletic

Ah, Alloa … what better way for Sons to kick off the 2009-10 season in SFL Division Two? OK, I can see you counting the possibilities on your fingers. But I’m sure you’ll still be welcoming the Wasps with customary Dumbarton good cheer – while hoping that they return to Recreation Park with their stings unused after a journey that proved pleasant but, well, pointless.

Actually, I have one resoundingly good memory of playing Athletic in recent times, which will hopefully set a precedent for today’s encounter. Back on 15 May 2004, Sons played the Wasps, in Division Two, in the last game of the season at SHS. Coincidentally, the last home game had been against Morton: though in a league rather than a cup match.

It turned out to be a gloriously sunny day. Sons had an outside chance of promotion, though we needed Hamilton Accies to ship at least four. That wasn’t ever going to happen. And it didn’t. Nevertheless, it was a good Dumbarton performance and we ran out deserved 3-1 winners to end the term in style.

After the game there may have been some regrets at silly points dropped earlier on that year, but the mood on the pitch, in the dressing room and on the terraces was very positive – as it will be this afternoon, with Sons celebrating our historic Division Three Championship in real style.

That Alloa encounter five years ago was special for me in another way. Partly because of life and work circumstances (not to mention 400 miles) it had been several years since I’d seen the Sons in action. Missing the last game at Boghead and the first at SHS had been a big disappointment (I was out of the country on both occasions) and I was feeling very much on ‘the far post’. Beyond it, in fact.

So that day I was reconnecting with my longstanding (at that point, 35 year) passion for the Sons; and that is exactly how it turned out. Just after midday I turned up at the Rock just to have a look at the ground. I was then planning to go to the Castle and have a pint before the game. But as I walked through the car park a friendly voice asked if he could help. It was Alan Findlay. Perhaps he thought I was dubiously casing a motor?

Anyway, we introduced ourselves and Alan immediately invited me to lunch on the Sonstrust table in the directors’ suite. I was gobsmacked. Here I was, a strange Englishman he’d never met before in his life, and certainly not dressed for the occasion. I was head to toe in faded denim. That caused one or two odd stares over a very good and well-oiled lunch! But it was a fabulous occasion and a great day, rounded off with that victory.

I left having signed up for the Trust and I haven’t looked back since. In fact in the last three or four seasons I’ve been upping my ‘business trips’ from the southwest or the Midlands to the Strathclyde region, and even made four straight home games in a row up to and including our friendly against St Mirren earlier this month.

Undoubtedly the greatest occasions, however, were those matches against Elgin and Annan Athletic that rounded off the 2008-9 season in title-winning triumph and ecstasy. It cost me and arm and a leg to be at both, but I wouldn’t have missed them for the world. Winning 6-0 in our last home game and knowing that, barring a 17-goal lapse, we were champions for only the third time in my lifetime… this is the stuff football dreams are made of.

I must have watched those goals dozens of times of Sons TV by now (the poor Black and Whites defence fell for the same attacking ploy again and again!). That goes for the victory, trophy-lifting and celebrations at Galabank, too. I was on a high for many days afterwards, like many of you, I’m sure. Then tragedy struck. It’s been a sober summer of grieving, punctuated by heart-warming support for those who feel Guido’s loss so greatly. We will not forget.

But now is the time to celebrate once more: to feel thankful that we are back in Division Two, proud of this marvellous Club, thrilled to be a Dumbarton supporter – and, just to remind you if you haven’t signed up yet, a member of the incomparable Sonstrust.

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