First published in Sons View, 19 September 2009, Dumbarton -v- Cowdenbeath
For those of us who live many miles away from Dumbarton and can only get to a handful of games a season, the advent of SonsTV on the web has been a real boon. Another excellent service from the Sonstrust. It may be just five minutes or so highlights from each game, but it keeps you in touch and enables you to share in some of the highs and lows on the park.
What it doesn’t do, of course, is to give you any systematic idea of how things are going tactically and in relation to the performances of particular players. But those are subjects which supporters always have a thousand opinions on (both those who see every kick and those who watch more fitfully)… and the ones that really count are belong to the coaching staff.
It struck me the other day that thanks to SonsTV this is set to be the first season in my life where I will have been able to see every goal scored in a league or cup match involving Dumbarton – and even the pre-season friendlies (though I notice those have disappeared from the back catalogue). Of course there hasn’t been a tremendous amount to cheer about or want to re-watch so far this term. But hopefully the corner can be turned against Cowdenbeath.
The Blue Brazil (whose curious Central Park home is the photo-feature this month in my favourite football magazine, When Saturday Comes) lie one place above us in the Second Division. The difference between the two teams is only one game and three points. In other words, Cowden have secured that precious first victory we are still on the lookout for.
Once we have a win under our belts I am convinced that Sons can turn things around and head for a respectable league position. As several people have commented, maybe the answer lies (as it did last season) in finessing the traditional 4-4-2. The standard is a bit higher here than in the Third Division, but directness and coherence still pays dividends.
Whatever alchemy is needed, there’s a long way to go. Meanwhile, though the game last week against Stenhousemuir had plenty of frustrations, there were also a few bright points: our first clean sheet, another point (and, indeed, a doubling of our tally!) and vacating the bottom slot to Clyde. A good neighbourly gesture.
Now the desire is to taste victory. As soon as that happens, I’m sure the number of ‘hits’ on SonsTV will leap eve more. But for me there’s another reason to watch web-based football clips right now – and that’s the fact that I don’t have regular access to television, for the first time in living memory, pretty much.
Southwest England went completely digital back in May. As I spend my time between Exeter, Birmingham, London and further afield at present (it’s a long story!) it really didn’t seem worthwhile investing in new equipment or a cable package, so instead I’ve been catching up on DVD-viewing via my computer monitor. That has included quite a few football films and documentaries, unsurprisingly.
When I mentioned this to a friend the other day, he immediately assumed that Dumbarton had never made it on to the silver screen. At which point I was able to remind him (and even show him) the 2002 movie A Shot At Glory, with its nostalgic vistas from Boghead Park and a goodly roster of ex-Sons players turning out in the legendary single black-and-gold striped white shirts. They get beaten, of course. But that’s nothing new!
Most football films are notoriously duff. This one has a number of flaws and plot holes, though if you’re a softie at heart you’ll probably still enjoy it. The crusty, Shankly-like lower league manager is played by Hollywood legend Robert Duvall, who is a great character actor, but whose Scottish accent is as wobbly as a jelly in a sandstorm. As one reviewer commented, it veers between cartoon Groundskeeper Willie and cod Sean Connery via Brigadoon.
Still, Observer columnist Will Buckley put in a glowing word for the movie not so long ago. And the star turn, perhaps surprisingly, is Ally McCoist, who turns in a very actorly performance (by which I mean he doesn’t look as if he’s acting). OK, he’s essentially playing himself. But sadly, commentator Andy Gray couldn’t even make a good fist at that.
Anyway, I’d prefer to be watching a few minutes of contemporary Sons glory than any amount of football nostalgia. So would you, I guess. And there’s no time like the present.