Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Time travelling with the Son

First published in Sons View, 13 April 2010, Dumbarton -v- Clyde

At this stage in the season, football fans and programme columnists alike are known to stare at the remainder of the fixtures list, blink, take a sharp intake of breath, note that there are only three games remaining after today’s match… and wonder where on earth the season went!

Up until Christmas, there’s “a long way to go.” Then, by the time January has slipped away without anyone quite realising it, we’re on the rapidly accelerating path to the end of April and the beginning of May – when reputations are won and lost, prizes collected or discarded, and addicts are beginning to contemplate the horror of a Summer without the Beautiful Game.

In this case, of course, there will be plenty of post-season football. But while the sun shines down in South Africa, we know we will be facing another World Cup without Scotland’s presence. There’ll still be plenty to enjoy and cheer, of course. Between now and then we can also take occasional breaks from contemplating Dumbarton’s prospects, in order to read about yet more stray limbs falling off Senor Capello’s squad of budget millionaires.

But such joys remain weeks away. In the meantime, we have Clyde at the Strathclyde Homes Stadium again. The red, white and blacks last visited the Rock on 22 August, in the midst of Sons’ grinding six-games-without-a-win start to the campaign. Nevertheless, nearly a thousand spectators turned out that day, and while Dumbarton went in 1-2 down at half time, a strike from Roddy Hunter and then a header from Iain Chisholm salvaged a point at 3-3, interspersed with another lapse of concentration at the back. Plenty of goals, but the gaffer was not amused.

Wind forward seven months, following that awful fixture-numbing freeze, and almost a month ago today Sons made up for that poor start by claiming a pleasing 2-0 victory over today’s visitors at Broadwood. This time new ’keeper Jan Vojacek and the defence were in solid form.

Mind you, having lost to Stenhousemuir three days earlier, in a yo-yo period when Spring struggled to show its head, Dumbarton fans arrived in Cumbernauld on 16th March hopeful (we were playing the side at the foot of the league) but still apprehensive (anyone can beat anyone in the Second Division).

Thankfully, the outcome was a David Winters wonderland, with a brace from the talented youngster securing the win. Just as happily, Scott Chaplain (home to Stenhousemuir) and Dennis Wyness (away at Stirling Albion) have also emulated the ‘take two’ trick, and by the time you read this there may have been yet more double-helpings in the goal department for Sons.

As for the Bully Wee, however, there have been precious few bright moments amid the gathering relegation gloom. Clyde had to release almost their whole squad to avoid administration at the end of last season, when they were demoted from Division One. At the beginning of this month, they parted company with manager John McCormack, who had been appointed only weeks before Christmas. In between they’ve seen an influx and outflow of players, misplaced former gaffer John Brown’s body, and suffered a string of body-blow results home and away.

However, Sons should not be complacent. Teams who are doomed can often feel a release of pressure leading to recovery on the park. Even in the dark days before arriving here, the Bully Wee have taken points of every side in this division bar Cowdenbeath. They have also achieved some gritty draws on the road. So Dumbarton need to be sharp and attentive to claim the points we badly need.

There’s also history to contend with – and for me a couple of those incidental connections we all enjoy reading into the football runes. Clyde’s first ground was on the banks of the River Clyde at Barrowfield. They have also won the Scottish Cup on three occasions, the last being a 1-0 win over Hibs in front of 95,123 at Hampden, a couple of months after I was born in 1958.

If my youthful interest in Scottish football had been a bit more focussed on happenstance, I suppose I might even have ended up following the Bully Wee – who I still think of in terms of their traditional association with South Lanarkshire and southeast Glasgow, incidentally.

Then again, I can’t actually imagine supporting anyone but the Sons. I’m not sure quite how I got here. But I’m glad I did. Let’s hope the boys leave you feeling that way this afternoon, too.

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