Sunday, 25 July 2010

Back on home turf

First published in Sons View, 25 July 2010, Dumbarton -v- Morton

‘The Far Post’ (as in: the title of my column in Sons View) is no more. As of Wednesday 14 July 2010 it just got a whole lot closer. Edinburgh, in fact. For me, 40 years, 7 months and 2 days of being a Sons supporter based down in the south of England (not counting a short sojourn in the Midlands) came to an end as I crossed the border by train at around about 9.45pm that evening.

So here I am – finally living in Scotland, clutching my shiny new Dumbarton season ticket, and finding myself the newest member of the Edinburgh Sons supporters’ club, along with noble proggie editor Graeme Robertson and Glencorse golf-pro legend Cliffe Jones. Just imagine, all those opinions in one small car. Frightening!

Seriously though, being a Sons regular has been a life-long ambition for me – albeit one I never seriously expected to fulfil until retirement, which is technically 13 years hence… though the way things are going, many of us will be struggling for a crust way beyond the age of 65.

But life is constantly surprising. Six months ago we had no immediate thoughts of moving. Then Carla and I spotted just the place we were looking for while staying with friends in March. We realised we had loads of Edinburgh contacts, both personal and professional, and that it was where we most wanted to be. So we decided to ‘go for it’. Four months later, and here we are.

For me the distant Scottish roots on my mother’s side have always tugged strongly at the heartstrings, and I’ve long hankered to live north of the border. It feels like a homecoming already, but there are still adjustments to be made – and I’m not just talking about the Scottish-English dictionary! In football terms, things look pretty different, too.

My beloved (who has barely a fiba bone in her body) already has to acclimatise to a rather different regime to my ‘Far Post’ one. That involved regular but infrequent forays up to Dumbarton – the cost of each trip being roughly equivalent to the price of my new season ticket – plus maybe a dozen trips to my local team: in recent years, Exeter City.

Now I’m close enough to the Strathclyde Homes Stadium not to need a ‘local interest’. But on the downside, from the family viewpoint anyway, there are 18 home fixtures already in the diary, plus the looming attraction of that hitherto uncharted territory known as ‘away games’. Some of them will be nearer than the home ones, of course. The others will depend on domestic and work commitments.

Today’s Alba cup-tie with Morton is one that I couldn’t fit onto the calendar, unfortunately. But I’ll be following the text and Twitter updates loyally – just like the old days. After a positive pre-season build up, it’s the first big test for Sons ahead of next month’s Division Two opener at Station Park against newly promoted Forfar.

Jim Chapman’s freshly assembled squad will take some time to bed in. But there have been some positive indicators in the friendlies, especially that highly creditable 2-1 victory over Partick Thistle, and a 5-2 win in a ‘closed doors’ encounter with Queen’s Park.

My arrival in Scotland happily coincided with the visit of Oxford United, and to add to the English connection, I found myself parked next to Dean King – a fellow Englishmen who’s been a regular at the Rock for the past few seasons. There’s a growing little band of Sons Sassenachs at SHS.

Unfortunately, Dumbarton ended up on the end of a 2-0 defeat against the ‘Us’, a well resourced full-time outfit who are determined to make their mark in the English Football League after returning there (following four seasons’ absence) on the back of a blaze of Conference play-off glory at Wembley.

After a shaky start, with the wind unsettling them all over the park, Oxford soon showed their class, dominating the first half. They then faced a spell of Dumbarton pressure at the beginning of the second period. In truth, however, United could easily have claimed another couple of goals, as Sons failed to pose any substantial threat up front and looked occasionally disjointed at the back.

What you notice about lower league English sides is that they’re fast, fit, well-built and constantly pressure the ball. Plenty of lessons for Jim and the boys there, then. Hopefully Sons will have moved up a further gear after the visit of St Mirren. A Cup win isn’t essential, but it would be a great tonic for the campaign ahead.

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