|Preparing for kick-off|
As to the venue, well Livingston's Almondvale Stadium, which we are now supposed to call the Braidwood Motor Company Stadium (that makes our Strathclyde Homes Stadium sound positively poetic!), is less than an hour away by bus and train from where I live. This feels positively 'next door' compared to many of the journeys I make. Of course that doesn't include the brisk 20 minute walk from the station in the bracing rain and cold. But that's what football is all about.
When I arrived at the ground I was intending to dry off in the bar, but as fortune had it I was given a complimentary ticket, so decided to check out the facilities inside. One small snag emerged, however. Once located in the 'community section', I discovered that I wasn't allowed to cross an invisible line to join my compatriots (including the estimable Jack Deighton) at the away end. Then again, there's supposed to be crowd separation, too. Minor consternation among the stewards, followed by earnest discussion. Eventually common sense broke out and I was escorted (along with another Sons supporter) the long twenty yards to our assigned pit of despair. The irony is that Livi fans were routinely traversing the same patch of territory just to find the toilets and the food outlet. It was all rather confusing, in a friendly kind of way.
Almondvale is a very pleasant ground, by the way. Modern, with a scale and presence several notches up from the Second Division - but not as soulless as some of the plastic boxes in England. The one regret is that it isn't, as indicated above, possible to wander round to take in different vantage points, as you can at many lower league grounds in Scotland. Well, I say "the one regret". That doesn't include the lack of goals and points, obviously. But there's always next week, as you have to keep telling yourself.