Sunday, 27 February 2011

Things are (still) looking up

A few weeks ago, when he came along to Dumbarton to watch Hibs loanee Euan Moyes playing for Brechin City - who the Sons face on Tuesday night, incidentally - it seemed as if Easter Road manager Colin Calerwood was doomed. He certainly didn't cut a very enthusiastic figure that day... though having to watch second division football (not at its finest) might had something to do with that.

Anyway, I'm glad to see that my Edinburgh near-neighbours (I live a mile away from Hibs' ground) have picked up a bit, with four wins in the last four games. Their resurgence has coincided with Dumbarton's, as it happens. The latest victims were 2010-11 SPL surprise package Inverness Caledonian Thistle, who are Terry Butcher's proteges... and who I also wish well. What a fund of generosity I am at the moment! It must be Sons' five wins and a draw in the last seven games speaking.

On the subject of delight, it is always a pleasure to see an Old Firm defeat. I've witnessed two such occasions this season, one for each of the pair against Hearts at Tynecastle. Today Celtic crashed 2-0 to Motherwell. The Steelmen had relegated Francis Jeffers to the bench, too. Happy days.

Oh, and Dumbarton's 19s continue to set a pace, with a stonking 6-1 victory over rivals Morton at the Tail O' The Bank. Alan Cook (pictured), a product of our youth set-up, got one of the goals, along with two each from Reece Pearson and Ryan Metcalfe, and anther from Steven Jones.

Our first team may have lost at Forfar on Saturday, but things are still looking up. A win against the Hedgemen at Glebe Park on 1 March will be a tough call. But it's possible. 'Mon Sons!

Congratulations to Birmingham

I only lived in England's second city for six months full-time and eighteen months part-time - and I number Aston Villa as well as Blues fans among my friends - but I'm delighted for Birmingham City tonight. Their Carling Cup victory over Arsenal was a triumph for sheer endurance, and not a little inspiration. Manager Alex McLeish, Andy Watson and the other Scots lads also really deserve this.

City, with clothing tycoon Carson Yeung’s 2009 takeover money in tow, may hardly be deemed a small provincial football club, but matched with the global might of the Gunners, they were massive underdogs, and haven't won a trophy in 48 years. Arsenal have only had to wait five-and-a-half so far. It's wonderful to see a non 'big four' side in the silverware spotlight.

That said, after they've lost to Leyton Orient in the FA Cup replay on Tuesday night, I very much hope Arsenal can win either or both of the Champions League and the English Premiership -- though I fear they'll do neither. It would be good to see sublime technical football and youth development at the highest level rewarded.

Rooting for the Blues

It's good to be able to watch the Carling Cup Final on terrestrial television - and not, thank goodness, via the ever-lamentable ITV. Though I'm a huge admirer of the style and philosophy of Arsenal (notwithstanding their squillionaire status), my commitments in this game are towards the unfashionable Birmingham City. That's because I used to live there, briefly; because my good friend and "Soho media asshat" Jim Smith is a supporter, and because of the Scottish connection.

It's been a rattling game so far (16.22) - but the Blues were robbed very early on when Lee Bowyer was wrongly adjudged offside by the referee's assistant, and thereby denied a penalty and a red card for the Gunners' keeper.

16.28: Birmingham lead. Just as I was about to write that Nikola Zigic was looking menacing, he scores. The important thing now is that they don't try to sit too deep to defend the lead. Arsenal's strength (well, one of them) is their inventiveness and creativity up front. Brum's Ben Foster has already pulled off a great stop from Andre Arshavin.

16.34: Zigic is just a wee bit late in front of goal and fails to put Birmingham further ahead. There was another Arsenal foul in the build-up.  The Blues are really putting the Gunners on the rack, but need to watch out for the break-back. Inverness Caley boss Terry Butcher reckoned Zigic could win the Cup for Birmingham - but just as I type that (16.39), Jack Wilshere hits the crossbar and Robin van Persie scores a great equaliser.

Gunners' fans only sing when they're drawing. "They are here, look!" observes Mark Lawrenson from the commentary gantry.

17.20: Keith Fahey agonisingly close to giving Birmingham the lead again, as his blistering rebound shot clips off the foot of Arsenal's left post. Fabulous match. The best Cup Final I've seen in ages.

17.37: Another fantastic save from Ben Foster. It's still anyone's game, but Arsenal are looking the more dangerous at the moment. And again from Foster, with the feet, from Rosicky, then Nasri.  The pressure from the Gunners is relentless.

An 88,855 attendance is announced at Wembley. Still a few spare, then. You coulda been there, Jim!

17.44:  On-loan Obafemi Martins from Russia is on the pitch as a sub for Birmingham. He and Zigic really can unlock defences. Fingers crossed. But first the Blues have to resist the Arsenal waves of attack in the last six minutes. Riveting.

17.52: Martins scores! Quite extraordinary. Four minutes extra-time to be played. Agonising. 

17.56: Birmingham have won the Carling Cup. Wonderful. 

Keeping the Scottish League national

Adapted from Still a live issue - Vote Now! on the Sonstrust website. 

Dumbarton fans are responding well to the first of our online poll questions – about the proposal to ‘regionalise’ the lower leagues. Some have wondered if this idea is now ‘dead’ – but it isn’t.

In spite of press reports (which I’ve commented on here), the truth is that the SPL, who have said they’ll be moving to a vote on restructuring proposals within weeks, haven’t taken anything off the table.

This despite clear opposition from the majority of smaller clubs (Stirling Albion are the exception), a majority of SFL fans against in the Supporters Direct survey, no indication that the SFL wants it, and no plan as to how it could work.

So why is it still around? Well, many SPL movers-and-shakers seem to want to push ‘regionalisation’ through (even though it’s – literally – not their business) – because it would leave their new setup as the only national football league in Scotland.

Also, some see it as a way of saving money (though the amounts are tiny compared to wages and other costs) and there has been confusion about whether an eventual pyramid depends upon it (there’s no reason why it should).

So the question finally boils down to whether we want a club like Dumbarton to be in a national league, or reduced to a regional side. That’s what we’re inviting Sons fans to vote on now: Do you want DFC to remain in a national, rather than regionalised, Scottish football league?

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Forfar just edge past Dumbarton

This article appears as the match report on the official DFC website.

McShane's free kick beats the Forfar wall to make it 1-1
Dumbarton eventually lost out 2-1 to Forfar Athletic on a blustery afternoon at Station Park, after a closely fought encounter in which both sides had numerous chances.

Forfar started determinedly, getting to the ball first, denying Dumbarton space and possession, and pinning the visitors back deep in their own half.

Darren Brady opened the scoring early on for the home side, with a deflected strike from the edge of the area on 5 minutes, just after Sons' 'keeper Stephen Grindlay had parried another shot away high to his right.

Dumbarton's first raid into Forfar territory came on 19 minutes, when Andy Geggan tested Loons' goalkeeper Scott Gallacher with a driving shot through a packed area. But in spite of occasional Sons forays, the initiative remained solidly with Forfar.

On 32 minutes Ben Gordon made an important clearance in front of goal after an attack from the flanks, where Sons were looking particularly vulnerable.

Then on 35 minutes Dumbarton won a free kick 21 yards out on the left, and Jon McShane angled the ball sharply over the Loons' wall and into the net off the post and upright, to make it 1-1.

Brian Deasley came close again for Forfar just before the break, but Sons held their ground and went straight onto the offensive in the second half, with Mark Gilhaney weaving through the home defence and shooting just wide.

A few minutes later Pat Walker picked up on a loose ball following a well-worked Sons move down the left wing, curling his shot just past Forfar's far post.

It was Walker again who provided a fine cross, which McShane was inches away from with his head, on 69 minutes. Sons continued to pressurise their opponents and looked like claiming a second goal, but then s stray pass from substitute Derek Carcary let in Forfar on the counter-attack.

Loons' Ross Campbell pounced on the ball and swept it past a stranded Stephen Grindlay on 78 minutes.

Dumbarton tried hard to find an equaliser in the closing stages of the game, but Forfar held on to their 2-1 lead, and will perhaps be regard as fortunate to have come away with three points instead of one.

Defeated but not disgraced

First published as Sons squeezed out by Forfar on the official DFC website.

Dumbarton strike back
Dumbarton's winning streak came to an end at Station Park this afternoon, as Forfar Athletic ran out 2-1 winners in a closely fought encounter.

The home side went ahead on four minutes from Darren Brady's deflected shot. The Loons dominated the first 20 minutes, but Sons fought back and Jon McShane equalised with a free kick ten minutes before the break.

In the second half Dumbarton played positive, attacking football, creating at least half a dozen chances. But Forfar Athletic clinched the game on 73 minutes when Ross Campbell took advantage of a swift counter-attack to sweep the ball past Stephen Grindlay from the left.

The result is disappointing, but Sons played well for long stretches of the match and will travel to Brechin City on Tuesday night determined to continue their revival.

Poll position

Adapted from my article Make YOUR Voice Heard on the Sonstrust website.

Starting today, the Sonstrust is launching a fans’ survey about plans for the future of Scottish football – on this site, on the Dumbarton FC and Sonstrust Facebook pages, and in a voting form which will be given to every fan attending the next home game (against Livingston on 5 March 2011).

There will be three questions – about ‘regionalisation’, about SPL colt teams playing in the SFL, and about fan representation on the bodies that run Scottish football.

The web versions will be posted between now and 5 March. They will be open for four weeks each.
What Dumbarton supporters have to say will be used in making Trust representations to the Club, to Supporters Direct, to the SFL and to others. With the SPL now publicly saying that it will be voting on ‘reconstruction’ proposals, pressure is critical – to ensure that reforms benefit the whole game and are based on what fans want.

You can vote on the link below. We are using controls to ensure that people only vote once. But we are also using different media to ensure that as many Sons supporters as possible have the chance to make their voices heard.

Do you want DFC to remain in a national, rather than regionalised, Scottish football league?

Keeping up the momentum

After a long day, night and early morning, my brain won't quite extend to any sensible thoughts on today's impending football activities. So over to Alan Findlay: Forfar Athletic await Dumbarton's on-form team tomorrow with Sons looking to break a 119-year old record with a fifth straight away win. The Loons have been a victim of the winter weather having only played 19 games, meaning that there are a lot of points up for grabs. But Dumbarton's recent form has been excellent and a victory at Station Park will see history books re-written [more than five consecutive away wins], a fact that gaffer Alan Adamson is keen to use as motivation.

He says: "Our lads are keen to keep up the momentum and having a wee goal to go for will add a further incentive. We've been playing well and Tuesday night's win was pleasing, especially as we replicated our away form at the Strathclyde Homes Stadium. But tomorrow at Station Park I expect things to be tough and with Forfar having so many games in hand, it's important that we take something from the game. They lost 2-0 last week against Airdrie United but had a five game unbeaten run prior to that including a win against us in January. We will need to be on our toes."

Rocking the vote

Dumbarton's fan cooperative, the Sonstrust, has launched a survey comprising three questions about the future of Scottish football.

The first question is: Do you want DFC to remain in a national, rather than regionalised, Scottish football league?

The other two questions will be published next week.

More information here.


Wednesday, 23 February 2011

What's going right, then?

Sons fight back...
When I got home from another pleasing match at the Rock last night, I quickly put together a current form table for the SFL Second Division. It makes good reading. Of course, If you extended it to seven games, it would look slightly different. These things have an element of arbitrariness about them. But there's no denying that the contrast between the last six games (won five, drawn one) and the previous five (won one, lost four) for Dumbarton in 2011 is dramatic. With a couple of changes, the squad is much the same over that period, so what's the difference?

It's often difficult for coaching staff to identify the 'trigger', let alone the rest of us!  Usually it's a combination of factors. For my money there are six key changes. First, Alan Adamson is picking a relatively settled team. Second, some key players (Pat Walker, Mark Gilhaney, Ryan McStay, Andy Geggan and Nicky Devlin come especially to mind - but the others are doing well, too) are firing on all cylinders. Third, the work rate and cameraderie among the players looks really good. Fourth, the fans have started to get behind the team strongly, especially away from home (attendances at SHS are still disappointing - bad news travels faster than good news, so people are still catching up with the idea that this is the 'New Sons'). Fifth, the team has shown a capacity to fight back when goals have been lost and mistakes made - rather than to roll over. Sixth, and as a consequence of all the above, confidence is high. As the old cliche has it, "we're on a roll".

Mind you, this coming Saturday's away game against Forfar Athletic is going to be tough. The next three matches are against sides at the top of the table, so this will be a solid test. The important thing is to approach each game as a distinct challenge. As soon as you start asking yourself, "can we keep up a six-game unbeaten run?" or "will we make the record for the most number of consecutive away wins in a season?" doubts based on probability kick in. Sure, the Mighty Sons will lose again at some point. It could be the next game, it could be three down the line. But that's not where the attention should be. The focus needs to be on where the life and energy is. 'Mon, Sons!

A remarkable turnaround

This article also appears on the official DFC website as Sons Go Top of the Form. See also Alan Findlay's season-long bar chart there.

Dumbarton are currently the 'form team' in Irn Bru SFL Division Two, following a remarkable six-game undefeated run.

With five wins and a draw, Sons have gone top of the table – at least as far as current form is concerned. Livingston are second over the same period, one point behind, and with both sides enjoying a plus 8 goal difference. But Dumbarton have scored one more goal (14).

Sons' goal average per game over the last six outings is 2.3. It's a remarkable turnaround since the beginning of the year, when the team lost four out of their first five games and languished at the foot of the table.

Now Dumbarton are sixth in the division, on 29 points from 24 games.

But further challenges undoubtedly lie ahead. The next three games are against top of the table opposition (Forfar, Brechin and Livingston), and a number of sides have games in hand over Sons.

However, with unity on and off the field, the chance to secure the Club's place in Division Two and achieve a positive finish to the season is clearly there.

Dumbarton beat Peterhead convincingly

This article appears as the match report on the official DFC website. 

Sons leave the field to rapturous applause
Dumbarton continued their current fine run of form with a convincing 3-0 victory over Peterhead at SHS - their second win over the Toon in four days.

Sons got a good passing game going early on, but Peterhead were solid in central defence and looked to break from deep positions.

On the quarter hour a floating cross found Jon McShane on the edge of the area, but his second-touch shot flew just wide of John Bateman’s upright.

Minutes later the big number 9 nearly opened the scoring for Sons with a well-struck free kick from 25 yards which rose and dipped before clipping the post.

Ryan McStay had another close range opportunity for the home side four minutes later, as Sons piled the pressure on, and only a high, long-distance shot from the Blue Toon’s Ryan Strachan showed any real menace at the other end.

Then on 33 minutes Mark Gilhaney, who moments earlier had almost caught the Peterhead ‘keeper and defence off-guard with a teasing lob, got onto the end of a well crafted, determined attacking move and slotted the ball low past Bateman. 1-0 to Dumbarton.

Toon’s first real opportunity of the half came on 39 minutes, but was thwarted by a fine, diving save from Stephen Grindlay and then a decisive tackle by Ben Gordon to block the follow-through.

Instantly Dumbarton were back on the attack, and when Peterhead’s David Donald pulled down Sons’ Jordan Halsman just as he was about to shoot on goal, the referee had no choice but to pull out his red card.

Another angled shot from Pat Walker, going inches wide, marked both Sons’ overall dominance and the end of a busy half.

The ten-man Peterhead came out in determined mood for the second period, claiming some sustained possession for the first time in the match.

But Dumbarton resisted the pressure, and on 55 minutes broke again. Tormenting the visitors’ defence on the right, Mark Gilhaney deservedly claimed his second goal of the evening with a neatly taken shot, making it a comfortable 2-0 for Sons.

Things got even better on the hour, as Nicky Devlin went on a devastating run and Jon McShane found himself in the right place in the centre of the box to square the ball firmly past Bateman in the Peterhead goal. 3-0 to Dumbarton.

Sons kept pushing forward. At one point a 36-pass sequence, cheered wildly by the crowd, was brought to an end only by the offside flag.

On 68 minutes Derek Carcary replaced Jordan Halsman for Sons. Almost immediately McStay and Walker combined down the middle and almost added a fourth.

The Blue Toon responded with a double substitution, which included bringing off ex-Dumbarton striker Dennis Wyness - himself an earlier sub. But they still could not conjure up a fight back.

Sons’ Andy Geggan almost had another 'Goal of the Month' contender on 78 minutes, heading just over the bar from a long, looping 45-yard lob by McStay. Ben Gordon was denied when a powerful close range header was tipped over by Bateman moments later.

Ross Campbell replaced Walker on 82 minutes, followed by Iain Chisholm on for Devlin on 84 minutes. Campbell nearly added another goal for Sons before the end, but at the final whistle it remained 3-0 to Dumbarton.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Another victory at the Rock

This summary first appeared as Fine win for Sons against Peterhead on the  official DFC website.

Dumbarton resume another attack
Dumbarton continued their current fine run of form with a convincing 3-0 victory over Peterhead at SHS this evening - their second win over the Toon in four days.

A brace of goals from Mark Gilhaney either side of the break on 33 and 55 minutes, and another from Jon McShane on the hour, settled the outcome of a match dominated by a confident Sons side playing a fluid, passing game.

When Peterhead's David Donald pulled down Sons' Jordan Halsman just as he was about to shoot on goal late in the first half, the referee had no choice but to pull out his red card.

The ten-man Blue Toon looked as if they might push back at the beginning of the second period, but Sons reasserted themselves determinedly and could well have had several more goals.

Dumbarton 'keeper Stephen Grindlay, who made a vital stop tonight, also achieved a first clean sheet of the season.

Sonstrust praised by Trusts' group

Adapted from my article Praise for Sonstrust Campaign on the Sonstrust website.

Supporters Direct in Scotland has praised the membership and awareness-raising initiative launched by the Sonstrust at the Airdrie United game on 12 February 2011 – and says it hopes other Trusts will follow suit.

There was particular acknowledgment for the link between recruiting and involving fans in Dumbarton Football Club, and the current debate about the ‘reconstruction’ of Scottish football.

SD development officer James Proctor declared: “Strengthening individual Trusts and building the Trust movement in Scotland is really important at a time when big decisions are being made over the future of the game.

Henry McLeish’s report into Scottish football recommends the inclusion of fans in the decision making of the SFA and the SPL have recently started to engage with supporters’ trusts and Supporters Direct over their proposals for reorganisation of the leagues. Therefore having a democratic and Scotland-wide fans organisation is an important step in improving the game and ensuring fans are represented.

“The Sonstrust at Dumbarton have set a great example with their recruitment drive, which is emphasising the importance of being part of Supporters Direct, as well as encouraging community ownership and giving fans a bigger say. We hope others will be inspired by their initiative.”

Monday, 21 February 2011

In the SonsTV frame

This article first appeared as Gary’s SonsTV Eye Is Still On The Ball! on the Sonstrust website.

Gary on duty at Peterhead
SonsTV maestro Gary Black would be crossing his fingers for the home game against Peterhead tomorrow – if they hadn’t been mostly frozen off in the stand at Balmoor. Even so, he’s more than willing to give a warm welcome to new TV assistants!

Since the appeal for help with filming Dumbarton FC matches at the beginning of the month, Gary has had a couple of expressions of interest, which he’s following up. From the beginning of the season, Tommy Crocket has been helping with editing the footage for the SFL, too.

But there’s still a lot of work to be done – especially as the hope is that we can expand the role of TV and new media in the work of the Trust and the Club.

So… if you know senior school pupils, college or university students, or someone looking to get practical experience of the communications and media industry, please put them in touch.

“We’re not saying this will make you famous or get you an instant TV career,” says Gary. “But who knows, it might be a step towards bigger and brighter things – as well as being an interesting way to spend your Saturday afternoon.”

Good computing skills would be a definite advantage. Gloves can be provided!

Anyone offering help, or who knows someone it might be worth approaching, please email in the first instance.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Over the top and into the net

Congratulations to Dumbarton midfielder Andy Geggan, who has been nominated in the latest Scottish Football League 'Goal of the Month' competition, for his wonderful strike on 80 minutes against Alloa Athletic on 18 January 2011. It was the final twist of the track in a corner-turning 4-1 win for Sons. Whether it was a 35 yard or 40 yard lob is a moot point. My match report suggested the former. Watching the video, it looks to be nearer the latter. Either way, it was superbly judged. No doubt Andy will appreciate your votes. Here are the 'before' and 'after' photos.

Incidentally, Andy did the business against East Fife on another cold evening recently - adding the third in Dumbarton's 3-1 win at Methil. The announcer decided his name was 'Greggan', and Sons' fans responded with a lusty chant of, "There's only one Andy Greggan!"

Where Barca fear to tread?

In what may seem the unlikely (but not impossible) event of Leyton Orient beating Arsenal in the replay of their FA Cup Fifth Round tie at the Emirates stadium on 2 March 2011, their reward would be an away tie at Manchester United ten days later.

After today's remarkable home 1-1 draw against the Gunners, the Os fans were chanting, "We're better than Barcelona!" - referencing Arsenal's equally notable 2-1 midweek win against the Catalans in the European Champions League.

The merchandisers are on song too, I see -- with an eBay auction for a video of today's Brisbane Road encounter already up and running. Meanwhile, Orient goalscorer Jonathan Tehoue was not among the seven things the Gunners had been advised to watch out for in East London... a cunning ploy from Matt Simpson (author of Leyton Orient Greats) in the West Stand, no doubt.

Barry Glendenning also makes a good point about the future of the competition that has engineered this little piece of football magic, too: "Leyton Orient's players are as jubilant as you might expect and have just been joined by their chairman Barry Hearn, who looks beside himself with excitement. Hearn featured in the Observer this morning saying it would be crazy to do away with FA Cup replays, and those scenes are proof that further meddling in the format of the FA Cup just to please Premier League titans who can't be bothered to field full-strength teams to win matches first time out would be most unwelcome."

Speaking on Sky Sports News, Hearn says of today's result: "We can play a lot better than that... there's still a long way to go in this tie." He pays tribute to manager Russell Slade and says this is the best Orient team in sixteen years.

The money from the Cup tie will be used to fight the EPL, the Football League and West Ham over the Olympic Stadium issue, he says. "This is going to run longer than an Agatha Christie novel!"

Half way and more for the Os

The BBC's Chris Bevan reports at half-time: "So far, so good for Leyton Orient, who are halfway to a money-spinning replay at the Emirates. They have been out-passed but not outclassed by the Gunners and, for the most part, restricted Arsene Wenger's men to shots from range." The Telegraph's Thom Gibbs adds: "Fair play to Orient... for keeping this game so tight. Arsenal's tactic will surely be to pass their opponents into oblivion and deliver a killer blow when tiredness kicks in at around the 77 minute mark."

The Guardian's feed has rather more entertaining anecdotage, incidentally - including the biscuit saga and fashion news about well-paid commentators and summarisers slumming it in the East End of London. On the football front, Barry Glndenning reports: "Leyton Orient get the second half started and they've a fresh pair of legs on the team. Tom Carroll, who's at Brisbane Road on loan from Spurs comes in for Jason Crowe, who's been struggling with an ankle injury.

53mins: 1-0 Arsenal, courtesy of Tomas Rosicky. Orient are still trying though, and Jonathan Tehoue has added different options and energy up front. Some great stops from Os 'keeper Jamie Jones, too. Time to bring Spurs loanee Harry Kane off the bench, methinks (18.07). He's a goalscorer.

"The hosts appeal for a penalty, but the tide marks on Squillaci's face prove otherwise," says Sam Lyon.  Chris Bevan again: "For all Orient's energy and effort, Arsenal have bossed this game from the start. The League One side are looking tired now too - the pitch at Brisbane Road is the biggest in the Football League and chasing the ball for most of the game is taking its toll on the O's, who are running out of time and ideas."

Orient's Smith in action
And then, football being football, Orient equalise! Sam Lyon again: "Incredible! Orient, so adept at late comebacks this season, have done it again - and on the biggest stage of their season so far. Substitute Jonathan Tehoue is the hero, dancing between Kieran Gibbs and Ignasi Miguel and slamming a fierce low shot under Arsenal 'keeper Manuel Almunia's dive and home to send the home fans ballistic. Unbelievable."

18.24: FULL-TIME Leyton Orient 1-1 Arsenal. "What scenes at Brisbane Road. The players are lapping up the acclaim - of which there is more than enough to go around. The home fans are going postal and owner Barry Hearn, understandably, looks just about ready to implode. How sweet will the prospect of a replay taste?"

Big test for the Orient lads

Kevin Scully
In between other tasks, I'm keenly following the progress of Leyton Orient as they take on Arsenal at Brisbane Road in the FA Cup this afternoon. They are, you could say, my "London team".  I must have seen them a dozen or more times over the last few years, courtesy of the good man in the picture.

Anyway, concerns about the future of the Os in the light of West Ham's Olympic stadium bid can be put aside for a few hours today, as the Waltham Forest maestros hunt a bit of glory at the expense of Arsene Wenger's crowd-pleasing millionaires.

East end priest, writer and Leyton Orient season ticket holder, Kevin Scully, was (unusually for him) reduced to clichés in the lead up to his team's clash with the Premiership titans. Arsenal are 43 places above the League One side, who often play at home to crowds of fewer than five thousand.

"It will be a big test for the lads in the Cup of Dreams but, by all reports, they are up for it," he said. There is a good delegation coming from Bethnal Green, where Kevin - a good friend - is the Rector of St Matthew's Church. "The afternoon draw means that the supporters from the church can be in both holy places in one day," he added. "I will make sure I am in the appropriate dress for both venues."

Initial impressions are good. A driving 25-yard strike from O's Charlie Daniels on the quarter hour has been the best chance of the game so far. BBC Sport's Chris Beva declares : "Orient promised to get 'in Arsenal's faces' and they have definitely done that so far. The League One side are setting an incredible early tempo."

16.58: "Twenty-six minutes gone at Brisbane Road and Leyton Orient more than holding their own, despite conceding the great majority of possession. Exactly as home boss Russell Slade would have planned."

Fingers crossed. So to speak.

Sons heading up the table

About to kick-off in the second half
This article also appears as the match report on the official DFC website. 

On their second League visit of the season to Balmoor, Dumbarton cheered the vocal away support yesterday, beating Peterhead 2-1 with a workmanlike and occasionally inspired performance in tricky conditions.

With a swirling wind making conditions difficult for both teams, Peterhead  enjoyed much more of the possession for the opening period of the first half, but failed to capitalise on it.

However, Dumbarton looked more menacing in attack when they did break - with first Pat Walker and then Andy Geggan threatening the home side on the edge of the area.

On 25 minutes Sons pinned back the Blue Toons' defence after a corner floated in by Jordan Halsman. Ryan McStay latched onto the ball a few feet away from the line and turning neatly, slotted it home to open the scoring. 1-0 for Dumbarton.

Ten minutes later, after Peterhead started to press back, a well-worked move involving Pat Walker and Jon McShane created another opportunity for Andy Geggan, but he could not quite summon enough power behind his shot to trouble Toon 'keeper Jon Bateman.

Just before half-time Mark Gilhaney threaded Walker through once more, but Sons could not add to their tally.

In the second period both teams came out with clear attacking intent. However it was Peterhead who struck first, with Stuart Smith scrambling the ball past Stephen Grindlay after it was momentarily slowed down by a muddy patch in front of goal. 1-1.

Suddenly the Toon started to look much  sharper. But Dumbarton did not relent.  On 57 minutes Ryan McStay tried a 40 yard lob that almost deceived Bateman. Peterhead hit back straight away, and Sons' Ben Gordon had to time a last minute tackle very well to avoid further damage.

Though occasionally looking vulnerable to counterattacks, Dumbarton pushed hard to get in front again. Amidst a series of corners and half chances, Walker struck the upright on 70 minutes and then headed just over the bar from a driving Mark Gilhaney cross.

Finally, on 77 minutes, Jon McShane put Sons 2-1 in front with a sweetly struck winning shot,  driven low and hard into the corner of the Peterhead net.

The result extends Sons' unbeaten run to five games, four of them wins, and lifts the team to sixth place in the Irn Bru Second Division.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

A Scottish League, not a regional one

This article first appeared as Is 'regionalisation' dead? on the Sonstrust website. 

The future of Scottish football still depends on hints, rumours and second- or third-hand reports of meetings behind closed doors. But there is one bit of good news, apparently.

According to the BBC and Jim Spence, “[p]roposals to regionalise the lower divisions in the Scottish Football League are dead”, following the meeting on Thursday 17 February between the SPL, the SFL and the SFA.

Spence quotes one (anonymous) Third Division chair as saying: “Clubs want to play in a Scottish league, not a regional set up. The proposal has gone. It is dead in the water… We are in a consultation period just now with the SPL about their views for the game and we will canvas opinion to see whether there is interest in a pyramid system. But I’m not sure there is any real interest.”

Whether moves towards a pyramid – which many favour on its own terms – is straightforwardly co-terminus with regionalisation of what are now the Second and Third Divisions is a moot point, of course.

Equally, whether the rumour-mill is correct on the demise of the regionalisation proposal remains to be seen. It’s good if it is, but continuing pressure from supporters is necessary – not least because there appears to be much more ambivalence about the idea of SPL ‘colts’ being forced on the lower leagues.

Meanwhile, Sonstrust is pushing Supporters Direct to keep the pressure up. While we are driving forward with membership and publicity, little direct seems to have come out of SD since the gathering of Trusts in Falkirk a month ago (if you’ll pardon the pun!). But we hope to have more to report next week – and behind the scenes, the negotiation with the footballing authorities is ongoing.

Dead in the water?

This article appeared as Is ‘Regionalisation’ Dead? on the Sonstrust website.

The future of Scottish football still depends on hints, rumours and second- or third-hand reports of meetings behind closed doors. But there is one bit of good news, apparently.

According to the BBC and Jim Spence, “[p]roposals to regionalise the lower divisions in the Scottish Football League are dead”, following the meeting on Thursday 17 February between the SPL, the SFL and the SFA.

Spence quotes one (anonymous) Third Division chair as saying: “Clubs want to play in a Scottish league, not a regional set up. The proposal has gone. It is dead in the water… We are in a consultation period just now with the SPL about their views for the game and we will canvas opinion to see whether there is interest in a pyramid system. But I’m not sure there is any real interest.”

Whether moves towards a pyramid – which many favour on its own terms – is straightforwardly co-terminus with regionalisation of what are now the Second and Third Divisions is a moot point, of course.

Equally, whether the rumour-mill is correct on the demise of the regionalisation proposal remains to be seen. It’s good if it is, but continuing pressure from supporters is necessary – not least because there appears to be much more ambivalence about the idea of SPL ‘colts’ being forced on the lower leagues.

Meanwhile, Sonstrust is pushing Supporters Direct to keep the pressure up. While we are driving forward with membership and publicity, little direct seems to have come out of SD since the gathering of Trusts in Falkirk a month ago (if you’ll pardon the pun!). But we hope to have more to report soon – and behind the scenes, the negotiation with the footballing authorities is ongoing.

Dumbarton secure a vital win at Peterhead

Second half tussle at Balmoor
Another good, determined performance saw Dumbarton claim a crucial 2-1 win against Peterhead at a windy and wet Balmoor this afternoon.

After an initial period of possession by the Blue Toon, Sons pushed back and took the lead on 25 minutes, after Ryan McStay latched onto the ball in a goalmouth scramble following a corner floated in by Jordan Halmsan.

Peterhead looked determined and threatening following the break, and struck back when Stuart Smith forced the ball past Stephen Grindlay from close range.

But Sons did not give up. Though looking occasionally vulnerable to counter-attack, they pushed forward resolutely, created several chances and were rewarded when Jon McShane struck a firm, low drive into the bottom corner of the Peterhead net.

The result puts Dumbarton above Airdrie United in sixth place.

Whether the weather...

Driving winds, rain and a bit of snow on the way up to Peterhead from Edinburgh this morning. Ideal conditions for a quality football match! So here we are, enjoying the hospitality of the Blue Toons' social club, hoping that the game goes ahead and Dumbarton get the chance to move further off the bottom of the Second Division. Peterhead return to SHS on Tuesday night, so there are six big points at stake. Well, they're the same size as any other points, but it would make a huge difference if we could claim four, or preferably all, of them. Interim gaffer Alan Adamson commented: "At least now we are looking up the table and not behind us. The lads have been performing very well recently and the win at Fife was particularly pleasing."

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Still all to do for Arsenal

Well, it was quite a match. Not a classic in an 'all time' sense, maybe, but a game that had you constantly on the edge of your seat. In the English Premier League, Arsenal are a team who others often struggle to get near, playing a fluent and forward-thinking passing game, laced with moments of destructive dynamism.  At home to Barcelona in the Champions League, however, roles were reversed.

Barca dominated proceedings for large chunks of the game, taking the lead through David Villa on 26 minutes. The Gunners were tenacious, but even when they could get the ball (their opponents had 61% of play throughout) they struggled to find a way through. Then in an extraordinary spell in the second half, Arsene Wenger's men turned the game around, coming out 2-1 winners thanks to two pieces of considerable skill and creativity from Robin Van Persie and Andre Arshavin.

The response from the home fans was ecstatic. Recording a first-ever win over the Spanish/Catalan giants was like winning a cup final to them. Except that the Champions League final is still a good way away, and Barca remain firm favourites for the second leg at the Nou Camp. Tough but true. With an away goal in hand, they need only a single further one at home to go through. And with a pre-announced determination to attack remorselessly, it is difficult to see Pep Guardiola's team not getting at least one. That means Arsenal have to score. Their chances will lie in the space made available by Barcelona's need to regain the advantage.

Can the Gunners do it? If they do, will they be able to maintain the momentum beyond such a momentous achievement? There's all to play for on 8 March 2011.

Graphic courtesy and (c) of the Mirror

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The promise of a beautiful game

I try to ration my watching of 'billionaire football', but the Arsenal and Barcelona Champions League encounter this evening is simply unmissable. Da Vinci versus Rembrandt, Saussure versus Chomsky, or Bach versus Boulez comes to mind... different backgrounds, technically superb, and capable of extraordinary flights of imagination. Already (15 minutes in) it's thoroughly absorbing. Even when not much is happening, everything is happening - or could do, in a few explosive minutes. As I write, Lionel Messi very nearly breaks through to put the Catalans ahead. Not quite, thankfully. But they are claiming the majority of the possession.

As for Arsene Wenger's men: well, they may be English Premier League 'big four', and therefore antithetical to my moral and sporting interests in the larger realm of football, but they do play a beautiful game. The passionate and articulate Frenchman has also refused pressure to splash ridiculous cash, has defied calls to temper flair with deadening efficiency, and has nurtured some extraordinary young players. I'd love to see an upset tonight. But Barca are, without doubt, the finest club side on the planet, with Messi and Andrés Iniesta Luján their magicians-in-chief. Glorious to watch, even if they're not Dumbarton.

Crucial win, convincing performance

This article also appears as the match report on the official DFC website.

Sons maintain the pressure
Dumbarton have claimed another crucial midweek victory - this time beating East Fife 3-1 at Methil, with goals from Walker, Gilhaney and Geggan.

Sons looked uncertain in the opening few minutes, as East Fife took advantage of the windy conditions and two inswinging balls almost deceived the backtracking Dumbarton defence.

The home side enjoyed more of the possession for the first quarter of an hour. But then on 17 minutes Pat Walker helped to engineer a crafty move down the right for Sons, before moving into space himself and striking the ball high and wide of Fifers' keeper Michael Brown.

Seven minutes later it was another sweeping Walker cross from the left that set an unmarked Mark Gilhaney free through the centre. He controlled the ball well and took his time to place it firmly into the bottom corner of the net. 2-0 to Dumbarton.

Then close to half time, just when Sons looked well on top, East Fife drove forward again, and debutant Matthew Park turned smartly to twist the ball past Stephen Grindlay and pull the game back to 2-1.

The Fifers began the second half seeking to continue where they left off, but it was Sons who struck again on 54 minutes. Andy Geggan latched on to a Walker pass threaded through a packed area to make it 3-1.

The visitors did not sit back. Displaying some assured, flowing football, Dumbarton sought to press their advantage home. Jon McShane came closest to adding to the score with a fine strike from the edge of the area.

Derek Carcary came on for the industrious Pat Walker with a little over ten minutes to go, and was soon involved in the action up front. But East Fife had not given up. When they gained a penalty it looked as if they were back in the game. But Grindlay pulled off a brilliantly athletic save.

The 3-1 win means that Dumbarton have moved into 7th place in the Second Division and have gained 10 points from the last 12.

Get the message...

Slightly shaky hand-held from the Sonstrust
PowerPoint presentation.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Sons' Methil elated spirit

This article first appeared as Sons win at Methil on the official DFC website. 

Dumbarton go for goal again
Dumbarton claimed a fine 3-1 win over East Fife at Methil this evening, secured by goals from Pat Walker, Mark Gilhaney and Andy Geggan either side of the break.

After a shaky start, Sons looked to be in control of the game and soon found themselves two in front – only for the Fifers to get a goal back through Matthew Park just before half time.

In the second half Dumbarton continued to play an assured passing game much of the time. But East Fife refused to roll over, and when they won a penalty late in the second half it looked as if the home side might get back into the match.

However a superb diving spotkick save from Robert Linn by Sons 'keeper Stephen Grindlay effectively ended the threat, and moved Dumbarton up to 7th in the league table.

More members for the Sonstrust

The Sonstrust team launch the promo campaign
A big ‘thank you’ from the Sonstrust Board to everyone who helped with the recruitment / information drive at the game against Airdrie United on Saturday. It was a definite success – but we have more to do.

The bottom line is that we got another 9 members and 2 renewals – adding 3% to our existing record total of around 313. There are almost certainly more people out there who have yet to sign up (including friends and relatives), and our aim is to secure their membership over the next two Saturday home games on 5 and 19 March.

At those games we’ll have info leaflets on what the Sonstrust has achieved and what aspirations we have for the future.

This is about building a bigger Trust, but it’s also about raising awareness of why it’s important, engaging with people, and explaining how being part of the larger Supporters Direct movement is crucial to ensure that fans can make an effective noise about the future of our clubs and the game we love.

Meantime, thanks to membership secretary Tommy Hughes and the team of leaflet-distribution volunteers (remembering that Tommy does the really hard, ongoing work of enrolling and registering people!), to Gary Black for the leaflet design, to Leith Print & Copy, and to Donald Fullarton for the photos.

Over the next week or so there will be more publicity going on. Sons bloggers, like ‘Son of the Rock’ Jack Deighton are getting involved, and we have three Facebook pages on the case.

It was a real pity Sons just missed out on three points against the Diamonds. But what with this recruitment initiative and the hard work of commercial director Alan Findlay and others in making ‘Ladies Day’ a success, it was a pretty good day for the Trust!

Picture: LtoR - David Powell, Tommy Hughes (membership sec), Simon Barrow (campaigns), and Brian Payne (chair). 

Monday, 14 February 2011

Last minute hitch for Dumbarton

This article first appeared as the match report on the official DFC website. 

Airdrie Utd pressurise Sons
Dumbarton claimed only one point instead of three against a hesitant Airdrie United at SHS. Having led 1-0 for 87 minutes of the game, Sons conceded an equaliser in virtually the last minute of match, as a result of lax defending.

Interim manager Alan Adamson said: "We have thrown away two points. It was not a good game but we needed to see it through and didn't do that. It has happened so many times to us this season - we have lost late goals and can't see games out. I don't think Airdrie had a clearcut chance apart from the equaliser."

The game got off to the best possible start on 3 minutes, when the home side took the lead after Jon McShane forced a deft forward flick through the grasp of Diamonds 'keeper Mark Ridgers and across the line.

Both sides struggled to gain control of the game for much of the first half, creating few real chances. On 25 minutes Sons came close to profiting from a goalmouth scramble, being denied a strong handball claim in the process.

Moments later McShane dipped the ball over the floundering away defence with a diving shot, but it ended up safely in the Airdrie united goalkeeper's arms.

A close shave at the other end gave way to a sustained period of Dumbarton pressure and two well-crafted corners. Only the visitors' numbers and some last ditch defending kept the Sons out.

Shortly before half time the Diamonds surged forward themselves, but Dumbarton held out to maintain their 1-0 lead into the break.

The second half started in a scrappy fashion, with a series of niggling fouls and unforced errors interrupting the flow of the game.

Sons' Paul Nugent went on a darting, twisting run on 62 minutes, just as the match looked as if it had reached stalemate. His finish could not live up to the quality of the move, but as Airdrie countered, the number 5 backtracked swiftly to supply a crucial defensive tackle.

A superb long through ball from youngster Jordan Halsman almost enabled Pat Walker, who frequently looked threatening up front, to manoeuvre past Ridgers on 70 minutes. But the Diamonds' 'keeper just managed to get his foot on the ball to put it safely into touch.

Mark Gilhaney also flashed a shot narrowly past the Airdrie United post, as Dumbarton tried to reassert themselves. Shortly afterwards, Sons 'keeper Stephen Grindlay used his feet to avert a threat on goal with a well-timed diving challenge.

Ross Campbell and Derek Carcary were brought on for Pat Walker and Jon McShane as the match drew to a close, with Carcary bursting through seconds after his arrival on the pitch, but then hitting the ball well over.

However, disaster struck right at the close, when Airdrie substitute Scott Morton moved swiftly through the centre of the Dumbarton defence and taking advantage of a momentary defensive hesitation to bag an equaliser.

The I-1 draw means that Sons slip from eighth to ninth place in the Second Division, while gaining a valuable point on Stenhousemuir and Peterhead, who both lost.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Disappointment, but still a point

First published as Sons miss out on another win on the official DFC website.

Dumbarton claimed another precious point in a low key 1-1 draw against Airdrie United at SHS this afternoon, but will be desperately disappointed not to have gone away with a win, having led for 87 minutes of the game.

Jon McShane gave provided the home team with the best possible start three minutes into the match, forcing a deft flick forward past Diamonds' goalkeeper Mark Ridgers and over the line.

Pat Walker, Mark Gilhaney and McShane came close again for Sons either side of the break. But both teams failed to impose their authority on what was often a scrappy encounter, and Dumbarton failed to translate their overall superiority and flashes of inspiration into a commanding lead.

Airdrie United substitute Scott Morton took away what looked to be a secure, if not always comfortable, three points for Sons – capitalising on defensive hesitation in the last minute of the game to squeeze the equaliser.

Onward and upwards for the Sons

First published in Sons View, 12 February 2011, Dumbarton -v- Airdrie United. Double issue, also Peterhead, 22 Februry 2011.

Like a good number of Dumbarton fans, I suspect, I found myself constantly going back to look at the SFL Second Division league table last weekend – just to check that the Sons had, indeed, risen to the lofty heights of eighth place. It’s amazing the difference two games can make. Specifically, lifting you out of bottom place.

Of course there’s no room for complacency. A couple of sunny days don’t make a summer, and both East Fife and Stenhousemuir still hold games in hand over us. But the really encouraging thing about our recent away matches against Airdrie United and Alloa Athletic was not just the results, but also the highly creditable performances, and the evident determination among the players and coaching staff to turn this season around for Dumbarton.

There might well have been a certain sense of unease among the travelling support on the journey to Clackmannanshire on 5th February. After all, the Wasps were smarting from their 4-1 drubbing at the Strathclyde Homes Stadium just two-and-a-half weeks earlier, and manager Allan Maitland had talked ominously about “revenge in the air”.

In that spirit, Alloa came out of their starting blocks with speed and enthusiasm. But, tellingly, Sons did not flinch. They moved the ball around and pushed back. Goals either side of half-time looked to have provided the winning edge. Then what seemed like imminent disaster struck. In a few short minutes, the home side drew level and then threatened to snatch all three points.

It was at that juncture, and in the midst of those nerve-wracking final few minutes following Ryan McStay’s third, decisive goal for Dumbarton, that our young team showed their growing character. They dug in, fought back and held out, when others might have buckled.

Both anecdotal and statistical evidence suggests that when there is a sudden change of fortune in a game of football, the blow to the morale of those who have had their lead overturned can combine with the momentum gained by their opponents to make a complete reversal – rather than a draw or a successful fight back – the more likely outcome.

Thankfully that didn’t happen. The Sons refused to panic, avoided sitting too far back, and didn’t give up chasing, harrying and looking for gaps and opportunities to reclaim the advantage. Such boldness was rewarded with a 3-2 victory. The same spirit was needed to hold out after a late home penalty at the Excelsior Stadium earlier in the week, with Dumbarton again running out winners, this time 2-1.

Both these matches turned out to be fine adverts for second division football in Scotland, too. They were played with flair, pace and passion. Hopefully this re-match with Airdrie United at SHS and the game at the Rock against Peterhead (following on from a long midweek trip to Balmoor) will prove equally entertaining, as well as providing further evidence of Sons’ resurgence.

What’s clear now is that the continuing turnaround we seek will have to be built without significant in-season resculpting of the squad. While Alloa, for example, brought in three players late in the transfer window, Sons – lacking the funds – were only able to add one further loanee. Mind you, the signings completed since the beginning of January have already played a highly significant role in moving things forward for the team. In particular, Jordan Halsman from Motherwell has looked confident and creative, while Pat Walker and Mark Gilhaney are proving a handful for defences in this league, combining with an imposing, restored Jon McShane.

Consistency and confidence is the key for Dumbarton’s further progress now. The busy schedule of midweek and weekend matches produced by the winter hiatus seems to have acted as a spur rather than a burden. It’s also noticeable that we have done proportionately better on artificial surfaces. Still not to everyone’s taste, they nevertheless provide the kind of consistent surface that benefits a passing game. That’s certainly what Sons displayed at Recreation Park and ‘New Broomfield’, moving the ball around with deliberation and assurance.

This Saturday and on 22 February it’s back to business on grass at SHS, however. Away from home, a couple of important ‘ducks’ have already been broken – the first outfield goals on the road this term (five of them in two matches), and the first consecutive victories. Back in October, Dumbarton lost to both the Diamonds and the Blue Toon in succeeding weeks. But that was then, and this is now. And ‘now’ is surely the time to make the Rock live up to its name. Onwards and, hopefully, upwards for the Sons!

Plastic fantastic?

Well, it's back to grass and the welcoming home turf of the Strathclyde Homes Stadium for Dumbarton today, after outings on the 3/4g artificial surfaces at Airdrie United and Alloa Athletic. I couldn't swear whether they're 3rd or 4th generation, by the way, but I'm told that for the kind of usage they might receive in the Scottish Second Division, you get about 100, 000 hours of 'regular surface contact' for around £350,000 capital outlay. That's probably around ten years of active life, so the economics determines that in addition to routine maintenance, you need to put aside £35,000 a year towards replacement. That's a lot for clubs at this level.

Like many hardened football supporters of "a certain age", I have an instinctive reaction against "plastic pitches", as we dismissively call them. There's romance as well as soil nurturing those natural, chlorophyll-formed blades of grass. Also, the early generations of artificial sporting surface were truly dreadful -- leaving skin burns, producing weird bounces of the ball, and coping rather badly with climatic change (which is supposed to be one of their chief advantages).

The 3G and 4G versions have their critics, too. But the matches I've witnessed on them have been fine - indeed, better than fine. When they're on song, Dumbarton seek to play a fluid, passing game. And these surfaces are well suited to that. Also, at Alloa last week, they managed to get training, a community event and several kid's games in before the 3pm kick-off. Half-time entertainments like penalty shoot-outs and the 'crossbar challenge' are straightforward, too. That doesn't happen at SHS.

Don't worry, I'm not advocating ripping up our (very well maintained) real turf and laying plastic any time soon. But I agree with Aberdeen manager Craig Brown that it would be a fine aspiration for every town to have such a surface, and as the technology-cost ration improves, more clubs may well head in that direction.

As for football romance versus sporting science? For many younger people, it's a pragmatic issue, frankly.

[Picture (c) and courtesy of Kestel Contractors]

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The Sonstrust membership form can be found here

Two fine performances... more, please

Time runs out on a storming game at Alloa
Tomorrow's game against Airdrie United is going to be another big challenge for Dumbarton's young team. With consecutive victories for the first time this season, two fine performances, and escape from the foot of the Second Division table, expectations are running high(er). Three in a row will be tough. The Diamonds will be out to seek revenge for their defeat at the Excelsior on 1 February. But it's still "one game at a time" from a training ground perspective.

The most encouraging thing for me is not just that we've won a couple of games (though that works wonders for personal and group morale!), but that both the last Airdrie game and the match last week at Alloa were a real credit to football at this level. On the way to Recreation Park last week, I found myself walking the last lap from the station to the ground with a bunch of (mainly female) Wasps supporters. They were not 'football regulars', and were mainly there to watch their friend, Kevin Motion, who is playing for Alloa after being released at the end of January by Stenhousemuir. We had a good josh, and I left them with a cheery acclamation, followed by "Enjoy the game - even though you're going to lose!"  I believed that even less than they did, I think. But I was happily wrong in my inward pessimism.

As it happens, Kevin Motion played well and got a goal just after the hour. So that gave my Alloa friends something (though not too much) to cheer, I hope! Above all, though, they witnessed a really good, engaging, to-and-fro game of football -- which is definitely what occasional fans need, if we are going to get them coming along on a more regular basis. As we must.

Friday, 11 February 2011

In the fans, we Trust

This article first appeared as Sonstrust thinks big on the official DFC website.

At the game against Airdrie United on 12 February, the Sonstrust will be launching a drive to increase membership, awareness and involvement yet further.

The Trust, which is part of the Supporters Direct movement, already has a record 300+ members - but wants more on board.

"Joining the Sonstrust, and getting more friends and family to do so, is the key way to ensure a positive, forward-looking relationship between supporters and Dumbarton FC," says commercial director (and Trust rep) Alan Findlay.

He adds: "With key decisions coming up about the future of the game in Scotland, it is also vital that the fans have their say - and the Trust movement is the best mechanism for that at the moment. We're thinking big!"

As the initiative moves forward, Sonstrust will be putting out more publicity about their achievements, their ambitions, and the need to encourage genuine community stakeholding in the game.

Pick up a leaflet at the Stadium, or join online, and get others to do so. There's more about the campaign here.

It's a ref's life

On the way to watch Dumbarton triumph over Alloa Athletic last weekend, I bumped into David Brownlie on the train. (It's a rather strange route from Edinburgh. You have to travel via Stirling. But it's still a while lot easier to reach since they opened the station at Alloa a couple of years ago).

Anyway, David goes to watch the Sons fairly often these days, but in the past he was a professional referee. So that's where the conversation drifted. Many years ago, when I realised that I had no chance whatsoever of playing the game I love at any significant level, the thought of refereeing occurred to me. But other possibilities and priorities submerged the idea. Watching the game these days and listening to the reactions around me, I'm rather glad.

Almost every decision that doesn't go 'our' way (whoever 'we' happens to be) tends to get grumbled about at best, or greeted with a volley of abusive accusations of partisanship, at worst. Just as kids are forced into adulthood too soon in the hothouse climate of children's and youth football (egged on by parents "living the dream"), so it seems that we adults are often pushed back into regressive childhood assumptions that anything that goes wrong in life is a personal insult, a conspiracy or the fault of the rule-keepers.

Debates about the laws of the game, training and technology rage on. But the basic issue is that the men and women in the middle have a relatively thankless and ill-remunerated task. Even so, they do their best, work hard to improve, and make the game possible. I might not always like their decisions, but I'm grateful.

What about Orient?

House of dreams or nightmares?
While the vast majority of media coverage concerning the Olympic Stadium bid in East London revolved around "will it be West Ham or will it be Spurs?" (it was, to no-one's great surprise, the Hammers), the real rub is going to be felt by Leyton Orient - who I go to see with friends when I am in the London area, and not otherwise occupied with Dumbarton. They are just down the road from the news stadium, and their supporter and financial base could be hit very badly indeed.

Matt Porter, chief executive of the Os, reacted quickly after the announcement earlier today, which I was watching on Sky Sports News. He declared: “We now have to consider whether our future is viable at Brisbane Road so close to a substantially larger club. What we will do is assess the position, but our lawyers believe we have a very good case for a judicial review. However, we aren’t going to rush into anything. We made our position very clear that the decision to give it to West Ham or Tottenham would not have been satisfactory. We weren’t surprised by the decision. But there’s no point being disappointed, it’s the reality for us now so we have to deal with it.”

Some of the background is sketched by Dave Hill on his Guardian sportblog. (There's also a great YouTube link to a historic clip of Orient's 3-2 win over Chelsea in the 1972 FA Cup). A couple of days ago he wrote: What's going to happen next? O's chairman Barry Hearn is pondering his own options for moving grounds. He recently told the BBC that he'd be interested in moving the club to the Olympic hockey stadium if it become available. Tom Davies of the Leyton Orient Fans Trust reported on notions of migrating Orient towards Essex which would, after all, only be following in the tracks of many of its supporters. Hearn is also casting a litigious eye over the football authorities' rule books. The club recently issued a statement claiming that both the Premier League and the Football League would be in breach of their own regulations if they sanctioned the move of another club to the Olympic bowl."

All on board the Sonstrust!

A number of us have been busy over the past week getting ready for the Sonstrust membership and awareness promotional drive - linked to the obvious need to build the supporters' movement and get the voice of fans much more prominently heard in the current debate about the future of the game in Scotland. At the moment it is TV execs, the Old Firm and a small coterie within the SPL who are driving the agenda.

Anyway, there will be leaflets seeking 'A Tenner To Help Save Scottish Football' at the Dumbarton versus Airdrie United game on Saturday, and then follow-up events at the next two home games. We also plan to generate some publicity, energy and awareness about what the Trust does.

For those who don't know, Sonstrust is a provident (cooperative) society, and a kind of 'fans union'. It has a financial stake in the club, a director (who also runs the commercial side at DFC), puts on social events, has refurbed the Supporters' Bar, sponsored matches and a Youth Development scheme, set up a Dumbarton community initiatives fund ... and much, much more. It's amazing what fans can do when they get together.

Perhaps the biggest challenge, though, is being part of the Supporters Direct campaign over 'league reconstruction'' and other changes currently being mooted in the corridors of power about the future of the Scottish game. Ensuring that smaller clubs, supporters and communities are at the heart of these changes - rather than being "done to" from on high and expected to put up with whatever is foisted on them - is what it's all about. Not an easy call, but SD are getting their act together, and strengthening the Trust movement is vital to ensure the common voice is strong.