Monday 28 October 2013

There was a young man from Limerick (Aka Stuart Taylor) Part 3

On Friday Stuart Taylor's Limerick played their last game of the Irish season away to Derry City needing a win plus Cork City to lose to secure 6th place. Limerick went into the game having taken 13 points from a possible 18 in their previous 6 games and must have been optimistic. This was the conclusion to Stuarts' first season as a full time manager and Limericks' first season back in the Irish top flight for 19 years.

Limerick with a similar emphasis on youth to Accies fielded a team averaging 20.5 years, half of them teenagers against a Derry City team considerably older and experienced. Trailing a goal to nil at half time, unfortunately the flood gates opened in the second half and Limerick ended up on the end of a 6 - 0 drubbing bringing the curtain down on what otherwise might be described as a successful season.

Stuart took up his position in January this year giving him just less than half the Irish close season to get to know his club and players so securing a seventh slot after so many years out of the top league and doing it with a young squad must be regarded as a positive story. Not surprising that already his name has been linked with vacancies in Scotland even if  it was rivals Airdrieonians!

Quoted on the official Limerick site, Stuart has already begun planning for the new season. "We're a club that is always looking ahead and always looking to progress," he said "We're in negotiations with the players that we want to keep at the club. We have one player tied up from outside .... and we have another couple that we have been talking to.." I hope to get back over next season to see how things are developing and if his team progresses I expect Stuart to be gracing our touchlines or possibly even the english leagues.

Thursday 24 October 2013

Taking a child to the game

I have step children who were both committed Celtic fans before I had a chance to influence them. I took my stepson to an Accies game when he was 12, he was bored, and he never came back. I've seen plenty of youngsters bored at games, dragged along by parents either desperate to plant the seeds of lifelong loyalty or forced by childcare necessity to involve the kids in the parent's interest. So I thought long and hard about how to introduce my son to Accies.

My son's five. He considers himself an Accies fan: he's got a season ticket, a scarf, and he asks about the score. (As an aside, he doesn't have a replica kit - when is the shop going to be stocked with his size in home kit?) But he doesn't understand the rules of football, and he doesn't have the attention span to stick with a game on the telly, far less 90 minutes of live football.

I thought long and hard about how to introduce him to Accies. I swore I would refuse to take him until he was desperate to come, rather than risk losing him to boredom. But childcare necessity, my soft-heartedness, and the club's generous free season ticket offer intervened.

He got his first (free) season ticket last year, and on Saturday will use this year's book for the first time, in what will only be his fourth Accies game. I'm hoping to break his record of staying just past 60 minutes, but I don't expect to see the end of the game - which is a pity, because I doubt Saturday's game at home to Falkirk will be decided until the last half hour, perhaps the last fifteen minutes or less.

I wonder how others deal with this dilemma? I know some bring bagfuls of toys, and bribe the kids with crisps, sweets and soft drinks. I know it helps to move around a bit - visits to the toilet, the kiosk, changing seats at half time, etc. But my challenge is to engage him more with the game itself, pointing out features we all take for granted, explaining what's going on, justifying the rules, and so forth.

I'm hoping for plenty of goals and excitement - not things I typically expect from our encounters with Falkirk. It's more likely to be a bruising, perhaps bad-tempered encounter, decided by a goal or two, with hopefully Accies emerging on top. Will my bairn appreciate the bairns?

Wednesday 23 October 2013

SPFL u20 League Accies 0 - Kilmarnock 1

The next under 20's league game came around quicker than expected with a rearranged game against Kilmarnock at New Douglas Park on Tuesday night. No European football for me on the telly instead the silky skills of the young Accies stars and their Kille counterparts.

Unfortunately I arrived too late to get a team sheet and the Accies twitter site is currently devoid of any information so I was flying blind when it comes to players details. This is a game that for large periods Accies dominated earning a series of corners and hitting the woodwork at least three times but somehow managed to lose 0 - 1 and in consequence of results elsewhere surrendered their lead in the Under 20 league.

Accies kicked off playing towards the Spice of Life stand and for the first 15 minutes or so this was a fairly equal game although Accies had a chance as early as 7 minutes when a cross from the right was well struck by Accies no 10 but hit the right hand post. Accies took a grip of the game and had a series of corner kicks none of which delivered an early goal. In the 30th minute another well struck Accies shot from outside the right hand side of the Kille box appeared to hit the crossbar. It was only in the closing minutes that Kille had their first real chance. From  a corner one of their players headed the ball down for an easy save by the Accies keeper. From the kick off the ball fell to Killie again and the keeper made another good save however the ball again fell to a Kille player who seemed to have an open goal in front of him. He appeared to think he had all the time in the world to score and fortunately the ball was cleared by Accies. So at half time, despite Accies having four corners to Killie's one and two hits off the woodwork,  the teams went in 0 - 0.

The second half was more of the same. On 53 minutes Accies got a corner but the Kille goalie got down well to palm the ball past the post for a second corner from which Accies struck the ball over the bar. In 59 minutes yet another corner for Accies saw a headed ball hit off the bar and over. Both teams made a substitution in 71 minutes and shortly afterwards Kille got the winning goal. A well struck volley by Killie's number 8 ended up in the top right hand corner of the Accies net. In 85 minutes  an Accies throw in was headed down in the box and the Accies players claimed it came off a Killie arm but the referee wasn't interested and apart from a late Killie corner the game was over.  Disappointingly, with Inverness winning 1 -0 against St Mirren, Accies are now sitting behind Inverness in the Under 20 league although with a  game in hand. Ominously Celtic, whose under 20 team were thrashing Ajax 4 - 1, are in third but with a game in hand on Accies and two on Inverness.

Sitting in the stand with Ronnie and Les was Allan Maitland. Will he end up at Airdrieonians? I suspect not but lets wait and see.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

SPFL u20 League Accies 1 - Partick 1

I took in my first under 20's game of the season last night at New Douglas Park when top of the league Hamilton entertained Partick Thistle. Kicking off at 6pm,  allowing us all to see the Scotland game afterwards, it was good to see both Ronnie and Les at the game with Alex and Frankie in the dug out. This was a strong Hamilton team with Longridge, Tena and McShane all with considerable first team experience with us or elsewhere featuring. Both teams were evenly matched throughout and the final 1 - 1 scoreline reflects this. 0 - 0 at half time I was glad to see that one of the kiosks was open for refreshments as it certainly wasn't warm.

The second half was as before with both sides having their fair share of possession. However Accies opened the scoring in 71 minutes when Scott McMann scored direct from a corner kick, the ball appearing to go right through the opposition keeper's hands. Accies didn't keep the lead for long. Three minutes later Chis Duggan struck  a volley past Blair Currie that he couldn't have stopped. That was all the goal excitement and while we dropped points and our nearest rival Inverness and Celtic both won, Thistle 3 - 2 over Hibs and Celtic 2 - 1 over Ross County, Accies remain top of the Under 20 league on 17 points the same as Inverness and Celtic but ahead on goals difference.

The full updated table is available at

With Stephen Hendrie again featuring for the Scottish under 19's in a 1 - 1 draw with Germany last night, a result that gives them a place in the Uefa European Championship elite round, this is a great time to be following the Accies youngsters. The next home game is not until the 12th of November against Dunfermline but I would encourage all Accies fans to come along and get a taste of the next generation of Accies and Scotland stars!

The Accies starting line up was Currie, Finnie, McMann, El-Zubaidi,Tena, Watson, Mcgrath, Longridge, Mcshane, Brophy and Docherty. Subs for Accies were Armstrong, Harrison, Smith, Quinn, Granger, Hughes and Law.

Sunday 13 October 2013

Raith Rovers - past times

Just as with popular music and hair styles, one's taste in football strips doesn't appear to move on  much after the mid twenties arrive. For example,  Dunfermline will be forever associated by me with the black pinstripe design on a white background which they wore when they won the Scottish Cup in 1968, and when they dumped Everton and West Brom out of the Cup Winners Cup.

And if I want a laugh, I merely have to picture the Ajax strip ( yes Ajax ! ) Hearts deported when they lost 7-0 at home to Hibs. However such nostalgic hankering most emphatically does not apply to the strip worn by this week's opponents Raith Rovers in the late 1960s. which  was a white top with two horizontal hoops, the dignity and gravitas of which has been captured perfectly by the David Bedford lookalikes in the recent 118 adverts. Quite deservedly they shipped ten goals at Ibrox in that strip although, unlike when we lost 10-0 at Parkhead, they did at least manage to score a couple themselves. (incidentally our Billy Lamont's place as top rated footballer in the Daily Express was unaffected by this setback !)

I also suffered my own personal setback at a Rovers game. Readers might not know this, but  before it was flattened in 1978,  the the terracing at the Clydesdale Street end rose to a fairly substantial height near the main ( and only) stand. This explains why so many were able to cram in - officially and unofficially, at the Montrose cup tie. When I say terracing, a more accurate description would be grass, foliage,  and wilderness - all patrolled by legendary Accies steward, big Jim Burke

But it was a fantastic place as a youngster to mess around and play during  frequent boring interludes on the pitch. Anyway on this occasion I decided to commemorate a 3-1 defat by Rovers ( such defeats were routine in those days) by swinging on a broken crush barrier, falling over, crashing against it and almost breaking my nose. No-one found it in the least offputting that the barrier had been broken for, well, years without attracting any interest whatsoever, health and safety regimes lay many years ahead, and the general consensus was  that I had got (firstly) exactly what I deserved, and (secondly) a very useful lesson for the future about self preservation.

A more favourable recollection was my introduction to national media, which occurred when I was pictured on the front cover of The Accies Matchday Magazine, celebrating Big Neilly's goal in the 3-3 draw with Rovers in November 1972. Such an accolade was not to be sniffed at as Tom Marchbank and Alan Dick had revolutionised the Accies programme, which now not only had photos ,but a different one on each cover - just like the papers !

Incidentally, up until then the Accies programme had enjoyed a variety of contributors, each with their own individual style - biblical, in the case of Charlie Bent who reported that after Tommy Cogill's  goal at Clydebank, "the fans rejoiced and sang his praises "!

The return game in March 1973 was a less happy occasion, as our long unbeaten run came to an end with a 2-0 reverse.  Alan D, being even then  a guardian of sporting fair play ,was less than happy with the circumstances of our defeat and the "simulation" of the Raith, and future Hearts winger, Malcolm Robertson. Alan duly referred to Malcolm's "Oscar winning performance " in the next edition of the Accies MDM, and you all know what happened  next......... albeit on this occasion only a censure by the big wigs at the SFA.

There's plenty more to follow as we're not yet into the last 30 years, but that'll do for just now !

Thursday 10 October 2013

Morton- past times

Unlike the old firm, Morton have faced Chelsea in European competition, back in 1968, in the Fairs Cities Cup, which was won that year by Newcastle, following a riotous semi final against Rangers. Chelsea had won the first leg 5-0 at Stamford Bridge, but still picked a strong line up for the return tie at Cappielow, which they won 4-3.

Their team included Bonetti, Harris, Webb, Hollins, Tambling, Osgood etc -  as well as a first ever selection of Alan Hudson as substitute. What the Kings Road superstars made of the Cappielow facilities is anyone's guess, unlike my own friends' opinions which have required not clarification but censorship.

I have to own up to a fondness for Cappielow, based partly on nascent luddite tendencies, and also  the fact that we hardly ever lose there. I remember bribing a woman to go to our 2-2 draw in January 2004. Primitive plumbing facilities required the toilets to be positioned beside the catering stalls, - you can imagine what happened next, and I recall Accies fans eying impassively the amber torrent flowing past the tea bar as they queued for their half time refreshments. I am still reminded of this by my companion, and not with any feelings of nostalgia either.

But Cappielow is a true old fashioned venue, with seats into which you have to be shoehorned, and a bar  on the corner of the ground which literally will  leave you rooted to the spot. I first went there in 1976, when we won 2-0, and our results have stood up pretty well ever since. Most supporters will recall another 2-0 win, in August 2007, when in Eric Morecambe style, Billy played all the right players, but not necessarily in the right order. If I remember correctly David Elebert was at right back, and Tom Parratt pushed into midfield.

Our return fixture later that year attracted controversy when Marko correctly overruled the referee's decision, and chalked off a Morton equaliser for a handling offence. Marko's decision  caused apoplexy among Morton supporters on a well known website, and for many years after this they appeared to harbour a fair amount of hatred for the big man, right up until he left us and joined ........Morton.

Finally, to Love Street and the venue for our B and Q Cup final victory in 1992. Opponents Morton included in their side current Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes,  but were unable to prevent Accies from retaining the cup with a 3-2 win, which included a rare goal from Chris Hillcoat.

To the surprise of most observers, Morton  have spent most of this season around the foot of the league table, and are currently stuck there in best Norseman style. However  they were the first visiting team to leave Parkhead with a victory this term, a feat from which Barcelona no doubt drew inspiration, albeit unlike Morton they didn't have to do it against 11 men. So a victory this Saturday cannot be taken for granted but is certainly achievable, even in the absence of Scotland pick, Stephen Hendrie

Wednesday 9 October 2013

The romance of the cup

I disagree with those who talk about cup competitions as "distractions" from the main business of the league.

I have seen Accies win the championship or title of the second tier in senior Scottish football three times in my life, and will no doubt see it again - who knows, perhaps as soon as this season? However, I have never seen us in the final of the Scottish Cup or the Scottish League Cup - nobody has seen us in the latter, as we have never made it that far, and to remember the former, you have to have been following Accies nearly 80 years ago.

I have seen us lose heavily to Dundee United at East End Park in the semi-final of the League Cup, and attended two out of three of our Scottish Cup quarter finals under Billy Reid, including the ill-fated replay at Dens Park in 2007 (the one I missed I saw on TV, as it was broadcast live from Ibrox).

My remaining ambition as an Accies fan is to see us contest a final at Hampden, and every year I travel in hope.

This year the Scottish Cup journey begins at Palmerston Park, Dumfries, as we have been drawn away to Queen of the South in the third round of the William Hill Scottish Cup, on Saturday 2 November.  The stumble on the last day of last season has cost us, as finishing third or fourth in last season's SFL 1 would have ensured we missed this round and joined in the fourth round; our loss to Cowdenbeath meant we dropped to fifth and thus entered the draw a round earlier than we have done for ten years.

So it's that wee bit tougher this season.  We have three league games to negotiate before then, including crucial home ties versus our closest competitors, Raith Rovers and Falkirk. But I'm looking forward to another cup campaign with relish.  Maybe this year...

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Livingston - past times

I have to confess to amnesia about most previous matches against Livingston, and their myriad of predecessors.

Having commented in the last article about hard hit shots, I omitted to mention Rory Boulding's last minute equaliser for Livingston at NDP in August 2011,when he fairly leathered the ball into the Spice of Life stand goal.

At this point, I have to turn to penalty shoot outs. I have often thought of Birmingham City as a pleasingly hapless club, and I recall that in fact  one year they enjoyed the shortest ever FA Cup run, when they forgot to post their entry form. On another occasion the Main Stand burnt down, when a fireman confused water with petrol. Their trophyless history (until recently) was blamed on a gypsy curse, which led to another next generation gypsy being dragged along to attempt to lift it.

The manager at the time, Barry Fry also tried to help matters along by urinating on all four corners of the pitch, although it is unclear whether this was an exercise in exorcism, or merely ( like the cricketers) a pleasant end to a social outing.

Anyway I got it into my head that they managed to miss virtually every penalty in a sudden death shoot out. I just can't remember the fixture, although Swindon did literally miss every one in 2008. Which brings us to 1992 and our B and Q Cup semi-final with Meadowbank, when after 14 penalties we won.....2-1. Out of 7 penalties faced, the losing Meadowbank keeper saved 4, saw one missed, and missed one of his own!

Meadowbank first appeared in senior football in 1974, and as new leagues were formed the following year our paths rarely crossed, as we were ensconced in the middle league, and Meadowbank less happily in the lower one.

We did cross paths though in the final match of the 1987-88 season when in an unrepeated gesture of  largesse ,the Accies directors let in everyone for free. The resulting crowd of just over 5,000 witnessed a 1-1 draw, and saw the First Division trophy presented to us- a sight not to be repeated for 20 years.

Watching a match at Meadowbank's stadium, imaginatively called Meadowbank Stadium, was also an impactful experience, reminiscent of the cresta run. It combined  Cappielow like cramp with feelings of vertigo, as the seats were not only steeply stacked, but also tilted forwards at an alarming angle.These challenges have been, albeit with some reluctance, consigned to history and Almondvale is now a very comfortable setting for a match.