Cliftonhill, for those people who haven’t been and I presume that to be anybody sane, is a stadium in Coatbridge. As an amateur player, I can safely say I’ve played in nicer stadiums at that level; the home of Albion Rovers is a true blast from the past – and by past, I mean the late Jurassic period. One main stand, falling to pieces, terracing crumbling under foot.
My Dad and I used to go to Ayr United games most weekends; not because I was an Ayr fan, but he was and the day out was a chance to see my grandparents, also in the devoted United fraternity. And we always had a great laugh.
I began my first job at 12 and weekends were spent working. And I missed spending time with my old man at the fitba’. I feel the need to explain this pining for nostalgia as the only reason either of us would spend a bitterly cold Wednesday night watching a medieval kicking match for a place in the fourth round of a trophy the size (and prestige) of a Subbuteo cup.
First half was completely unremarkable. 22 men booting a ball in various directions, the wind pushing it in another. The Albion manager continuously bellowed at his defensive mid: “Don’t run wae the baw!” which my father and I thought strange, as running in possession of a football tends to be quite a key concept in the game.
I got a pie from the stand next to us, staffed by a friendly wee wumman I got chatting to. The second half began and one of the players went down injured; the hand gestures from the nearest man began to dispatch the trainer. The woman at the pie stand promptly dropped her apron, grabbed a waiting medical bag, hopped the wall and ran onto the pitch. Everyone in the queue looked completely confused and my dad and I couldn’t stop laughing.
The game eventually fell to a penalty shootout – Ayr had laboured and following a comical OG that I would have been quite proud of – Albion had a shot at an upset. First penalty-ballooned over the bar by the Ayr captain. Children scurrying in the long grass behind the goal before realising that the ball was probably now on a NASA chart as a permanent orbit.
Beaten on pens – you can imagine the creative abuse dealt out at the end to the Ayr players. And my Dad and I couldn’t stop laughing all the way back to Glasgow.