A Wee Mans Half Century, Eleven Thousand Mile Fitba Odyssey

My favourite picture. Cliftonhill, Albion Rovers v Peterhead
My other favourite picture. Hannah Park, Shotts Bon Accord v Blantyre Victoria

Fitba has been a constant in my life, and throughout my thirty-five years on earth. I have gone through stages with the game. There was a time where I was playing only, this was a short one-year period. This then turned into playing and watching Aberdeen at Pittodrie which gradually turned into a season ticket. As you get older the playing days change from Sundays to Saturdays (at under 14s if I remember correctly) This led to the season ticket biting the dust and I was back to a playing only with midweek and Sunday Dons games thrown in. Then eventually I succumbed to injury which coincided with starting to work offshore and abroad meaning my Umbro Specialis were hung up for good.  I was back to a season ticket at Pittodrie but a lot of random non-Dons fitba also started to tickle my fancy too.

Throughout these stages there was a familiar face. My old boy. He was there helping with the secretarial element of things at my boys club when I was a kid. He had a season ticket with me and my brother and then carried on being involved with my fitba teams until I stopped playing.(Hats off to him as he carried on and is still the secretary of my last club to this day) Weekends were always bonding time for over twenty years and it was always fitba based. This despite my Dad being of a lifelong peanut hugging persuasion. The guy was the benchmark. I aspired to be him when I finally became a father myself.

Then it happened, it became my turn to play Dad in 2014. I had hoped for a boy despite saying “either or” for nine months. But I was lying. Without trying to sound sexist I was hoping it was a boy and he would get into football. Statistically there was more chance. One thing I never lied about was, whatever he got into I would be there supporting him as much as possible just like my Dad always did. Whether it was football, ice hockey, swimming. He could have taken up synchronised swimming or even cricket and I would have been there. Of course, I would. As it turned out his thing for now is fitba. Against popular belief given my own fitba geekdom it was never forced on him. He invited himself along, I took him, and in doing so I opened a can of worms . But significantly my most important stage of fitba has started .Which at the moment is, a season ticketless, Dons less on a random fitba quest with my loon stage.

He started his trek six miles from home in Inverurie on the 7th of April 2018. His most local Junior team, Colony Park were the choice. It sounds a bit random but there was a plan. As this was a 13.45 kick off, the plans was to watch a chunk of this match then head to Cove R*****s (who were still vagabonds at this point) v Clachnacuddin at Inverurie Locos Harlaw Park which is across the street from Colony Parks eponymous ground. The Inverurie side were up against Stonehaven in the North Region Premiership. Armed with his trusty yellow ball we joined the other forty or so in attendance. We were treated to an exceedingly one-sided affair with Stonehaven romping to a 6-0 win without breaking stride. We also got a red card thrown in the mix for the home side after an outrageous elbow. I could tell he relished it. The kick about at half time, the juice, picking his favourite player, the guessing what the score would be. All of which are still part and parcel of what is involved in a day at the fitba. We never did go to Harlaw. Fast forward twenty-two months to the 8th of February 2020 in Clackmannanshire, Beechwood Park home of Sauchie Juniors to be precise. After dumping the car on a grass verge Wee Man and myself walked up the gravely hill toward the white exterior wall of the East of Scotland Premier Division clubs home ground. This was an enormous milestone. Ground number fifty is his short but awesome life. Fifty “turnstiles” spun in his five years and five months. Putting it in perspective, I did not attend my first Aberdeen match until I was six and nine months. If he continues in this fashion, he will be closing in on a ton by the time he’s the age where I popped my fitba cherry. Going by his current fascination I would not rule this out at all. We were greeted at Sauchie by committee members who knew the story of Wee Man. To their credit the had a gift for him in a club scarf to commemorate the day. But for a fiftieth celebration we could not have got much better. The ground itself is a terrific example of a non-league ground, there were the affable people, there was the quality of the goals and incredibly there was me winning fifty quid off the Fifty/Fifty draw. All on the fiftieth ground. It was like it was written in the stars. I wouldn’t change a thing about the day.

Obviously, our days are based around the fitba. That goes without saying but it’s a lot more than that. We see the sights, we have picnics or visit local cafes for a bite to eat, we see our beautiful country (and sometimes others) but more importantly we appreciate being with each other (well I do anyway). Its invaluable bonding time which is extremely important due to my 28/28 rota in Africa with my employment. I lose out on a fair bit of time with him and do my darndest to make the times we do have the best they can be. That’s why we are always out and about. Whether it was checking out the Discovery before Dundee Violet, raking around Lindesfarne prior to Sunderland. World of Wings prior to Airdrie, following Hadrians Wall then heading to St Cuthbert Wanderers or even just the games in the car on the journies we have had fantastic times. Pretty much if the game is on a Saturday, we bag a point of interest prior then have lunch and off to the match. It is about the memories as much it is about the fitba. I now have a motto. “My love for football grew when i realised it was about more than just 90 minutes” and I live by it. Part of it is the hanging out with the Wee Man, it is my life’s purpose to do it. I am just incredibly lucky I get to do it while raking about at “lesser” fitba grounds . But fitba is now a full day out with more than just ninety minutes of twenty-two men kicking a ball about.

What about the fifty? As mentioned, it started at Colony Park and Sauchie was the big five-o but where did he end up during the other forty-eight.  Some stats to accompany the achievement, he has seen eighty-one teams with Spartans, Inverness Caley and Stonehaven the joint most watched on three each. One hundred and eighty-one goals have been observed. Thirty-one different tournaments have been viewed from North Region Juniors Second Division up to the Scottish Cup. This was over four countries, Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and ROI. This covered twenty-two counties of the UK and Ireland. To achieve this, he has smashed eleven thousand miles with the total sitting at eleven thousand one hundred and twenty-two. That’s the equivalent of a round trip to see Tokyo Verdy play. Some effort for a kid of his age. He has witnessed nineteen home wins, twenty-two away wins and five draws (two being nil-nil). The outstanding results are made up of three cup finals, which obviously were neutral. The North Regional Cup final between Banks o’ Dee v Stonehaven which the Aberdeen side won 1-0, this was played at Ian Mair Park home of Dyce Juniors. His second final was this seasons North of Scotland between Brora R*****s and Inverness Caley at Mosset Park, Forres. Football was victorious over hammer chucking in that one as the HFL team deservedly won 3-2. His third was between the victors of the South of Scotland Cup, Mid Annandale against the East of Scotland Cup champions Musselburgh Athletic in the South & East Shield. It was a massacre in favour of the East Lothian team who waltzed to a 7-0 win. Not much of a spectacle but a new ground for the both of us in New Murrayfield Park, Blackburn United. The other outstanding match/ground was an abandonment at the Balmoral Stadium of Cove R*****s. The official opening against Aberdeen where Andrew Considine decided to assault Jordan Brown with a forearm smash and knocked him clean out sparking panic and the referee to call it quits. A decent story for future when his mates ask him what his first Aberdeen game was. He has had four foreign sojourns to date. The first was a pre-season encounter between Blyth Spartans and Stranraer at Croft Park (A ground punching above its weight for the level they play). Cracking weather and a kick about in the terraces with the locals with his trusty ball, Ol’ Yellow. He has also visited local neighbours of Blyth, Sunderland at their tidy Stadium of Light which is by far the biggest ground he has visited to date. He has crossed water for two games, this was when we headed for a holiday in summer ’19 to Northern Ireland and The Republic. (Possibly the best holiday I have found myself on) Here he ticked of Oriel Park, home of Irish Champions Dundalk and Stangmore Park in Dungannon, which is the compact stadium of Niall McGinns first team Dungannon Swifts. The hosts were excellent and beat Glentoran who were hot favourites with the bookies. This sending the Glentoran faithful who outnumbered the locals back to Belfast with their tails between their legs. Another interesting stat is almost half of his viewing has been junior grounds with twenty-two being under the SJFA banner. This covering all three regions from Shotts Bon Accords Hannah Park last season to this season Bellsdale Park in Beith, Blair Park home of Hurlford United, Barrfields in Largs and along with Sauchie the most welcoming ground in Scotland, Townhead Park in Cumnock. In the East we went to among others, region heavyweights Lochee Uniteds Thomson Park and the worst team in the area at the time, Coupar Angus at their quirky Foxhall Park. His first three grounds were North Region, With the aforementioned Colony Park, Culters Crombie Park and Dyces Ian Mair Park being visited and strangely and not deliberately all included Stonehaven JFC. All in all by region the North has thrown up six venues, East, eleven and the superior West the above five so far. The reason for this number of Juniors being viewed is because in his own words “I like little games better”. In other words, lower league/non-league is where it is at, something I struggle to disagree with these days. He also gets to take his ball in. His most goals in a game record is held by two games. Bathgate Thistle 1 v 7 Armadale Thistle how is that for derby bragging rights at Creamery Park. Not much of a spectacle as it was so one sided unlike the other eight goal thriller and I am not using thriller lightly. A midweek trip to an East Region Consolation Cup tie that consisted of a one-hundred-and-forty-mile round trip may not be everyones cup of tea or might even smack of madness, but it was the best game I have ever been too. Forfar West End 4 v 4 Tayport at Strathmore Park. Heavy challenges all over the pitch throughout, two teams clearly wanting to win and the greatest save I have seen in the flesh. That’s without mentioning the scoring, 0-1, 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, 2-3, ninety minutes were up, 3-3, 3-4. 4-4. All for a fiver. I would have paid fifty quid. Proper theater. I can’t go through every game but there are some of the more important visits

It would be rude not to get Wee Mans own opinion on the matter written down. I asked him his favourite grounds he has been at his reply in order of “my first favourite was”, “my second favourite was”. So Wee Mans award for the best ground went to Largs Thistle (Barrfields), second was Sunderland (The Stadium of Light), third Beith (Bellsdale Park), fourth Rothes (MacKessack Park) and fifth Albion Rovers (Cliftonhill). He then went on to say Islavale (Simpson Park) and Dundalk (Oriel Park) in at seventh even though I was only after five. I’m sure he would have tried to reel off his top fifty given the chance. Grounds he would like to visit are an eclectic mix but there are reasons for them all that I think I have worked out. Pollok is his first as he has taken a shine to them and he says he supports them. Newlandsfield is a good day out so I have no complaints. Ajax as I brought an Ajax top home from a trip over there, but funnily he says, “I am not ready to go there, not until I’m seven”. The Netherlands (same as Ajax, I have a habit of going to The Netherlands). Motherwell, probably because he saw them at Pittodrie likes their colours as he says when we watch Sportscene. Glenafton Athletic is a good one as I haven’t been, this will be because we were supposed to go but it was frozen off and changed plans to Largs Thistle. New Elgin pretty much the same as Glenafton, we ended up at Deveronside instead that day. Keith as we saw Kynoch Park when at Islavale. Kilwinning R*****s because he found me saying “Kilwinning are winning” hilarious and Formartine United because we drive past en route to my folks. He will not have to wait long for North Lodge as we will go next time I am home.

What does the future hold? If his interest keeps up, then the world is our oyster I suppose. He is already on the trail of becoming a full centurion as Recreation Park in Alloa is under his belt now as we took on BSC Glasgow v Hibs so is on fifty-one. Pencilled in for the rest of the season are another twelve UK grounds, eleven in Scotland and the Crown Ground in Accrington to see the Stanley. Then our summer holiday will take us to Finland where we will see SexyPoxyt, HJK, Ilves and TPS which will round off the season nicely. I will also have to bear his previously mentioned list in mind for next season too, barring Ajax obviously as he will only be six

But as a father son combo in the future, hopefully it goes on until I am decrepit. In reality, I am not daft enough to believe that will happen. Things will change. There’s no doubt about that, he may start up a sport, or join a club. He will outgrow hanging about with his dad. He may end up forgetting about fitba, anything so for now I will make the most of our time together as it’s the best period of my life bar none. Who knew at thirty five your best mate could be a five year old. Roll on the next fifty grounds and the fifty after that and so on. Next up Tranents Foresters Park

The Complete List

Colony Park– Colony Park 0-6 Stonehaven, 7/4/18, North Region Superleague

Crombie Park – Culter 0 v 6 Stonehaven, 22/5/18, North Regional Cup Semi Final

Ian Mair Park – Bank o’ Dee 1 v 0 Stonehaven 2/6/18, North Regional Cup Final

Glenesk Park – Dundee Violet 1 v 4 Lochee United, 17/7/18, Friendly

Balmoral Stadium – Cove R*****s A v A Aberdeen, 18/7/18, Friendly

Victoria Park – Buckie Thistle 0 v 2 Inverurie Locos, 28/7/18, Highland League

Carmuirs Park – Camelon 2 v 0 Linlithgow Rose, 8/9/18 , East of Scotland Feeder League C

Pittodrie– Aberdeen 1 v 0 Motherwell, 22/9/18, SPFL Premier League

Cappielow – Greenock Morton 5 v 1 Partick Thistle, 3/11/18, SPFL Championship

Rugby Park – Kilmarnock 1 v 2 Aberdeen, 4/11/18, SPFL Premier League

The Canniepairt – Tayport 0 v 2 Lochee United, 17/11/18, East Region Superleague

Central Park – Whitburn 4 v 1 Kennoway Star Hearts, 24/11/18, East Region Superleague

Cliftonhill – Albion Rovers 0 v 2 Peterhead, 12/1/19, SPFL League 2

Harlaw Park – Inverurie Locos 2 v 0 Deveronvale 15/2/19, Highland League

Caley Stadium – Inverness Caledonian Thistle 2 v 2 Ross County (ICT on Pens), 19/2/19 Scottish Cup 4th Round

Tannadice – Dundee United 1 v 0 Inverness Caledonian Thistle, 26/2/19, SPFL Championship

Excelsior Stadium – Airdrieonians 1 v 0 Montrose, 2/3/19, SPFL League 1

Thomson Park – Lochee United 1 v 3 East Craigie,22/4/19, East Region League Cup

Strathmore Park – Forfar West End 4 v 4 Tayport, 1/5/19, East Region Consolation Cup

Downfield Park – Downfield 0 v 4 Broughty Athletic, 6/5/19, East Region League Cup

Davie Park – Blairgowrie 3 v 4 Forfar West End, 8/5/19, East Region Consolation Cup

Hannah Park – Shotts Bon Accord 3 v 4 Blantyre Victoria, West Region First Division

Foxhall Park – Coupar Angus 0 v 1 Forfar Albion, 14/5/19, East Region North Division

Westfield Park – Dunipace 0 v 1 Edinburgh United,22/6/19, Friendly

Croft Park – Blyth Spartans 3 v 1 Stranraer, 26/9/19, Friendly

Balmoor Stadium – Peterhead 0 v 2 Aberdeen, 3/7/19, Friendly

Bellsdale Park – Beith 4 v 2 Largs Thistle, 13/8/19, Sectional League Cup

Oriel Park – Dundalk 5 v 0 Finn Harps, 16/8/19, LOI Premier Division

Stangmore Park – Dungannon Swifts 3 v 1 Glentoran, Irish Premier Division

Simpson Park – Islavale 7 v 0 Whitehills, 28/8/19, North Region Division Two

New Central Park – Kelty Hearts 5 v 0 Spartans, 27/8/20 Lowland League

Creamery Park – Bathgate Thistle 1 v 7 Armadale Thistle, 31/8/20, East of Scotland Cup

Macduff Sports Complex – Deveronside 0 v 0 Benburb, 5/10/19, Scottish Junior Cup

Mosset Park – Brora R*****s 3 v 2 Inverness Caledonian Thistle, 6/10/19, North of Scotland Cup Final

Christie Park – Huntly 0 v 0 Formartine United, 9/10/19, Highland League

Blair Park – Hurlford 1 v 0 Pollok, 19/10/19, West Region Premiership

The Stadium of Light – Sunderland 5 v 0 Tranmere Rovers, 22/10/19, EFL League 1

St Marys Park – St Cuthbert Wanderers 3 v 3 Heston Rovers, 23/10/19, South of Scotland League

Ainslie Park – Spartans 1 v 3 East Stirlingshire, 25/10/19, Lowland League

Prestonfield – Linlithgow Rose CFC 0 v 2 Pollok, 26/10/19, Scottish Junior Cup

Barrfields – Largs Thistle 1-2 Kilwinning R*****s, 30/11/19, West Region Premiership

Ogilvy Park – Arbroath Victoria 3 v 0 Dundee Violet, 14/12/19, East Region Premier League North

Spain Park – Banks o’ Dee 2 v 0 East End, 18/12/19, North Region Superleague

Townhead Park– Cumnock 1 v 2 Glenafton Athletic, 21/12/19, West Region Premiership

Westview Park – Kirriemuir Thistle 0 v 2 Lochee United, 25/1/20, East Region Superleague

New Murrayfield Park – Mid Annandale 0 v 7 Musselburgh Athletic, 26/1/20,South & East Shield Final

The Falkirk Stadium – Falkirk 2 v 0 Arbroath, 29/1/20, Scottish Cup 4th Round

MacKessack Park – Rothes 3 v 1 Keith, 5/2/20, Highland League Cup

Broadwood – Cumbernauld Colts 0 v 1 Spartans, 7/2/20, Lowland League

Beechwood Park – Sauchie 4 v 1 Newtongrange Star, 8/2/20, East of Scotland Premier League

The first
The fiftieth
The favourite
The record score so far Bathgate Thistle 1 v 7 Armadale Thistle
The other record score. Forfar West End 4 v 4 Tayport
The first foreign jaunt

Published by pacman1903

Once a football fan. Now a football nerd

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