This bit started out life months ago with a different original trajectory , but the piece was abandoned. This so I could concentrate on paramount stuff in life such as being a Dad, looking for work, being with the awesomely lovely lady on the banks o’ Dee and partaking in what the crux of this rambling is about. But it now kind of ties in with something else so it has been dusted off chopped up and had life blown back into it.
The past summer saw the Aberdeen hype machine in full flow and the Dons faithful were predicting a new dawn. A combination of finally getting shot of Derek McInnes and starting the season with the
mate ….”outstanding candidate” at the helm, coupled with the signing of Scott fucking Brown, fans tails were up. Then with being given a favourable draw versus BK Hacken in the holy land of Gothenburg thrown into the mix, the fans were a jubilant bunch. A further sprinkling of fresh faces inclusive of the in(nings)coming of an international defender in the shape of Declan Gallacher also kept the mood up on social media and in the pubs. Chairman Dave Cormack was also continually stoking the fire with his positive tweets and being his own personal cheerleader for his vanity experiment. You could not escape the man(dissapeared somewhat now funnily enough). He had copious numbers of fans eating out his hand…………was it finally time for “challenger brand” fitba he had previously heralded?
It came as no surprise to some that I couldn’t get on board though. In honesty, to start, the refreshing thought of no Derek McInnes did fill me with optimism when it was announced. Returning to Pittodrie was definitely considered when the bearded shyster was finally given his jotters. As they say, “its the hope that kills you” and all my good will and enthusiasm was sent careering to the deck, smashing into smithereens with the signing of that celtic captain. That shit was not for me. As someone said at the time, “soul, spirit and tradition is nothing more than a story we tell ourselves”. I can’t disagree with that in any shape or form. The signing made a mockery of Di Stefano’s famous post Ullevi soggy do-in words. The club clearly don’t give a fuck about how they win (or not as may be the case just now) and will employ anyone to do it, inclusive of someone who’s words stirred up a hatred in amongst his fan base in the direction of an Aberdeen Football Club employee . This went on from September 2014 until Shay Logan left the club in summer 2021. (I dont believe he was shipped out to make way for Brown for the record, he was just done). These words on the whole have been eradicated from history and as good as swept under the carpet by a large proportion of our fan base. To make it worse his signing has been crowed about by many who I could bet were apoplectic back when he was getting all muddled and tying himself in knots with his racist harbouring stories. This despite his team mate in question being found guilty not once but twice of his crime. The amount of occasions I have heard “he’s our prick now” is vomit inducing. He is a prick all right. That cannot be doubted.
Connection, according to the dictionary is defined as; ‘a relationship in which a person or thing is linked or associated with something else’. Something I feel far removed from when talking about my lifelong team. Is this a new thing, no and I have been more than open about that on here and elsewhere in print. Did I think things would improve? Did I think my season ticket would be back soon enough? Yes on both counts. Did it fall flat on it’s face? Aye for sure it did. Spectacularly. I genuinely believed with McInnes out my love would be back. But as the above shows, my despondency was not allowed to leave me.
As disappointed as I was with goings on down Pittodrie Street, I still asked the Wee Man out of interest if he wanted to watch Aberdeen this season to which his stock reply came “no Daddy, just little games”. I knew this would be the case, but what if he wanted to? What would I have done in that scenario? I suppose it doesnt matter and with corona out the way to an extent, “little games” it was to be. About time too with the pandemic limiting us to a paltry 13(Me) and 10(Wee Man) games between February 2020 and July 2021. It was time to get a Dons (or no Dons as it is) assisted run at the types of places Wee Man craves………who am I kidding, l cant get enough of them either.
With my contract at work finishing I returned to the ‘shire on July 24th for an unknown amount of time, maybe a year, maybe six months or maybe even two weeks. Who knew? With the Worlds shit show still ongoing and this nonesense climate change zero carbon pipe dream bollocks thrown into the mix it was pretty much a dire time to be on the unemployment scrapheap , especially in the oil industry. What I did know though, was that I would dedicate life to spending time with the loved ones no matter how long I was around Meldrum and the river Dee. This would obviously include fitba, but there would also be days away around our fantastic country, kick abouts in the backie , cozy nights in watching old films after donning my chefs hat, plenty of beer, lunch dates. There was even a visit to the stock cars at Crimond and I got back gigging too. But the simplest quiet bits of life were bloody marvelous and blissful. They always are and have never left in the corona times. However, a spherical hole was created in life by covid ……………but thankfully has since been filled again with a wide range of games and destinations while I was home, without being sucked into false hope at Pittodrie.
What started with a trip down to Crosshill in Fife to watch Lochore Welfare culminated in a weather enforced local jaunt to the Sports Village in Aberdeen to see Bridge of Don Thistle. In between there were 21 other matches(for me) with a total of 3310 miles covered with 17 tournaments and an equal number of unvisited grounds for myself. Wee man clocked up 19 new grounds in his 21 matches. We even found ourselves with a possible once in a lifetime scenario where we watched two cup finals of the same trophy only 66 days apart. And while all this was happening the net rustled no fewer than 106 times. But most importantly, at no point did I head home thinking, “that was shite”. At no point was my day ruined. At no point did fitba annoy me.
As stated it was started in Crosshill which was more like Costa del Crosshill that day. A magic day out was had a prior at the adjacent Lochore Meadows. Sun, ice cream and trying to explain what mining is to a six year old. He wouldn’t know a lump of coal if it hit him in the face to be honest. But the welcome we recieved at the club was better and we were made to feel like old friends by various members of the committee, inclusive of being gifted a pennant for travelling the distance we did, midweek. The game itself was very good too. Oakley were free scoring coming into it and favourites for the three points but a very good Fare performance and a 3-1 scoreline meant the points were to stay at Central Park. That was just a taster of things to come.
Next up we were treated to the first of the two Aberdeenshire Cup Finals at Harlaw Park, where Fraserburgh obliterated a very poor Formartine United. A couple of trips to the local Juniors to get me nearer completion of the set up followed. First were new(and local to me) boys Rothie Rovers who destroyed New Elgin by six with no reply on the pristine bowling green like turf. The pitch which was in fact in better nick than the neighbouring bowling green a few meters away. Perfect for the great fitba Rovers played throughout. This was followed by Stoneywood-Parkvale narrowly defeating Sunnybank at Arjowiggins Park. My first game on my own saw me head down the A90 on a Wednesday night due to a rare no Wee Man or lovely lady night to myself. This was to the newest ground I have been in at less than a year old, to see a team I seem to be a lucky charm for in Forfar West End (P4, W3, D1) who were visiting New Beechwood, home of Lochee Harp. The three points followed me up the A90 and turned off at Forfar after a decent battle which finished 1-3. Our first of many Fridays under the lights took us down to a gem of a ground in Midlothian. The Newbattle Complex, home of Easthouses Lily who were hosting Peebles Rovers. After a fine welcome in the bar and being gifted a pennant and a pint as I mentioned it was my 200th ground, we were treated to arguably game of the season with the hosts up 2-0 at HT and it finishing 2-2. Excellent viewing. Two localish games to our Garioch abode were witnessed witin four days of eachother when Maud defeated Cruden Bay in the Grill Cup and Longside came out on top of a league encounter with Sunnybank 3 v 2. Another contender for match of the season so far, which was finished off with a Sunnybank red card for a haymaker being thrown . This was under the Davidson Park lights(on a Friday again). A local midweek game in the form of North East Scotland FA side Methlick who on their stunning picturesque King George V Park put Peterhead United to the sword as the cows watched on from the hills. Another floodlit Friday was on the cards when we treked down to Bo’ness to watch the towns Athletic batter Bathgate Thistle. The NESFA gave us a midweek two night double header at Ardallie and New Deer with both home sides being defeated by Macduff and Station Bar respectively.
At this point I found work and looked to be heading back down to Africa again, much to my dismay as I hoped I was finished down there for good. But any job is better than no job. Life must go on no matter what hand you are dealt.
But like Angola, what was also not finished was our football adventures for the time being and we were to cram in as many as possible before my departure at the start of October. Next up was a trip to Dundee to watch Dundee North End v new kids(literally) on the block, Dundee St James which threw up the sun and the goals in equal measure with the home side hitting six in this nine goal thriller. That sun and goal drenched afternoon also gave us the chance to meet the Scottish Junior Cup which was on tour and found itself in the social club. Next up, the Broch and their fantastic Bellslea (one of my favourites in the country) awaited as they were in the middle of defending their Aberdeenshire Cup we had seen them win weeks earlier. It did not go to plan as my sometimes local team Banks o’ Dee turfed them out and convincingly so. The shortest defence of a title in World fitba? 35 days. Possibly. Another North juniors scalp edged me to three away from completing the set when we headed to Logie Park in Forres to visit the towns second team Forres Thistle. The Jags drawing 1 v 1 with Aberdeen side Glentanar on another glorious day of sun. On that day, the visit to the Moray Motor museum was excellent if you are near Elgin,highly recommended. Friday floodlights awaited us at Renfrew’s New Western Park for St Peters U20’s v Forth Wanderers U20’s,Wee Man wanted a game so Wee Man got a game even if it was youth team and a three hundred and forty mile round trip. A stroll in the Park for the home side who finished the game off inside twenty minutes racing into a 4 v 0 lead and ran out 5 v 2 winners in the end. A very friendly club are St Peters, it has to be said. A week passed before we clicked a turnstile again and it was back down in Midlothian on a Friday night to Newtongrange Star to witness a Scottish Youth Cup tie versus St Mirren. The difference in levels showed and the Star were outclassed by the Buddies and were hit for four without reply. A very tidy set up Newtongrange have for the record, well worth a visit. The Scottish Cup beckoned the day after when a team I developed a soft spot for made the long trip to Pitmedden to face Formartine United. Cumnock were making history as this was their first venture into the senior Scottish Cup. A very entertaining 2 v 2 was the offering, taking the Highland League side down to Ayrshire the following Saturday for a replay. I was on my own again the following Tuesday with Edinburgh and the impressive Meggetland awaiting. Not much of a contest with Lowland League leaders Bonnyrigg Rose smashing hosts Tynecastle 5 v 0 in the East of Scotland Qualifying Cup. Friday came and so did the floodlights, Springburn this time and Petershill Park for Rossvale v Cambuslang Rangers in the Scottish Junior Cup. 1 v 0 the home side with Cambuslang missing a barrel load. But another fine welcome from the home side. The furthest we traveled was to Dunbar United, which from Meldrum is three hundred and sixty mile round trip. But to do it on a school night for a friendly makes it all the madder of a decision. Or you could call it dedication. A truly great club full of brilliant people it turned out to be and a 3 v 1 win over Tweedmouth Rangers was the outcome. With Angola calling my name there was one weekend left before I hopped aboard and ironbird heading in the direction of the Tropic of Capricorn. However we were not done with the fitba quite yet and another two games were in the bag. The second Aberdeenshire Cup Final of the season gave us the result we desired when Banks o’ Dee stoved in Formartines heads with a fantastic display to secure their first even engraving on this historic old trophy. 4 v 1 and quite the emphatic victory. The last match for us was in fact a plan B, the original plan was for two matches in a day at Dalkeith and Bonnyrigg but with yellow weather warnings in place I wasnt to risk it. So a local visit to The Sports Village to watch Bridge of Don Thistle destroy my childhood town club Ellon United 7 v 1 taking me down to two left to visit in the North Juniors. I had always had this ground saved for a rainy day and this turned out to be the very definition of that. That downpour became biblical by full time and the decision to stay local was fully justified with roads between Aberdeen and home starting to flood on our journey back to the house. This leaving us to lock the door behind us and settle down for a film night, chips and the the cat.
Nine weeks and twenty three games, this equating to around two and a half games a week. A decent wee run we had for sure. It is funny that it ended in the shadow of Pittodrie. With the filthy looking Dick Donald looking miserable under the ghastly black clouds, it summed up the Dons season and the now broken hype machine. It poked it’s head over the Linksfield houses looking at a very ecstatic father son combo at the end of a superb nine weeks of fitba and bonding living a life without the club it was erected by . The team I have supported for thirty five years are no more the huge part of my life they once were . This is now my third season without a season ticket. Do I want it back? I dont think I do now. They are not the same club anymore. I will still support them until I leave this world but support from a distance in a non active capacity. They will always be my team, they are just not for me at this present period in life. For now I would rather carry on the quest to find fulfilment all across the land with my best pal in tow seeing the sights and eating the picnics. I mean it when I say I have never felt so connected to fitba than I am just now……..and my life in general in all honesty. I suppose things change and going back to that title word again, doing what Wee Man and I do, the fitba we watch, it stirs up a connection. Whether it is watching games at levels I used to play making me think back. Or speaking to club members who devote so much time towards their club, something I know all about seeing the years and effort my old boy has put in helping run Ellon Thistle and my juvenile club prior. There is also entering the grounds I used to play at wishing I still played. Remembering getting booked at Maud for booting a boy when I was on the bench or my first ever eleven a side boys club game at Longside. They are not all fantastic memories. There was also going back to the night that was the beginning of the end of my playing days after hearing my ankle crack at New Deer. A night I am positive it broke but I didnt see about it. This leading to issues with my ankle over the following years eventually leading to it being rebuilt. I have the large scars to prove it. There was also the time I smashed my teeth on an elbow v Lewis United at Chris Anderson Stadium(now the Sports Village). I have the rebuilt teeth to prove that too. There is also a lot more pleasant memories though for example watching Highland League games as a kid with my cousin. The likes of Whitehill Welfare’s visit to Bellslea in the Broch was a day to remember. There is also the gratitude shown by many for our efforts to watch these clubs, I totally get it, as I always appreciated people watching my teams, Dad, mates, my cousin or whoever. I definitley feel connected to this lower level of fitba. It is almost a romance in a way. Hopefully when Wee Man is old enough to realise this was partly about building an enormous collection of memories of us together he feels similar feelings. With eighty grounds under his belt I am sure there are a memory or two that will stick with him and I am sure there will be many many more. In a way I should be thankful to the Dons for the disconnection because I am pretty much a fully fledged card carrying neutral fitba nerd these days, some would say groundhopper but thats a shite term. Anyway I am just a fitba fan who spends time hanging out with his best mate loving every second. Something I doubt would have been as good at the bottom of Merkland Road East.
Welcome back “little games” it’s really is brilliant to have you back properly.