Archive for July, 2008

Game Four – Morton vs. St. Mirren

July 27, 2008

Morton vs. St. Mirren
Greenock Morton 1 vs. 1 St. Mirren
(St. Mirren win 5-4 on penalties)

Renfrewshire Cup Final
Saturday 26th July, Kick-off 3pm
Cappielow Park, Greenock

From oohing and ahhing at Lionel Messi in Murrayfield, to dodging bottles and flying bricks at Cartsdyke railway station. As Alan Latchley once said, “Football is, is, she’s a cruel mistress. She’s…she’s more than a mistress. She’s a wife, she’s a mother, she’s a daughter, she’s an errant child. She’s a… she’s a… she can make you laugh, she make you cry. She can bring tears to me eyes.”

Thinking I might be late for the kick-off as I got the train I realised I certainly wouldn’t be the only one as the noise from the platform at Paisley Gilmour Street indicated that there were plenty of St. Mirren fans cutting it fine also. The noise transferred onto the train as the Buddies cheered their new ground as we passed Paisley St. James and the chanting turned into some light hearted banter as some Morton fans got on at Port Glasgow.

My intention for going to these games was always to go into the home end. I’m essentially a neutral for most games, but my assumption was always to sit with the home fans. However travelling to and from the game with a large number of St. Mirren fans I decide it’s probably a good idea to go into the away end today.

The Renfrewshire Cup is played out between Morton, St. Mirren and the two amateur teams who make the final of the Renfrewshire Victoria Cup. The two amateur sides each play one of the senior sides in the semi-finals. So more often than not it’s a formality that St. Mirren and Morton contest the final. This season Morton won their semi-final against Carlton YMCA 9-0.

It’s really just a glorified friendly, but the fact that these two teams play in different divisions means that it’s about the only chance the fans get to enjoy a local derby match. Both sets of supporters seemed well up for it, but I couldn’t help but feel that some of the supposed hatred is really a bit forced.

The opening goal for Morton was a weak one. A cross that should have been cut out was poked home from close range by Iain Russell. St. Mirren levelled things with a header from Marc McAusland a few minutes later just as the Morton fans were in full flow taunting their Paisley neighbours. That’s never a good moment for a supporter. Right in the middle of a song celebrating your superiority you’re made to look foolish and several hundred people immediately clam up.

The match was anything but a thriller. Although it had its moments it was mainly a midfield battle with the odd long ball thrown in. Both teams had their chances to wrap it up, but the game petered out to a draw, meaning that we went straight to penalty kicks.

Morton missed their first kick. All the others were scored until, on their fourth penalty, St. Mirren’s Tom Brighton also missed. Now we were into sudden death. On the sixth kick, needing it to level the tie, Morton’s Peter Weatherson saw his kick saved by Mark Howard.

St. Mirren score in the shoot-out

So that was it, 5-4 to the men from Paisley. There was a brief presentation, then the team posed for photographs and sheepishly displayed the trophy to the fans a good twenty-five yards away.

So to the journey home and Cartsdyke train station. By the time I got there the platform for the Glasgow train was already full, but that didn’t stop more people pushing onto it. On the other side of the tracks a smaller number of Morton supporters had gathered awaiting the Gourock train.

There then followed quite a bit of taunting and singing. The police presence was then quite happy to look on as frequent bottles, bricks and rocks were hurled across the train lines at the huddled St. Mirren support.

“Is there no rocks this side of the platform?” a St. Mirren fan was heard to mutter as we all ducked for cover. When the train arrived the rock and bottle throwing increased as everyone attempted to push and shove our way on. I held my bag over my head as a makeshift hard-hat.

“Let the weans through!” shouted one self-appointed hero of the hour. “Let the weans through!” he cried again, this time forcefully pushing away a man attempting to usher his terrified young daughter onto the train.

“There’s weans here!” a woman shouted at him, in an attempt to get him to stop hindering the very people he was loudly proclaiming to help.

The Scene at Cartsdyke Station

As it was we all got on to the cattle-truck-like conditions inside the train without further incident, although there was an unconfirmed report that a policeman had his walkie-talkie stolen by a St. Mirren fan.

There is a report of the game on the St. Mirren website.

I have some photographs here.

Down below there is some shaky footage of the penalty shoot-out complete with impromptu commentary, although the guy doing it sounds like he has the voice and the patter for it. If you look very closely you can see me pop up in the clip a couple of times. The screenshots are underneath.

Me at St.Mirren vs. Morton

Down below is some footage of the baiting at Cartsdyke station. It’s recorded by one of the boys on the Morton side of the tracks. You’ll notice that as soon as a missle hits his side of the platform the filming stops.

Morton: Stewart, McGuffie, Walker, Weatherson, Paartalu, Masterton, McAlister, Russell, Wake (Greacen 12), Newby, Finlayson. Subs Not Used: McAnespie, McGeoch, Mitchell.

Scorer: Russell (23)

St Mirren: Howard, Barron, Miranda (Brighton 75), Mason, Potter, McAusland, Murray (Brady 67), Dorman, Mehmet (Dargo 89), Wyness (Hamilton 67), McGinn. Subs Not Used: O’Donnell, Smith.

Scorer: McAusland (26)

Attendance: 3,836

Referee: Iain Brines

Game Three – FC Barcelona vs. Hibernian

July 25, 2008

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FC Barcelona 6 vs. 0 Hibernian

Pre-season Friendly
Thursday 24th July 2008, Kick-off 7.45pm
Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh

Curiously that is the way the match is listed, with Barcelona’s name first as if they were the home side.

The last time Hibs played Barcelona was at Easter Road in a friendly match in 1962. Barca ran out 3-1 winners. Barcelona came over for that game at their own expense as an apology for the sides’ encounter in February of 1961 in an Inter-Cities Fairs Cup tie. Hibs dumped the then holders out of the competition with a 3-2 win on the night providing a 7-6 aggregate victory. The match has gone down in infamy thanks to the Barcelona players’ unsporting attitude at Hibs being awarded a penalty kick late on in the game. There is an article on that match at The Scotsman’s website.

There’s a sizeable queue at Easter Road as I go to get my ticket at 4 in the afternoon. Mainly parents with young children, many of whom are in Barcelona jerseys.

When the Spanish giants visited Edinburgh last year to play Hearts on a Saturday afternoon a crowd of 58,000 turned out for them, but this game has been a harder sell and Hibs have struggled to shift even half that number of tickets.

At £25 to £35 it’s not difficult to see why.

Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby, is an impressive stadium, bigger in capacity than both Parkhead and Hampden. This is the third time I’ve been here, but the first time I’ll have seen a football match at the venue. Curiously neither of my previous visits was to see a rugby match either. In 1995 I saw REM play here. Two years later when I had just moved to Edinburgh, I worked here. I had a job with a temping agency that saw me serve popcorn to an American Football crowd.

The match programme is unsurprisingly a whopping £5, but to be fair there is plenty of decent reading inside. I pay two quid for a lukewarm bottle of Diet Pepsi, which is provided sans lid, so I’m forced to stand drinking it in the concourse less I take it into the toilet with me.

As I sip my drink before embarking up the stairs into stadium I’m approached by an elderly gent confused about where his seat in the ground is. As I attempt to help him locate his seat the conversation turns to the fact that he’s a former Hibs player.

His name is Jimmy Thomson and he proudly supplies me with the dates within which he played for the club. He then rhymes off his partners in the back four. After his lengthy spell at Hibs, he moved on, he told me, to Clyde. I realised that he would have been part of the Hibs team, containing ‘The Famous Five’ who played in the first season of the European Cup.

“That’s right, we made the semi-final.”

Hibs eventually lost to Reims, inspired by the French legend Raymond Kopa, that year. Reims themselves subsequently losing to the great Real Madrid in the final.

“Aye Reims beat us…”

The very first British side to play in Europe, Hibs lined up for the first European Cup match against Rot-Weiss Essen of West Germany at the Georg-Melches-Stadion on Wednesday 14th September 1955. The team was:

Younger, Higgins, Paterson, Jimmy Thomson, Plenderleith, Preston, Smith, Turnbull, Reilly, Combe and Ormond.

They won 4-0.

Instead however of reminiscing about his playing days, Mr. Thomson let me know in no uncertain terms that he was outraged at having to pay for admission, him being a former player.

I agreed that it did seem wrong that a player from a famous side with many years service had to fork out 25 quid (a concession price) to see his team. He told me of his years running a printing business after he retired from the game where he would print up Hibs’ headed notepaper and refuse to charge them for the service. He also pointed out that when he was a player the club made himself and his team-mates pay for a lot of things along the way, such was the custom in those days. He knew quite a lot of expletives as well.

Now I dunno if a team the size of Hibs can afford to provide freebies for every single former player, but you’d think they might be able to do so for the few guys around now who played with distinction in the 40s and 50s.

Jimmy certainly hoped that they would, as he made clear to me his intentions of letting someone at Easter Road know he’d be looking for ‘a book’ to gain admission in future. Good job I didn’t get around to mention his former team-mates ‘The Famous Five’. Free tickets? They got a stand at Easter Road named after them.

He set off to find his seat, “Hope we win though. I don’t even know who we’re playing. Who are we playing?”

“Barcelona.”

“Aye, aye Barcelona. Hope we beat them.”

A crowd of 23,390 turned out to see Hibs completely outclassed by a Barcelona team who hardly got out of first gear.

The Spanish side passed the ball around with ease in Hibs’ last third of the field. Lionel Messi was a joy to watch and made me go ‘oooh’ at least twice.

The first goal came in the fourth minute when former Chelsea player Edir Gudjohnsen banged the ball home after some good play by Messi resulted in the Hibs defence only half-clearing the ball.

The little Argentinean himself slotted home the second with a display of some neat footwork. Have a look for yourself below.

Hibs players could easily have been cones on the training ground as Barca passed around them in the penalty box for the lead up to the third goal.

Pedro smacked home a beauty to make it 4-0 after only 26 minutes.

Although one guy a few rows behind me seemed utterly furious with each goal lost the majority of the Hibs support were happy to enjoy the spectacle of football on display, although it did get a bit much for a few of them in the second half.

The match was played in a good, friendly atmosphere with Samuel Eto’o obliging the Hibs fans cries for a wave as he was warming up and Victor Valdes acknowledging the fans behind the goal as the first half ended.

Although Messi and Henry came off at half-time Barcelona still managed a couple of goals in the second half through Bojan and Toure.

My full set of photographs are here.

A report of the game is on the Hibernian website. A report is also on the Barcelona website.

FC Barcelona: Valdes (Pinto 46), Corcoles (Keita 65), Marquez (Caceres 46), Henry (Bojan 46), Pique, Dani Alves (Abraham 46), Vazquez (Crosas 30), Pedro (Hleb 65), Gudjohnsen (Eto’o 65), Sergio B, (Toure 46), Messi (Jeffren 46).

Scorers: Gudjohnsen (5, 18), Messi (15), Pedro (28), Bojan (49), Touré Yaya (67)

Hibernian: McNeil (Grof 82), van Zanten, Hanlon, Hogg (Canning 73), Jones, Murray (Thicot 46), Stevenson (Chisholm 46), Shiels (Rankin 73), Fletcher (Morais 65), Nish, O’Brien (Cropley 82).

Attendance: 23,390

Referee: Craig Thomson

Game Two – Albion Rovers vs. Celtic Reserves

July 18, 2008

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Albion Rovers 1 vs. 4 Celtic Reserves

Jock Stein Friendship Cup
Thursday 17th July, Kick-Off 7.30pm
Cliftonhill, Coatbridge

This game was a bit more like summer football. A warm night and a good wee turn out at Rovers’ Cliftonhill ground.

This is the third year the two clubs have played for the Jock Stein Friendship Cup. Stein of course played for both sides during his career.

There were a few murmurs in the ground when it was noticed that Thomas Gravesen was in Celtic’s starting line up. Only a couple of years ago he was playing for Real Madrid and now here he was in Coatbridge. He was joined in the Celtic team by Derek Riordan. Not a regular first team player at any point in his Celtic career but another guy who stood out in the team selection.

Celtic also featured a trialist in goal. A gent beside me muttered that he ‘looked Mediterranean’, and someone else decided that ‘with a tan like that he has to be Italian.’ It turned out that he was Italian right enough. 17-year-old Daniele Giordano.

As for the game itself it was a pretty one-sided contest. The Rovers keeper made a terrible blunder for the first goal. Coming to collect a long ball in the eleventh minute, he missed it completely and Gravesen was left with an empty net to tap the ball into. Celtic followed that up with a scrappy second a few minutes later and as a contest it was as good as over.

A cracking long range effort from Mark Millar for the third goal ended the scoring for the first half.

In the second half I watched the game standing beside a disused tractor that a large number of children were playing on. As a Clydebank supporter I couldn’t help but listen in to the conversation taking place beside me as I realised it was two former players reminiscing about the Clydebank team I grew up watching. As I craned round to see, I recognised them as Tommy Coyne, whose son was wearing no 11 for Rovers and Gerry McCabe, now Assistant Manager at Dunfermline. That Clydebank team were well known for their open, attacking play and McCabe was one of the most gifted wingers I ever saw.

Gravesen was substituted at half-time and Riordan looked more alive in the second half than he did in the first 45. He got his reward by nabbing Celtic’s fourth goal, going round the keeper to slot home. Rovers kept plugging away and got themselves a consolation late on when Pat Walker fired in a belter of a shot.

My full set of photographs can be found on my Flickr page here.

Celtic: Trialist, Caddis, Cuthbert, Monti, Conroy, Gravesen, McGlinchey, Millar, Lafferty, Cawley, Riordan

Celtic Scorers: Gravesen, Lafferty, Millar, Riordan

Rovers: I couldn’t find a listing anywhere for the Albion Rovers line-up.

Rovers Scorer: Walker

Attendance: Decent, but I couldn’t find any official numbers apart from the unofficial Rovers website saying it was a ‘sell-out’.

Speaking to the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser, Rovers’ director, Pat Rolink, ‘revealed the gates had to be closed moments after kick-off due to the sheer size of the crowd.’

He said: “We had to turn people away which we weren’t happy about but we felt we had reached our capacity.”

The Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser have some film and interviews with fans going to the game below, as well as some scenes of the crowd, but no actual match footage.

Game One – Hibernian vs. Elfsborg

July 6, 2008

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Hibernian 0 vs. 2 IF Elfsborg

Intertoto Cup Second Round, First Leg
Sunday 6th July 2008, Kick-off 3pm
Easter Road, Edinburgh

If ever there was an argument against summer football in Britain it was this game. Despite a 3 o’clock kick-off the floodlights were on from the start as the rain battered down on an early July day that felt more like mid-October.

It’s a few years since I’ve been to Easter Road and little has changed. I used to live not too far from the ground and walking down Easter Road I was reminded of the various shops I used to frequent. Surprised that Movie Xpress is still on the go. It still had the same straight-to-Video (now Straight-to-DVD) titles in the window. I also noticed a wine shop called Cornelius. ‘I wonder if that’s named after the guy from Planet of the Apes,’ I thought, then noticed the logo featuring a wine glass that formed the centre of that very ape’s face.

The 6th of July is without doubt too early to be playing your first competitive match of the season, but the Inter Toto competition demands it as it puts numerous middle-of-the-road European sides through their paces, before they can join up with the UEFA Cup proper.

Hibs looked sluggish against an Elfsborg side in the midst of their domestic season. An easy excuse to make, but the Swedes were just a lot sharper.

They were there for the taking however and Hibs had a good few chances, which they just couldn’t take. Their defence was unfortunately several yards off the pace and repeatedly left gaps at the back.

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So it was no surprise when Emir Bajrami got in behind the defence and slotted the ball past Ma-Kalambay in the Hibs’ goal. Ma-Kalambay incidentally seemed to take an age whenever he was releasing the ball, unsure whether to throw short to Van Zanten or launch a long ball forward.

A second goal was always on the cards and it was no surprise when Elfsborg got it thanks to 31 year-old defender Andreas Augustsson. That was the cue for many Hibs fans to make for the exit. To be fair they didn’t miss much.

The Elfsborg side contained a few Swedish internationals such as the keeper Johan Wiland and the 93 times capped Anders Svensson. Coming on as a substitute was Stefan Ishizaki, who I remember as being shit-hot in Championship Manager a few years ago.

The best entertainment, it has to be said, was at half-time, when Graeme Lightbody, the Unofficial World Keepie-Uppie champion came on and showed off some dazzling skills with the ball. This including walking across the pitch while balancing it on his head. He was on the same train home as me so I could have asked him how he goes about claiming the official title. But chose to save him from such follow-up questions as, “Could you balance a ball on your head on this train, all the way back to Glasgow?”

I think Hibs can safely kiss goodbye to Europe for this season. They really needed to take a win to Sweden if they were going to get through to the next round.

This is the match report from the Hibs website.

My complete set of photographs can be found here on my Flickr page.

Hibernian: Ma-Kalambay, Van Zanten, Hanlon, Hogg, Jones, Murray, Kerr, Rankin, Fletcher, Shiels, Morais. Subs: McNeil, Canning, Stevenson, Chisholm, O’Brien, Campbell, Nish.

IF Elfsborg: Wiland, Floren, Karlsson, Andersson, Danielsson, Svensson, Avdic, Mobaeck, Lucic, Bajrami, Augustsson. Subs: Hassan, Sjoberg, Sjohage, Nordmark, Ishizaki, Kurbegovic.

Attendance: 7,809

Referee: Albert Toussaint (Luxembourg)