Clydebank 1-2 Hamilton Academical
Scottish First Division
Saturday 28th February 1981, Kick-Off 3pm
New Kilbowie Park, Clydebank
“We’re going to see Big Gary the day.” These were the words that woke me up on the morning of Saturday the 28th of February 1981. This was my dad talking and ‘Big Gary’ was Gary McDowell the son of my parents’ friends.
Gary McDowell was also the captain of Hamilton Academicals who were today playing my hometown club Clydebank. What this meant was that I was about to go to my first football match.
I was nine-years old. I hadn’t shown much interest in football in my first few years of life. I have a handful of football memories before this point.
My very first football memory, I realise sounds apocryphal, as it coincides with one of the greatest moments in Scottish football history. It was 11th of June 1978. The night before our television blew up as my dad watched Italy play Argentina. Annoying at the best of times dad was frantic, as not 24 hours later Scotland were due to play Holland in their final group match. If Scotland could win by 3 goals they would qualify for the latter stages of a World Cup Finals for the first time in their history.
The day of the match dad called my Uncle Pat to ask him if, or more accurately tell him that he would be coming round to his house to watch Scotland play Holland. My Uncle Pat, to this day has very little interest in football. This is probably why my dad would use him as a patsy in the days when big match tickets were allocated in postal ballots to increase his chances of landing a pair.
So my six-year-old self was dragged along to my Uncle and Aunt’s house because I was obviously too young to be left alone. I was handed some toys and played in the corner of the room as the match progressed. As I vroom-vroomed my motor cars I was suddenly shocked to hear my dad roar like I had never done before. I had heard him shout at me before, but this was different, this was a roar of delight. More pressingly I was shocked as in leaping from his chair dad had sent it rocking backwards, bumping into the lamp stand, which was now tumbling towards me. I threw myself out of the way as it crashed onto the floor.
I was now intrigued as to what exactly had turned my dad mental. I came out from behind the chair to look at the television. What I saw was a replay of Archie Gemmill’s famous second goal that night.
That genuinely is my first footballing memory. Before my first match, the handful of other football memories I have are watching Nottingham Forest play Hamburg in the 1980 European Cup final. I remember it was 80 and not 79 as I recall dad cheering on Martin O’Neill, who was ruled out injured in Forest’s first European success.
I also remember Gordon Strachan scoring as Scotland beat Sweden 1-0 in a World Cup Qualifier in September of 1980. These were the days when live football matches on the television were few and far between.
But enough of my digression. Dad had been promising to take me to a game for some time now, and my recollection is that I was keen, but felt some trepidation. Why I’m not sure. Perhaps the crowds. Although there was no chance of that at New Kilbowie.
New Kilbowie Park no longer exists. Like several one-time Scottish football grounds there now stand some shops in its place. An Aldi, a shut down Poundstretchers and I think some sort of DIY shop.
There is video of the ground from 1980 at this link. Best to turn the sound down though. Tomoyasu Hotei’s “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” is a great tune, but probably better when Quentin Tarantino uses it to soundtrack an ultra-violent film rather than a tour of an 80s Scottish football ground.
It could never have been described as ‘impressive’, but it was always a smart wee ground. The second all-seater in Scotland after Pittodrie, although admittedly it was seated primarily with benches as opposed to one seat per visitor.
What I remember from the game is very little. I remember that Clydebank wore their all-yellow change strip. I also remember that Clydebank had a good goal disallowed for offside. I recall this mainly because on the way home my dad suggested that it was ‘never offside’ and I nodded along, even although I had no idea at the time what offside was, let alone how it worked.
What the report from the Clydebank Post tells me is that this defeat left Clydebank fourth bottom of the First Division having now gone seven games without a win.
A few weeks later my dad was to take me to Kilbowie again. This time for a Scottish Cup quarter-final replay against Morton. We lost 6-0. For some reason though I was now a committed Clydebank fan and when a school-friend came round for me a couple of weeks later I was off to a game for the first time without parental supervision. We lost 3-1 to St Johnstone.
Clydebank: Kenny, Treanor, McLaughlin, Fallon, Evans, Given, Ronald, Houston, Millar, Gervaise, McCabe (McIntyre). Sub Not Used: Sharkey
Clydebank Scorer: Millar (26)
Hamilton Scorer: Alexander (55, 74)