Scot-Ads Highland Football League
Saturday 4th April 2009, Kick-Off 3pm
Claggan Park, Fort William, Lochaber
A trip up north today to see ‘Britain’s worst football team’. Fort William have not won a match all season and last season they only won once.
Fort William is only 3 hours on the bus from Glasgow and the ground is about a 15 minute walk from both the bus station and the adjacent train station.
Claggan Park is tucked away at the end of an industrial estate at the foothills of Ben Nevis. I’m there in plenty of time for kick-off. In fact I’m there to see the Deveronvale team bus arrive.
I’m the first paying customer into the ground. It’s only £6 admission, which is decent value. I go into Ninnie’s Bar, inside the ground. I notice that there are crisps and nuts laid out on the tables in little glass bowls, which I haven’t seen since I was wee. A nice touch.
The walls are decorated with pennants, team photographs, shirts and newspaper clippings.
Inside the ground there is a garden with a couple of greenhouses and many potted plants.
It’s a nice, very well cared for ground. My only complaint really is that the terracing is some distance from the pitch. I would estimate that all the way around you’re about 25 yards away from the touchline. There is only one portion of the ground that is raised, that being the seated enclosure, so this is the best spot in the ground for a decent overall view of the pitch.
In November of 2008 Deveronvale hammered Fort by 10 goals to nil, so the home side know they have their work cut out.
Fort appear to be a very young side. There doesn’t seem to be many players over 25 in the team.
The attendance today is far from impressive. I would estimate that there’s only around 40 people here, which is a shame. I’m led to believe that Fort William is a town more interested in shinty than in football.
Of the handful of Deveronvale fans here are a couple of guys who have obviously come along together. Over their ‘Vale shirts and scarves one of them wears a Rangers jacket, while the other sports a Celtic jacket.
The talk on the terraces is all about Ferguson and McGregor’s midweek indiscrections and the scoreline from Celtic Park.
The home side start very well attacking Deveronvale from down the right wing with Sean Ellis getting plenty of the ball.
Ellis creates the opening goal in the twelfth minute as he takes the ball down the wing and fires in a cross that Scott Shields knocks in from inside the six-yard box.
It’s a shock lead for Fort William, but can they hang on? Deveronvale push hard for an equaliser but find Fort defending well. It’s obvious though that if Fort are going to land their first win of the season today then there will be plenty of heart-in-mouth moments for the next 75 minutes.
Fort go close in 24 minutes when James Blanchard in the Vale goal makes a great save from a Robert MacGillivary shot.
But inevitably it goes wrong for the home side. In the 26th minute Deveronvale get the ball in the box as Mark Chisolm goes on a run. He’s clearly cut down by Martin Godwin’s lunging challenge. It’s a stonewall penalty kick and it’s easily converted by Sam MacKay.
It’s all Deveronvale from now on. The get their second in the 37th minute as Robbie Duncanson beats the offside trap and makes a run into the penalty area, tucking the ball past Masteron on his left hand side.
Fort are now giving possession away very cheaply, although they continue to defend in numbers.
It’s 3-1 to the visitors four minutes before half-time when Darren McAllister fires home.
The heads go down a bit as the half-time whistle sounds.
The second half starts in the same vein with Deveronvale on the attack and Fort William fighting hard in defence.
It takes ‘Vale 20 minutes into the second half to get their fourth as a header to the back post is tapped in by Duncanson.
After that, it only takes a minute to add the fifth as Sam MacKay, ten yards out, meets an inswinging cross with his head to send the ball past the Fort keeper.
With five minutes left the long suffering Fort fans see their side lose a sixth goal as Cowie taps the ball over the line from two yards out.
Fort haven’t played badly this afternoon, but they’ve been unable to hold on to the ball and have struggled to get it cleared out of the penalty area.
After the match I go into the social club again to watch a replay of the Grand National, before walking in to the town centre to have fish and chips in a pub as I wait for my bus.
In addition to their poor form, the one thing Fort William are probably best known for is their sponsorship deal and the unusual television project for which they’ve been unwittingly chosen.
Fort William signed a sponsorship deal with America’s Team last summer. Currently they wear the website’s logo on their shirts. The idea however is that from summer 2009 Fort William will become part of an American reality TV show with America’s Team sending over up to 10 American players in order to turn Fort William from ‘worst to first’.
The website offers annual $69 subscriptions for people to take part. Billed as a real-life Fantasy Football game the plan is for the mooted thousands of subscribers to pick the team, the formation, ‘strategies’ and even substitutions. There are also incentives for subscribers to get other people to sign up. Let’s draw three triangular shaped lines around that diagram and see what it looks like. There is a lengthy video on their site explaining the ins and outs of the service.
The promotional video (sorry, ‘Sizzle Reel’) for America’s Team FC is below. (You’ll notice that there’s no need for subtitles when the American guy is talking, they’re only required when Scottish folk speak.) It starts off as a reasonably amusing American take on ‘Skattish Socker’, but it quickly takes a quite offensive turn using nonsense quotes from people who’ve clearly never seen the team play. It then goes on to portray Fort William as nothing more than a team of drunks managed by a gormless idiot. This all leads in nicely to the solution the video offers which is sending over a bunch of American frat boys fresh from macking some chicks to sort it all out. Just as well, because according to the video the current crop of Fort William players are nothing more than ‘Nancy boys’.
Now I can understand that the board of Fort William may be eager for this project to be a success. It’s already raised their public profile, which is good. I’m sure they’ve made a little bit of money out of it and with the promise of more money to come, the board may well look on it as a welcome business proposition. There is also the unequivical promise of a turnaround in their fortunes. Again, the staff at Fort William have to look on that as a good thing.
However, the America’s Team video is completely demeaning. It’s nothing more than an insult to the players, management, fans and people of Fort William. To be honest, it’s difficult to take it seriously what with the over the top comments and American Gladiator style voiceover.
Surely no self respecting film-maker would put together a piece so ill-informed and littered with bought and paid for hyperbole.
The fact that the people who made the video actually sponsor the team is staggering. Who’s ever heard of a team sponsor going out their way to insult the team?
Of course it’s all good promotion for the America’s Team show. Turning around this bunch of layabouts, alkies and poofs? What a triumph that would be. Not to mention winning over the people of the town, what with their well known anti-US sentiments and all. However, it makes me fearful for the Fort William team, as they embrace the plans while their benefactors publicy ridicule the side.
But it’s all just a daft laugh eh? It’s the telly and that’s more important than a wee football club nobody cares about. And that’s just the thing who would care? Maybe about 50 folk would be concerned, and by the sounds of things most of them have been convinced it’s a good idea.
Personally, I think it sounds absolutely appalling. Exactly the kind of thing that should be discouraged from making its way into football. Fort William FC should, in my opinion, run a mile from it. What Team America and PMAC Entertainment Tonight look to be attempting first and foremost is what so many fly-by-nights do and that is finding a way to make money from the internet.
I’m sorry I didn’t research this before I made my trip, as McDonald was at the match yesterday and was sitting only feet away from me in the social club afterwards.
There are a selection of articles on Paul McDonald and his America’s Team project at this link.
Hopefully Fort can pick up a win or two before the season ends. I’ll watch with interest to see what transpires with the America’s Team project. Perhaps it’ll be the best thing for the side, but I doubt it.
I had an enjoyable day, despite the weather not being very nice and I found the people friendly and the town very pleasant. I’ll certainly visit again next season.
You can see more of my photographs here.
Fort William: Masteron, Hendry, Godwin, Shields (Laing 47), Ferguson, Kerr, Martin, Ellis, Gillespie, MacGillivary (Foggo 87), Ellis
Scorer: Shields (12)
Deveronvale: Blanchard, Gilbert, Stephen, Chisolm, David MacKay, Clark (Rodger 68), Cowie, Sam Mackay, Coutts (Noble 58), Duncanson (Meldrum 82), McAllister
Scorers: Sam MacKay (26 pen, 66), Duncanson (37, 65), McAllister (41), Cowie (85)
Referee: Billy Baxter
Assistants: Willie Turner, Ryan Johnstone
Attendance: From a rough headcount perhaps 40.