Saturday, 8 March 2008

The Day We Went To Gretna

The Raydale Rooster works the home support into a tizzy.

The run down to the south west of Scotland is one of my favourite train journey's ever. The slow wind through the Ayrshire hills, following the Nith to Dumfries and then on to Annan and Gretna providing some breathtaking scenery. The first and last stretches of the journey are nothing special I suppose, but from Kilmarnock to Dumfries is, on a good day at least, something to behold.

At the time I made this journey, Partick Thistle were flirting with relegation, had just sacked Dick Campbell and the team were being taken by assistant Jimmy Bone and of all people Terry Butcher. Gretna on the other hand were flying high, and despite a few hiccups along the way looked to be certainties for the title. Their stock couldn't have been higher, certainly not after the previous seasons Scottish Cup heroics. A year later, and Thistle are still in the first division, but have at least got a half decent manager in Ian McCall and something approaching a plan for building to the future. If only such a plan extended to the finances........... :(

Jimmy Bone went on to be assistant manager with Bobby Williamson at Chester, before getting the punt some weeks before his manager (strange one that...), Terry Butcher has been mad assistant manager of Scotland (even stranger....) and Gretna...........? Well, I've been over than one before. See the article a few posts below. See also, oh I don't know, any Scottish newspaper you can care to mention............

On arriving at Gretna, I seemed to get in tow with a group of lads and their carry-outs. They were a good natured, if noisy bunch and kindly shared their cans. Necking a tin of Carling rat piss with them as we walked across some spare ground towards the town was something of a surreal experience. I suppose it's as close as I'll get to that scene in Trainspotting...... On arrival, I headed to the ground while the rest went on a search for a pub to have a quick round in. I wished them luck, it didn't look like the sort of place that tolerated such things as pubs. The ground itself is remarkable for it's hotch-potch nature. Along one side is a tiny covered terrace, only about three steps deep. At the back of it, you can see out onto the road that runs in front of the stadium.At one end sits a large-ish semi permanant stand, at the other, well, nothing. It looks like this has been cleared to construct something at some point. The other side of the ground consists of a clubhouse, a tiny non-league style stand and finally, a decidedly makeshift looking set of what can only be described as covered bleachers.
The enclosure. Smaller than I thought it was actually......

I'd say the crowd was about 40% Thistle, though the memory is a little fuzzy after all this time. What I did realise after the game was that Gretna seemed to get their fair share of tourists, with a bunch of loud English lads congregating in the pub afterwards to watch the scores coming in. The weird thing was that they seemed to support a dozen different teams each. I have enough trouble following one...........

The game itself was a predictable affair, Gretna showing their class over a deeply lacklustre Thistle team and easing to a comfy 2-0 win. Still, all wasn't lost. It was hard to be in a bad mood considering the lovely Spring weather and the view of the setting sun on the way home. All told, better than sitting in the house all day................

2 comments:

Malc said...

Following Gretna was very much THE thing to do a couple of years ago. I have half-a-dozen mates (mostly Walsall and Wolves fans) who hiked up the M6 once a month. I think they've gone off the idea now the trip is another hour-and-a-half.

I'm an Elgin City man meself.

iLL Man said...

Maybe it was them I saw in the pub. Mad lads, I have to say..........

Had they planned ahead, I think they could have built a three sided 6000 seat ground at Raydale, but they lived in the moment. No bad thing to be honest, but picking the pieces out of the wreckage is never fun.

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