Category Archives: Sport

Tales from the sporting realm

Skippy Bounces Back To The Beanos

Skippy2Just a brief addendum to the Blog, this Sunday lunchtime, to make large the news that Stirling Albion have announced their new managerial line-up. Following the departure of Greig McDonald and Marc McCulloch, after the 4-0 home reverse to Stenhousemuir, the club set about the process of finding their replacements. After two weeks of sifting applications and hosting interviews that process is now at an end. The result is that former players Stuart McLaren and Martyn Corrigan have returned to the club.

http://www.stirlingalbionfc.co.uk/2014/11/02/new-management-team/

As the above piece on the SAFC official organ proclaims, Stuart ‘Skippy’ McLaren is to become manager with Martyn ‘Kaiser’ Corrigan his assistant. Including nicknames may be overkill on my part, but it shows they were well enough liked the first time to earn one!

This blog, and I’m sure all Albion fans around the globe will wish Stuart and Martyn the best of luck. Based on the evidence of the match at Hurlford, they’ll need it.

Thanks for reading.

(Pic courtesy of Stirling Albion FC)

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A Day Trip To Hurlford

hurlford teamsThe days of me traipsing around the lower league grounds of Scotland writing match reports for Stirling Albion are over. However, I always said that for special, one-off, occasions I might dain to put pencil to notepad again. When Stirling were drawn away to Scottish Junior Cup holders, Hurlford, in the third round of the 2014/15 senior version, that was deemed  occasion enough to come out retirement. So, enough of the waffle, onto the game. Thanks to digital photography I don’t need to list the two teams by hand – the pic to the left gives you all you need to know. In truth not the most inspiring Albion XI of all time, and it seems the caretaker management have decided to change very little while at the helm. Some familiar names in the Hurlford line-up with Neil McGregor, Steve Masterton and Stewart Kean the most notable. Perhaps all three are past their prime, but plenty of experience to call on none-the-less.

The match kicked off on the sloping Blair Park pitch with a cold wind blowing from the clubhouse end of the ground. The pitch actually sloped from side to side, as well as down towards both goals – that apart it was a decent enough surface for a game of football. The first attack in anger came when Hurlford’s Paul McKenzie drifted a deep cross behind for a goal kick. Up the other end, James Creaney had a similar effort, which this time required home keeper Ally Brown to clutch the ball under no real pressure.  Brown then reacted well to flop onto a quick turn and shot by Gordon Smith from the edge of the box. A long distance free-kick was then chipped in by Dale Fulton towards Craig Wedderburn, only for the gangling defender to steer his header wide of target.

DSC_0011 (1)Hurlford’s first serious attempt at Calum Reidford’s goal saw them take a shock (?) lead. A 20 yarder from Stevie Masterton was blocked and on the follow-up STEWART KEAN cracked the ball into the roof of the net. The home fans in the crowd of 551 were delighted, and they nearly had a second to cheer as Masteron tugged a shot just wide. Has to be said the Beanos were falling off tackle after tackle as the Ayrshire Juniors looked to take a firm control on proceedings. A rare foray upfield by Graham Weir saw his cross met by Steven Doris, and his deflected strike had to be turned past by Ally Brown. The resulting corner reached Gordon Smith whose header landed on the roof of the net.

As the half wore on it was Hurlford who became stronger, as the Beanos struggled to string any passes together. A cross into the visitors box was met by scorer, Stewart Kean, and his scuffed header looked netbound until Callum Reidford clawed it out at the last second. A long punt from inside their own half was then skimmed just wide of target via the head of Chris Robertson. It wasn’t going to plan for Darren Smith’s charges, and yellows apiece for full-backs Lee Hamilton and Ross Forsyth didn’t help matters. The game could have been almost beyond the hapless Beanos, but thankfully Kean headed over from a Gus Cochrane centre when a goal seemed certain. Stirling’s interesting strategy for defending corners appeared to be to let the Hurlford player win the ball and put it wide or over. This was further emphasised when another set-piece delivery was met by an unmarked Hurlford head as Kean bulleted one past Reidford’s right-hand post.

The last few minutes of the opening 45 were as good as it had been for Stirling. David McClune saw an ambitious dig deflect harmlessly into the gloves of Ally Brown. A shy then broke into the path of Dale Fulton, and another deflected effort required Brown to get down low to tip the ball behind. From the next corner Chris Smith headed high and wide. Nothing too subtle from the Beanos at this stage. But from one long ball the rarely described, Steven Doris, sclaffed an angled strike tamely at Brown.

This was about all she wrote for the period of time known to some football watchers as ‘the opening 45’. Therefore as the teams trooped off for the half-time Creamola Foam and Cheesy Wotsits it was the hosts who maintained a deserved advantage.

Half-Time: Hurlford United 1 Stirling Albion 0

Just one change at the oft lamented ‘lemons’, and amazingly it wasn’t an Albion one. Instead, injury forced Neil McGregor to be replaced by Ross Robertson. This switch led to Ross’s namesake, Chris, moving from up front, back into defence. Ross Robertson was soon in the action as a foul on the Hurlford sub saw Craig Wedderburn shown yellow. The wind had if anything picked up during the break. This allied to Hurlford seeming to run out of steam and the Beanos remaining absolutely clueless meant play became very bitty. In fact the next few entries in my notes are all subs and bookings! James Creaney and Lee Hamilton both made way fairly quickly as Phil Johnston and Ross McGeachie took their places. United withdrew the knackered looking Stevie Masterton with Jamie Wilson coming on. Stirling sub, Ross McGeachie became the next visiting player to earn yellow from Alan Newlands.

When a chance eventually came in the second half it was a huge moment in the game. A corner was swung in from the Albion left and the unmarked Glen Mitchell headed a foot wide of Reidford’s right-hand post, from almost point-blank range. A terrible miss when the net seemed set to bulge. Stirling’s response was a weak shot from Phil Johnston which sailed into the gardens behind the ground. The home side then made their third, and last substitution, as Paul McKenzie was hooked in favour of Martyn Brown. Another player was soon heading off the pitch, although on this particular occasion there wasn’t one replacing him i.e. Craig Wedderburn was sent off for receiving a second yellow following a clumsy foul on Ross Robertson. From the free kick, Gus Cochrane’s dipping effort was alertly palmed behind by Callum Reidford.

A goal, and a man, down and creating next to nothing, our hopes appeared bleak. Yet, the Hurlford vuvuzela was stunned into momentary silence as out of nothing their favourites were pegged back. A Dale Fulton corner, from the Stirling right, was swung to the back post from where CHRIS SMITH poked a header just inside Ally Brown’s left hand upright. Couldn’t exactly say it had been coming, but in truth United hadn’t really made capital on Stirling being down to 10. After a brief wobble Darren Henderson’s men pushed forward once again. Gus Cochrane picked out the Stewart Kean in acres of space, but the former Ayr striker’s low shot skimmed across goal without any takers. Ross Robertson then set up Kean for another attempt, a header over from six yards out.

Time was almost up. The final moments saw Hurlford pen Stirling back with a succession of corners. In amongst them Dale Fulton was carded for what was likely persistent fouling. Despite plenty of balls into the Albion box the junior cup holder’s were unable to fashion a last-gasp winner. So as Alan Newlands blew for time the match ended all square with the replay set for Forthbank next weekend. In summary I’d say we’ll probably never play as badly as that again and not lose – we were dreadful, and any new manager has his work cut out. For their part Hurlford will be disappointed not to win, but if you don’t take your chances that’s what happens. However, it’s not all over. Any Albion fan expecting an easy ride in the replay will likely be in for a rude awakening.

Ah well, I enjoyed being back. Keep yer eyes peeled and one day down the road I might just enjoy being back again.

Thanks for reading, and Up the Beanos!

The End is Nigh

Greig McDonaldReaders of this blog will appreciate my current passion for creative fiction laced with a generous splash of Scottish politics. However, my first love (even before ‘she who must be obeyed‘) was the gallant footballing entity that is Stirling Albion FC. Since 1980 they were a huge part of my life – games were rarely missed, and when the internet was invented I became their one and only unofficial site. For 13 years reports were filed after every game and the burning of midnight oil became a common occupation in the name of SAFC. For a variety of reasons that passion quelled in the last couple of years. I’m still not sure why. However, I think it was a combination of reasons – poor football, lack of connection with the club/team, other things to do and really just exhausted mentally after so long writing about our travails.

So where is this leading I hear you ask?

Well this short blog entry is just to mark an important moment for Stirling Albion. We don’t change managers very often, but today saw our latest incumbent fall on his sword. Greig McDonald and his assistant Marc McCulloch resigned after our 4-0 home defeat to local rivals Stenhousemuir. Bottom of the League One table, with one win in our ten matches to date, our goal difference is a horrific -16 (13 worse than anybody else). A statistic of one first-half goal in our 13 competitive matches in 2014/15 tells the story of a problem which was never solved. It was one we had last season too, until a late burst of form saw us gain promotion via the play-offs.

So you were promoted last season and are still getting rid of your manager?

greig-mcdonaldYes. That may surprise some, but in reality promotion appears to have been the exception in what was in the main a poor tenure under Greig McDonald. The truth is that one or two results were the difference between 3rd and 5th (missing the play-offs) and we were on the right side of those results. However, fairs fair. We won promotion and we owe Greig thanks for that. Yet, the feeling persisted that something just wasn’t right. There were too many poor games. Too many scoreless first-halfs. Too many times the same mistakes were made in what was a weak division. Sadly for Greig those mistakes continued this term. A step up perhaps, but we simply had to do better than we’ve done. Four and five goal defeats at home just isn’t acceptable. The team seems to be playing with no plan, no goal, no real strategy. We don’t build on good performances, good moments. Lesson’s are never learnt.

Confession time – I never really took to Greig McDonald. Seemed a decent enough bloke, but one who was rushed into management on the back of an injury ravaged playing career. In my view he struggled to get the best out of his players and he struggled to get the best of opposing managers tactically. Just think he wasn’t ready. A lack of contacts, being too close in age to his players, a relatively blank CV – none of this helped him. Don’t think it’s the worse thing for him to move  on and get some experience at a lower lever, or perhaps as  coach. He needs be able to get the best from players and to be able to influence games more. Not writing him off, but it was definitely best for both parties to move on before our position became hopeless.

Now it is crunch time for the club. We can’t afford to slip meekly back into the basement division. We must get a manager who can inspire, organise and lead the team up the table. Hopefully we will do just that soon.

Thanks for reading.

Referendum Aftermath

Andy-Murray_2341157bOn the morning of the Scottish Independence referendum, Scotland’s own 2 x Grand Slam winner Andy Murray tweeted his support for independence. Have to admit I was surprised as he is usually fairly guarded on such matters. However, over the previous few days his older brother, Jamie, had made it clear he was in favour. Therefore it was perhaps no real shock that Andy thought the same. Like many he had become utterly despondent at the negative campaigning of the NO team and had therefore given his backing to YES.

So a fiery, passionate Scotsman having an opinion on the future of his own country? All good you would think. Well not so according to many in the southern based media. Seems ok for the likes of David Beckham, The Queen, The Pope, Barack Obama and Cliff Richard to come out for NO, but hell mend a famous Scotsman coming out for YES. Twitter and newspaper comment sections have been swamped with highly abusive sentiments towards Andy. Some of those who had previously waved their flags and celebrated when he won Wimbledon were now torn. How could they possibly support this turncoat who had advocated the breaking up of their glorious Union? In truth I think those in the south are taking it as some form of rejection of England, and as such why should England now support this uppity Scot?

Bottom line is Andy Murray gave an opinion. Last time I checked this was a democracy and considering the magnitude of the moment I’d expect every Scot to have had an opinion. If it truly does impact on his popularity in England then it will be a sad day for sport and the UK. People need to accept others think differently from them. We Scots do get passionate about our country. It’s not about hating on others, it’s about wanting the best for ours. I really hope the UK tennis crowds don’t get on his back. The bloke has given his all for tennis on these islands and doesn’t deserve to be shunned for the heinous crime of airing an opinion.

***

butterflyThroughout the referendum campaign the world ‘nationalism’ was thrown around as if one stepped removed from ‘Nazi’. Well, as referendum watchers will know there was indeed more than one occasion upon which supporters of independence were referred to as ‘Nazis’. Why someone who supports self-determination for their country would be compared to a regime responsible for two world wars and the deaths of millions is something lost on me. It’s actually a gross insult to those who died in the wars and camps that a free democratic process could in any way be compared to the actions of the Third Reich and the National Socialists.

So what is nationalism?

Well for me, it’s not about ethnicity. It’s about the people of a country wanting the best for that country i.e. civic nationalism. That is to say the voters of Scotland, those who live here, having their voice heard to the max. Whether you are 20 generation Scots or a migrant from any part of the globe, it makes no difference. If you live in Scotland, you are capable of being a Scottish Nationalist.

The problem the media has is that the word nationalism is often linked to ‘British Nationalists’. Now, a British Nationalist is in general perceived as an anti-immigration, anti-European…in short a racist. Think National Front, think BNP and that is what I would see as a British Nationalist. This form of nationalism is deeply ethnic, not civic. The difference between this and what he have in Scotland couldn’t be more marked. Scottish Nationalism is inclusive, pro-immigration, pro-Europe. People just need to take a moment to understand similar sounding words can mean utterly different things.

***

SNP_LOGOmed_copySo What now? As I type membership of the party which gave us the chance to vote on independence, The Scottish National Party (SNP), has increased it’s membership by nearly 100% since Friday. From 25,000 it now has around 50,000 members. I was a member many years ago and may well join again. However, more important than that is the mood. From the despair of early Friday morning an air of optimism has slowly but surely emerged. Part of this is a show of support for the organisation which gave us the chance to say YES.

Let me firstly say one thing. YES lost the referendum. No matter how you spin the voting patterns, campaign tactics etc the bottom line is NO won, and YES lost. I accept that without debate. However, does that mean I should stop wanting independence? Does that mean the 1.6 million who voted YES should just give up the hope of something new, something better for Scotland? Of course not! There is now talk of new movements, new alliances as old friendships are strengthened and new ones formed. The dream for constitutional change in Scotland will never die. It may just take a different path for now.

My own view is we need to press the Unionist parties as hard as possible on their pledge of new powers for Scotland. By accident or design the term ‘Devo Max’ has become associated with what the NO campaign promised in the final days. Devo Max is in essence just about as much devolution you can have without being independent. Everything apart from Defence and Foreign Affairs is devolved. Securing this should be the goal of the new YES alliances which form. If Scotland proves itself capable of the additional responsibilities offered by Devo Max then perhaps in time the people of our country will truly believe we can stand alone. However, if they remain happy with a much stronger Parliament in Edinburgh, but still in the UK then that’s fine too.

However, as a true Scottish Nationalist I hope one day independence will be achieved. But for now let’s take smaller steps, as that is what the country seemed to say last Thursday i.e. not a NO to independence, but a NOT YET.

Thanks for reading.

SFL1 Play-Off Review 2013/14 (aka ‘We Are Going Up!’)

8-DSC_0213Up until a few weeks ago it hadn’t been a particularly memorable season for Stirling Albion; in fact it hadn’t been memorable at all. A promising start fizzled away as we found ourselves several points and places distant from the one automatic promotion spot. However, in the Scottish Football League there is of course the season saving entity that is the “Play-Offs”. For those who aren’t aware what these beasts are, well simply put, they give teams who haven’t automatically earned promotion, or relegation, the chance for redemption. Even this way out of the murky waters of SFL2 appeared unlikely at one point, until a barnstorming end to the campaign saw us rack up the wins needed to secure third place and a date with Annan Athletic.

As an aside, the play-offs are funny things. If you’re not in them then it’s because your season is over, and as such you’ve likely switched off from football. I know myself that when this happens the play-offs pass by almost unnoticed. Yet, if you’re in them then they are undoubtedly the most intense games of the season. To come out on top you play four games in twelve days: a two legged semi-final followed by a two legged final. As the third placed team our opponents were the second place team, the aforementioned Annan Athletic. The highest placed team gets the second leg at home which meant our play-off run started on Wednesday 7th May at home to the Galabankies. A fast start saw Stirling 3-0 up in half an hour. Despite cooling off after the break we still managed to record a 3-1 win on the night. Three days later a big Stirling support made the 100 mile trip to the border town of Annan for the decisive second leg – they weren’t to be disappointed. Another quick start had the Beanos two up, and 5-1 on aggregate after only a few minutes. The home side rallied briefly before the visitors cruised to a 5-3 win on the day and a whopping 8-4 over the two legs.

1-DSC_0203In the final, Stirling would take on East Fife. The side from Methil in Fife were fancied by many to challenge for promotion in 2013/14. Those predictions were left looking rather silly as a theoretically strong Fifer’s side simply failed to add up to the sum of its parts. In their semi-final it required a marathon penalty shoot-out to overcome Clyde. Indeed Clyde blew a chance to win when Michael Daly saw his penalty saved. It was therefore Gary Naysmith’s East Fife outfit who would be our opponents. Stirling manager Greig McDonald had eight years as a player with the Fifers, but there is no doubt where his loyalties now lie. Therefore it came down to this – one tie, two legs in five days. The prize for East Fife, to stay in SFL1; the prize for Stirling Albion, to get promoted to, and replaced East Fife in SFL1.

The first leg of the final took place on Wednesday 14th May at an expectant Forthbank Stadium, the home of Stirling Albion. A big home crowd, and a decent away turn out, witnessed a fairly nervous encounter. Stirling took the lead before the break when veteran skipper Ross Forsyth looped a header into the net. Sadly though, Stirling failed to build on the momentum of this goal and it was the visitors who looked more of a threat after the break. Substitute Scott McBride bulleted a leveller following a corner, before in the last minute another sub, Nathan Austin, stunned the Stirling fans with a second. There was still time for the Beanos to hit a post and miss a sitter, but as the final whistle blew it was Gary Naysmith’s men who had earned the spoils with a 2-1 win. Stirling therefore had it all to do with the second leg to be played at East Fife’s New Bayview Stadium five days later.

4-DSC_0208Despite being a goal down, some 700 Stirling Albion fans travelled to Fife still optimistic about their favourite’s chances. Win the game after 90 minutes and the worst we could have would be extra-time. However, if we were two goals or more clear at the end of regulation we would of course be the play-off winners. On a pleasantly warm afternoon the agenda seemed set fair from the start. East Fife were looking to negate Stirling, lock-down midfield and to keep our potential match winners as far as possible from their goal. To be fair in the first half they did a good job of it. The second period was another tight affair. With only 16 minutes left on the clock a goalless draw seemed set to end our season on a low note. However, then step forward our little and large goal heroes. Firstly, top scorer Jordan White got on the end of a knock-down to loft the ball past the East Fife keeper. It was then the turn of his pint-sized strike partner to take centre stage. With almost nothing on, Sandy Cunningham lashed an outrageous half-volley past the spectator that was the East Fife custodian. It’s unlikely the home keeper even saw the ball as it ripped past him into the net. To say Stirling fans went a bit potty would be an understatement.

There was still ten minutes or so to go, but other than one near post save from Beanos goalie David Crawford, the host’s goose was cooked. It was therefore with relative calm that Stirling made their way to the final whistle, and promotion. Well done to the players, coaching staff, Executive and fans of Stirling Albion for making such days possible. See you all again next season in SFL1.

6-DSC_0211

The Wait is Over – Arise Sir Andy Murray!

murray1British tennis waited 76 years for a Grand Slam winner. That wait ended in September last year when Dunblane’s Andy Murray won the 2012 US Open. However, for many seasonal followers of tennis in these islands that was merely a warm up event. The only tournament that matters is the one which takes place in SW19 each summer. Wimbledon. Win that and you have arrived. Don’t win it the wait for a home winner continues. For all he has achieved in the game the World No. 2 would only truly receive the adulation and acceptance of some Brits when Wimbledon was cracked. That moment came a few short hours ago. The Wimbledon men’s singles champion for 2013 is Andy Murray!

wimbledoneThis afternoon under scorching London skies was Andy’s second successive Wimbledon final. His seventh overall appearance in a Grand Slam final. He has actually played in four consecutive Slam finals. He missed the French through injury but featured in the most recent Australian, US Open and Wimbledon championship matches. Of those six to date he’d won one and lost five. Each occasion he has been up against either Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic (three times each). Nothing has come easy. No patsy in the finals. Each time the underdog. Therefore when the moment came at Flushing Meadows it was for some the likely pinnacle of his career. Well, those thoughts are now being hastily revised.

Pre-match my thoughts were perhaps Novak in four but also suggested it wouldn’t surprise me if Andy won in straight sets. These two players are incredibly close and it was always going to boil down to a few points here or there. Today it was Andy’s turn to prevail. It wasn’t though without some last gasp tension which must have had the British nation on the verge of kittens. Three championship points came and went. Novak had three break back points. He couldn’t possibly lose it from here? He didn’t! Having shown incredible mental strength to fend off the break points the match and title was sealed when Djokovic netted a forehand.

He’d done it! He’d done it!

No more years of waiting. No more mentions of Fred Perry. We should cherish these years as they may well be the best ever in British tennis history.  Well done Andy. Two time Grand Slam champion. Wimbledon winner 2013. Take a bow sir. You’ve earned it!

The Artist Formerly Known as RedWeb

redweb2.1 For the last 15 years of my life I have been known to many as RedWeb. My name is not RedWeb. Never has been RedWeb and never will be RedWeb. I am Paul. However, the name of my Stirling Albion match reports website and my own seem to have become one over the years. Even in conversations I will still get referred to as “Red”. Well no more. Hour upon hour spent conjuring up 1500 word reports from a handful of my scribbled notes is over. RedWeb is dead. Paul is very much alive. Perhaps I should be sad. I’m not. I am relieved. I’ve done my bit. Now it’s time to move on.

redweb3.1RedWeb, the site NOT me, started in 1998 as a way of introducing myself to the world wide web. The idea that a PC, a dial up modem (remember them) and some basic software could get you seen and heard around the world was too much to resist. Not that this has ever been an ego trip. Some might say it was but it wasn’t. Well not really. Anybody who publishes their work in the public domain is a little bit of a show off. Let’s be honest. Undoubtedly I thought my opinions on Stirling Albion were interesting ones and I now had the vehicle to let others hear them. Before RedWeb there were only mailing lists. Hard to believe but true for those who have only ever known the wonders of the information age. From then to now, well yesterday, I was hooked. It became who and what I was.

redweb1.1Now who I am and what I want to be has changed. Almost a third of me has gone after a year of dieting and the new Paul has different goals. I still want to write. I love writing. I need to write. However, that writing will now take the form of blogging and dabbles in the world of creative fiction.

Over the last day or so I have received many thanks and well wishes from people who have enjoyed reading my reports and looking at our photos over the years. It means a lot to me that these people took the time to say “thanks”. As much as I may have enjoyed the writing process in itself the fact that it was actually being read and appreciated made it mean more. Let’s face it. Every writer wants to be read. I was no different and never will be.

Ah well. That is that. Today is the start of a new chapter. Indeed you could say an entirely new book. The one called “RedWeb” is complete and my new one loosely titled “Paul” has begun. I hope from time to time you may take a moment to view and enjoy some of the chapters from here on in.

(For those who want to read my last ever article on RedWeb i.e. as RedWeb, then you will find it here. Be warned it includes a lot of pictures of me when I was “bigger” than I am now. Shocking but essential viewing, for me at least!)

The Elgin Marbles

fmth_safcI can hear you, “Oh no, he’s about to talk about sport”. Well, that’s just hard cheese. I am indeed going to talk about sport. Even worse for some I’m going to talk about football. Bit of background. For my sins I have followed the fortunes of Stirling Albion FC since early 1981. It all began one Saturday morning I was bored so I asked my mother if I could go and watch Stirling play. They were at home to somebody. They won by a long forgotten scoreline. I was hooked. Unfortunately that first game was the last time Stirling scored a goal that season. Bearing in mind this was January and the season doesn’t finish until May lets you know how long that was. Just to clarify. The week after I started supporting Stirling Albion they set off on an all time British record of not scoring for 14 games. However, as a 13 year old kid I wouldn’t have been any where else on a Saturday. Terrible football but great memories.

Oh yes, we also won a Scottish Cup game 20-0 once. I was there. 5-0 at half-time, 15 more in the second half. We lost in the next round. That’s football. To be more precise that’s Stirling Albion. Over the 32 years since that fateful afternoon in 1981 there have been highs and lows. More of the latter but there comes a point where it all merges into the same thing. You go and support your team. Some you win. Some you lose. Some you draw. You come home and repeat the following week. It’s just something you do because it’s in the blood. Well, these days the passion doesn’t run quite as strong as it once did. For the last 15 years I’ve run this. However, after the current season ends I will be stopping. Time for others to carry the torch. I want to do other things including writing on here. I want to see what else I can do other than write about football.

Well, that’s a bit of background. Quite a lot of background. Even those who like sport may have drifted off by now. As for those who don’t like sport then I think we probably parted the ways several sentences ago. I would like to introduce those still here to the point of this article. Namely that Stirling Albion won a game today. What made that so special was the fact that it was our first away win in our division all season. The season started in August. It’s now March. That’s a long time. The fall guys were Elgin City. Elgin have been in terrible form and some even expected us to win today. That creates it’s own pressure but it’s a pressure we dealt with successfully and headed on the long journey home with the win.

Enough for now. Didn’t mean to write this much but sometimes things just have to be said. I promise to those following my blog that I won’t talk about football or indeed sport too much. When I do I’ll try to make it as interesting as possible for those who wouldn’t think it could possibly be interesting. However, I reserve the right to wander from time to time and you’ll just need to trust and follow or wait till I get back. We don’t need to go everywhere together although you’re always welcome. Last word(s) for today. We won!

Save Wrestling As An Olympic Sport!

2013 Australian Youth Olympic Festival - Day 5Ok. I’ll be honest. I don’t like Olympic wrestling. I used to enjoy watching the exploits of WWE superstars such as The Rock and The Undertaker but amateur wrestling has always left me confused. Nothing much seems to be happening and then it’s all over. The bottom line is like many people I don’t appreciate the subtleties or indeed the rules. Makes it all seem a confusing bunch of nothing. However, to those who love the sport as either competitors or spectators it is clearly far from nothing.

Hence the expected uproar when it was announced that wrestling was to be dropped as an Olympic sport from 2020. Whether you actually like wrestling or not doesn’t seem to me to be the point. At times you should stick with tradition. In Olympic terms there isn’t a sport as traditional as wrestling. Wrestling, which combines freestyle and Greco-Roman events, was included in the inaugural modern Olympics in Athens in 1896. It has been in every Games since, apart from Paris in 1900. For me it is an almost uniquely Olympic event. One of those things that people often only watch once every four years.

Perhaps wrestling just isn’t sexy enough. Perhaps it doesn’t sell enough advertising space. What it does do though is retain the real spirit of the Olympic movement. It is the sort of sport which you could actually imagine taking place in ancient Greece and the Roman empire. It is a sport which has transcended generations and one which embodies what Olympic competition is all about. Reading various comment pieces on the web one sentiment is commonly voiced. The best quote I could find to sum up the general feeling comes from a wrestling coach in the USA:

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.

Any wrestler, former or current, lives by this creed. Wrestling teaches the participants there is nothing greater than the battle itself. Wrestling is as much a battle of one’s own mind and thoughts, as it is a battle against your opponent.”

Whether you like the sport or not. To me it doesn’t matter. Sometimes things should just be left as they are. To help save Olympic wrestling please visit, read and if you feel so inclined then sign the following petition:

https://www.change.org/petitions/the-international-olympic-committee-save-wrestling-as-an-olympic-sport-saveolympicwrestling

Transfer Deadline Day

Sky Sports presenters are like children on Christmas morning. If they get any more excited it’s possible they would actually burst. Not sure if there is actually any recorded cases of over excitement leading to bursting but we could be about to have one. The prospect of Manchester City loaning an 18 year youth player to Oldham or Stoke City signing a fourth choice goalkeeper is all to much for them. Love it or hate the Transfer Deadline Day does make for good and at times desperate television.

Around the grounds we go. Hour after hour of freezing cold reporters surrounded by local urchins hoping to catch a glimpse of their new signing. Scratch that. Hoping to get themselves on television. The sad reality of this twice yearly charade tends to be a lot of uninteresting moves by players most clubs are glad to get rid of. As ever the only club really spending money and attempting to grab headlines, as well as players, is the one managed by Harry Redknapp. The media friendly old rogue is currently employed by Queens Park Rangers where their owner can expect his wallet to be considerably lighter by the time ‘Arry has finished with it.

Up here in Scotland Deadline Day passes without much frenzy. With Rangers not only currently languishing in Division Three but also the subject of a transfer embargo, only their rivals Celtic are of any interest to the media. Even that interest is not what it was witnessed by the lack of people hanging around outside Celtic Park. All quiet on the eastern front. East End of Glasgow that is.

In the old days there was no transfer window. Teams could sign players as and when they liked. Not totally clear why they still can’t. Think I preferred it that way. Sky Sports and the assembled throng of the UK media clearly prefer the monster they have created in Deadline Day. It has is moments but not enough to justify the hype.

Novak Djokovic Confirms His Status As “The Wizard of Oz”

Ok, ok. Apologies for the corny title but the fact is it sums things up nicely. The Serb won his fourth Australian Open this morning with a four set win over our very own Andy Murray (ps for those new to my blog I am Scottish as is Mr Murray !). This made is seven grand slam titles for the 25 year old from Belgrade, three in a row in Melbourne. Novak clearly enjoys the Australian courts and surroundings. I’m sure this year he will be out to further establish his position at the top of the men’s game by winning one of the non-Oz majors over the coming months.

Time Out – “Major”or “Grand Slam”. Some say one some say the other. Now seems in vogue to call what used to always be referred to as Slams as Majors. The GS term is now kept on ice by many to describe the feat of winning all four majors in one season. End of time out.

As for Andy. Have to say another fantastic achievement to reach the final of a major.Yes, he’s lost all but one, although each defeat has been to either Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic. For Andy to have actually managed to win one of his finals was a monumental achievement no matter what else he does in his career. In such an incredibly tough era for men’s tennis to have won 25 titles including 8 Masters 1000, Olympic Gold plus of course his major at Flushing Meadows is a truly superb feat by the Brit. He has nothing to redress himself for after today’s defeat.

Last word for Novak. Have to say if Andy wasn’t around the Serb would probably be my favourite player. Fantastic athlete, tremendous sport and above all a sublime tennis player. Well done Nole. A true champion.

Match Postponed

Another Saturday without live football as Berwick’s Shielfield Park falls victim to the sudden blast of winter. Got to be honest and say I’m getting used to the feeling. After 30 years following Stirling around Caledonia I thought the leaving would be more painful. Not that I’m leaving but the strings are most certainly being loosened. For those not in the know this is my last season doing this:

http://www.stirlingalbionfc.com

From next season match reports, photos and all that jazz will be no more. Not quite true. Will post the odd match report on here when the mood takes me, which probably won’t be that often but I rule nothing out. I like writing things down so I’ll almost certainly feel the need to vent and describe at some point. Just don’t rely on me for it any more.

No game next weekend as the hapless Glasgow Rangers aka Sevco are likely getting scalped by Dundee United in the Scottish Cup. The Shire await on the following Tuesday at Forthbank. Can’t wait. Well, in truth I can.