We are all Loons

My chest is tight. It feels like my blood is made of treacle. I am short of breath and it is raining. My hands are sticky and slightly burnt from the deep fried mars bar that I have just eaten. I assume this is how a Scotsman feels 95% of the time. That is right: I have made a trip to my Motherland to take in the Scottish third tier.

Good ground if you have forgotten where you are.

Denmark offers an incredibly generous five day Easter holiday although seemingly every seat South for the weekend was booked so we did what all good people who have spent time on Eastern European wages do. Book the cheapest flight on Skyscanner – Everywhere for those dates (although we ignored Lithuania, sorry Lithuania). It would also give us the opportunity to visit some of my Scottish family and try the delicacies of Scottish cuisine.

One fatal flaw in my plan was that Easter happened to coincide with International weekend, meaning a deep dive into the lower leagues of Scottish football. This must be how Rangers have been feeling for the last five years. Boom. Rangers were indeed at home when we were in Glasgow, but I didn’t really fancy sitting with the home fans (and Gy struggles with the difference between the Huns and the Huns) and away tickets had to be purchased from Queen of the South’s home ground. I could not find Queen of the South on a map so I gave that up pretty quickly. More importantly though that match clashed with the opportunity to watch Stenhousemuir against Forfar Athletic. Forfar is the birthplace of my mother; thereby, making it my Mother Team (a concept that I created as a ten year old). It has always been something of a dream to watch Forfar (although I would have preferred a home game at Station Park – Forfar has no station). Gy (bizarelly) agreed to forego a day sightseeing in Edinburgh for a trip to Ochliview in Scotland’s delightful Central Belt.

All Englishmen have poor quality mug shots taken

The Town

Stenhousemuir does not have a train station (similarly to Forfar so perhaps this is not a Tim Top Fact). In fact, I am not even sure if Stenhousemuir is an actual town. (It is, I just checked.  Fact quality low this week). But is conveniently located midway between Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee meaning it is within striking distance of all three. That should be the town’s slogan. Stenhousemuir: Near other places in Scotland.

In spite of the proximity to everywhere, we almost missed the game. It turns out that Scots are more disorganized at large infrastructure projects than the English (I assume because they are drunk). So the fleet of high-visibility vested workers at Glasgow station managed to put us on the wrong train so we ended up missing the first two minutes of the game. Thanks, Scotrail.

The Stadium

Ochliview (pronounced something similar to I’ll-Smash-Yer-Facein-Ya-English-Bastad) is never going to host a World Cup. In fact, it could almost be confused for a series of garages. If the garages had a football pitch in them. The main garage is sponsored by the Norwegian Stenhousemuir Supporter Group. I have no idea where to begin on that. Apart from the main garage, which was the only one open there was a terrace behind one end and two open sides: open that is with the exception of a shipping container from a certain Danish shipping company. It was unclear whether this was sponsored by the Danish Stenhousemuir Supporter Group. The main stand was actually quite full and we ended up in the front row perched behind a bin. Sitting behind bins is not something I actively encourage (take heed, Jack Wilshere), but on this occasion I was working on the assumptions that it probably would not smell that much (I assume they clean after each home game) and it would offer added protection for Gy’s nose against the inevitable wild passes at this level.

s7

A man with only a head, a hand and legs!! Sh’t camo got me again.

Ochliview boasts a 3G pitch. Having seen a pretty terrible pitch in Denmark the week before, it actually makes a little bit of sense if a club can afford it as it gives the players a fighting chance. The bounce was a bit tennis bally though.

The Game

The first half was good (I mean not terrible), but the game quickly descended into head tennis in the second. Did you know that Forfar are known as The Loons? Probably not. Apparently it means the Young Ones and indeed, I suspect more through coincidence, the team seemed pretty young. Having gone a goal behind, they managed a well deserve equalizer as they broke following a rare spell of Stenhousemuir pressure with about 15 minutes left. It was a point that they needed with Forfar starting to stare down the relegation barrel. It was a point that they were not going to get as Stennie stole a last minute winner courtesy of a looping header from Colin McMenamin. The crowd actually went wild, which is always a beautiful thing that 22 people running around a pitch can provoke such happiness (and sorrow) among some.

s6

Edge of the seat stuff

A couple of points to note (Gy will criticise me her for saying a couple to mean a few – I say language is fluid):

  • Beer is banned within Scottish stadiums because of this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzJO9K__n9A.
  • Scottish people love angrily swearing including this classic “C’mon you c**ts”. Motivational speaking at its best.
  • The top bullet point may be justified by the second bullet point. I would have loved a pint.
  • Instead of beer, they serve Irn Bru. A violently orange (colourwise not politics wise) fizzy drink purportedly made of iron, but I am confident contains predominantly sugar and food colouring.

s10

Natural artificial colouring.  MMM.

So lifelong dream to watch Forfar Athletic has been fulfilled. It was not the greatest game of all time nor the greatest stadium of all time, but sometimes that is not the point. We tried to celebrate with a pint on the way home, but the pub was full. Pubs are always full in Scotland. I love Scotland.

s2

Angry Loons, high of sugar.

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