The Absolute Game Revisited – Part 4

July 26, 2009

(Clydebank Blitzed – Part 2)

Kilbowie Kasuals.

There’s a spit and sawdust pub about 200 yards from Kilbowie which I will not name to protect the inebriated. On my second visit to see the Bankies I stopped in there for a quick pint. It was packed to the gunwhales with people drinking haufs and hauf-pints and paying particularly close attention to the horse racing on the TV. I naively thought that the patrons of this pub were, like me, on their way to the game, as the conversation occasionally passed from the prospects at Kempton Park to the prospects at Kilbowie Park. It was only on my return there after the game that I realised that the entire clientele was still exactly the same as it had been two hours earlier, except that those on bar stools had slipped that bit further down below bar level, those who had been standing now required the assistance of the wall to remain upright, and any semblance of coherent speech was a thing of the past. There was one wee man that I’d actually spoken to before the game, and at that time he gave all the indications that he was a lifelong Bankie fan on his way to the game. But now he was completely steaming. When he saw me he seemed to speak on behalf of everybody in the bar when he said, “The bashtardsh got beat again. That’sh why I never go to watch them“. Clydebank was blitzed during the war. Many of its citizens have been blitzed ever since.

On the other hand, the youth of the town seem to have been raised with the words of Bob Dylan ringing in their ears, viz “Everybody must get stoned“. Over the years I’ve watched several generations of spotty Clydebank Herberts engaging in the quaint post-match ritual of bombarding opposing fans with half-bricks. The favoured venue for this sport is Singer railway station, where there’s a convenient embankment above the platform which appears to have been designed specifically as a launch-pad. The Herberts have a captive audience, and it seems to matter not a whit to them that the invariable recipients of their hurled masonry are old women who’ve been shopping at the town’s large shopping centre (your average football fan being nimble enough in mind and body to take cover behind the nearest pensioner). The police seem to be baffled by it all because I’ve never yet seen a policeman trying to stop it happening, though of course after the game the plods have their work cut out moving people in directions they don’t want to go in.

Crap, Crap, Crap

The infrequent visitor to Kilbowie will find that for the past few seasons there’s been an amazing piece of surreal art positioned along the side of the pitch. The first time I saw this monstrosity I was genuinely puzzled. Part of it consisted of a giant advertising hoarding containing the single word ‘Wet‘. I gazed at it for about ten minutes wondering what on earth it was supposed to mean. I rejected the notion that it was a ‘wet paint’ sign with a word missing, primarily because it was too high up for anyone to touch it, and it wasn’t attached to anything which could have been painted. Similarly I dismissed the thought that it was a static weather report as for once it wasn’t actually raining, and in any case it would have been a major undertaking involving the use of one of the shipyard cranes, to change it to ‘Dry‘ or ‘Sunny with occasional showers’, as the need arose. Could it be an oblique direction sign for the toilets?, No, it wasn’t that either, as the facilities were on the other side of the field. Wet? What did it mean? I fancy myself as a bit of a cryptic crossword expert and I was deploying all my feeble mental resources in cracking this particular riddle when I glanced further along the pitch and saw another two exactly similar signs. OK, Wet Wet Wet. I haven’t really paid much attention to the hit parade since the Big Bopper took-the final aeroplane ride, but even I have heard of ‘the Wets’. They’re fae Clydebank and they sponsor the club. That Marty Pillow never misses a home game (sarcasm intended). It’s fortunate that neither Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich nor the New Riders of the Purple Sage originated from Clydebank.

What else can I tell you? Well, for one thing I was fortunate enough to be attending Clydebank games when Gerry McCabe was at his peak. Gerry was the best player in Scotland for a couple of seasons, though, of course, you wouldn’t have found that out by reading the Daily Record. By the time he ended up playing for Dumbarton he was well past his best, but I cherish the memories of him regularly making monkeys out of more famous and more illustrious ‘opponents in his Bankie days. I also had the privilege of seeing Jim ‘Chic’ Charnley entering the senior stage. Chic was a bona fide nutcase from the start, though regrettably he’s another that ended up at Boghead when his future was behind him. There are thousands of tales which illustrate Chic’s lunacy, but one goal of his always sticks in my mind. The Bankies were playing Hamilton Accies at Kilbowie on the last day of the season. The Accies were already certain of promotion to the Premier League and their fans were in party mood. Charnley tore them apart and finished it all off with a dramatic piece of theatre of cruelty. He was on the end of a sweeping move which had completely cut out the goalkeeper, and merely required him to tap the ball into the empty net. That was far too simple for Chic, and he stopped the ball on the goal line and beckoned on the sprawling Accies keeper to come and get it. For a few seconds the hapless keeper lay on the ground practically begging Chic to put him out or his misery and put the ball in the net. Chic just stood with his foot on the ball and a big grin on his face. Suddenly the demented custodian made a desperate lunge at Chic’s feet, but too late, as Chic had nudged it over the line and was wheeling away doing aeroplanes while not, of course, forgetting to give copious v-signs with both hands to the enraged Accies followers.

Finally, my favourite memory of Clydebank has nothing to do with football. Every night for 6 years I got the train from Glasgow to Dumbarton. The train passed through, but did not stop at, Clydebank. One night it slowed down and actually stopped there for some unknown reason. There were two old women sitting on a bench on the platform. They got up and pressed the button to open the train doors. The doors didn’t open. One of them went along towards the train driver, shouting, “Coo-ee. Coo-eee, driver, the door won’t open“. The driver, who had obviously not been to the BR charm school, but who did have a well-developed sense of the absurd, replied, “We don’t stop here“. The totally baffled look on the old dears’ faces, as they wrestled with this Zen paradox, was a real treat. Can I use this story as a metaphor for the football club? –

Clydebank – it’s got a station but the trains don’t stop there!

(Note by 2006 Ed – Regrettably, extending the metaphor, Clydebank doesn’t even have a station now. Kilbowie Park is long gone and so is the senior club)

Note – the picture of Kilbowie used above comes from the excellent series of pictures of deceased Scottish football grounds here-


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: