The Absolute Game Revisited – Part 7

July 27, 2009


Readers of The Wee Red Book – forget Celtic versus Inter Milan and Rangers versus Moscow Dynamo – the real deal starts here.

East Stirling 3 East Fife 1 (Firs Park – 27 October 1990)

Firs Park: Welcome to the PleasureDome

Before this season it’s always been fucking difficult to buy a match programme at Firs Park. I’ve turned up early, I’ve turned up late. I’ve crept around the unfamiliar back-streets in the environs of the ground, I’ve accosted ancient grey-haired locals and young street urchins with the relatively simple query as to where one might perchance to purchase a programme. The aged ones rub their chins and scratch their heads as if the question relates to a tricky problem of quantum physics. The youngsters merely snigger and say, “You’ll be lucky, mister. Gonnae gie us a lift ower the turnstile.” Either way, I get into the ground, a broken man without a programme. I’ve been driven to the edge of madness when I see a few punters standing on the terracing quite brazenly reading the damn thing. On enquiring where they get them from, I’m usually told that “Big John” had a few. I’ve never been brave enough to wander round the ground asking anyone of above average height or weight if they are “Big John“. The truth, of course, is that only about a dozen copies of the thing were printed and they were immediately snaffled by Big John and his intimate associates.

That all changed this season. After my customary fruitless scouting about the highways and bye-ways of Falkirk, I eventually made my way through the turnstiles to watch the East Stirling v East Fife match, resigned to another Saturday without a programme. Imagine my surprise when I was met inside the gate by two young girls, neither of whom resembled Big John, both clutching piles of programmes and bawling at the tops of their voices. “PROGRAMMES”. This was a happy omen for the 90 minutes of sheer delight to follow.

East Fife were top of the league. East Stirling were in their customary bottom position. A definite away banker on anybody’s coupon. In second division terms, the Fifers were carrying an impressive away support of a few hundred black and gold-scarfed fans, while the ‘Shire had their usual loyal following of Shuggie and Senga Bonkers and their extended family. The following day the Sunday Mail quoted the crowd as being 381. Lying bastards. I counted 403.

After about ten minutes of mildly entertaining jousting, the ‘Shire broke upfield and a cross was swung low into the Fife box. The Fifers centre back was clearly favourite to get to it first, though he was running back towards his own goal about twelve yards out. Amongst the many courses of action open to him, the simplest would have been to control the ball and nonchalantly side-foot it back to the goalie. Alternatively he could have chipped it out for a corner. In fact, he chose quite a surprising option. Quicker than you could say “Christ, there’s a real upset on the cards here as the plucky ‘Shire upset the staunch Fife defence” he smashed a howitzer drive into the back of the net. This was the cue for the ‘Shire to go through an extraordinary purple patch during which they played some astonishingly good football – you know the sort of thing – passing the ball to players of their own team, playing towards the opposing goal etc. They also contrived to score another two quite magnificent goals, without any assistance at all from the visiting defence, before half an hour had elapsed. Surreal or what?

One of the Fife fans had begun queuing at the refreshment stall when it was 1-0. By the time he had his chops wrapped round a mince pie it was 3-0 and his Saturday afternoon was becoming distinctly unenjoyable. He reeled along the terracing in a fearsome rage, shouting and swearing about the supernatural incompetence of his team. He roundly abused each of the Fife players in turn, reserving particularly venomous invective for the goalkeeper. By the time he got round behind the goal where the target of his spleen was “minding the net”, he had-worked himself into a truly furious lather. He stood a few feet behind the custodian and verbally pitched into him in colourful terms during which the phrases “useless cunt” and “fucking wanker” featured prominently. When the ball was safely up the other end of the field, the hapless goalie left his line and went behind his goal and indicated to this individual that he was going to “smash your fucking face in“. Undaunted, the Fife “fan” gestured in the traditional outstretched arms fashion, saying “C’mon then big man“. Unfortunately for fight fans the ball chose that moment to re-appear in the vicinity of the Fife goal and the goalie had to sprint towards the edge of the box, shouting “After the game“. Regrettably I’m unable to report whether the assignment was kept as the head-case soon disappeared back into the throng of East Fife fans, still swearing vigorously.

In the second half East Fife pulled a goal back as the ‘Shire remembered who they were and reverted to type. The ref did his best to help the Fifers out of their difficulties by awarding them 2 penalties in mysterious circumstances. They missed them both of course.

Bottom beat top. A stupendous own goal. Four goals in total. Two missed penalties. Goal-mouth incidents galore (including the aforementioned attempted square-go). A programme. What more do you want for three quid ? Serie A is never like this. Shuggie, Senga, Big John and I marched out of the ground singing “There’s only one team in Falkirk“. Bring on Stenhousemuir

First published in TAG 21 – December 1990


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