The Absolute Game Revisited – Part 31

July 1, 2010

CONFESSIONS OF A BOVRIL-DRINKER

(aka – The Mince-Pie Eater’s Po-Faced Alter Ego)

Mixed-Up Confusion

In TAG 32 a perplexed person from Lenzie (and, let’s face it, most folk from Lenzie are a bit perplexed) wrote in to query whether I was one single individual or a collective. Apparently he or she has noticed that I have been a bit promiscuous in bestowing my allegiance to any passing football club which tosses its head coquettishly and gives me a provocative come on look. I regret to say that there is a certain amount of truth in the allegation. At various times over the past twenty years I have supported (sometimes simultaneously) Rangers, Dumbarton, Partick Thistle, Clydebank, East Stirling, both Dundee teams, Meadowbank, Linlithgow Rose and Falkirk, to say nothing of the occasional one-night stands with Stirling Albion, Hamilton, St Mirren, Queens Park, Arbroath, Clyde, Stenhousemuir and Berwick Rangers. I have often wished that I was a lifelong “one-club” man and hated every other bastard, but, alas, such is not the case. Before I become known as the Maurice Johnston of the terraces I’d like the opportunity of explaining how all this happened. Then I can pass these notes to my psycho-analyst for next week’s session.

Tangled Up In Blue

Being brought up in an area of Scotland where the nearest senior ground was over 120 miles away, I did not get the opportunity of attending at a professional match until I was eleven. Long before then I was a fanatical Rangers supporter. I needn’t explain the reasons for that, but anyone who has lived in Scotland in the twentieth century will have a rough idea and thus be able to guess which sect of Christianity I nominally adhere to. When eventually I realised my dream and saw Rangers in the flesh I was totally entranced. For the next few years I watched only one team. Literally. Sometimes I couldn’t even have told you who the opposition were, far less the names of any of their players.

But siren voices were calling elsewhere. At about 15 I was persuaded by “a friend” to sample the delights on offer at Boghead. At first, I was condescending and patronising about this crappy wee club with their shitey wee ground and shitey wee team. After several visits, I was surprised to find that I was actually enjoying going there as much as the trips to Ibrox. At that age I couldn’t have rationalised it, but I realise now that it was the contrast between the soulless impersonality of Ibrox and the more “intimate” atmosphere at Boghead which was affecting me (ie in ninety minutes at Boghead you could get to know every single member of the crowd personally). I was still a Rangers fan, but Dumbarton were secretly my “second” team.

Next, I was transplanted to Dundee, allegedly for the purposes of higher education. By that time I had decided to make it a principle always to support my local team, on the basis that if the locals don’t, then who the hell will? Besides which, I couldn’t afford the train fares to Glasgow to see the ‘Gers. Thus began a brief three year fling with Dens Park and Tannadice. One irony was that the first game I ever saw in Dundee featured Dumbarton on the wrong end of a 4-0 tanking. I left Dens Park that night a seething mass of contradictory emotions.

Nevertheless, week in, week out, I was on the terracings on Tayside cheering on the Dundee sides, with the occasional foray to exotic locations such as Arbroath and Forfar. Except when Rangers came visiting. Then I’d be at the other end of the ground calling on the Light Blues to get intae they Dundonian bastarts.

Perhaps my commitment to Rangers was beginning to wane by this time, however, as illustrated by an occasion when they were due to play at Perth against St Johnstone. Strapped for cash as usual, and unable to afford the train fares, one of my pals suggested we should walk the twenty-odd miles. When I queried his sanity, he reminded me that I had often vocally informed the Rangers that I would walk a million miles for one of their goals. Smart-arse. No fucking way was I walking from Dundee to Perth.

Out of the Blue and into theBlack (and Gold)

On leaving Dundee I left behind my allegiances to its teams, and resumed life as a blue-nose Teddy Bear. Some years later, work led me back to live in Dumbarton. By that time, I had become more and more uneasy about follow, following. The constant sectarian chanting, the National Front literature on sale outside Ibrox, the tunnel-vision narrow-mindedness of nearly all associated with the club, the universal assumption that we weren’t supporting a football team but an ideology (and an ideology which I profoundly disagree with – ­I’d wipe my arse with their precious Union Flag), all contributed to make visits to Ibrox less than palatable. (And, yeah OK, the team was crap as well).

Thus Dumbarton were resurrected and transformed from secret pecadillo to the love of my life. Which is where they remain, now and forever, amen.

As for the rest, the Thistles (both of them), Bankies, Shire, etc, I can explain my fascination quite simply. They have been within convenient travelling distance of wherever I’ve currently been residing. Basically, I’m a really idle bugger and I can’t be arsed with making huge long treks to get my football fix. Wherever I’ve gone I’ve found that you “take sides”. There’s no excitement if you don’t care about the outcome. That’s one of the reasons that I’m less than enamoured with Italian football on the telly. I just couldn’t give a toss who wins. On the other hand, when I’m watching the Shire against Stranraer I work myself up into a frenzy of loathing for these Wigtownshire bastards. It’s OK, it only lasts ninety minutes.


Of course playing fast and loose with allegiances gives rise to bouts of rampant schizophrenia. One week I might be at Kilbowie with the Sons hordes giving it big licks on the old “Clydebank – wank, wank, wank” routine, while the following week I’ll be at the other end of the ground thoroughly resenting Kilmarnock fans indulging in the same ditty. Confused? You will be.

In 1967 I seem to have been the only Rangers supporter who was hoping Celtic would win the European Cup. A Scottish team and all that. I was too young to appreciate that there were other factors involved. By the time of Rangers Euro-victory in 1972 I realised that my patriotic burying of the hatchet was not at all reciprocated by the tricolour-waving masses.

As a consequence, one of the clubs I have resolutely resisted supporting in any further circumstances is the ‘Tic. I fucking hate Celtic. There, I’ve said it, and I couldn’t give a fuck whether it’s “politically correct” or not. My football promiscuity doesn’t extend to them. Even a nymphomaniac has to draw the line somewhere. Their current difficulties just make me laugh. It couldn’t have happened to a more richly deserving, self-righteous bunch of whining moaners (No letters please – Ed).

Oh yeah, and before I forget, add Hearts to the hate-list as well. Every visit to Tynecastle strengthens my resolve to strangle the moron who plays that hellish “if ye cannae spell it, this is what it says” record, and then follows it up with “let’s get right behind Scotland’s number one team “. What the fuck is he talking about? Embarrassing or what? The truth is that “if ye cannae spell it ” then you’re probably a Hearts supporter.

The Absolute Game

In line with the principle of supporting the local team, I am currently to be found at Brockville on alternate Saturdays. I’m still a Dumbarton fan even though I now only see them ten times or so a season. At the time of writing it is looking increasingly likely that the Bairns and the Sons will be visiting each other next season. A couple of times a season I’ll have to desert my normal Brockville post to nip round to the away end. Identity crisis? What identity crisis?

The thing is, what I’m really in love with is the game itself. I’ve been going to matches every Saturday for 25 years and the magical excitement has just never palled. Every Saturday at 3pm I feel like a child. Football is the genuine elixir of youth. I’m sorry if this all sounds unbearably romanticised, but it is the real answer to Perplexed from Lenzie. He/she asks how many scarves I keep in my McSporran. The answer is none. Despite my scathing comments about Celtic and Hearts, I’d rather watch them playing than not have any football to watch at all. Am I a true football supporter? Well, I suppose some people may be horrified to read this article. (Particularly the boys at View From The Rock when they find out that I’ve occasionally been lending support to Clydebank – sorry lads! I’ll never go to the home end at Kilbowie again, honest). (And I doubt if they’ll be rolling out the red carpet for you at Parkhead or Tynecastle ­Ed). But I hope that this piece goes some way to explaining, amongst other things, why I’ve previously been so hyper-critical of Murray, Mercer, Donald and Co whose proposed super-league threatened so much that I believe in.

Spare some sympathy, Guv, I’ve got a wife and fourteen football teams to support.

First published in TAG 33 – May 1993

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