As aforementioned on this blog, not one but two trips to Scotland - both involving East Stirlingshire games - were planned on the very first day of last season, as we journeyed in sweltering heat to watch Wealdstone vs Met Police at Ruislip. This particular one, the latter - a long weekend in Inverness, via Glasgow, and incorporating a game at the most northerly football league ground in Britain - was viewed as the pièce de résistance (at least as far as I was concerned). That said, the trip would have much to live up to, certainly if our earlier visit to Glasgow was anything to go by...
Needless to say, though, an(other) eventful weekend was had. So much to mention, in fact, that details of the following:
... will all have to wait for another (life)time.
- Thursday night in Glasgow ("Hold up, you've got double French in the morning ... how old are you??")
- The morning after (featuring a Celtic FC onesie and the explanation as to why I was bestowed - by a greasy spoon worker - with the moniker 'Mr Glasgow')
- The train journey - through the Highlands - to Inverness
- The subsequent rain-soaked pub crawl (including 'Summer Nights' on karaoke and inadvertent, cousin-on-cousin violence)
- The 'sights and shandies in the sunshine' Sunday stroll around our host city
... will all have to wait for another (life)time.
Instead, I'll concentrate on the game ... well, the day of the game, at least! The match was a big one, particularly for the home side; they needed to win and make up an eight goal swing in order to pip Berwick Rangers to a play-off place. Sounds a huge ask, but Berwick were playing the Champions at Ibrox while City were hosting a team with a minus 48 goal difference! Not unusually, bottom-of-the-table-but-not-going-anywhere Shire had nothing to play for but pride. Would the awe-inspiring Dave 'Mad Bill' McSweeney be 'so prood of ye' come the final whistle, as he had been at Ibrox in March? Would he even be in attendance? Of course he would. Surely he would ... wouldn't he?
^^^ After an interesting, predominantly-Shire related conversation in the pub it was a short walk - through an underpass and past Elgin Town Hall, a supermarket and the job centre - to Borough Briggs.
^^^ Shire go crazy! Sadly, no sign of Mad Bill. More on that later ...
CF and BMJ informed us that Bill's daughter, Sophie, is another who no longer attends every game. Apparently, she is currently boycotting home matches at Stenhousemuir's Ochilview Park after an unsavoury (no pun intended ... I have no idea what their burgers taste like!) altercation with a steward (who sounds like a total Rasher). They tried to discourage us from attending the home of their local rivals, going forward, as we had been intending. Plans for next season were then thrown into further disarray, earlier this week, when the 2013/14 intinerary was released and Stirling Albion away - a fixture we had also earmarked - was scheduled for the August Bank Holiday and Thursday 2nd January, neither any good for us.
Back to the drawing board, then. That said, the Scottish Third Division only has 10 teams. As such, Shire's opponents next season will be Albion Rovers, Annan Athletic, Berwick Rangers (been there!), Clyde, Elgin City (tick!), Montrose, Peterhead, Queen's Park, plus the aforementioned Stirling. Not exactly a mouth-watering contingent. This - coupled with the fact that the Shire have struggled of late (to put it mildly) - means it's no surprise that only ultra die-hards like CF and BMJ travel to away games on a regular basis. I was therefore very interested to read recently that, pending the formation of the new Scottish Professional Football League, play-offs between the bottom division and the Scottish Lowland Football League and Scottish Highland Football League are planned to commence at the end of season 2014/15.
While every fan surely wants their team to play at the highest level possible, it is not much fun being stuck in a division - whether above natural level or not - with little or no realistic chance of promotion or relegation ... especially when the away days you have to look forward to are largely repetitive and generally unappealing.
Co-incidentally (ha!), next season's Conference South fixtures are to be announced on Friday 5th July and I am (mildly) interested in when Maidenhead will play the likes of Concord Rangers (yes, I know they're Canvey Island's second team), Gosport Borough and Whitehawk (been there before, but an away day in Brighton is not to be sniffed at). That's about it.
Despite Craig recently stating that we needn't feel it necessary to count him in for any future Shire-related trips - as he doesn't have the same "romantic view" of them as us (unsurprising, seeing as Elgin was his Shire debut; he's only ever seen them sans Mad Bill) - I hope that we can also find the time, next season, for another visit north of the border (Peterhead via Aberdeen, at the beginning of March, perhaps?). Regardless, I will be sure to purchase - upon release - the 2013/14 Shire 3rd kit, sponsored as it will be by a charity close to my heart.
Of course there's also fancy dress to prepare for - wherever that may be (not Basingstoke again, please!) - plus Goldie Lookin Chain's 10th Anniversary Tour, which will take on a greater significance if the football fixtures continue to underwhelm.
Anyway, enjoy what's left of the summer ... because football will soon be back!