In August 2010 three Maidenhead United fans were banned from attending home games, by a kangaroo court, for crimes they didn't commit.
These men promptly encountered a jobsworth security blockade, and so escaped to the non-league underground.
Today, still stigmatised by the MUFC Ltd hierarchy, they survive as supporters of fancy.
If you enjoy a train away day - and if you can find them - then maybe you can share a drink with ... the K-team!

Monday, 28 April 2014

Away Day Diary: Edinburgh (March 2014)

Trips to Berlin and Edinburgh had been in the KSG diary for about a year. Hertha BSC's final fixture of the season (vs Bourssia Dortmund) selling out months in advance meant that the former was unfortunately scrapped, but the build-up to the latter went exactly as planned; Hearts vs Hibs was, as expected, moved to the Sunday lunchtime. Two-game weekender.


^^^ After a liquid breakfast at Heathrow, delayed flight (quelle surprise), meet with Macleod (C) at Edinburgh Airport, short bus ride, check-in to Jury's Inn and proper breakfast in a greasy spoon ('Full Scottish', washed down with obligatory pints of Tennants), we strolled up the Royal Mile (tat shop central) and posed for a photo with one of the gazillion statues dotted throughout the city centre (this one of someone we I had actually heard of).


^^^ Tartan onesie anyone? Thought not.


^^^ Arf.


^^^ U R M Y B E L L E N D


^^^ GMOSC is non-political, and so I will refrain from commenting on whether the flag flying atop the Castle was deliberately cropped from this photo. Or not. Beers, soon after, in the nearby Ensign Ewart ... where there was a power cut.


^^^ yeracksualculturebytheway.


^^^ Bum the dog, donated by the City of San Diego. After much walking - including past the ugliest building I've seen since the council offices en route to Truro City's sh!t tip of a ground - we finally made it to the Grassmarket. Refreshment, at this point, in the Beehive. Macleod (M) was impressed by the choice of beers, less so by the prices. 1000 iSpy points if, among the tourists and students, you managed to spot an actual Scot.


^^^ En route to meet another of Macleod (M)'s cousins in Tiles Bar. Several drinks, lots of stickering, a mini pub crawl down Rose Street (including one place that had a decent band on), drunken dancing in the Shack, a visit to a kebab shop, then getting drenched on the way back to the hotel later ...


^^^ ... and Macleod (M) was the last man standing! Who'd have thunk it??


^^^ Up early on the Saturday to catch a train, initially to Falkirk Grahamston. A 15 or so min walk - past a plethora of chiropodist practices and fast food joints ("AFC Fast Food? I could get a run out for that lot!") - to Bainsford and the Shire shop ...  


^^^ ... which, disastrously, was closed! 


^^^ Luckily, Macleod (M) happened to notice a car pulling out of the (hitherto unknown to us) Shire Lounge @ the Creamery, behind the shop.


^^^ Cheers! This place (primarily a snooker hall) was smartly decorated in an art deco style with countless programmes, team photos and other memorabilia on the walls. Compare and contrast to Stripes. An elderly gentleman - who may or may not have been the proprietor (and sounded, accent-wise, as if he was the drunken lovechild of Jim Taggart and Alex Ferguson) - gave us (rather vague) directions to the Shire's traditional home, the now derelict Firs Park.


^^^ "What do you mean they don't play here any more??"


^^^ It was cold, TBF.


^^^ Spot the ball. ("sh!t, sorry lads")


^^^ Terrible, really. I mean, imagine if your team's home ground ended up looking like this! :-(


^^^ After pies (of varying quality) from the Tesco superstore close to the station, we got a train to Larbert and managed to find a pub close to Ochilview Park. Safe to say that Gilmour's Bar is the most depressing place that I've ever had the misfortune to drink in; only Carlsberg and John Smith's available on tap, INXS on the jukebox, Man Utd on the TV, an old bloke staring blankly at the terracotta-tiled flooring, a twenty-something barely able to stand ... if it were a football ground then it'd make Truro City's look like the Emirates Stadium. Thankfully, there was only time for one before kick-off.


^^^ Corner flag fancy. (Nb. Chairman Who Knows His Football Swearing Jewellery will instantly recognise the playing surface, long-term advocate as he is of 3G pitches)




^^^ Scotch Pies. Sadly, not Elgin quality.


^^^ Welcome to Scotland.


^^^ We had wrongly assumed that (a) there was no segregation and (b) that you could walk around the entire perimeter of the pitch. It quickly dawned on us that we had inadvertently entered the away end! Shortly after this photo was taken, Clyde assumed the lead via a well-taken free-kick. Their diminutive and slippery no 10 (Stefan McCluskey) - who had needlessly booted the ball away in celebration (he didn't score the free kick) - doubled the lead soon after we had left the home end and joined the Shire fans in the stand.


^^^ Match action. (Nb. fun fair in the background!) McCluskey - despite a pretty severe case of Short Man Syndrome - was the game's standout attacking talent, but Clyde's Brian McQueen was head and shoulders the best player on the pitch ('head' being the operative word, as Shire adopted Maidenhead-esque 'General Melchett' tactics of repeatedly seeing what he was like under the high ball). That said, it was McQueen's own goal that halved the deficit on 20 mins and Shire's young team did look comfortable on the ball. They also looked a bit lightweight, though, and sloppy marking allowed Clyde to restore their two-goal cushion just before the interval.


^^^ Macleod (M) shows off his two half-time purchases; a 'rather beefy' cup of Bovril and a black & white Shire scarf of impressive quality. Into the second 45 and McCluskey scored his second - owing, I thought, to some questionable goalkeeping - whilst only Scott Maxwell shone for the Shire. One of their substitutes would grab a late consolation but, generally, their attacking threat was as subdued as the home support. As at Elgin, Dave McSweeney Mad Bill was conspicuous by his absence. Cars Fooked and Brian McKendrick Jnr were present - as they had been at Berwick, Glasgow and Elgin - but, perhaps understandably, their faces and general demeanor portrayed resigned looks of a 'seen it all before, when can we get out of here' nature. Indeed the only real entertainment was provided by McWaldorf & Statler, sat a few rows in front of us, who chastised the match officials - and, at the end, the Shire manager - with admirable gusto. It finished 2-4 and 449 saw it (with a decent away turnout). Match report here.


^^^ After this photo we had a 'what would Merthyr do?' moment as we passed the Crown Inn. Obviously we decided to enter. Here we would watch the Arsenal vs Man City game (the hosts coming within a flukey Joe Hart save, from a Lukas Podolski shot, of taking all three points) whilst supping refreshing pints of Tennants and nursing windburned faces.


^^^ After the train ride back to Edinburgh, a quick change of clothes at the hotel - and drinks in places such as Whistle Binkies (pretty good, although the female-fronted band - from Berwick, of all places - were so-so) and All Bar One on George Street - we ended up in a club called Espionage. It had several floors, all playing different types of music. Macleod (C) - as evidenced above - and I were happy when we eventually found the cheese room. Macleod (M) less so! When we left at closing time - just after 4am - there was a large gathering nearby, outside the intriguingly-named Bongo Club. I thought it might be a famous DJ, leaving the apparently well-renowned establishment, but it transpired that a Groundskeeper Willie-lookalike was about to play the xylophone. He wasn't very good and soon the massed crowd were drowning him out, jumping up and down whilst belting out the 'Kolo Toure/Yaya Toure' chant. This phenomenon had completely passed me by. If you, dear reader, are similarly none-the-wiser then check out this link (whilst bearing in mind that Newcastle was comparatively tame, both in terms of size and noise). Macleod (M) might've disapproved - and Toure (K) is well past his best - but Macleod (C) and I, plus more than a hundred others, certainly enjoyed ourselves!


^^^ Kolo Toure! Etc., etc.


^^^ Another early start on Sunday as we met in the hotel bar with old friend Ali - Hearts season ticket holder - ahead of the Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle. A rare win for the home side would delay inevitable relegation and, furthermore, drag their hated rivals into some trouble of their own.


^^^ The name of Paul Hartley - Hearts legend, also formerly of Hibs and Bristol Sh!tty 1982 Ltd - was chanted throughout the halftime interval, by the home fans, as he appeared pitch side as part of the BT Sports punditry team. Hearts were 1-0 up at this point, having taken an early lead through a well-taken goal from promising youngster Dale Carrick. The game was - to put it politely - scrappy. We had wondered, the previous day, as to whether Maidenhead United would beat the Shire (I think that they probably would; bigger, quicker, stronger). Well, the conversation now centered on whether Maidenhead United would beat Hearts and Hibs! (Again, I think they would!) Hibs striker James Collins, for example, looked like just the sort of lumbering carthorse that would cost Rainey several broken keyboards across the course of a long, frustrating, goal-shy season. The ground was mightily impressive, though, as was the atmosphere.


^^^ Hearts, with former Rangers and Liverpool youngster Danny Wilson excelling at the back, dealt with everything that Terry Bucther's team could throw at them and - after the dismissal of ex-Leeds (and Hearts!) defender Alan Maybury had reduced the away side to ten men - the Jambos sealed the win with an exhilarating breakaway goal. Match report here.


^^^ Hearts' superb club anthem rang out at the end and was also sung in the excellent Caley Sample Room, a nearby boozer. "John Leslie, Gail Porter, Irvine Welsh, Andy Murray, Bernard Gallacher, Dougray Scott, The Proclaimers, Fish from Marillion - can you hear me, Fish from Marillion? Your boys took a hell of a beating! Your boys took a hell of a beating!" :-)


^^^ Ali was understandably all smiles. TBF, everyone was all smiles in the Athletic Arms AKA the Diggers (except Callum and I, when it transpired that they'd sold out of Macaroni pies!). HEA, RTS they sung. Again and again. This legendary pub - as Craig had told me it would be - was great.



^^^ This gentleman reminded me of a certain Mr Kingham. RIP Trevor - gone but not forgotten.


^^^ Regulars only? Seemingly not! A 15-20 min walk down the A70/Dalry Road - which reminded me, very much, of Gloucester Road in Bristol - lead us to Ryrie's Bar, close to Haymarket station. Again, another decent boozer. After bidding farewell to Ali - it was getting quite late and he had work in the morning (in Glasgow, where he lives) - we got a taxi back into the town centre and had drinks in a cavernous but near empty place, on Cowgate, with a humongous TV screen out the front. We then stopped for dinner in a fast food joint on the Royal Mile - where I tried a deep-fried Mars Bar (one bite is enough) - before heading, once again, to Whistle Binkies. A nightclub called the Hive would be our final destination. Being a (non Bank Holiday) Sunday evening, the vast majority of punters were students. We were undoubtedly the three oldest people in attendance (including the door staff!). It was supposedly 'Indie Disco' night but the DJ seemed to own a Blink 182 'Best Of' and not a lot else. I rather liked their WKD/VK equivalents, though, so left after the others and ...


^^^ ... later found myself wandering wondering - next to Chris Hoy's second Olympic gold post box on Hunter Square - what would Derek Riordan do?


^^^ Time for another visit to our preferred greasy spoon (sugary tea, rather than Tennants, on this occasion) before the airport and flights home. I liked Edinburgh - I think we all did - but it was expensive and, in all honesty, I much preferred Glasgow. Regardless, it was certainly enjoyable to meet up again with Ali and I'm pleased for him that we brought Hearts some much-needed good fortune! I really hope that his club gets itself sorted out sometime soon. The same, of course, goes for the Shire. Anyway, who fancies Arbroath away next season??