All At Sea goes to Scotland – July 2011

27 Oct

Is this fun? Is it?

SOME of you will remember, if you are inclined to ever watch the awful television channel Bravo, a programme called Football’s Hardest Away Days.
This show followed hardcore football fans on trips that were either dicey, illadvised,
or just plain arduous. The latter was certainly the case when they followed a Luton-based East Fife fan, and the rigmarole he faced to make it to home games. During the show they
showed the New Bayview ground, practically on the North Sea shore, with a hulking
great disused coal power station overlooking one side of the ground. Immediately, I adopted them as my Scottish team of choice. So when the opportunity to watch Southend up there in a four-team tournament came up, I wasn’t going to pass it up.
Not all fans welcomed the opportunity for a trip north of the border. The Shrimpers Trust agreed to put up £10,000 following a plea by the club. Personally I think this is exactly the sort of thing the Trust should be doing, but a few members voiced disapproval, so a ballot was taken which produced a convincing result for the “Yes” camp. Trains and accommodation in Edinburgh were booked before you could say haggis.
Having arrived on the Friday night and spent the evening in the capital chewing the fat with the Echo reporter Chris Phillips, I set off the following morning to get to Methil in plenty of time for the 1pm kick off.
Methil is, to put it politely, a fucking dump. Cut off from road and rail, the
journey from civilisation (Kirkcaldy) is a mere eight miles, but the bus takes 40 minutes (or an hour if you happen to get the wrong one or want a tour of the various estates of the Levenmouth area).
Industry declined in the 60s and nothing really took its place. Left now are grotty and buildings defended by ugly shutters and barbed wire, hideous tower blocks, some of which have had windows put in by the local yobs, and pubs where it looks a very bad idea to order a pint in an English accent. As a bit of a disaster tourist (I’ve been to Chernobyl), this only added to the appeal of this tournament.
By the time I arrived in Leven – a five minute walk from the ground – it was about 11.30am so I had a quick look around the town centre. Considering it was a Saturday morning there weren’t many people about, the place had an eerie feel to it. The weather was “changeable” so after a bracing walk on the grotty seafront, it seemed a good idea to get into the ground and chat to some fellow Shrimpers. Sadly, the power station had been demolished in April so we missed out on that bizarre backdrop to the action.
The first game saw a scoreless draw between the hosts East Fife and Raith Rovers, which the hosts won on penalties, much to their delight. The clubs aren’t far apart (Raith play their games in Kirkcaldy) but I was told by the reporter for their local paper that most of the Fifer’s venom is reserved for Cowdenbeath. Sadly, the New Bayview ground holds a mere 2,000 supporters. In the old days, the club played at a foursided ground similar to many seen in the lower leagues of England, and enjoyed attendances of around 8-10,000. But they apparently took the cash and moved to this small stadium, seemingly consigning themselves to the lower leagues of Scottish football forever.
After a short break, Blues took to the field in their voltage cherry outfit to play against Dundee, the biggest of the three clubs we were competing against and probably favourites. However, it was well against the run of play that they took the lead when a lapse from Gilbert down the Blues left allowed their winger to square the ball into the six yard box for an easy tap in for the Dundee number 11.
Blues responded well and had several good chances to equalise but could not put the ball in the net. Their punishment was to concede a second late on when a mix-up between Rohan Ricketts and Sean Clohessy on the left once again led to a ball being squared across the box for an easy finish. After the game a few of us headed back to Kirkcaldy, where we went in search of a pub. The streets were deserted, but on stumbling upon a Wetherspoons, we soon realised why – this being Scotland, they
were all in the boozer. We then had a cracking curry in a nearby restaurant
before I had to head back on the last train back to Edinburgh. In hindsight, Kirkcaldy would have been a more sensible base.
Having lost the first game, it meant Southend started off the second day against Raith in the third place playoff.
This was a considerably weaker Southend side and the game was a lot more even,
but still the Shrimpers were poor in front of goal, with Asante and Crawford failing to impress as a partnership. Neil Harris made a difference and we had a few chances when he came on in the second half, but the game finished goalless and much to fans annoyance, both teams opted against penalties. This was a bit of a poor show as Blues fans had shelled out a lot of money and seen very little in the way of entertainment.
A long journey back began straight after the final whistle. I had been due to get the
night bus back from Edinburgh and go straight to work in the morning. However,
it dawned on me how hideous this would be so with Blues finishing early enough to
catch a train, I chose to do just that. The champions were the underdogs East Fife,
the lowest ranked side, who beat Dundee 1-0 in the final, I found out later.
Southend were arguably favourites and the best side judging by the Dundee game, but technically finished last. Bah.
Still, I expect I can speak for the majority if not all of the fans that travelled up by
saying it was a cracking weekend. The football wasn’t great, but Blues fans know better than to rely on that. I had never been to Scotland before and it certainly beat the usual fairly dull trips to Essex satellite towns for our pre-season campaign.
How about somewhere a bit hotter next year though, eh?


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