I’ll have a lot going on during my final weekend in Glasgow (and Scotland for that matter), and most of it will have to do with football.
On Saturday I’ll be taking the train out to nearby Coatbridge where I’ll watch a Scottish League Two match between Albion Rovers F.C. and Elgin City F.C. at Cliftonhill, the home ground of the Wee Rovers. Not only will this be a new experience- the lowest division (4th) match I’ve ever seen and the smallest ground I’ve ever been to in Scotland (1,238 capacity, less than 500 of those seated), but I’ll get to meet Neil Logan, a Ross County supporter who also happens to be a jack-of-all-trades at Albion Rovers. The match should be a good one as Rovers are currently in first place by a point (and a match in hand) over Queens Park and looking to ensure automatic promotion to League One, while any loss of points by Elgin City will see them put in danger of falling into the relegation fight. The latter is especially interesting because, as I’ve mention on previous occasions, the bottom club in Scottish league football could find itself relegated out of the league and into either the Highland or Lowland League. This match, however, is only the warm-up to Sunday’s main event.
On Sunday I will make the pilgrimage to Hampden Park to see Scotland play newly-minted football nation Gibraltar in a EURO 2016 qualification match. While their opponents may be “minnows,” the implications of this match are whale-sized. Scotland are currently in third place (which could mean automatic advancement in the tournament or a spot in the playoffs) behind Poland and Germany with a record of 2-1-1 from the first four group matches. Gibraltar are 0-0-4 and have conceded 21 goals while scoring none. So, Scotland should win and they should win handily, especially given the newfound sense of purpose and determination that manager Gordon Strachan has brought to the side since taking over.
The best part of Sunday- besides the expected Scotland win!- will be the, for lack of a better word, pageantry. The throngs of fan streaming through the local streets on their way to Hampden, the vendors selling souvenirs on the street corners, and most of all- for me at least- the overwhelming emotions. I’m not really sure how to put this into words except to say that in the lead up to the opening whistle I will be a basket case and that by the end of the match I will have opening broken into tears at least three times. First, when the teams are led into the stadium by the pipers. Second, when this happens (skip ahead to 2:27):
Yeah, I teared up just watching that- wanna make something of it?!
Then I’ll enjoy the first half before this happens and the tears begin again:
Yup. Crying again.
There no better supporters- club or country- than the Tartan Army.