Saturday, December 8, 2012

Football can be a cruel mistress.

Mind you, so can Simone. I still have those stiletto marks on my back.

Football brings us highs and deals us lows. That’s what makes the game what it is and why we love it so much. It can toy with your emotions, ruin your weekends, but we still keep coming back for more.

If it was all sweetness and light then where would the fun be in that?!

Further proof that football simply isn’t fair came last weekend in Milton Keynes.

The Franchise FC – AFC Wimbledon game really was as close to a good v evil battle as you’ll ever get in football. Sadly evil triumphed.

Was there anyone, apart from perhaps some Palace fans, that didn’t want the Wombles to win?

I’ve been a long time AFC Wimbledon supporter and continue to be a proud member of the Dons Trust. They’re a great footballing and fan success story in this era of the money men and one which we should all applaud.

We should also never forget the help and encouragement that the Dons gave us in our struggles against Derrick Brown in those dark days of not so long ago, including a feature on our plight in their matchday programme.

As I’m sure you all know, a heartbreaking stoppage time loss to a freak goal was the end result of the most bitterest of games.

But Wimbledon got their goal and showed that they belonged with the bastardised version of themselves. Even men with glass eyes must have been moved to tears with what Jack Midson's goal meant to so many. Scant consolation, but at least some was there in their heartbreak.

As East Fife fans we’ve obviously encountered our own share of heartbreaks over the years.

Those gut wrenching games where you head through the turnstile full of excitement and often hope more than expectation, but you leave ninety minutes or so later heartbroken and feeling like you’ve been put through a wringer.

So what East Fife stick out for you in this category from over the years? It doesn’t have to be late winners, just games where you left so low it hurt.

I still remember heading to Boghead on the last day of the season in 2000. East Fife were chasing promotion and we took a huge travelling support west for the last game at the ramshackle ground. We just needed to win.

We took the lead. Then in true East Fife fashion, two goalkeeping howlers saw our hopes fade and die.

There's not a sadder feeling in football than standing with a deflated blow up champagne bottle all limp between your legs!

Trying to drown out the tannoy guy with East Fife chants as he tried to make an emotional farewell to the old ground gave us a little, bitter joy, but at least the post match Indian was nice.

For me though, the date 26th January 1991 is the one that still haunts me the most.

If you were at Bayview yourself that day, I’m sure you already have the blood vessels ready to burst at the very mention of it.

Second division East Fife versus Premier League Dundee United in the Scottish Cup, Don McVicar’s elastic watch, a 97th minute equaliser and Alan ‘expletive’ Main.

It was heartbreaking at the time and it still hurts just as much when you think back on it now, made even worse by the fact that we took the lead in the replay three days later before bowing out in extra time.

I can still see the goal and the subsequent tangerine celebrations. I can still hear the silence that befell the whistling Bayview faithful. Horrible. Horrible. Horrible.

My Fife memories only go back to 1984, so I’m sure some of the old yins reading this will have plenty more to pick from. Get in touch with us and share yours or leave them on the AFTN forum.

Whatever they were, we know we'll still be back and there will be more. Never mind, they just make the happier memories all that sweeter.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

When you think Major League Soccer, you don't naturally think East Fife. They don't exactly go together, much like Raith Rovers and silverware.

There are some connections there though, as tenuous as some of them are!

And where there are those connections, I like to bring them to the fore in my writings and ramblings about MLS. Any excuse to mention the mighty Fife to baffled North Americans!

There are players that have played both for East Fife and in MLS, and there are players past and present in the League that have played against East Fife.

What more of a link do you want than that?!

Perhaps the most famous ex Fifer to ply his trade in MLS is legendary striker KENNY DEUCHAR.

The good Doctor had one season with Real Salt Lake in 2008, making 29 appearances and scoring 3 goals.

His bustling style never quite set the heather alight in Utah and he was freed at the end of his only season there. He did leave a couple of spectacular goals behind as his legacy at least.

Long before Deuchs made his way over to the States, cult defender STEVIE PITTMAN blazed the trail.

He did have a big advantage of course - he was American!

Pittman was born in North Carolina but moved to Scotland when he was two. He played most of his footballing career over here and made 83 appearances for the Fife, netting 10 goals and becoming a much loved cheeky chappy amongst the Fife support.

He left Methil in a big move to Shrewsbury Town in March 1989 (where he played alongside the legendary Vic Kasule!), before heading to the lower levels of the American game. Stevie got his break in MLS though in 1996 when he joined Tampa Bay Mutiny.

He played that season in Florida and made 29 appearances for the Mutiny, scoring one goal.

The following season he made the move to the dreadfully named Kansas City Wizards (they're now called Sporting KC, which frankly isn't all that better).

Stevie made a further 26 MLS appearances for The Wiz, without finding the net, and he soon returned to Scotland to play for Clydebank, Stenny and Linlithgow Rose. Not quite the same surroundings as sunny Florida!

Trinidad internationalist CRAIG DEMMIN has been featured in ‘The Bayview’ recently. The defender moved to the US after his time at Bayview ended and although he mostly played at the D2 level (the league directly below MLS but with no promotion or relegation between the levels), he had one season in MLS.

Demmin also played with Tampa Bay Mutiny, this time in 2001, their last season in the League before they folded. He made 19 appearances, with no goals.

We always like to claim Fife loanee TAM MCMANUS as one of our own. We still have very fond memories of his time at Bayview in 2000 that nearly gained us promotion.

Tam made the move to the US in 2008 and played one season with Colorado Rapids. He played 20 games for the Rocky Mountain side, netting an impressive six goals, which for this League is a good tally for the whole season.

Tam's 40 yard goal in Week 9 against Chivas USA even won the 'Goal of the Week award'.

Unfortunately Tam and the Rapids couldn't agree personal terms for the 2009 season and he was soon on his way to Ireland, never to return.

And that's your lot with regards to players that have played both for us and in MLS. I'm sure there will be some more to add in the future, or maybe even someone I'm totally missing out!

As we covered in a previous programme, there is also a very firm East Fife connection on the coaching staff at Vancouver Whitecaps right now, with former player and first team coach Gordon Forrest current in charge of the Caps' U18 and U23 teams.

As for players who have faced East Fife and played in MLS, well there are a few more of them as you may expect.

Here's a poser for you. From our reckoning, which four players played for teams in MLS in 2012, having previously faced the mighty Fife?

The answers are: David Beckham (Los Angeles Galaxy), Kris Boyd (Portland Timbers), Adam Moffat (Houston Dynamo) Barry Robson (Vancouver Whitecaps).

All bar Moffat have also scored against the Fife.

I never did get to ask Beckham how well he remembers his two goals for Man United in Jimmy Bonthrone's testimonial at Bayview in 1995.

I did though chat with Moffat about his time playing in the Third Division for Elgin City against us. He's a player I dearly want to join Vancouver Whitecaps and as the current Caps coach, Martin Rennie, is responsible for bringing him to the US from Scotland in the first place, that's not just a faint hope.

Kris Boyd scored his 50th and 51st goals for Rangers against East Fife in the League Cup in 2007. Monumental for him them, but he's certainly struggled since moving to Portland and if they could offload him this close season, I'm pretty sure they will.

Barry Robson is at the Whitecaps, as regular readers will know. Robson scored his first ever professional goal for Inverness Caley Thistle against East Fife in December 1997. He also played for Forfar against the Fife at the turn of the century.

Robson scored his 100th career goal for the Whitecaps this summer, making me probably the only person other than himself to have been present when he scored his 1st and 100th career goals!

And all this tenuous East Fife connection stuff works the other way too.

For example, did you know that Fife goalie Michael Brown is the proud owner of both home and away Vancouver Whitecaps strips? Well you do now!

It's these little quirks that help me keep a little bit of East Fife close by when I'm watching football in another land.

Still never the same as being at a chilly midweek game at Bayview mind.

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