Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Love them or loathe them, and I firmly fall into the latter category, we’re stuck with them for at least a season.

I’m talking about Sevco FC of course, or Rangers as some would choose to call them.

Next week sees East Fife first visit to Ibrox on League duty since October 13th 1973. Pretty much a full forty years ago. I wonder what percentage of our current support were actually even born then, never mind attended the game.

East Fife won 1-0 that day thanks to a 7th minute Jim Hamilton goal. It is our only ever league win at Ibrox. The same again next Saturday would be wonderful, if somewhat unexpected if we’re being honest.

The last league meeting between the two sides was at Bayview on February 9th 1974.

The Fife lost 3-0 and were soon relegated from Division One, never to yet return to the top flight of the Scottish game.

With that in mind, there is something nice about the fact that we meet next week in ‘League One’ action, although the whole renaming of the divisions is still farcical. There is also something great about having the Fife playing games in front of tens of thousands once again and having a demand for tickets, both home and away.

Of course trips to either of the Old Firm’s grounds brings with it a whole set of other issues that we’re thankfully not used to. You all know what they are. As horrible as it's been in the lower reaches of Scottish football, it's not been a bad thing to be away from some of the nonsense at the top end of it.

Just watch what you wear if you’re heading through next week!

My last trip to see the Fife at Ibrox was in the Scottish Cup tie in February 1997. I was flogging fanzines outside the away end and wearing the Fife’s away strip at the time – the infamous deckchairesque green and white striped number.

Ah, the abuse I got for happening to wear my team’s strip to a game, just because it was green. So much so, I had to zip my jacket up. Idiots.

Now before some reading this get all up in arms and accuse me of writing this through green tinted glasses, let’s get this straight. We’re an equal opportunities blog. We hate both sides of the Glasgow divide. Actually, we hate most teams in Scotland north, south and west of Bayview.

Frankly I care little about either of the Old Firm and if they both wanted to head down to England or some Atlantic League then I wouldn’t shed a tear and I feel it would actually benefit Scottish football, but that's for another day.

Both sides have stifled the game here and hit the smaller clubs like East Fife hard in taking away local support and buying up promising talent just to leave them rotting in their reserves, weakening their opponents in the process.

Laying all my cards on the table, I have a dirty little family secret to share. Both of my parents are Rangers supporters. Not once did I ever consider following suit. It’s always been East Fife for me.

I can excuse my mum. She was born in Shawlands and regularly went to games with my granddad. My dad on the other hand is a born and bred Fifer and that is what’s so wrong about football in this country.

For decades hordes of fans travel from all corners of Scotland to watch Celtic and Rangers and not their local side. I'll never understand, just as those fans will never understand watching a team that doesn't win all the time.

So all that said, I want to end with some praise for the Gers.

I have been amazed that Rangers have kept such a loyal and large fanbase through their fall from grace. Some have walked away. Some have finally found out the joy of following their local team. We’ve got a few ourselves in the Fife support now and they've very welcome for seeing the light.

What Rangers' journey up from the Scottish footballing basement has done is to raise the interest in the lower leagues and that can only hopefully be good in the long run. I know a lot of it is forced, as the Scottish media can’t not have their Rangers stories to fill masses of column inches and airspace.

I never thought I’d see the day where matches at lower league grounds, including hopefully Bayview, would be broadcast live around the world in glorious HD.

We can only hope that a number of Rangers fans enjoy their lower league adventure and appreciate how important clubs like East Fife and their fans are to the Scottish game.

Our other hope is that some of them enjoy it so much that they shun the eventual return to top flight action and go and watch their local team on a regular basis instead.

Just as long as they leave all that other nonsense behind them.

[This blog first appeared in Saturday's copy of "The Bayview" programme]

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