Barry Nimmo writes about the joys of being a fan of a lower league club.
Parkhead. An area regularly coloured green and white. A huge stadium dominates the area, bringing almost an intimidation to the place.
It’s a town that on match day, becomes a no go area for traffic for small parts of the day as fans swarm to reach the turnstiles. A busier place is hard to find.
In amongst the madness, is me. A little insignificant person who has no interest in what’s going on football wise around me.
You see, I support Stenhousemuir. The mighty Warriors.
I moved through here in 2007, already an avid fan of Stenny, and a massive football fan, but being only yards from Celtic Park, the opportunity to change allegiance could have been there.
After all, 60,000 supporters, the noise, the Champions League, trophies, glamour, prestige, drama, the Old Firm – what’s not tempting from that lot?
But, not for me. Give me Ochilview every day of the week. I don’t care that we have 300-500 supporters every home game, I love it. A hardy bunch of fans completely immersed in what is to most, their local club.
The disappointment in defeat is as bad as any top league club, as is the elation in victory. But it’s a different feeling either way. It feels more important as Stenny are a small club, and in a results based game, 3 points mean relegation or promotion or playoffs, and any difference in income could have a massive impact. More than on a Premiership team.
Now, I’m not suggesting Celtic fans, or any other fans, are not great fans, because clearly they are, I’m just saying it’s different.
I enjoy supporting a small club, and I take pride in telling people I am a Stenhousemuir fan. I know people that have laughed when I’ve said that, but it is symptomatic of a problem with some fans being completely naive and disrespectful towards any lower league clubs, many who have been around longer than top flight ones and deserve to be where they are.
Indeed it is noticeable that if ever any changes are proposed from top flight clubs or the governing bodies, it always seems to affect smaller clubs more than anyone, like the Irn Bru Cup and now the idea of Colts teams featuring where…? Yes, League Two.
All those saying it’s a great idea are top clubs, not lower league clubs. Fans of lower league clubs don’t want it. We don’t need it. We actually have exciting leagues, more so than the Premiership, but will we be listened to? Will our opinion matter? Doubtful.
Us Stenny fans still live on our Challenge Cup win in 1995. That trophy, combined with amazing wins over St Johnstone, Aberdeen and (whisper it) Falkirk, mean the world to us, and we’ll talk about them till death.
They were unexpected, unplanned and totally exhilarating to be part of. Clubs like Stenhousemuir don’t have days like that often. We savour them more when they happen.
Have you been to a ground dominated by a hedge? That’s Glebe Park. Or one where your knees are at your neck when you ‘sit’ in the stand? This is Cliftonhill to a tee. Every fan takes a non football memory from lower league grounds, simply because most are not the prettiest. Balmoor in Peterhead is in the back of beyond. Gayfield in Arbroath is the coldest place on the planet.
Okay, the atmosphere may not be the same with only hundreds of supporters not thousands, but as a fan, that doesn’t matter a jot.
Those who criticise lower league clubs or their fans, ought to try following one for a while. It’s a unique experience, and definitely value for money.
I will continue to live in the so called Goldfish bowl of Glasgow, but happily make my 40 minute jaunt to Ochilview on match days to watch MY team play.
We all have our own opinions, and my own will not be agreeable with all, but that is what football is all about… isn’t it?