Gratitude is the hardest emotion

Date: 18th January 2021

The latest blog from SFSA writer Donald Stewart:

Gratitude is not an emotion that people show in football often.

Fear, pain and fury are more likely to be the effervescent outward signs of our emotional distress when watching our team. Joy comes about frequently for some but for the most of us we have to harbour disappointment alongside occasional happiness.

Such is the lot of a supporter of a team in the lower leagues.

Sometimes you see the team you love begin to compete in ways hitherto unthinkable. Your dream begins to form into a reality as you see them in two trips to Hampden in a week, then they are in their very first national final and the team that was built to take you to a promised land has to be broken up and with it goes a little slice of your heart.

Reality has sunk in.

Not only did you over perform, you over-reached.

The spending boom was exactly that. A boom.

You are now going to see how you flirt with the opposite. Bust.

The man who helmed the expansion, built the stadia of others in which they believed and led us towards a new dawn, a sustainable future was ailing. The company he ran, began to flounder and the likelihood of us ever seeing the likes again fades as he leaves the Board Room.

You can ask people who followed Hearts, Rangers and Gretna how that feels.

Or you can ask anyone from Ayr United who watched it happen when Bill Barr was the owner.

It was a great time, and I would not swap it for anything but even during these times we could see how the finances made little sense. There was something not quite right.

We were a wee team. We had a big budget. We had big players and we achieved nationally significant results whilst the bigger teams managed to be at the top of their game and instead of us occasionally beating them, we were managing to look like a team that could hold our own with them.

How did we afford that? It was not ticket sales…

The dream was bust and bursting at the seams as we failed to get into the Premier League, failed to build a shiny new stadium and failed at the National Cup Final. We had the worry on top of that, that the bulldozer mentality that Sir David Murray, who came calling to buy us before he purchased Rangers would return and we were suffering from the possibility that a similar savour might come in, strip the assets, down market us and make things significantly worse than we were before.

An American family, a father and son were to arrive and take the club off the hands of the building magnate who took us on these incredible trips of fantasy.

Donald and Lachlan Cameron saved the club.

Full stop.

First the father, Donald, bankrolled and steered us from the possibility of losing it all to the safety of being at least part way sustainable.

Once Donald bequeathed the chairmanship to the son, Lachlan, Lachlan even came and worked at the club, taking leave from his trade in the US to try and build on his father’s legacy.

Annually this family poured cash into the club: my club.

They loved our country and like many Americans could trace their ancestry here, though unlike most they had a clear connection to us and a love that went beyond the tartan shortbread Brigadoon mystery. They cared.

Since the point that Lachlan became the figure head, there were plenty who saw him not as the Messiah but as an asset stripper who was trying to take a profit out for the investment he had made. Whilst that makes business sense and is exactly what most people do when they take over a business, fitba is different.

If I had a pound for every insult endured by Lachlan on social media, I would have bought the club myself. The fact is that Lachlan gave as much of himself as of his finances. I got to know him on the board of Ayr United Football Academy, a venture he backed. I got to see how his management of the club, was done out of the best interest of it as an institution. He cared, just like I did, for the club.

We did not always agree on things, though I never spoke to him about any of this, because it was unimportant. He was the man in charge and thanks to his largesse, I got to watch a club that meant so much to me win three promotions, keep Laurence Shankland at the club to see if we could get into the Premiership and thrive as an entity. It needed Lachlan and it needed his cash injection.

On Saturday the 16thJanuary I woke up to a new owner. After many years of having the club up for sale, there was a buyer. A local man who has a tough act to follow.

Sure, the plan several years ago to turn the club over to the fans and to pursue Community ownership remains my preferred option but, for the moment, we need to back a new guy. We shall.

Then we shall snipe and back bite, carp and complain, be ungrateful and unwavering in our support. As I said, gratitude does not come easily to us. But for now, thanks Lach.


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