Supporters and their dedication

Date: 19th October 2016

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In my rambling run through the websites and internet highways of Scottish football, occasionally I come across a wee nugget of personal news that makes the sport that much more appreciated. Having supported my own team since 1973, and not being able to claim continuous support apart from famine and family events, I comprehend the clear sacrifice and dedication that comes from supporting your team adult and child from an early age. This week I noticed that one such supporter at a tender age – her 90’s – had witnessed her last game at Hampden.

With the other sport that I studiously follow – boxing – it too has also had to grapple with the issue of mortality. The death of Dundee boxer, Mike Towell, has once again thrust a spotlight on the sport in a way that is always unwelcome. It is a pugilistic art that requires people to try and hurt each other – at least in football that can usually only be an unfortunate by product of over zealous defending.

It was with this in mind that I saw the report of Queen’s Park 1-0 win against East Fife at the weekend. Their intrepid reporter mentioned the following “Looking down from the Press benches, everything seemed as normal. It was only when you turned and looked towards the Millennium Lounge that you realised there was something missing.

The remarkable Ivy Riddell has followed the Spiders for more than 70 years. As she entered her 90s, three years ago, she was still travelling around the country to watch her team.

That dedication meant we already knew we would never see her likes again; her sad passing this week means we will not even have the pleasure of seeing the lady herself again.”

Now sad that I may be but I do trawl through all the SPFL lower league websites on a regular basis. Whilst those websites in the upper echelons of the game have much news about international signings, why they can’t get past the qualifying stages of their European adventures or justifications over the latest set of accounts, the lower leagues often have simpler fare. Their websites, often run by volunteers often have longer match reports, more in depth – almost – supportive articles and opportunities to delve into the fan base in a very positive manner. This was just such an example of how the club, through its fans were embracing its fans.

Of course there are many Mrs Riddell’s at many SPFL grounds throughout Scotland – including in the Premiership. Their passion for their club often not matched by their club’s insistence they are a business. The core and heart of their livelihood comes though with keeping Mrs Riddell in her seat; and by the way the product on the park is not what keeps her coming back. Had that been the case then at some point during the demise of their fortunes which by the late 19th Century, just a few decades before her birth, saw them start to stumble and fall from being cup winners. We are all fed on past glories and the desire to emulate them. I am sure Mrs Riddell would have turned her back had she felt the product did not match her or her wiser and older supporter’s ambitions.

The answer to keeping supporters in our seats – in the stands and on the buses – is, I believe, far more complex and difficult than could be imagined by those who lack sufficient imagination to grasp what needs to be done to save the game. Mrs Liddell shall be laid to rest on the 21st October 2016. Our game continues to breathe life into fallacies that we only need to find a magic formula and not just listen to those whose seats are still warm from the joys and despair of following our community on the park. RIP Mrs Ivy Liddell.


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