Date: 9th September 2021
“The Stories that should get told”
Following the news that BBC will have live coverage from Shielfield Park in the Scottish Cup first round as the Borderers take on Gretna 2008, Donald Stewart gives the everyday fan an insight into the roots of the Scottish Cup. First round fixtures commence on the 18th of September.
“The stories that don’t get told…
It is obvious to even the most die hard anti Auld Firm fan that a game which attracts a global audience should get the attention it deserves. Often that means that almost every other game does not feature on the back pages or the next 3 or 4 beyond that, towards the centre of the paper.
For some this is quite simply unacceptable because their club is relegated, in journalistic terms, to a footnote. There is, for many, a sense of grievance. They can point towards the triumph of their cup double winning team and how that should have had equal measure in column inches; they do have a point.
But then came Europe.
It has, once again, been a bit of a leveller. Like the national team we need to breed teams that know how to navigate the tournaments in which they find themselves, otherwise first hurdles and falling shall always be in their headlines.
And so, we have the biggest match in our game and the two representatives left in Europe, being the self-same two clubs – again.
It would, however, be remiss not to note that the game has greater depth than just a couple of really successful clubs.
In the hinterlands of Scotland, the weekend of the 18th of September shall see those hinterlands VERY agitated over the beginning of the Scottish Cup. It’s the first round!
The BBC have been able to show the Road to Hampden this year with the Berwick Rangers v Gretna 2008 tie scheduled for the week after the weekend filled with excitement and fixtures. For academics of the game this is interesting , not just because Shielfield is the site of one of the biggest cup upsets, like EVER, but also because of the histories of both clubs playing on the pitch that evening.
Berwick Rangers, the anomaly from England that plays in the Scottish leagues is one of the three clubs that fell out of the SPFL through the relegation pyramid. Gretna 2008, on the other hand, is the club that spectacularly fell out of the professional leagues through financial difficulty.
Both clubs have given journalists some great stories in the past – especially Gretna. The rise of their team through the ranks, their last gasp winner from James Grady that saw them elevated to the Premier League, their falling apart at Fir Park which they were forced to share with Motherwell because they did not have a Premier League compliant ground in Raydale and the sight of a manager being refused entry in the shape of Rowan Alexander, accompanied by a Rangers legend, his representative, made great headlines and pictures for observers.
The demise of Gretna was 13 years ago; the clue is in their new name. There is a familiar face going to be in their dugout – the very same man who was denied admittance to their ground in the Premier League all that long time ago! Mr. Alexander is the manager of Gretna 2008!
But you might not see those headlines anywhere near you – you may have to depend upon local newspapers to tell you of the relevance of the ties or even report what happens in them! Or you have a squint at the BBC who this season even manged to let a timer on a League Two game keep going until the official site told fans that the game was being played over 4 hours and ended in a penalties win – it didn’t…
There are of course some cracking other ties including Banks O’Dee v Turriff United or the Highland League tussle, Brechin City v Vale of Leithen, the west coast fixture involving Broomhill v Glasgow University or the fascinating Caledonian Braves v University of Stirling, or another team that once graced the Premier League, Clydebank facing either Burntisland Shipyard or Dalkeith Thistle, South v North in Cumbernauld Colts v Buckie Thistle, the former SPFL East Stirlingshire up against the team in the Highland League once a featured in a BBC documentary because it couldn’t win a game, Fort William, the tie with the best named teams in the competition, Inverurie Loco Works v Jeanfield Swifts or the all Ayrshire contest featuring Irvine Meadow XI v Auchinleck Talbot, the ever famous Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale v Edinburgh University or the team named often in admirable community work, Spartans v Gala Fairydean Rovers and ending on the final tie, in alphabetical order, Wigtown & Bladnoch v St Cuthbert Wanderers. There are games with which to conjure high drama and low despair. Of course, other games are available in the competition, but some deserve headlines all of their own, not that they shall get any…”
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