Nairn County V Inverurie Locos (25/07/15)
I cannot believe it is only 8 weeks since my last competitive game I attended and here we are again into a new season. One thing about Scotland is that they seem to finish late and start early. Today the Scottish highland league was kicking off the new campaign.
It took 4 trains to get here changing at Edinburgh, Perth and Inverness. From Inverness its about 17 miles on the Aberdeen train line and only takes about 15 minutes or so. There is no getting home to Newcastle on the same day so its an overnight job.
The train fare was over £100 and the Guest House in Inverness another £45. At Inverness the proprietor showed me to my room and said it got a ‘bit noisy’ later. He said I was from Newcastle so would be used to it! I looked out the window and noticed two karaoke bars straight across from me. Charming. I put any anxieties to one side for the minute as it was really football that was order of the day today.
Nairn County play at Station Park and as you would expect its about 1 minute walk to the ground from the railway platform. One of the lads I work with (in Newcastle) told me he was from Nairn and to ask for a guy called “Dodo”.
In the early days the club seemed to have a troubled beginning. Nairn County began life in 1882. The club disappeared in 1891. Nairn Thistle were founded in 1893 but disappeared in 1901. Nairn County was reformed in 1901 with William Whitlaw as club president-his son was also called by the same name and was Margaret Thatcher’s right hand man. The club only lasted 2 years and Nairn Thistle were formed in 1904 only to disappear the following year. In 1906 they reformed yet again as Nairn Thistle but went the journey once more in 1909. Thankfully Nairn County reformed in 1909 with Wm Whitlaw once more as President. Nairn County appear to have had more reformations that they did during the Tudor Dynasty and more come backs than Frank Sinatra.
When the highland league was formed Nairn County were not invited to join until some time later. When compulsory national service was still being invoked the club were finding it so difficult to get players, the fans took their complaint right up to the Home office!
The ground is compact and tidy. The main stand was built in 1937 and still appears in immaculate condition. There are no individual seats as such but the old fashioned planks of wood. On the far side was a covered area called the Cowshed but this was demolished at the end of next season. The supporters are currently raising funds to but a new one and are hard at working organising numerous events to this purpose. There is nothing behind either goal but there is a raised grass bank area at one end.
The pitch was in good condition and obviously had been well maintained over the summer months. Nairn play in yellow and black which they have done since 1975. Before then they wore red and white but in the very early days I think they wore blue. That change of strip in 1975 must have brought them luck as at the end of the 75-76 season they won the league title for the first and only time.
Inverurie Loco works were formed in 1903 and played many years in the Junior leagues. It was only in 2003 that they joined the Highland league. They play in red and black strips. The front of their strips today looked like a fancy draughts board with red and black squares.
In total contrast the referee and assistants wore bright blue shirts.
Inverurie had a small but noisy following of supporters. Most of them, well nearly all of them formed some sort of percussion drum band completing with matching attire and hats supporting the clubs colours. However I felt their musical talents never really got going. I would have liked to hear a bit more of a sustained melody, with me being a drum band member and all of that, but it was not to be. That is not to knock a group of dedicated supporters who were here today making a 145 mile round trip to support their team.
On arriving at the ground I tried to locate ‘Dodo’ but to no avail.
The game kicked off in bright sunshine but with intermittent light showers thrown in during the game. I noticed the home team all had squad numbers and their names printed on their backs. Not sure how Tony Wallace managed to get the 99 shirt mind. I also felt sorry for Kenny Mackenzie at 22 who did not have his name on the back. It made me think of Mike Bassett England manager when one of his players asked if he could have a nickname. In this case the player would be saying “Please Boss. Can I have my name on my shirt?”.
The game flowed evenly and 5 minutes before half time the home side got a free kick about 35 years out. A ball was put through, seemed to get behind the defence and a Nairn player picked up on it to score.
At half time I tried again to locate ‘Dodo’ but to no avail.
The second half kicked off and Inverurie were not going to take things lying down. They were pushing for an equaliser that never came in the end. At one point the ball was going in with the goalkeeper beaten but the ball cannoned off the upright. The play was constantly from one to end and in my opinion the sides were as good as each other.
The game finished and the home side were happy with the days result. You can never complain about a win and three points on opening day. Disappointing for those from Inverurie but a long way to go yet.
I asked someone if they had seen this Dodo guy as I was being to think he was extinct as his name sake. Someone got in touch with him by mobile and I eventually caught up with him at the station. Thankfully he was alive and kicking. We could have chatted all day and he kindly gave me their Centenary history book which was a really kind gesture.
The History of Nairn County FC (by Graeme Macleod, Donald Wilson-Dodo and Bill Logan) is an excellent book and a labour of love from people supporting their club with a passion.
At the rail station I got talking to two other Nairn fans. One from Glasgow and the other Perth. Both had made the journey up today especially. Truly dedicated non league fans.
Back at my hotel the Karaoke bars lived up to their expectation and the last of the night club revellers dispersed after 3.30am.I was able to get some sleep from 4am at least. All part of the life and an occupational hazard as a ground hopper. Its good to be back for a new season though.