I spent the weekend through in Glasgow – another weekend away from the house, but this time for very different reasons. My sister and I made the trip through to Paisley on Saturday afternoon to watch St. Mirren play their final match at Love Street stadium. It was a happy occasion, but bitterly cold and tinged with reminiscent sadness.
I headed through to Glasgow on a mid-morning bus from Edinburgh and met my sister in Central Station at the back of 1pm. We jumped on a train out to Paisley and were in the pub by quarter to two. The pub – Paisley’s old Post Office in Gilmour Street – was packed with St. Mirren fans and a few Motherwell fans; the Buddies opponents for the day.
Why where we going? St. Mirren have built a new stadium elsewhere in Paisley to help them compete in the modern age, which sadly sees their 115-year old history at Love Street come to an end.
Why were we going? Love Street was the venue of my first football match as a boy. It was a Scottish Cup 3rd round match against Caledonia Thistle on 31st January 1987, which St. Mirren won 3 goals to 0 (McGarvey, McDowall, Ferguson) in the very year they went on to lift the trophy for the third time in their history, at Hampden Park the following May.
I remember most of all the feeling of walking up the steps and the wide open pitch opening up before me, the sight of the fans gathering in the stands, choosing the barrier I was going to lean on to watch the game, the shallow noise of the tanoy as the announcer read out the teams then played the pop hits of the day, and the sight of the players running out to an applause which seemed as normal and regular as anything else, but as a 12-year old lad watching for the first time, it was a step into a whole new world.
It was exhilarating stuff.
As I grew older my allegiance changed and I became embroiled in the ways of Celtic FC, but during the time I lived just around the corner from Love Street, I would still go and watch St. Mirren on a Saturday afternoon when Celtic were playing away from home, or if I had the day off my student job – £3 entry and 50 pence a pie – one couldn’t complain.
Then I fell out with Celtic, the regularity, and the bigotry, and stopped going to games altogether. So forgive me for I have sinned – it’s been nine years since my last football match.
Saturday saw me back at a game and back at Love Street where it all began, in a seat almost in the identical spot to where I stood for that Caledonia Thistle match 22 years earlier. It felt fantastic, not only to be back at Love Street watching St. Mirren, home of so many memories, but just to be back at the footie and watching a game. The game itself was nothing spectacular – it ended 0-0 and the fireworks at the end were a bit of a squib – but it was great stuff just to be there. There’s a good chance I’ll be at more St. Mirren games after they move to their new stadium before the end of the season.
After the game, Binny and I headed back to her flat in Glasgow and got a good heat in us again. It was about freezing during the match, although the double whisky I had before kick off helped delay the effect of the cold for longer than normal. We ordered a Chinese meal and settled down to watch a couple of DVDs before I eventually fell asleep on the couch, as is my normal habit at my sister’s.
Today – Sunday – saw me lie in longer than normal. In fact, it was almost lunchtime when I woke up. After a brunch of scrambled egg on toast I mucked around in the flat until my parents arrived for dinner. Binny made us chilli con Carne – absolute heaven – before I finally left around 7:30 pm and caught the bus home to Leith.
It was a great weekend, and I’ll be doing it again, but tomorrow is all about returning to normality, and moving January 2009 into full swing on the writing front.
Here’s the story of Saturday’s trip to Love Street in photograph form: