Saturday 29th March 2014 ko 9.30
Strathclyde Saturday Morning League Presidents Cup Semi-Final
TANTALLON VICTORIA 0
FIRHILL UNITED 1 (Thomson 8)
Played on Pitch 1, Toryglen Regional Football Centre, Glasgow
I have a feeling if you’re in Mount Florida, Glasgow during the football season and you can’t find a game to watch, then you’re not putting enough effort in! There’s Hampden Park, the National Stadium (albeit closed to football for alterations for the forthcoming Commonwealth games) home to Queens Park, the quite wonderful Cathkin Park 200 yards away up Prospecthill Road, which acts as part council pitch, part mausoleum for poor old defunct Third Lanark who controversially went bankrupt in 1967. With a horde of groundhoppers making their way to the final ever game at Benburb’s iconic Tinto Park, they had the chance to tick off another icon beforehand. Having already had the pleasure a couple of years ago I visited the other point of the Mount Florida footballing triangle- Toryglen.
The Toryglen Regional Football Centre opened in April 2009 and cost £17million. It features an indoor full-sized 3G pitch, to exactly the same dimensions as the pitch at Celtic Park, and the same specifications as the pitch at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow which has staged full internationals. It’s a fine facility, but I was more than happy it wasn’t being used for my game judging by the signs saying “Strictly no photography!” There are 4 further pitches, three 3G and one grass outside, the allocation of games is posted on a flipchart inside, but I noted that both the kick off-time and one of the participants was incorrect. Buyer beware!!
I grabbed a coffee and found pitch 1 without hindrance, and was pleased to see and meet the league officials. We talked about Amateur football north of the border, and they were justifiably proud of their league, and rather dismissive of the Glasgow Colleges League action up the road at Cathkin.
“It’s between us and the Dundee League as to who are the best Amateur League in Scotland, those lot (at Cathkin)…. there isn’t a college side in there!”
Both sides were notably friendly, and I made the mistake of asking the Firhill party why their nickname is “The famous?” The answer was delightfully blunt, “Because we are!” and being in the second tier Division One, with Tantallon in 2A they were confident of victory. Victoria’s confidence was quieter, but they did find time to gently mock club chairman Davie Brown for his choice of footwear, rather natty brown brogues, rather out-of-step with the surface he was standing on. And other than one goalkeeping howler that allowed Willie Thomson to fire home for the only goal of the game, you wouldn’t have known which side was in the higher division.
In fact the standard was good, and I’ve no doubt that the artificial surface helped, particularly when the party at Cathkin returned to pick me up and commented that the pitch had been marked extremely narrow so as to avoid the waterlogging. Whether the traditionalists like it or not, 3G is the future at the grassroots, and I am more than aware of the irony in that last statement! The passing was crisp, the movement good, and referee John Campbell have to show just the one card, to Firhill’s William Finlay for a heavy challenge. Victoria pressed hard in the final few minutes but just lacked the killer touch to force extra-time.
By any standards it was a highly entertaining game, it was tempting to stay for the second semi-final, but I am a hopper, and I was promised elsewhere….