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Saturday 12th March 2016 ko 11.00

Lowland League

WHITEHILL WELFARE 3 (Muir 17 Connolly 28 Devlin 76) Williams missed penalty 81

GALA FAIRYDEAN ROVERS 0 Gibson sent off 47 (violent conduct)

Att 324

Entry £5

Programme £2

If there was one club I’d wanted to visit on the Lowland Hop’s run it was Rosewell’s Whitehill Welfare. The roots of this hop, and the organised hop in Scotland lie with a tip I’d had at a Camelon Juniors game, and a subsequent phone call with Welfare’s Jamie McQueen. He put the idea to his committee who then got the league committee involved, and the rest is history! So if there was one club I really didn’t want to have a problem it was Whitehill……

In groundhopper parlance, the worst excuse for not issuing a programme is “Printer problems,” it’s seen as meaning “We couldn’t be bothered,” so when the reason actually IS printer issues disbelief is the usual reaction. So when Welfare were only able to send 81 copies out of the 140 required for the prepaid programme packs, we had to think fast!

An apologetic Jamie who produced the superlative programme let us know that it was the printers’ bookletting machine that was the issue, and once it was fixed, further copies were printed and we soon made sure those who’d booked a programme got one! And from then on, Welfare showed everyone just what a good club they are, and Jamie did a roaring trade running the merchandise stall.

The club is based in Midlothian, just south of Edinburgh, and is named after the town’s former colliery. The club were a big name in the East of Scotland League, before joining the new Lowland League 2 years ago. In fact the new league’s first meeting was held at Welfare’s Ferguson Park!

From a groundhop organiser’s perspective the measure of how well a club is doing is when all you need to do is count the crowd and watch the game. That is precisely what I did here, and Welfare put in a performance to match their staging.

I’m not sure whether Welfare were good, or Gala poor. I’d wanted a competitive game not least because I hold Gala Fairydean and their secretary Graeme McIver in the highest regard after last year’s event, and a return of no points from 2 hop games doesn’t reflect the efforts he and his club have put in.

Gala’s cause wasn’t helped by the dismissal of captain Jamie Gibson for aiming a punch at Callum Connolly following a heavy challenge. Two down at that point, the mirage of a win totally disappeared and in the end the final score was entirely deserved.

As much as I felt for Graeme and Gala, the win reflected beautifully on Whitehill Welfare, and Jamie McQueen. Because whatever happens to the organised groundhop in Scotland, the genesis of it will always be Jamie McQueen and Whitehill Welfare.