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Friday 17th March 2023 ko 19:45

East of Scotland League Premier Division

TYNECASTLE 2 (Hamilton 5 77)

Blaney sent off 12 (dangerous play)

SAUCHIE JUNIORS 3 (Hutchison 23 secs Columbine 60 Morgan 67)

Hutchinson sent off 3 (foul & abusive)

Att 448

Entry £8

Programme £2

I was under pressure. I was driving my wife Robyn and Craig Dabbs up to Edinburgh as the GroundhopUK advance party. Our role was to collate the 6 sets of programmes for the weekend’s hop into ticket and programme packs for those who had bought prebooked tickets. For once the M6 behaved, but my clutch wasn’t, and despite a litre of clutch fluid bought from a lad in Halfords, Hamilton who seemed happy to have someone to talk to, the concern was would we get to Meggetland, then get round the grounds?

GroundhopUK owner Chris Berezai had done well, the coach had left Cardiff, then picked up along the M4 en route to a rendezvous in London. From there it headed north and by the time it reached Holmes Chapel it was full to the point that we were to act as overspill coach for the weekend- that clutch simply had to hold!

Despite my mechanical difficulties there was a sense of certainty as to what we were doing. It has been 8 years since that groundbreaking first hop game in Scotland at East Kilbride, and over the years we’ve adapted the football weekend to work best with how things work in non league football north of the border. Those points of compromise are studied carefully; we’ve even accepted the preponderance of pies to the extent that when Robyn and I planned our meals for the week after this hop, we looked at each other and said, “Perhaps we’ll ease off the pies!”

It’s even got to the point where most of the nay-sayers seem to have seen the light, and the odd miserablist can be confidently ignored. Or putting it another way if we’re annoying a miserablist then at least we’re annoying the right people, and yes they do attend the games which I do find a little odd!

I must admit I was looking forward to our trip to Tynecastle, not least as the original Tynecastle club started life in 1928 as Meccano-building club! Tynecastle merged with Tolcross United in 2005 as a means of the club entering adult football, and the new club took Tolcross’s place in the East of Scotland League. The club moved to Meggetland Stadium in 2017.

Meggetland is best known as the home of Boroughmuir RUFC whose alumni includes the likes of Sean Lineen and Bill Hay, so they’d moved into a ground fit, with very little adaptation, for the SPFL. I remember the place well, and particularly the double-sided stand when in 2014 I watched Boroughmuir Thistle in the Scottish Women’s League on the football pitch on the other side of the stand. 

But this evening was all about the wonderful people that are Tynecastle FC. From moment we arrived, through roping enough help to getting those programme packs ready, thanks Harvey, Mick and Kenny, it was a treat spending the calm before the storm with the club. But we knew the coach was nearby so I made the decision to head to the turnstiles, and check off the hoppers who’d prebooked. It seemed better to do that than try and drag 3 boxes of packs over there. 

It meant I got to spend time with siblings Rowan and Alison who were multi-tasking, operating a turnstile each, and collectively trying to get their heads round groundhoppers, and why anyone would want to visit just over 2,400 grounds in 28 countries. It beats me! They were excellent company and I actually regretted having to leave them as the game was about to kick off. 

It was a good job I did leave promptly, Ross Hutchinson managed to score for Sauchie in a mere 23 seconds! I do think he was in a hurry, as by the time I reached Robyn back in the stand, he was heading for the showers, sent off for a volley of verbals aimed at referee Mark Harris. Some cameo that! And Tynecastle managed to equalise within the first 12 minutes, and lose Blaney to another red card, for a high challenge too, it wasn’t a game to turn up late to!

It had to slow down, which it did, but only slightly. Dismissals can kill games, but here 10-a-side gave the teams more room to play so were treated to a superb game, which Sauchie just about deserved to shade. I strolled back to the car, but was soon alerted to a problem in the stand.

The problem was that Robyn had fallen down the stairs of the main stand. I dashed over and found her being tended to by the club’s first aiders. It could have been extremely serious, but thankfully she’d rolled rather than fallen head-first down the 15-or-so steps and her camera had taken the brunt of the steps. She was shocked, bruised and a little embarrassed, but was able to limp back to the car. 

We’d like to thank everyone involved at Tynecastle FC for their kindness, and prompt action. 

Dedicated to Alison and Rowan. The first impression you’ll get of Tynecastle FC, and a credit to their club.