While watching the FA Cup at the weekend it got me thinking, thinking about the days when I played football, in the dim and distant past when football was a contact sport – in the 70’s you knew when it was a bad tackle – body parts everywhere. But, salvation was always at hand, the legendary ‘Bucket and Magic Sponge’ that magically cured all football injuries! Those were the days, or were they? I’m digressing. Back to my football days. I was taken back to my very first cup final in the early seventies playing for Cathkin Primary in The McCafferty Shield. Cathkin Primary a team that became a force feared throughout Rutherglen and Cambuslang District football (the Lisbon Lions of Primary school football at that time) winning leagues, cups, shields and the coveted Daily Record Trophy, and a team ready for greatness. I think somebody is getting a bit carried away.
But this was Cathkin’s very first cup final, and we were up against a team that dominated Primary football at that time, St Columbkilles (winners of everything in the previous 2 seasons). St Columbkilles became our main rivals over the following 3 seasons.
To the game itself, an evenly fought battle between two exceptionally skilled teams for the most part, but with only 10 minutes remaining, disaster struck, they scored (3-2) to the ColumbKilles! Their fans thought it was all over – Was it f***! (Substitute Falkirk)! It ain’t over till the fat lady sticks the ball in the back of the net.
We threw caution to the wind and battered their goal – eleven attackers focused on one task. With a minute to go Cathkin won a corner. The ball was perfectly floated into the six yard area and in the ensuing melee the ball broke to edge of the eighteen yard box where I happened to be loitering. Those of you who have played the game, just know, you just do, when you strike that ball so sweetly, so perfectly – the sound as the boot connects with ball, it’s like slow motion, you seem detached from the moment.
The ball sped like a bullet, low and hard, through the mass of players and buried itself in the bottom left corner of the net (3-3)! I turned screaming and flailing my arms as I ran up the pitch – a hero for once, not just a defender in the mould of Jim Holton, Norman Hunter or the world class Franco Baresi (A STOPPER), but a goal scorer like Pele, George Best or Kenny Dalglish. I scored! I just scored!!
Then the but, a huge big but? I turned, the referee had blown the whistle and was pointing to the six yard box – OFFSIDE! Our Midfield Genius Dougie Smillie (The B*****d) had lunged towards the ball as it whizzed past him. It was a non-goal! The goal was no more! We’d lost! From Hero, to just a defender again, in an instant. As Bill Shankly once said “If you’re first you are first. If you’re second you’re nothing.” Harsh words, but true, or are they? Isn’t it all about taking part? Isn’t it all about winning? A debate for another day me thinks.
On the upside though, we had our revenge three weeks later when we beat St Columbkilles in the Burgh Cup final. Thus began the accumulation of a number of trophies for Cathkin Primary. Clichéd as it is, football is about ups and downs, and we know without the downs the ups wouldn’t be as uplifting (just a reflection of the world in general – a truism?).
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