Tuesday 26th October 2021 7:30pm – The Scottish Championship – Cappielow Park, Greenock
It’s been a rough few months at Cappielow. The Ton sit second to bottom in the second tier of Scottish football, with just one win to their name this season and to add to the misery, tonight’s Curry Club hospitality for the game against Partick Thistle has been cancelled due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’. It never rains but it pours, which was an apt phrase for the weather when I arrived on the edge of the Clyde on Tuesday afternoon. Yes, I know it’s Scotland, and yes it is nearly November, but perhaps just once I could coincide a visit to the region with some dry weather?
The phrase “Old School” (or Skool if you really want to show your age) is used without much context these days. If something is “Old School”, what is “New School”? Someone a few weeks ago described an iPod to me as “Old School” – have we really moved so far on that a device the size of a match box that holds thousands of songs as a relic from the past? Anyway, my point is that when you talk to people about Scottish stadiums, Cappielow Park is often described as Old School. I can see why some would consider it a stadium with its feet still firmly planted in the past, but then so have a lot of other grounds, which are colloquially considered as “shit holes”. There’s a fine line it seems between something being well past its best and being considered retro or vintage.
Cappielow Park, home of Greenock Morton, isn’t old school, it’s a shrine to what a football ground looked like 50 years ago. The main stand, with its wooden benches still in situ until the turn of the century. Opposite is the unusual Cowshed where there’s seating at the front and a cavernous terrace behind. But it’s perhaps the skyline from the Wee Dublin End (named after the local Irish population) that has the visitors all excited with the famous crane in the adjacent docks dominating the view. Except when it’s dark and wet as it was when I arrived for the evening’s entertainment against Partick Thistle.
My pre-match dining option, promised little and delivered less apart from convenience in location. On asking for a table, I was asked if I had booked ahead as the host scanned the empty restaurant. Delivery issues meant they had no Diane Sauce (the line from Fawlty Towers of “chef’s just opened the gin” sprang to mind), sticky toffee pudding or custard. “Blame Brexit” said the guy on the opposite table, although he then told his wife he would pay £1.50 for a sauce named after one of the Supremes. She didn’t laugh either.
I went for the lethal sounding Smothered Platter, which was basically anything they could find in the fridge, covered in cheese. I’m not knocking it – it was relatively tasty but smothering pineapple and coleslaw with cheese was probably a step too far. A swift 8 minute walk was in order to work some of the cholesterol and calories off, and to try to beat the rain sweeping across the Clyde.
Whilst I’d taken the precaution of buy a ticket in advance, the average attendance these days at Cappielow was only 1,325, and although the visitors were coming from just over the Clyde (and along a bit), we all know that a wet night in October tests the hardiest of fans. The Partick fans turned up in numbers and were squeezed into the corner of the Cowshed which was at least undercover.
The weather didn’t disappoint. One of my favourite football pictures, taken by the legendary Stuart Roy Clarke shows a drenched young Morton fan, waiting outside Cappielow for a bus to arrive. That’s how we all felt taking our places on the terraces tonight.
It has been 33 years since the club last competed in the top flight in Scotland and whilst we are only a quarter of the way through the season, it’s probably fair to say it’s going to be 34 years come May. The danger at the moment though is that they could exit the Championship through the trap door rather than the elevator. A win tonight would alleviate some of the pressure.
Both teams lined up in the centre circle to pay their respects to former Rangers manager Walter Smith who passed away earlier in the day. With their backs to the Cowshed it was almost impossible to make out the numbers of the Morton players. Love the blue and white hoops but add a black number on the back and it’s unreadable.
It wasn’t the best of halves to be honest. Morton played like they had the expectations of a thousand men (women, boys and girls) on their backs, which they did and seemed goal shy, often getting into shooting positions but scared to pull the trigger. Half-time nil-nil as too were all four other games in the division. My kingdom for a goal.
It took sanctuary in the second half under the old scoreboard at the east end of the stadium. It gave you that outdoor weather beaten effect without getting totally soaked. The wind was causing both sets of players all sorts of problems but not enough to lead to any comedy errors and it was probably fair in the end that the game finished scoreless.
If you can’t visit Cappielow on a beautiful sunny day, with the historic skyline visible than what could be better than a foul night with the wind and the rain belting down? Football’s only secondary to cathedrals of football like the home of Greenock Morton after all.