Sunday 2nd January 2022 1:30pm – Scottish League One – The Rock, Dumbarton
I know I should refer to Dumbarton’s quaint stadium by it’s paid for name of the C&G Systems Stadium, but it is hard to ignore the metaphoric elephant in the room of Dumbarton Castle sitting atop a 240 metre high plug of volcanic basalt which is simply known as “The Rock”.
In its 21 year history, the stadium has gone by many names, from the Bet Butler to the Cheaper Insurance Direct but surely an approach to US actor Dwayne Johnson, who has a supposed net worth in excess of $400 million and could surely spare a few dollars to help a Scottish third tier team? I mean if two other Hollywood actors saw the potential to invest in a Welsh Non-League club then Johnson needs to get on board sharpish.
You can’t help feeling that the architects missed a massive trick by not constructing the main stand facing the rock. I’m sure there were grand and lofty plans to construct more stands when finances allowed which would have bring more than a handful of the curious to games rather than the views today which could double as film or TV sets to a whole range of film genres. The industrial waste site on the water’s is a shoe-in for a crime thriller, with a divorced, crime-hardened detective piecing together the clues of a discovered body, whereas the housing estate would be the location of a gritty Jimmy McGovern drama featuring a divorced, crime-hardened detective. You get the picture.
Alas, views from the castle weren’t possible as it wasn’t open although it was due to reopen on Tuesday when the holidays ended and thus most people would be back at school or work. I am betting that somewhere around the site would be a donations box too – the irony of missing out on the revenue generation opportunity lost on the management.
With Scotland’s “leadership” bringing in restrictions to try to limit the spread of the COVID variant, football had once again been severely impacted. A cap of 500 fans had been placed on all outside sporting events which saw the Premiership move their final games before their Winter break back a few weeks to avoid having to deal with the headache.
With the warmest New Year in record I’m not sure the concept of a winter break benefits anyone. In fact, it could end up biting the league in the bum if the cold weather arrives in 3-4 weeks when their games resume. With travel restrictions in place few top flight clubs will head to warmer climes, something that’s happened in previous years. It could be the case that the league is simply pushing the problem cart further down the already pot-hole ridden road.
For the clubs below the Premiership they had the issue of trying to accommodate 500 fans. Only eight of the thirty clubs in the Scottish Football League have average attendances below 500 and for some clubs, such as Falkirk who regularly welcome as many fans as some Premiership sides, it would be a massive issue.
Falkirk’s case was an interesting one. In their first restricted capacity home game against Clyde, they could only accommodate 400 fans (500 less the invited guests, management, directors etc) in an open air stadium that has a capacity of 8,200. However, fans were welcome to watch a live stream of the game versus Clyde from their supporters bars where there was a significantly higher capacity and there was no issues despite it being indoors as long as they didn’t start dancing, which is strictly against the new rules.
With an average attendance of just over 500, predominately because of the 886 that were here for the visit of Falkirk back in November, I hedged my bets on being able to get a ticket for Dumbarton in their early Sunday kick off against Airdrie and sure enough when the club published details of entry, I was one of the 500 (or less) lucky ones. Transport sorted, early lunch eaten at the Grill on the Bridge and parked up all in good time.
One of the strange characteristics of Scottish football today is the players entrance. There’s none of this line up and shake each other’s hand malarkey- it’s a sprint from the tunnel one minute before kick off, a coin toss and we are away. Except today, the person in charge of the music was either enjoying Iron Maiden’s ‘The Trooper‘ too much or had popped out for a Bovril which left the players and officials patiently waiting.
Whilst the home side started the day six places and 15 points below Airdrie, they looked the brighter of the two sides in the opening 45 minutes, denied a couple of spectacular goals by players trying, but failing to connect with volley-able crosses. At the other end the ball was cleared off the line by an Airdrie player, denying his own team of a certain goal and a goal direct from a corner was ruled out for a NFL move by a visiting player on the Dumbarton keeper.
The second half ebbed and flowed but ultimately it was a single effort in the 69th minute that saw the visitors take all three points, former Dumbarton midfielder Dylan Easton scoring the goal.
The majority of the crowd left despondent. Whilst they sit second from bottom, in the relegation play off spot, a win could have taken them within six points of the promotion play-off such is the league table at the moment. The club, being the first supporters trust in Scotland, naturally want to find a way to compete higher and get more fans through the gates. Whilst returning to the golden years of the late 19th century championship winning sides may be a distant dream, building that Castle facing stand doesn’t seem a possibility or a move to a new site to the north of the town rejected by the council, it may be a slow process but without hope what would football fans have to talk about?