Dons down Caley to win their first silverware this century

Six weeks ago, The Daggers Diary team were fortunate enough to attend the semi final between Inverness and Hearts, while on a weekend trip to Edinburgh. As one of the more attention grabbing games that they had attended in a long while drew to a conclusion, they were offered tickets to the final if Inverness (down to nine players at this point) held on and won the tie.  Of course it was a no-brainer that they would go. 

1926863_10153907861090223_588616766_nAs we strolled back into the city centre with the game still very fresh in the memory, we wondered how we were going to break the news to Dan’s wife that we would be attempting to head to Glasgow for the final. Those twenty minutes or so were spent trying to come up with kind of story that would tug on the heart-strings, and at least allow Dan out of the house for a day trip to Scotland’s second city.

Unfortunately, the walk produced nothing of note, and so when we all met up, Dan just asked outright. Luckily, there was swift agreement, and so it is how we find ourselves on a flight up to Glasgow from Stansted on a bright sunny Sunday morning.

Our main concern was tickets. The average Inverness home gate isn’t huge, and so while we were assured by our contacts that tickets wouldn’t be a problem, I always like to be a bit on the cautious side. Dan though found a decent flight and so went ahead and booked it. Confirmation of the tickets came through a few days later, and now we were off to the 68th Scottish League Cup Final. Continue reading

Highland thing

Faced with the prospect of a trip to Exeter for the Daggers League Two match, the Daggers Diary team headed north of the border to see what is happening in the Highland League.

The Highland League is over one hundred years, but it is arguable that it faces one of its biggest challenges in the coming years. Following the re-organization of the professional game in Scotland, the Highland League (along with the newly created Lowland League) was going to become a feeder league to the SPFL. It was proposed that the winner of the two respective leagues would play off against each other, in order to provide the opposition in another play off against the team finishing bottom of the SPFL.

Founded in 1893 (at the working mans club in Inverness) there were originally seven clubs, although by the time the league celebrated its centenary, this had expanded to eighteen, which is the number maintained at the present time.

100_7650However, in a new year address posted on their clubs website, one Highland League club chairman explained that their view was that any club winning promotion in this manner should have their finances checked to see if they could cope with the monetary pressures of promotion to the SPFL. He also expressed concerns about the potential fall out of any club not being able to continue in the division.

I can see what he means. In England, we have had Chester City and Rushden & Diamonds go out of business in recent years having occupied a Football League in the none too distance past. However, I am not sure that their demise was directly linked to chasing promotion or staying in the league. From what I can remember, it was more than just that. No one wants to see a club go out of business, less so one that has started to play in that country’s top leagues.

Which is all well and good, but surely the point of any sport is to be able to test yourself at a higher level? A (pre-emptive?) counter argument was posted by Niall Slater back in June 2013 on the Two Unfortunates website, in which he argues that the powers that be in the lower echelons of Scottish football are completely disinterested in footballing merit, and are wholly focused on maintaining self-preservation. Continue reading

Daggers the Brave

Whilst the rest of us spent an afternoon in the shops as our games fell by the wayside, the Daggers Diary team headed north to take in a couple of games in Scotland.

I know that I am quite lucky to be able to do what I do. Most weekends I attend a game, whether it be with the Daggers, or venturing slightly further afield. Take this weekend for example. A whole hour before the coach leaves Victoria Road for the Daggers trip to Rochdale, Dagenham Dan and I are sitting in Southend airport for the first time this month, waiting for a flight north to Edinburgh for a two game weekend.

Despite the fact that Scotland is next door (and for the moment) still part of the UK, this will be only my second football trip north, while this will be Dan’s first ever trip across the border. The only other game I have ventured to in Scotland was up in Inverness, for a comprehensive win against Dundee United, in September 2012. Hopefully our two games this weekend will be as good as that one.

Although we have done plenty of these trips, the early alarm is still a shock to the system, and when it shatters the silence at just after 4am, it is at a snail’s pace that I clamber out of my pit for our trip to Southend airport.

Our flight up is by not full, so we have plenty of space to spread out. We are also the first flight out, and leave roughly on time. With a flight time of an hour, it won’t be long before we are back on the ground, and in the Scottish capital.

Saturday 1st February 2014, Livingston v Queen of the South, Energy Assets Arena

IMG_3268Not only is this Dan’s first game in Scotland, but also his 1300th in total. It’s taken just over twenty-two years to get to this total, which works out at a fairly decent average number of games per year.

Having spent the morning at Edinburgh castle, we head out to Livingston around 1pm, for our first game of the weekend. The journey from Edinburgh is not too bad by train, with it taking only about twenty minutes to reach our destination station. The twenty-minute walk at the other end is thankfully completed without it raining.

As a club, Livingston FC didn’t exist twenty years ago. Ok, that isn’t quite true, as it was formerly Meadowbank Thistle (and previously Ferranti Thistle). Back in 1995, the club moved from the Meadowbank stadium in Edinburgh where they had been for twenty years, to the new town of Livingston, meaning not only a new stadium, but a change of name as well. The clubs history pages in their website makes it clear that the move was simply because the owner at the time, Bill Hunter, felt that there was limited potential sharing a City with Hibernian and Hearts, so the club was moved twenty miles down the road.

The early part of the 21st century were clearly good for the new club, finishing third in 2002, and winning the league cup two years later, but financial problems have beset the club in recent times. Now though, they appear to be stable and promotion back to the top flight of Scottish football must be the aim. Continue reading

Our Marathon Man takes on Loch Ness

Brian Parish choses Scottish Premier League football over his beloved Dagenham & Redbridge….but for more reasons than just a decent pie.

Last year, I jetted off to Toronto to run a marathon that turned into a bit of an ice hockey fest as well. Attending two games over the course of three days could definitely be marked up as “ambition achieved”. Last year though, I had the holiday from work to be able to fly across the Atlantic for an eight day trip for running and hockey. This year though, having spent a fair few days visiting Olympic Park for various sporting events, I am a bit lighter in the holiday allowance than I was twelve months ago, so I have looked closer to home for my marathon trip.

Having done a bit of research, I came up with a trip to Inverness for the Loch Ness marathon. A few people from my running club had completed it, and it sounded like a good idea, so back in March, I signed up, booked my flights, and sorted out the hotel.

Of course, signing up for a trip like this meant that I also needed the fixture list to be kind, and therefore needed Inverness to be at home the weekend I would be in town. Not only that, but I needed them to be playing a league game that I could get a ticket for.

With all of the Rangers stuff going on over the summer, when the fixtures did appear with “Team 12” included, I didn’t know what to think; whether the list would be re-done, or whether they would stay as originally announced. The original list had Inverness at home to Dundee United on the marathon weekend, so I kept a watch on the fixtures. When this was confirmed, I bought my ticket and so the day before running another twenty-six miler, I finally get to go to my first game in Scotland.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle was a club born of a merger between two clubs that had over a century of history each. Thistle FC (formed 1885) and Caledonian (1886) joined forces when the Scottish league was expanded from thirty-eight to forty clubs in 1994. As with many mergers between clubs, this did not go down well with the support of both teams, but at least it bought the Scottish Football League to a region of the country that had (by the looks of things) only encountered them when the Scottish Cup came around. Having spent half of their first season playing home games at Aberdeen while their original stadium was made ready for the SFl, they eventually got back to the capital of the Highlands in January 1994, and beat Dunfermline in their first game back. Continue reading

The Boys from Brazil part 1

In the next twenty fours hours I will see the Boys from Brazil play twice. Well, technically twice.  At Old Trafford on Sunday I will be sitting in the press box watching the likes of Hulk, Thiago Silva, Neymar and Pato take on Belarus.  However today I am heading for Central Park, home of The Blue Brazil, Cowdenbeath FC.

After the start of the Olympic football on Thursday in Glasgow, the Fuller family had spent a day at leisure in Edinburgh on Friday.  However, with a late flight home on Saturday how could I resist the lure of the Ramsden’s Cup.  I would lose all respect by ignoring games around the Scottish capital at the likes of Falkirk, East Stirlingshire and Cowdenbeath.  The latter won my vote, not just because the promise of South American style football, but a visit to Britain’s only top flight ground that also doubles up as a Stock Car racing track.

Central Park, home to the club since 1917, has hosted greyhound and speedway racing but it has been the hosting of stock car racing since 1970 that has made it famous.  It has even hosted four world championships, such has been its importance in the sport.  However, it is primarily a football ground although on a normal match day only about a tenth of the 4,370 capacity is filled by fans. Continue reading