Friday, 4 July 2008

Past EFW Classics Part 6

Celtic 1-0 Hibernian (10:02:07)

Kilmarnock 1-3 Rangers (11:02:07)

'Say Aye to a Killie pie'

Kris Boyd opens the scoring for Rangers away to Kilmarnock.

One end of the Rangers fans at Rugby Park.

Whoops, I appear to be on the pitch again!

Nick blends in with the locals (beer had been taken).

Parkhead - that will be Celtic then.

There is a game going on down there somewhere.

Bar 67 on Gallowgate where our first post match pint was sunk.

Babbity Bowster pub on Blackfriars Street, Glasgow - recommended.

Glasgow is a City I keep on returning to - I love it! I've never been made to feel more than welcome there. Edinburgh may be aesthetically more pleasing on the eye but Glasgow just edges it as a City for me. There are literally hundreds of great pubs, genuinely great people and they have a couple of football teams who don't really like each other - have you heard of them!?

I flew up to Glasgow from Gatwick on the Saturday morning with my old pal Nick. We checked into our hotel located at Glasgow Central Railway Station early doors and decided that with it being 10am it was too early (even for us) to open our drinking account for the day.

We jumped in a taxi and headed to Scotland's national football stadium; Hampden Park. There is a football museum there which is simply the best I have ever been to. I've probably waxed lyrical about it on these pages before so I won't go on about it too much here. Suffice to say if you are ever in Glasgow then do yourself a favour and go. We met up with a chap who works for the Scottish FA on that day and we are still in touch with him to this day.

After Hampden Park, we nipped across the road to say hello to Mr Beer as we still had a couple of hours before our first match of the weekend; Celtic v Hibernian. It took us two attempts to ring a taxi from that pub to Parkhead. The first company we rang didn't like the fact we were going to Celtic and started chuntering down the phone - clearly a Rangers taxi firm - whoops! A couple of Celts in bar offered us a lift in their supporters coach but we declined their kind offer and jumped in another taxi.

This was my fourth visit to Celtic for a match but it was by far the most disappointing in terms of atmosphere ie there wasn't any. Celtic were 19 points ahead of Rangers in the SPL and their fans were clearly saving themselves for the midweek visit of AC Milan in the Champions League. They won the game 1-0 with a Craig Beattie goal.

They don't serve beer inside Parkhead. Consequently for a game such as this. The ground fills up about five minutes after the kick off and empties out about ten minutes before the final whistle. If you ever go, try to go on a European night when the fans are fantastic from start to finish and you get a couple of renditions of You'll Never Walk Alone.

After the match we headed down Gallowgate to a couple of Celtic pubs which aren't really for the feint hearted but have to be seen to be believed. The first of these was Bar 67 which has murals on the wall of past Celtic greats. It's a great place to have a drink but we only had one pint in there as we were on a mission to drink in as many pubs as possible. The second bar we popped into was called 'Bairds Bar' it was packed full of Celtic memorabilia and Celtic fans singing their songs.

After those two bars, it was time to move on from football pubs and relax a little. From then on we must have visited up to ten more pubs on the way back to our hotel and each one was excellent and unique in a Glasgow sort of way. The first was the Babbity Bowster on Blackfriars Street which had some splendid live music. The second was The Press Room in Albion Street which was full of drunks singing in the corner and the other eight pubs were I'm lead to believe even better. It was another classic EFW elongated drinking session. Good old Glasgow!

To be honest our hotel was a shocker. It was freezing cold and blah blah blah, moan, moan, moan, moan, on and on and on. We kept ourselves warm by laughing. Nick mentioned that in the Press Bar where we were the two most sober people in there; punters were only speaking in vowels A-E-I-O and U.

The next morning my hangover disappeared immediately when I realised we still had another match to attend. We were heading over to Kilmarnock on the train to see their home game with Glasgow Rangers. The concourse at Glasgow Central Railway Station had a mixture of Celtic fans returning home after the previous days match and Rangers fans heading to Kilmarnock for their encounter. It's at times like this when I'm thankful I'm a Brighton fan and to be frank nobody gives a monkeys about Brighton aside from Crystal Palace and they were nowhere to be seen.

The train from Glasgow to Kilmarnock only takes around 40 minutes and it's one of those two carriage jobs. There weren't that many Rangers fans on board our train as we'd left very early for the match to have a few beers beforehand but we thought there might be some fun and games on the train back with around 4,000 Rangers fans at the game and just two train carriages to fit them all into.

Upon arrival to Kilmarnock, we made the 15 minute walk to Rugby Park. Nick spotted a 'magic door' open and before I could say a word he had slipped through the gate and when I went through it to see what mischief he was up to - he was there standing on the pitch. I joined him on said pitch and we took a couple of photos before we were intervened by the Strathclyde Police. They asked us what we were doing to which we replied "Having a brilliant time thanks" - they chuckled and pointed us in the direction of our pre-match pub.

That pub turned out to be a new hotel which stands adjacent to the ground and is a great little place to have a pre-match Guinness or five as it turned out. We were having such a giggle that the pints just kept flowing down the hatch. They were showing the previous nights Scottish football on a big screen in there and fans from both teams were having a bit of a sing song and it was all rather civilised in my opinion. Full marks to Kilmarnock.

The actual match was a belter. Rangers won 3-1 with Kris Boyd scoring a hatrick. Kris Boyd scores for fun for Rangers but is hardly ever afforded 90 minutes on the pitch. Despite by now being 22 points behind Celtic, Rangers had filled to ends of Rugby Park and made a great noise. As did the Killie fans to be fair.

We met a couple of Killie fans in our stand at half time. They initially thought we were Rangers fans but after all that had died down they turned out to be a right laugh. They pointed out to us that we were sitting two seats behind a member of ex-popsters Deacon Blue. They were also giving terrible stick to the Scottish press, Walter Smith, Ally McCoist and pretty much anyone else who walked past. By stick I mean banter and funny banter at that.

If ever you go to Kilmarnock FC by the way have a pie. There are 'Say Aye to a Killie Pie' slogans all around the stand and with good reason. We said aye to one and then to be honest said aye to another one.

On the way back to the station the Rangers fans were in good voice. I felt for the owner of an Off Licence who had to cope with an invasion of about 60 lads who were all doing the 'Bouncey Bouncey' outside the doors, trying to get in to rid them of all their cold beers.

As predicted the train back to Glasgow was Bobs Full House - absolutely jam packed. Fans were singing, bouncey bounceying and we were trying to keep as low a profile as we could. As it happened some fans did talk to us and turned out to be fine and badges were exchanged. Ne bother pal.

Back in Glasgow we had a couple of hours to fill before heading back to the airport to fly home. We popped into the famous Horseshoe Bar by the station for a few more bevingtons and contemplated what had been another brilliant European Football Weekend. Does Scotland count as a European Football Weekend!? It does after several pints - cheers!

1 comment:

Andrew said...

great story, glad you enjoyed your time in Glasgow, it is a wonderful place.