Friday, December 21, 2012

1p Album Club

A bit of shameless self-promotion here - my first review as part of the 1p Album Club has just gone live on the website.

I first found out about the club through Twitter. The premise is quite simple:

Pair up with a friend and each month, send each other an album that is available through the Amazon marketplace for 1p (plus postage).

There are thousands of records on Amazon for that price, and the 1p Albums Club is a way of rediscovering some lost classics, finding new music and putting the idea of the album back at the forefront of music, rather than single tracks or iPods set to shuffle.

I received a record I'd never heard of earlier this week, Space Monkeys' 1997 debut The Daddy Of Them All, and in return I sent The Beta Band's Three EPs.

If anyone fancies pairing up for a monthly exchange of albums, let me know.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Season 2012/2013: Match 12: Montrose 2 Rangers 4 (Irn-Bru Scottish Football League Division Three)

SFL Division Three Manager of the Month for November, Stuart Garden, welcomed Division Three new boys Rangers to Links Park on Saturday, hoping to see the home side extend its unbeaten run to seven matches.

A year ago, that would have sounded like the least likely opening paragraph in Scottish football history. But today the Bizarro World that our national game finds itself in continued to unravel as the end of the world draws near.

For Montrose, a win would have seen them further consolidate their place in the playoff spots in their penultimate home match of 2012, while Rangers were looking to extend their lead at the top of the league.

It felt strange arriving at Links Park today, from the hundreds of police officers milling around the town, to well-kent faces wearing nametags and punting programmes in the streets, to being asked by a strange security guard in a headset "where are you going?" as myself and my Montrose press corps colleague made our way towards the same entrance we have used every fortnight for the past three years.

Once the initial excitement had worn off, and my press corps colleague had restrained me from bounding onto the pitch to ask Messrs McCoist, Hateley and Durrant if I could have my photograph taken with them, it became apparent that this was going to be like every other Montrose match, but with more fannies.

Chief among those fannies were some of the visiting journalists, who seemed most interested in moaning about everything they encountered:

  • "There's only wan power point. This is a fucking joke".
  • "There's two McIntoshes, two Woods and three Crawfords. Fucksakes".
  • "Is there nae teamsheets? Fucksakes".
[Team sheets promptly arrive and are delivered to the well-kent Montrose press corps. Scrum erupts around said press corps. Some members of the travelling press seem to think that photocopied team lines are some mystical item made of unicorn horn and hand-spun angel hair, such is their desperation to grab one].

Montrose fielded an attack-minded line-up, with Garry Wood and Leighton McIntosh up front and Lloyd Young and Ricky McIntosh flanking Jamie Winter and Terry Masson in midfield. The weak point was always likely to be centre back, with Paul Lunan still on the injured list. This meant that Stuart Garden kept faith with Alan Campbell's Arthritic Knees and Jonathan Crawford at centre back, the latter having shaved his head to the wood in order to look less like Napoleon Dynamite when faced with a pair of international strikers.

It was the home side who started brightest, taking the game to their more highly-paid opponents, Garry Wood punting a half volley just over Neil Alexander's crossbar from wide on the right and Jamie Winter honing the sights on his right foot missile system.

But it still came as a shock when Montrose opened the scoring 16 minutes in. McNally's throw-in reached Young in the box, the winger meeting the ball with an exquisite volley that curled over Alexander and into the net.

The Dynamo bounced around with gleeful abandon in front of the global ESPN audience, and it really was game on.

Montrose's lead lasted only six minutes, Lee McCulloch and His Enormous Penis equalising from the spot following McNally's trip on David Templeton.

But despite that, Montrose continued to at least match their visitors, and frequently looked like the better side, with Young and Wood keeping the Rangers defence on its toes. At the other end, Sandy Wood was giving a heroic performance, with a series of pointblank saves that kept Montrose in the match.

Half time arrived with the sides level, and no indication which would prevail. Rangers began to look stronger as the match wore on, and their superiority finally shone through midway through the half.

Two goals in as many minutes saw Kevin Kyle put Rangers ahead, the former Scotland striker sidefooting into the bottom corner from Dean Shiels' pass.

Shiels then turned scorer, firing into the bottom corner after Barrie McKay's great run down the left wing.

But even then, Montrose didn't surrender. A year ago, they would have been dead and buried long before the 75th minute, but this side is made of sterner stuff. That showed when David Gray scored with practically his first touch after coming on as a substitute, firing a sweet half volley over Alexander's head.

Which set the stage for 15 minutes of both sides attacking, Rangers seeking to restore their two-goal advantage, Montrose looking for an equaliser.

Garry Wood came closest, bursting through the Rangers defence and sending a shot over Alexander, only to see the ball crash against the crossbar and rebound to safety. Substitute Scott Johnston also hit the woodwork late on, knocking a shot against the post from a corner.

Rangers gave the result an air of superiority their play hadn't fully merited when Robbie Crawford blasted home in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

Even more so than when they met at Ibrox earlier this season, Montrose can hold their heads high after today's performance. They matched their opponents for all but a crucial five minutes, and frequently bettered them.

At the time of the Ibrox match, I considered myself a neutral, watching the team I grew up supporting play the club I've become a part of over the past five years. Today, I unconsciously found myself rooting for Montrose. It came as a shock to me - I have always been and will always consider myself a Rangers fan.

But watching Montrose week-in, week-out, through thick and thin (or thin and thinner), and seeing them today match far better paid players for 90 minutes, I couldn't help but think that it would be good to see them get the result they deserved.

I still want Rangers to win the title, and to win every game against every other club, but part of me wishes that Montrose had gotten at least a point today.

On a less positive note, the stramash that has kicked off on the internet about the matchday programme is unfortunate. Describing Rangers as a new club looking to win its first trophy this season smacks of pettiness, and was completely unnecessary. For me, it has tarnished Montrose's reputation and has made it look small-minded. It's the first time I've ever felt embarrassed to be associated with an otherwise excellent programme.

Man of the Match: From a Rangers point of view, I liked the look of Templeton and Little today, keeping things moving from the wings, and Kyle Hutton, who had a tough shift being marked by Terry 'The Destroyer' Masson (who was substituted after collecting his inevitable booking).

In the Montrose ranks, there were no major disappointments, although Leighton Mcintosh was largely anonymous. All of the players gave a hard shift, and Garry Wood's workrate couldn't be faulted. On any other day, Lloyd Young would have been my man of the match, a constant menace to the Rangers defence and the scorer of a great goal.

But today I thought that Sandy Wood was immense in goals, pulling off a string of saves to keep Montrose in the match, commanding his defence with authority and even turning auxiliary striker in injury time as Montrose sought an equaliser, much to Stuart Garden's rage.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Season 2012/2013: Match 11: Charlton Athletic 2 Peterborough United 0 (nPower Championship)

Bundled on a train to London in aid of work once again, I found myself with two evenings to kill in the capital.

Given the choice between Chelsea v Fulham on Wednesday night for the princely sum of £76.50, or Charlton v Peterborough on Tuesday night for the less eye-watering figure of £15, I chose the latter.

Fifteen of the Queen's pounds seemed like a bargain for Championship football, given that ticket prices in Scottish Division Three are typically around that sum.

I anticipated that the football on show would be better than that displayed by the likes of Montrose and East Stirlingshire, and that the ground would be warmer than Links Park.

I was wrong on both counts.

The football served up by the two teams was largely honking, with neither side able to find a proper rhythm or many credible attempts on goal. And on the weather front, I appear to have brought some Scottish chill with me, as London has felt colder than Montrose these past two days.

Those players on show with a Scottish connection gave a mixed performance, Peterborough's Caledonian striker George "No, the other Boyd" Boyd looked decent in fits and bursts, but struggled to make a lasting impact. Danny Swanson, formerly of Dundee Utd, made a late appearance as a substitute, making no impression on the match. Former Rangers man Salim Kerkar also danced around the wing for a while.

But former Hearts man Ricardo Fuller saved an otherwise drab match from going down in the record books as a turgid 0-0 draw when he collected the ball 25 yards from goal and fired a shot over visiting keeper Robert Olejnik. Unfortunately it appeared he pulled his hamstring in the process and was immediately substituted.

Frenchman Yann Kermorgant put the result beyond doubt near the death, sliding in at the back post to nudge the ball over the line.

The most famous Scottish person involved in the match was Darren Ferguson, the Peterborough manager who will always bear the unfortunate introduction "Alex's son". If he's anything like his old man, the Peterborough players will have had a post-match roasting for failing to win a match in which they were easily the better team.

All in all, my first visit to The Valley was disappointing - the club shop was overpriced, there were no street sellers peddling dodgy scarves and the match itself was poor considering the supposed quality of the league.

But it's another ground chalked off on the never-ending quest to visit them all...

Man of the match: Very few contenders from that match, as both sides were poor. But Ricardo Fuller's audacious goal brightened up an otherwise forgettable affair.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Season 2012/2013: Match 10: Montrose 2 Peterhead 0 (Irn-Bru Scottish Football League Division Three)

Earth spins on its axis largely because some natural phenomena remain constant, such as the planet's distance from the sun, its close relationship with the moon and the sure-fire knowledge that Montrose are pish at football.

Quite what Mother Earth makes of the Gable Endies sitting fourth (FOURTH!) in the Division Three table is anyone's guess. But I can't help but feel that the planet's recent passion for hurricanes, snow storms, monsoons, volcanoes and other such ostentatious displays of ferocity have something to do with Stuart Garden's men sitting in the play-off spots.

The fact that they're doing it with a squad that has lost Martin Boyle to the Dundee substitute's bench, but that is otherwise largely the same group of players that has toiled over the past four seasons, is surprising in itself (although any side able to remove the twin liabilities that were Messrs Smart and Cameron is probably on the road to redemption, even if Dougie is back as the new club mascot).

Today's performance over big-spending Peterhead (copyright every journalist who has covered the Balmoor side over the past 18 months) was another marked by hard graft across the whole squad, with a well-linked defence and midfield, and an industrious front line.

Garry Wood and Leighton McIntosh appear to be gelling well as a striking partnership, even if the latter player still seems averse to actually scoring goals. Wood was the key component of the attack today, scoring Montrose's first with a shot placed in the bottom corner in the fourth minute then creating the second when he beat Ryan Strachan and squared the ball for Terry Masson to sweep the ball into the net.

Jamie Winter may have toned down his need to play a Steven Gerrard-inspired Hollywood pass every time he gets the ball, but he's replaced the showboating with a previously-unseen work ethic. He's a real driving force in the middle of the park now, freeing Masson up to kick people and win his weekly yellow card.

Big Mad Lee Wilkie and his 3,000-yard stare also seem to be having an effect on the defence, possibly due to BMLW threatening to perform appendectomies on the players with his bare hands and no anaesthetic if they concede any goals. That would explain:

A) Why they kept a clean sheet today despite selecting Alan Campbell's Incredible Arthritic Knees alongside Jonathan 'Napoleon Dynamite' Crawford at centre back, even in the face of Peterhead ending the match with 17 strikers on the pitch.

B) Where Paul Lunan has been for the past few weeks.

Peterhead's squad really is filled with objectionable characters from front to back, from Ryan Strachan claiming that it was a "Peterheid baw" every time the ball went out of play, even those occasions when he had intentionally kicked it out of play; to mental David Cox, a player so disruptive he was sacked by Steven Tweed despite being a fairly decent footballer for a week or two; to the triumvirate of twats that is Robbie Winters, Martin Bavidge and Rory McAllister. Not since the days of van Hooijdonk, Cadete and Di Canio has one Scottish team fielded so many utter cunts in the same attack.

The visitors may have deployed those three ballsacks in an effort to break Montrose down, but it didn't work, Montrose displaying a grit and composure not normally associated with those donning the not-so-famous light blue shirts.

There's still a long way to go this season, and Montrose have played more games than every other team in Division Three. On the assumption that Rangers will win the title, there are half a dozen or maybe even more sides who will be looking for a play-off place.

That Montrose are even still in consideration with a third of the season gone speaks volumes for their improvement under Garden and BMLW. Long may it continue.

Editor's note: It has been brought to my attention that I have not been giving sufficient coverage to the witty insights, scintillating banter and just general awesomeness that I receive on a fortnightly basis from my press corps colleague.

I could remedy this by pointing out how much fun we have when I am forced to join the 267-mile pie queue at half time each week, even though I don't want anything, just so I can act as a banter receptor.

Or I could list the delightful and engaging conversations I am regularly dragged into, where all-too-frequent topics include the girth of Lee McCulloch's penis, famous Danish smack addict footballers and the merits of former footballer Barry Ferguson.

I could despair over being asked, ad infinitum, how much a corner flag costs, whether I think Sandy Wood is hot/big/cute/elegant and "what just happened?".

But I won't do that. None of it. I'll just post this picture drawn by my press colleague instead, as an insight into the world she inhabits.

Man of the Match: Another solid team performance today, with no-one disgracing themselves. Normally I'm inclined to go for attacking players when selecting my man of the match, and Garry Wood would have fitted the bill with a foot in both goals. But I actually thought that Alan Campbell had one of the best games I've seen him play, marhsalling the defence well even when Peterhead threw the kitchen sink at them in search of goals.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Season 2012/2013: Match 9: Montrose 1 Queen's Park 1 (Irn-Bru Scottish Football League Division Three)

While I long ago gave up hope of a professional football career (although I do still believe that I might get a game for Montrose some day), I can occasionally be persuaded to don multiple layers of battle armour, lather myself in Deep Heat and drag my decaying carcass onto a football pitch.

Today was one of those days, as Montrose FC Supporters' Club took on their counterparts from Queen's Park. Shoehorned into a three-man defence, I managed not to make any catastrophic errors, departing the pitch for the first time with the home side 1-0 up.

By the time my I rolled back onto the park we were 4-1 down, the match finally ending in a 7-2 defeat that makes the 'real' Montrose FC look competent.

So it was with stiff legs and a skreeved arse - it would seem that grass can burn just as badly as the Brillo pad surface at Links Park - that I plonked myself in the stand at the Wellington Street Wembley hoping that, if nothing else, Montrose would concede fewer goals than their fanclub.

Sandy Wood was back in goal, having served his suspension after his sending off against Elgin two weeks earlier. Terry Masson made the bench, with Jamie Winter and Dougie Cameron lookalike Monty The Mole leading the home side out.

Montrose hit the ground running, Lloyd Young opening the scoring after just 40 seconds when Queen's Park were unable to clear from a corner. The ball bobbled around the box, finally falling for the midfielder to lash a shot into the roof of the net.

From then on, it was an open and even encounter, Montrose looking dangerous down the flanks while Queen's Park threatened mostly from corners.

It goes without saying that the refereeing would have disgraced  a pub league - in fact, the official at our bounce match in the morning was better than the one in charge at Links Park. The standside linesman also seemed to take leave of his senses at one point, squaring up to Lee Wilkie, a course of action not recommended to those who like to keep all of their body parts joined together.

Anyway, Queen's Park's main defensive tactic appeared to be "Kick Garry Wood. Hard." It was mildly succesful, although repeatedly kicking a wardrobe in the freezing cold can't be the most rewarding way to spend your afternoon.

But it took Queen's Park 79 minutes of their trench warfare - and the introduction of Montrose's semi-professional irritant Terry Masson - to pick up their solitary booking.

By that time they'd levelled the scores, thanks to a sublime goal from Paul Gallacher. The midfielder cut inside Scott Johnston, dipped his shoulder as he jinked through a second challenge and curled a sweet left-foot shot over and around Wood from 22 yards out.

Montrose knew that a win would take them above the visitors and into the uncharted territory of the playoff places, and they took the match to their opponents. What resulted was 20 minutes of fast end-to-end football in which both sides created plenty of chances but failed to capitalise. Masson came close with a volley, while Wood was agonisingly close with a flicked header.

A draw was probably a fair result, although Montrose could have edged it with a bit more luck. A year ago they'd have been pumped, so the progress continues.

Which is more than can be said for the footballing career of one G. Jock of Montrose...

Man of the Match: Another solid team performance from Montrose today. Jamie Winter looked disciplined in his role as captain, although he lacked some of the outrageous spark we've come to expect. Garry Wood was tireless up front in the face of a war of attrition, while Lloyd Young was equally active. For me, Ricky McIntosh was the stand-out performer, the left back keeping things under control at the back while also managing to push forward and involve himself in Montrose's attacks.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Season 2012/2013: Match 8: Montrose 2 Elgin City 2 (Irn-Bru Scottish Football League Division Three)

Odin having once again ignored my prayers either for A) Ice giants to be gone by kick-off at today's Third Division clash or B) For the match itself to be cancelled so I could stay at home and play Playstation without feeling guilty, I trudged to Links Park hoping for a win but expecting the more typical defeat.

There are a few reasons why Scottish people should stop playing football, chief among them being that we're shite at it and our weather doesn't lend itself to outdoor-based activities on approximately 364.5 of our days each year. The chances of one of the good half days coinciding with a Montrose fixture are always slim.

Nonetheless, Montrose and Elgin braved the frozen steppes of Eastern Angus for what could loosely be termed a football match. Bereft of the suspended Stephen McNally, Stuart Garden allowed bravery to override common sense, selecting Alan Campbell and his 73-year-old legs at right back, at least giving the 346 assembled supporters the hope that they might see an elderly arthritic gentleman rip himself in half attempting to keep pace with a winger roughly 84 times faster than himself.

Montrose looked lively enough in the opening spell, although any team relying on Leighton McIntosh to score goals is always going to face slim pickings. Elgin had the ball in the net after seven minutes, but theatrical referee David Somers (who lent his performance a degree of pantomime with a mime-based repertoire that echoed Ramiro Gonzalez's finest work) ruled that there had been a foul in the build-up.

Elgin took the huff and took it out on Montrose, thanks to Paul 'Lurch' Lunan and his multi-haircut oblonged head forgetting they were supposed to be defending. Lurch had the best view in the Basinside Bernabeu as Stuart Leslie jinked into the box and slipped a low shot straight through Sandy Wood to open the scoring.

There's an old saying that runs along the lines of "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me". Sandy Wood's version is "Make me look like a useless lump of a keeper once, shame on me. Try it a second time and I'll empty you in the box you wee prick".

Just nine minutes after opening the scoring, Leslie was through on goal again, but this time, as he took the ball around the goalkeeper, Wood caught the striker's ankle with his hand. Professional foul, straight red card, penalty kick.

David Crawford, expecting to do nothing more strenuous during the match than feed Lee Wilkie the raw meat that keeps him youthful looking but insane, had turned up wearing his mum's tights, what with there being snow and everything. As a result, he looked even more of a fanny than usual when he came striding onto the pitch to replace Sentoff Wood and Substituted Morton.

I am legally obliged at this point to use the words: "The substitute goalkeeper's first touch of the ball was to pick it out of the net", Moore sending him the wrong way from the spot.

Those pessimists/realists/people who have seen Montrose attempt to play football before realised that the match was over, and I began to weigh up the merits of sitting in a cold concrete shed against going home and having Little Jocklette demand I read her the same story book 3,465 times every hour.

Against my better judgement, I decided to stick it out and subject myself to the athletic endeavours on the field and the quality banter in the stand (I use both terms loosely).

And despite their numerical disadvantage, Montrose actually began to find a way back, thanks in no small part to the introduction of flat-faced assassin Garry Wood. The big striker gave a tremendous shift as a human battering ram, allowing Leighton McIntosh more space to do his thing (run around a lot not scoring goals). Ominously for Elgin, Jamie Winter had eaten his half-time tray of pies and was beginning to hone his sights on goal.

It was Wood who gave the first glimmer of hope, collecting a pass from Johnston wide on the left and launching a sweet half volley over John Gibson and into the net.

But referee Somers hadn't completed his routine, and decided to upstage the home side by awarding a penalty to Elgin immediately afterwards, having adjudged Moore flicking the ball against Terry Masson's arm to be worthy of a spot kick.

Moore stepped up to the spot for a second time and this time sent a feeble effort almost straight at Crawford.

Montrose were galvanised and pressed forward. But the clock continued to tick (as clocks have a habit of doing), and two minutes into stoppage time, it looked to be all over for Montrose. Then they were awarded a free kick 30-odd yards from goal.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. The pie grease congealing nicely in his arteries, Jamie Winter stepped up, watched as the ball was rolled back to him and launched a howitzer of a strike directly into the top corner of the net. Then decided to get it right up Ross Jack by way of celebration.

It was no more than Montrose deserved for a gritty second half performance when a man down. If they could play like this every week, talk of a play-off place wouldn't be the stuff of jokes.

Apologies, my brain appears to have frozen. Common sense will be resumed next week...

Man of the Match: Montrose were fairly useless in the first half, particularly when they didn't have the ball. But in the second half they were bordering on very good, especially as they played with only 10 men for an hour. Garry Wood's goal and performance in general would normally have been enough for a Man of the Match award, but for me it has to be Jamie Winter, maintaining calm in the midfield and stepping up with an awesome strike when it was most needed.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Season 2012/2013: Match 7: Montrose 3 East Stirlingshire 1 (Irn-Bru Scottish Football League Division Three)

What a difference a week makes. Last week, Montrose were as bad as I've seen them in a long time as they crashed out of the Scottish Cup to non-league Edinburgh City.

This week they were as good as I've seen them for a while as they brushed East Stirlingshire aside.

The difference may have been due more to superstition than coaching though - today was the little Jocklette's first ever football match, two days short of reaching 16 months old. This may mean that I have to bring her to every match from now on, which may present problems when Jocklette/Jockling II arrives in February, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Bouyed by Jocklette's encouragement (random bursts of clapping apropos of nothing; loudly shouting "Oh no!" when Jonathan Crawford received the ball in midfield; and spending the rest of the match banging the plastic seats in the stand up and down), Montrose looked far more interested than they did a week earlier.

Manager Stuart Garden blamed the previous week's shameful performance on an Ibrox hangover. Quite why the players lowered their game so much after an encouraging performance against Rangers, I don't know.

But this week there was a reaction of a different kind, the players raising their games to prove that they aren't completely devoid of hope.

There was only one change to the starting line-up from the Edinburgh City match, useless lump of Aberdeen-schooled gristle Phil McGuire relegated to the bench in favour of Craig McLeish, Garden taking the potentially suicidal step of starting with Jonathan Crawford at centre back.

But Montrose came flying out of the traps, and took a well-deserved lead in the 16th minute when Leighton McIntosh - a player I'd have sent down after last week's performance, let along sent back to Dundee - collecting David Gray's cross at the front post, turning his marker and firing a shot across Grant Hay and into the net.

It took only four minutes for Montrose to extend their lead, thanks to an outstanding piece of buffoonery from Shire centre back Steven Jackson. Lloyd Young chipped the ball into the box, Jackson jumped to palm the ball into the air. Twelve-year-old referee Paul Robertson had no hesitation in awarding the penalty, and David Gray made no mistakes from the spot, sending Hay the wrong way.

Montrose's scoring was complete just after the half hour, Terry Masson powering through the Shire defence, beating the hapless Jackson and slotting a shot past Hay.

Garry Wood also had the ball in the net, having beaten the defence and sent in a low shot, but the incompetent linesman ruled the striker offside.

If the first half was Non-Stop Bona-Fide Ultra-Attacking Montrose Masterclass, the second half was Never-Started Boring-As-Fuck Ultra-Aimless and Mainly Missing. It took 20 minutes before the first chance was created, and the match only really came back to life in the last 10 minutes or so. Jocklette voiced her dissent, reasoning that if Jonny Crawford and Paul Lunan were going to pretend to be NFL quarterbacks launching Hail Marys, she was going to loudly demand chocolate buttons roughly three times per second to dull the pain.

Lloyd Young came close with a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired run down the left, if Cristiano Ronaldo finished his runs by toe-poking the ball wide of the post instead of into the net.

Shite Shire scored a freak goal eight minutes from time to keep Montrose on their toes, full back Craig Hume's cross evading the whole Montrose backline, taking David Crawford by surprise and dropping over the line.

One of the 2,589 trialists Montrose have deployed as secret weapons in the past three seasons, Scott Morton, should have scored right at the death when Masson burst down the right and squared the ball to him, but he somehow contrived to shoot straight at Hay instead of into the net.

All in all, today's performance was very encouraging from a Montrose point of view, not least after the horrorshow of a week earlier. There was a drive and a desire about Montrose that was sorely lacking last week, and the team benefited from Phil McGuire's relegation to the bench. Maybe we can still dream of finishing this season in a lofty seventh place...

Man of the Match: Most of the players could realistically be considered contenders today, perhaps with the exception of David Crawford, who had little to do. His de-Screechified namesake was a revelation at centre back, banishing the memories of last week's McGuire misery. All of the starting midfielders played well, with a notable improvement in Terry Masson's performance in particular. Gray and Young both looked good on the flanks, and Leighton McIntosh was a different player from last week. But up until his substitution, I felt that Garry Wood was Montrose's strongest player, leading the line with authority, power and a threatening air. All that was missing was the goal his performance deserved, cruelly denied by poor linesmanning.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Season 2012/2013: Match 6: Montrose 1 Edinburgh City 3 (William Hill Scottish Cup Second Round)

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away,
Then I went to see Montrose play -
Oh I wish it was still yesterday.

Early draft of the lyrics for The Beatles' Yesterday, by Paul McCartney, 1965

Last week, Montrose matched the 2010/2011 Scottish Premier League champions during the first half at Ibrox, before Rangers' better fitness paid off in the second half.

Today Montrose were a miserable side to watch, with absolutely no redeeming features to their play at all.

They barely strung two passes together all afternoon. There was a lack of penentration (behave), with Scott Johnston and Jamie Winter on the bench. Jonathan Crawford, having removed his Screech-like hair, suffered from a Samson-like loss of power, while Terry Masson was unusually ineffective alongside him in midfield.

The tried and tested useless and obvious tactic of punting the ball long to Garry Wood was on show again today, and it got Montrose precisely nowhere. Leighton McIntosh looks as though he may never even have heard of football before, let alone played it.

Montrose were cuffed by the East of Scotland league team today, second to every ball and reduced to half-arsed, long-range shots. The defence was regularly posted missing and David Crawford demonstrated no confidence at all in goals.

Crawford was just one of the players at fault when Edinburgh opened the scoring in the eleventh minute, tipping the ball back into play from a shot when he would have done better to tip it out for a corner. But his was just one of the errors, Masson having given the ball away in midfield and all four defenders standing watching while Robbie Ross poked the ball into the net.

Montrose scrambled an undeserved equaliser two minutes into first half injury time, Paul Lunan heading in from a David Gray corner.

Montrose actually enjoyed a brief period of decent play midway through the second half, but that period of decent play produced no goals, and the home side quickly reverted to type.

Edinburgh City moved back in front 13 minutes from the end, Ross heading in from a Ryan Wilson cross. And they completed the scoring six minutes later when Scott Fusco poked home from a corner.

There were no highlights from Montrose. This was as bad as I've seen them for a while. None of the players looked like scoring, even when actually scoring. The defence was dire, with Lunan and former Aberdeen centre back (anyone who has seen Aberdeen playing football over the past 20 years will be hearing alarm bells now) Phil McGuire struggling to do anything useful. Although when 3-1 down, they did start dicking about at the back, turning back on themselves and playing the ball back to Crawford.

The fullbacks were marginally better, but struggled to string find any of their own players with the passes. Of the starting line-up, only the wingers looked vaguely useful, threatening with the odd run (Young) and making some decent crosses (Gray).

Johnston should have started instead of McIntosh, and we can hope that Jamie Winter's fitness and dietary needs will allow him to make the starting line-up in place of Jonathan Crawford soon. Although Terry Masson was shite today as well, so removing either from the starting eleven is acceptable.

I've rarely felt as positive about Montrose as I did after 45 minutes last week. I've rarely felt as negative as I did for the full 90 today.

One 'highlight' was seeing an Edinburgh City player receive a volleyed ball in the testicles from a range of about five yards. It's never funny when it happens to you, but it never ceases to amuse those around you. The boy went down like he'd been shot, and nothing the Edinburgh City physio could do was ever going to fix it.

Man of the Match: Only two players in contention here. None of the Montrose players were good, but David Gray and Lloyd Young were the least shit. I'll go with Gray, who set up Lunan's goal with a corner, not long after Young had sent a free kick into orbit.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Season 2012/2013: Match 5: Rangers 4 Montrose 1 (Irn-Bru SFL Division Three)

It was a day of divided loyalties today, with the team I've supported since I was a boy meeting the side I've followed through thick and very thin over the past five years.

Today marked my first visit to Ibrox since Rangers were resurrected in Division Three. The only noticeable change from the SPL days was that the streets around the ground were a bit quieter before the match, but that might be due more to the fact that my esteemed press corps colleague had us in Glasgow at noon for a 3pm kick-off.

But by the time the match got underway, more than 45,000 punters had streamed through the turnstiles. Montrose didn't seem overawed by the occasion, even though for most of their players it was their first experience of playing in front of such a large crowd.

Stuart Garden even had the balls to play two up front, Garry Wood starting up top alongside Leighton McIntosh. Terry Masson (called Terry Mason in the official team lines - I'd put that down to an accident anywhere except Ibrox) lined up alongside Jonathan Crawford in central midfield, Screech deciding that there can never be enough crazy hair on one's head and complementing his jewfro with an ill-advised bumfluff moustache.

Talking of crazy hair, Lloyd Young had had a rush of blood to the head the night before the match and carved his head into weird patterns and formations that were perhaps designed to strike fear into the hearts of Ian Black and Lee McCulloch, but would instead be of more interest to conspiracy theorists and cryptologists, who could surely find some hidden message amongst the swirls.

David Gray played on the right wing in front of Stephen McNally, with Alan Campbell and Paul Lunan at centre back and Ricky McIntosh on the left. David Crawford continued in goals and looked set for a busy afternoon.

In a sensible world, Rangers and their full-time players would have torn Montrose apart at Ibrox. But Montrose battled hard in the early stages, Leighton McIntosh coming close and Garry Wood demonstrating why no-one refers to him as "twinkle-toed Garry Wood" when he got the ball caught in amongst his feet in front of goal.

Even in the first half, it looked as though Alan Campbell's arthritic knees could be Montrose's undoing, with Dean Shiels threatening on a couple of occasions. It therefore came as no shock when the Ulsterman opened the scoring in the 26th minute, bursting past both Campbell and Lunan to fire into the net.

What did come as a shock six minutes later was when Montrose defied the odds to equalise. The visitors won a free kick on the right, David Gray whipped in a cross and either Garry Wood or Rangers right back Anestis Argyriou (possibly the worst player I've ever seen in a Rangers shirt) headed it into the net. Wood wheeled away with a massive grin as though he'd scored it, although my first instinct was to 'award' the goal to Argyriou. Either way, it was a shock, and Ibrox muttered its discontent.

Lowly Montrose therefore disappeared up the tunnel at half time holding Rangers to a draw. The break allowed the members of the Montrose press corps (members: 2) to ponder some of life's big questions:

  • Where is Lee Wilkie?
  • Why is Stuart Garden wearing shorts?
  • Why don't Montrose give the reporters free pies and Bovril?
  • Will Terry Masson get sent off or just booked today?

The only one we felt we could reliably answer was the first, as we decided that Lee Wilkie had been eaten by Jamie Winter on the team bus. He may also have eaten Jonathan Crawford's fingers, hence the 'midfielder' (I use the term loosely) wearing a stookie for the duration of the match.

It took only nine minutes of the second half for Rangers to move back in front, Lewis MacLeod turning Young and his crazy hair in the box, blasting a shot across Crawford and into the net.

Five minutes later and the match was over as a contest, MacLeod turning provider for McCulloch, the Rangers captain poking the ball under Crawford.

I know it's tantamount to heresy in the current Rangers climate, but I've never been a massive fan of McCulloch's - I think his style of football relies too much on brawn over finesse. Now that he's been elevated to the role of skipper, there's also evidence creeping in that the position is going to his head - there were a couple of occasions where I thought he considered he should get away with things because he's the Rangers captain. Towards the end of the match, he was tripped by Scott Johnston, and the look he gave Montrose's woodpecker/striker suggested something along the lines of "Come within five feet of me again and I'll rip your heid aff you wee prick". It's not something pleasant to see in an experienced professional.

Both sides used all three subs, Rangers bringing on Fraser Aird, Robbie Crawford and Francesco Sandaza, Montrose introducing Jamie Winter ("Ah pure love Sandaza, but I couldnae eat a whole wan"), Scott Johnston and Phil McGuire. Winter was introduced to a rousing reception from Rangers' Blue Order, owing a little to his well-known love of all things Rangers. His first touch was a typically audacious 35-yard free kick that on this instance rocketed high into the Broomloan Stand.

Rangers completed the scoring with eight minutes to go, Crawford side-footing past Crawford while Crawford lumbered around doing nothing useful.

In truth, by the end Montrose were simply trying to keep the score down. I'm sure I saw Alan Campbell arguing with his legs on at least two occasions and giving himself a jump start towards the end, while Paul Lunan decided that if Jamie Winter wasn't going to eat a whole Sandaza, he'd kick it to death instead.

So Montrose could return home with their heads held high. They were beaten but not disgraced, even if they never threatened to spoil Ally McCoist's 50th birthday party. It was always going to be tough on the massive Ibrox pitch in front of 45,000 home fans, especially in the last 20 minutes against full-time players.

The novelty factor alone made it a worthwhile trip - quite how Peterhead in January will compare remains to be seen.

Man of the Match: None of the Montrose players disgraced themselves, and none could be overly disappointed with their performance. Lee Wallace gave Stephen McNally a torrid time down the Montrose right, but Rangers were less effective down the right, with Young and McIntosh generally coping well. The centre backs held the line well throughout the first half, only really toiling as the game entered its last quarter. The midfield was never over-run, which was encouraging given that they were playing against internationals. And Garry Wood was a notable success up front, keeping Emilson Cribari and Ross Perry busy throughout. Overall, I think Montrose's strongest performer was David Gray, helping to keep some of Wallace's runs in check and whipping in a perfect free kick for Montrose to equalise.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Season 2012/2013: Match 4: Montrose 0 Annan Athletic 0 (Irn-Bru SFL Division Three)

The last time a Montrose match ended goalless, some reptiles were beginning to develop fur and shy away from egg-laying in favour of giving birth to live young; Rangers were an SPL side on the verge of an xth consecutive league title; Martin Boyle wasn't playing for Dundee; and Dougie Cameron had a full head of hair.

Perhaps the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are cantering towards us as 2012 enters its back half - maybe the Mayans had it right after all, and we've only got a few more months to live. Either that or the planets are aligning and some crazy shit is about to go down (I understand that is yoof speak for "something is about to happen").

Whatever is happening, Montrose and Annan - a pair of sides you can generally rely on to rattle in a goal or nine - drew a collective blank today.

If the end of the world is approaching, I don't think today's match will be one of the moments that will flash before my eyes at the moment of apocalypse - one of those unforgettable occasions to live long in the memory.

Only 267 folk could be arsed to turn up for today's 'clash', Montrose's population having conceded defeat now that the one lifeform that they could previously regard as a footballer has departed to do football somewhere else.

Now that we are in the Post-Boyle (PB) era, Montrose are going to struggle to find goals, given that Scott Johnston is an angry and excitable, but ultimately goal-free, human/Woody Woodpecker hybrid, and Garry Wood is what is euphemistically known as a 'target man' (ie a striker who doesn't, emmm, strike).

Lloyd Young, having taken it upon himself to score goals over the past few weeks, decided to have a rest today, which would have been perfectly acceptable had Stuart Garden not selected him in midfield.

Leighton McIntosh came off the Montrose bench late on, bringing with him an air of intrigue, rumours of an ability to score, but unfortunately not his shooting boots.

In fact, Montrose's closest attempt of the match came in injury time from the unlikely airborne source of Alan Campbell. Launching himself through the air, the arthritic centre back contected with a peach a volley that came back off the crossbar, McIntosh poking the rebound out for a goal kick.

Truth be told, Montrose would have been worth a win today, with a combative performance that only occasionally flirted with the "let's pump it up the park and see if that works" routine that has dogged them over the past five matches/months/years/decades.

With a bit more luck, or a Martin Boyle-shaped presence in attack (or even a Paul Tosh-shaped lump up front), Montrose would have got the win.

So, the weeks Montrose score goals, they concede them with merry abandon. The week they keep a clean sheet, they couldn't score in Vegas with a prince in tow.

Winter is coming...

Man of the Match: The churlish part of me wants to nominate Annan goalkeeper Alex Mitchell, who secured a point for the visitors with some excellent saves. David Crawford, his Montrose counterpart while Saaaaaaandy Wood gets his beak fixed, was also a strong contender, marshalling his defence well. Speaking of the defence, the whole back four looked good, and kept Annan at bay throughout. None of the Montrose midfield shone especially brightly, although David Gray had his moments. And the strikers worked hard but ultimately came away empty-handed. Over the course of the match, I'd nominate Stephen McNally as having had the strongest 90 minutes, driving forward from right back without leaving acres of space behind him.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Season 2012/2013: Match 3: Montrose 2 Clyde 3 (Irn-Bru SFL Division Three)

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Montrose, buoyed by an impressive start to the season that has seen them eliminate Highland League Inverurie Loco Works from the League Cup and Division One Cowdenbeath from the Challenge Cup, went into yesterday's match in a positive frame of mind.

Throw into the mix that the aggregate score from Clyde's previous five visits to Links Park was 22-3, and there could only be one winner.

I was so confident that Montrose would beat Clyde again that I did something that common sense normally prevents me from doing, and stuck money on a Montrose win. Not just a win - £10 on Montrose to win even after giving Clyde a 1-0 head start.

It all looked good in the first half hour, Lloyd Young firing home from 25 yards after 11 minutes, then Paul Watson volleying in from the same range after 25 minutes.

Montrose played sleek passing football, crossed dangerously and kept Clyde penned back in their own half. But for some unfortunate finishing, they could have gone in at the break leading by three or four.

Everything in the world was good, and my bet was a sure-fire winner.

Cue the second half. Montrose, having deployed their own brand of pass and move football in the first half, took it upon themselves to play long high balls to no-one in particular for the duration of the second period.

Everything that had been good about the Montrose side in the first half vanished. Clyde started seeing more and more of the ball, and Montrose became sloppy and looked less and less confident.

The rot truly began to set in just before the hour mark when former Annan man Bryan Gilfillan, playing as a trialist, was handed an easy finish when sent one-on-one with Montrose goalkeeper Sandy Wood.

Bad turned to worse four minutes later when John Neil latched onto a long ball over the top and fired into the empty net.

And the turnaround was complete 10 minutes from time when a neat Clyde passing move ended with Stuart McColm shooting into the bottom corner.

Gutting isn't the word. Montrose were so good in the first half that another 5-0 or 8-1 win wasn't unthinkable. But they were so poor in the second half that they could have shipped five or six themselves.

I can't understand why they went from passing the ball with confidence to resorting to the woeful and aimless punts up the park.

The team is short on personnel - Montrose could only name four substitutes yesterday, none of whom were called into action. Garry Wood played at centre back in place of Paul Lunan, while Screech Crawford was suspended and Jamie Winter's dodgy groin ensured he remained in the stand wearing a baseball cap.

It's a disappointing start to the season. 45 minutes in and Montrose were two points and two goals ahead of Rangers. By the time the 90 were up, they were a point behind and a goal worse off.

If we can't see out a match against Clyde when we're leading two nil, this is going to be a long, hard campaign.

Man of the match: In the first half, all of the Montrose players played well. Sandy Wood's shouting and command of his defence were impressive. Stephen McNally drove the team forward from right back. Lloyd Young and Scott Johnston were constant threats from midfield. Martin Boyle kept Clyde on the back foot. And Paul Watson and Craig McLeish continued to look like inspired signings. But in the second half, few of the players came out with pass marks. Unforced errors, aimless punts and misplaced passes were in abundance. Only Johnston and Watson continued to look the part. Overall, Watson gets my vote, giving a commanding performance at left back in the first half, chipping in with a peach of a goal, and attempting to keep the momentum going even after the tide turned in the second half.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sneak Preview...

...of the Scotland squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, courtesy of my current Football Manager 12 adventure.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Season 2012/2013: Match 2: Montrose 4 Inverurie Loco Works 2 (Ramsdens Cup North East Section Round One)

I take it all back.

For the past few weeks, I've been predicting that Inverurie Loco Works, the third best team in the Highland League, would pummel Montrose, one of the worst teams in the Scottish Football League.

Montrose, for those not up to date with happenings in deepest, darkest Angus or the more fetid end of the Scottish game, are not a good side. They weren't a good side last season, and half a dozen players have left since then.

It was therefore in a mood of resignation rather than hope that I traipsed to the North Sea Nou Camp for the Ramsdens Cup.

And my prediction appeared to be coming true when Locos took the lead after 14 minutes, Stuart MacKay noticing that Sandy Wood had become temporarily transparent and powering a shot straight through him.

Paul Watson must have masochistic tendencies, having last week signed up for a third spell at Links Park, but he had a "debut" to remember, curling a beautiful free kick in off the post to level the scores after 26 minutes.

The score remained tied at half time, although Montrose had probably enjoyed the better of the latter part of the second half.

Paul Lunan, deployed as a centre back alongside Alan Campbell, came close with a diving header from a Craig McLeish corner four minutes into the second half, but Montrose finally took the lead on the hour mark, Martin Boyle scrambling the ball in at the far post from another McLeish corner.

Garry Wood doubled the lead six minutes later, shooting into the empty net after a mix-up between Locos keeper Stewart Gray and defender Steven Park.

Terry Masson completed the scoring 10 minutes from time, shooting into another empty net from a Wood square ball after Boyle had been flattened in the box.

Locos scored a late consolation, Souter sliding the ball through Wood's legs with two minutes remaining.

All in all, a good win for Montrose against a strong Locos side. There were a few hairy moments, but Montrose generally coped well. New signings Watson and McLeish both looked useful, the former deployed at left back and the latter in central midfield. Boyle, Masson and Lunan all played well, while McNally had his moments, despite a few lapses in concentration. Only Sandy Wood was truly disappointing, beaten easily for both Locos goals.

Man of the Match: As a member of the press corps, I was asked to vote for today's official man of the match award. I had been inclined to go with McLeish or Watson, both of whom looked useful, but in the run up to filling in the voting slip, Garry Wood was involved in two Montrose goals and came close after a mazy dribble. So he got my vote. And that of my Forfarian friend [best quote of today: "How much would you get for doing a linesman?"]. He was the only player to get two votes, and therefore became man of the match, much to his own bemusement and that of almost everyone else we encountered.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Would You Like Fries With That?

One of the things I hate most about our consumerist society is automated/scripted responses from front-line customer service staff.

During my lunch break today, I visited the Post Office and my bank.

Having paid for postage at the Post Office, I was asked: "Would you like to top up a mobile phone today?"

I don't have a pay as you go mobile phone. And if I did, I would probably top it up when I needed to, not when the Post Office gonk asked me.

This was in a busy Aberdeen city centre Post Office, with a huge queue of folk, presumably some of whom were there during their lunch breaks.

If this exchange takes five seconds per customer, even if the Post Office gonk is only serving one customer every five minutes, that's still a minute wasted every hour. Over an eight-hour day, that gonk could have served an additional 1.6 customers.

The elderly woman next to me was asked the same question: "Would you like to top up a mobile phone today?"

She may as well have been asked if she'd like to discombobulate her Higgs Boson particles. The gonk asked the question three times before giving up and assuming that the elderly lady didn't have a mobile phone in urgent need of top-uppery.

Then in the bank, having paid in some cash, I was asked if I had a mortgage, the bank gonk having presumably snooped through my account and noticed that if I did, it certainly wasn't with them.

"Yes, thank you" I replied.

"It's not with us, is it?"

"No, it's not"

"Would you like us to arrange an appointment to discuss our mortgage options with you?"

"No thank you"

I really do wish that gonks weren't forced to rattle off this sales spiel every time a customer crossed their path.

In a previous life, I worked in a call centre, and we had a scripted response when we answered a call: "Can I have your reference number please?"

[Customer searches for reference number, quotes their own phone number then their meter reading. Finally sources the reference number.]

"Thank you Mr McHughy. I see you have an outstanding balance of £23,675 on your account. Are you calling to pay that by debit card today?"

Cue Mr McHughy launching into an apopleptic fit during which he invents several new swearwords.

But my own personal favourite [and it is a favourite - it defied belief so much] was when I called T-Mobile to advise them I was leaving and would like my PAC code so I could transfer my number to a new provider.

"Hi, I'd like my PAC code please"

"OK, can I just ask why you're thinking of leaving us?"

"Because I've moved to Argyll and I don't get a T-Mobile signal in my house."

"It's just that, because you've been a long-term customer, we could offer you a good incentive to stay. We can offer 500 free minutes per month and 500 free texts."

"That sounds great, but unfortunately I wouldn't be able to use the free minutes or free texts as I have no T-Mobile signal in my house."

"Well, we could extend that to 750 minutes and 750 texts..."

"Which again sounds great, but unless you're also going to build a mast in my back garden, I'm afraid I'll still have to say no."

Modern society - I truly do despair sometimes...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Season 2012/2013: Match 1: Montrose 0 Brechin City 5 (Friendly)

Editor's note: Groanin' Jock couldn't be arsed going to the football today, so this report was written by Arthur C. McCrocklehurst, veteran reporter of The Angus and Lowlands Perthshire Tribune. The Angus and Lowlands Perthshire Tribune hasn't been published since 1897, but no-one has ever told Arthur.

It was a glorious summer's day, the day of Our Lord July the Fourteenth, Twenty-Hundred and One Dozen.

Alighting from the locomotive at Montrose Station, I ambled through the streets of the town to the association football venue near the Links parade ground and heathland.

Few of the Angus locals had thought to join me, distracted it would appear by the unseasonably warm weather and news of a fresh delivery of coal to the merchants in Aberlemno. But those who did count themselves spectators were suitably dour and miserable, so all was not lost.

This encounter brought together the scarlet-bedecked Brechin City, led by well-travelled administrator James Weir, and blue-clad Montrose, with former Brechin City goaltender Stuart Garden at the helm.

These past few campaigns have been short on vintage for the Montrose association football select, and nothing on view today would convince the casual observer that there will be any deviation from this state of affairs.

Those brave adventurers who travelled through the wilds of Dun and Pugeston to cheer on their brave Brechin boys were rewarded with five scores, Montrose summoning up none by way of counter.

Scott Dalziel, formerly of Bayview in the parish of Eastern Fife, contributed three of the goals added to the visiting tally. Two were recorded in the period prior to the refreshment interval, both from close range and under pressure.

Montrose summoned little and suggested less, with scarcely an attempt on goal registered. Kevin Browne, a newcomer to these parts, lofted a free kick over the hastily-assembled defensive constuct as the umpire prepared to close the half, but Michael Andrews, previously known in these parts, held the ball.

While it would be a falsehood to say that the heavens opened in the second half, some precipitation was recorded, though neither side was hindered, the playing surface being an artificial construct akin to a green scrubbing brush.

Brechin, relishing their visit to the seaside borough with its refreshing breeze, ice cream parlours and clothing emporiums, seemed envigoured, and promptly proceeded to contribute a further three goals to the official record.

Dalziel completed what is colloquially known as his 'hat-trick' with 20 minutes remaining on the chronometer. He was promptly replaced to what would have been a standing ovation had more than 23 paying customers been present.

Further goals were contributed by Paul McLean and Andy Jackson, Montrose's defensively-minded players having failed to return to the arena for the second period.

Only once did Montrose venture forward with sufficient menace to register an attempt on goal, but Andrews displayed enough alertness to concede only a corner from Garry Wood's shot.

Based on today's meeting, none of the Montrose athletes could be considered a threatening force in association football.

Martin Boyle, possessor of a mystical 'Ginger Boot' lacked the support of his colleagues, all of whom surrendered possession with scarcely a contest.

Stationed as I was in the grandstand (adjacent to one of the better Forfarian wenches), the involvement of Scott Johnstone (who bears the look of a human/woodpecker hybrid) passed me by completely. Also anonymous were the Montrose defensive unit. Only Stephen McNally seemed to realise that this encounter was taking place.

One fears that it will be a long and tempestuous campaign for Montrose, a collective short on skill, determination and hunger.

If the Sevco 5088 Wanderers are admitted to the Division III in this rotation of the sun, they will not fear a trip to the Montrose Links Park...

Monday, July 02, 2012

The Stone Roses, Heaton Park, Manchester, Saturday June 30, 2012

The first Stone Roses song I remember being aware of is Love Spreads. The lead single from their long-awaited second album was released when I was 14 and still truly to fall in love with music. But that song caught my ear even at that age, when it was played on the radio amongst the reggae pop, Take That and Wet Wet Wet.

But as with almost all music I heard at that age, it slipped from my memory when the radio playlists moved on to something else.

It wasn't until 1996 that I rediscovered The Stone Roses, by which time they'd finished dragging the sorry remains of their carcass around the festival circuit, a poor imitation of the band that had once had the world at their feet.

The first Stone Roses album I owned was The Complete Stone Roses, a compilation of their output on the Silvertone label that was a birthday present from my Mither. As introductions go, it was more than enough to ignite a love for the band that has never diminished in the intervening 16 years.

Shortly afterwards, I picked up from Groucho's in Dundee a second hand copy of The Second Coming, the album that transformed the Roses from jingly-jangly psychedelic pop gods into thunderous Zeppelin-inspired rock gods. It was John Squire's cocaine album, the riffs and egos coming between a group of four childhood friends and forming chasms that eventually shattered the greatest band of their generation.

So by the time I finally picked up a copy of The Stone Roses' debut album, from Woolworths in Dundee's Wellgate, I thought I knew everything there was to know about the band. Except I didn't. The Complete Stone Roses, while containing most of the tracks from that debut, included shortened, neutered versions of that debut album's monumental bookends, I Wanna Be Adored and I Am The Resurrection. It also missed out anti-monarchy lullaby Elizabeth My Dear and the laid-back groove of Shoot You Down.

This wasn't just a record. This was THE record. The world's most perfect record. When I am Grand High Poobah of The Whole World, I will insist everyone receives a copy with their birth certificate.

Since then, I've acquired various other Roses records - "lost" debut album Garage Flower, a shouty burst of punk-inspired Goth anger that barely hints at the band the Roses would blossom into; an almost unlistenable bootleg of the legendary Spike Island live show; the Turns Into Stone compilation that shoehorns together all of the Silvertone singles that didn't appear on the debut album; an ill-advised but passable remixes album from the turn of the century; various CD singles and live EPs; and, as my salary has grown as middle age approaches, the beautiful but expensive 20th anniversary edition of the debut - heavyweight vinyl, three CDs, a DVD and a lemon-shaped USB drive in a hefty presentation box.

My love for The Stone Roses has been one of the constants in my adult life, and until recently, so had one unbending certainty - The Stone Roses would never reform. The divisions between Ian Brown and John Squire, and between Reni and John Squire, were too wide. Brown was adamant that he didn't need the quitar player, that his solo work stood on its own two feet where Squire's was empty posturing and none-too-subtle ego-stroking. It was the first question asked in any interview with a former Rose - when would they return? And the answer was always the same - we won't.

That always seemed the best solution to me - I'd rather their reputation remained unsullied by an ill-judged money-grabbing reunion. Better to remain that tight-knit group of 20-somethings from the Blackpool Live DVD than four 50-year-olds milking the cash cow.

But at the same time, I always maintained that if they ever did reform, I'd be first in the queue for tickets.

All of which is a very lengthy preamble to the weekend just finished. I've driven 770 miles in a 2003 Renault Clio, from Montrose to Manchester and back again, via Falkirk and Newcastle in both directions. Given the chaos that the Biblical rains brought to the rail network over the weekend, it still appears to have been the better option.

Our gang of three decided to eschew the support acts - we weren't in Manchester to see Hollie Cook, The Wailers, Professor Green or Beady Eye. Our Saturday was devoted to one act and one act only.

Having attempted and failed to catch a tram to Heaton Park - not even standing room on the first tram we saw heading out on the Bury line from central Manchester, and then a line of trams heading for Oldham Mumps - we took a taxi to the venue, our cabbie giving us a list of what indie clubs we should head for after the show.

We caught the end of Beady Eye, who sounded just as flat as when we saw them at the Barrowlands last year. It's an indication of how far Liam Gallagher has fallen that people were standing in the car park drinking warm beer rather than rushing to catch his set. Even a rendition of Rock'n'Roll Star dedicated to Ian Brown, and a run through of Morning Glory, failed to ignite the crowd.

But from then on, we were in countdown mode. Barring a late, but by no means unlikely, disaster or falling out, we would be seeing The Stone Roses in the flesh.

I've rarely encountered such a peaceful atmosphere at a gig that size. We didn't bother attempting the crush for beer, but bumped into someone fresh from the bar queue who sold us four bottles of Fosters for £20. But everywhere you looked, people were smiling. Even as the crowd started thickening at the front of the stage, there seemed to be none of the aggression that would normally accompany the inevitable shoving.

When the Roses did appear on stage, there was no fanfare, no fireworks, no elaborate backing track. Just four men ambling on stage, picking up their instruments and bursting into I Wanna Be Adored. And from that second onwards, I was 16 again.

It was a near-perfect setlist. The only way it could have been bettered would have been by extending the gig by adding Elephant Stone, Tightrope, Driving South and Breaking Into Heaven. All of the songs from the debut album made an appearance:

I Wanna Be Adored
Mersey Paradise
(Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister
Sally Cinnamon
Where Angels Play
Shoot You Down
Bye Bye Badman
Ten Storey Love Song
Standing Here
Fools Gold
Something's Burning
Don't Stop
Love Spreads
Made Of Stone
This Is The One
She Bangs The Drums
Elizabeth My Dear
I Am The Resurrection

Personal highlights were a roaring take on Fools Gold, a song I've never been too fussed by, but that on this showing gave the musicians a chance to shine; Waterfall and Don't Stop - the latter including some phenomenal bass runs from Mani; and the double header of Love Spreads and Made of Stone.

I hadn't long said to one of my mates that Squire hadn't really let the guitar rip when he howled into the opening riff of Love Spreads - that was a genuine goosebump moment. The song ended with Ian Brown rapping over the fade-out:

A pen and a paper, a stereo, a tape
All this with a nice big plate of
Fish, which is my favourite dish
But without no money it’s just a wish
Now I don’t have to dream about getting paid
I dig into the books of the rhymes I've made
I hit the studio and get paid in full

Sugar spun sisters outgoing the distance
Get me, I’m seeking some assistance
High in the realms tonight,
Sky-high like a meteorite
I’m easy like the holy ghost
Ain’t no voice, it’s just a toast
High in the realms tonight,
Sky-high like a meteorite

Stone Roses all the rage
Stone Roses up on the stage
Not a pause, down the doors
Let’s have a round of applause

The first verse is lifted from Eric B & Rakim's Paid In Full, but the rest is all Brown.

It was followed by Made of Stone, my all-time favourite Stone Roses song, and the one I've always thought has the best interplay between Mani and Squire.

Reni's drumming was ferocious throughout. If you'd taken away the rest of the band, it would still have been an absorbing show just watching him drum. It frequently sounded like he was playing live hip-hop rhythms. It's good to have him back.

Those were just my personal highlights, but there wasn't a weak spot at any point during the gig. The band's song and album titles lend themselves to plenty of cliched review titles: What The World Is Waiting For, This Is The One, I Am The Resurrection, Second Coming and so on.

But Ian Brown summed it up as the band stood centre stage post-gig: "We're back".

Saturday, June 16, 2012


My first cassette single:

My first cassette album:

My first CD single (two of the people on the cover are now dead, one has had a stroke):

My first CD album:

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I grew up a Rangers fan but I stopped going to Rangers games regularly when the SPL was formed and it became glaringly obvious that TV money and the influx of rubbish foreigners had ruined it as a sport.

Up until then, there was a faint belief that other clubs could challenge for titles – in the nine-in-a-row years, Celtic only finished second twice. But when it descended into “who can beat Dunfermline by the biggest margin?”, I rapidly lost interest. (That period also coincided with me starting university, so I had the women, gigs and pubs of Edinburgh to think about instead.)

I’ve heard others say that they just got sick of all the FTP/IRA crap, and didn’t want to take their kids into that kind of atmosphere. It’s something I’d be thinking seriously about over the next few years as well. £50 plus travel, food, programmes and all that gubbins to take my daughter to Ibrox, then have to explain who Bobby Sands was?

Or take her to Montrose on a free season ticket from her school and explain that while I don’t advocate her using the term “Smokey bastards” we do indeed hate Arbroath and she’s never to spend any time with boys from that tinky wee fishing village?

There will be some who have already turned their back on Rangers as this shitstorm has escalated, and while I don’t want to see Rangers die, it would do Scottish football good if some of the busloads of folk from all over Scotland just walked down the road to their local ground.

Right now I’m hoping that:

  • Rangers are demoted to Division Three. Celtic fans can bleat on about it not being the same club, that the titles are revoked, whatever. It’ll always be the same club to me, and the titles I saw them win when I was a boy were won legally (so far as anyone knows). Rangers spent far more than the other clubs, but that’s no different to what Chelsea, Man City and PSG are doing elsewhere.
  • If the SFA wants punishments to carry over to the new club, so be it. Take everything that is coming. If it’s 30-point deductions, transfer bans, whatever. Suck it up. You cheat, you run the risk of getting caught, you pay the price. Suck it up, do the time, come back with a clear conscience and build a good reputation.
  • Rangers fans stop worrying about what Celtic are doing. They’ll win the league for the next 10 or 20 years. Bully for them. Their fans can whoop it up all they like, but surely they’ll all realise how hollow the victories are.
  • The TV deal collapses. Good. Scottish football existed before TV, before live football on TV, before Sky. It’ll still exist if Sky walks away. If it means 11 young Scots booting fuck out of each other on the park because they want to play for the jersey, I’m all for it. I’ve got a Sky subscription, and I hardly ever watch Scottish football on it, because the quality is so poor and there’s clearly no real passion.

The SFA/SPL/SFL has been handed a once in a generation chance to fix Scottish football. The onus now is on them not to fuck it up.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Gary Cahill now has more European Cup winner's medals than Pele, Maradona, Bergkamp, Cantona, Batistuta, Gascoigne, Romario, Baggio and Ronaldo combined.
If anything is evidence that there's no such thing as a fair and loving God, surely that's it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Groanin' Jock Montrose FC Player of the Year Award 2011/2012

It's that time of the year again when I look back at the season just finished (for Montrose at least) and determine who is the Groanin' Jock Player of the Year.

It's a systematic process - whoever has been my man of the match most often this season scoops the prize.*

So without any further ado (actually, I don't think there's any ado at all), here are the results:

Martin Boyle 3
Terry Masson 3
Steven McPhee 2
Dougie Cameron 2
Jamie Winter 2
Saaaaaandy Wood 1
Sean Pierce 1
Scott Johnston 1
Garry Wood 1
Michael Andrews 1
Paul Lunan 1

For the second consecutive year, we have a tie, and for the second consecutive year Martin Boyle is in joint first place, this time with Terry Masson.

It would be tough to pick between the two. Up until the last game of the season, Masson would have had my vote as player of the year, with a cracking season in the middle of the park, doing more than his fair share of the donkey work while Jamie Winter fired in the goals. Masson also chipped in with a few goals himself, and they were typically zingers.

But then Martin Boyle went and grabbed a last day hat-trick, securing the Ginger Boot in the process. He's already a cracking wee goalscorer, and frighteningly he still misses more chances than he scores. If he continues to develop as quickly as he has done in a Montrose shirt, he'll be live on Sky every weekend before too long.

It's genuinely a tough call, but as it's probably the last time I'll have the opportunity, Martin Boyle is once again the Groanin' Jock Montrose FC Player of the Year.

Notable absentees from the list above? Stephen McNally was probably Montrose's best player last year, but has suffered a terrible dip in form this time around, partly through being played at right back for most of the campaign. He's much better driving the team forward from midfield, and hopefully we can see him back to his best next season.

Less of a shock is the absence of Jonathan "Pob" Beckenbauer Smart. In his own head he's light years ahead of his peers, but four red cards, three of them before the end of August, only hint at the disastrous time he's had at Links Park.

(According to his Twitter account, it's the plastic pitch that's at fault, not him.)

I can't imagine too many of the Montrose faithful will shed a tear at his departure. Farewell Pob.

I've never been convinced by Jonathan Crawford either, and he has a lot of work to do to convince me that he's the answer to any of Montrose's problems. There are no positions in which Montrose don't already have someone better, but as a jack of all trades, I suppose he's decent backup.

And finally, I can't end the season without noting that Dougie "Kneeheid" Cameron was my man of the match twice in the space of three matches. On his day, Dougie has the potential to be Montrose's best player. But he needs to be more disciplined in his positioning, as he has a tendency to go walkabout in the last 20 minutes of a match.

With that, I'll sign off for another season, looking forward to next year's post-Boyle campaign under Stuart Garden/Ralph Brand/Ally McCoist/Andre Villas Boas.

*There is no prize

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Whiskers On Kittens

A few more of my favourite things.

The bridge/coda from Razorlight's "In The Morning" (from about 3:05 in the video below)

The smell of newly-cut grass on a hot, still, summer's day.

John Frusciante's backing vocals on "Can't Stop":

Baby Girl's giggle

The rumble from my surround sound system at the start of an action movie.

Extra large hoodies.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Season 2011/2012: Match 22: Montrose 5 Clyde 0 (Irn-Bru Division Three)

This is The End...beautiful friend, The End...

(I'm writing this through a semi-hungover fog, so apologies for inconsistencies, errors, poor spelling, lack of grammar and general shitness).

Last season I made it to 21 matches, this season it was 22, thanks in part to work trips to the big smoke.

At least this season it ended on a high, unlike last year when a few hardy souls watched several Montrose players end their careers in a 4-0 Hampden hiding.

One year on, a few Montrose players, and possibly the manager, called time on their Links Park days with a resounding stroll in the sunshine against a woeful Clyde side.

Martin Boyle blasted his way to the Ginger Boot with a hat-trick, Terry Masson grabbed a goal with a cracking drive and even Alan Campbell got on the scoresheet with a header.

The strangest thing about the match wasn't the centre back getting on the scoresheet then managing to reach his own half in time for the restart, but the choice of pre-match music, which seemed to be a dance compilation from 1993. Brilliantly, it included Technohead's "I Want To Be A Hippy" (I want to be a hippy and I want to get stoned on mari - marijuana).

The local football club advocating the use of Class C drugs? It might take the edge off the performances of Messrs Smart and Cameron anyway...

...except Jonathan Smart didn't even make the team, relegated to the bench alongside Scott Johnston, with Jamie Winter missing out through injury.

The substitutes took part in an impromptu penalty shoot-out at half time, Johnston demonstrating a decent ability between the sticks. And if the players had shown as much effort in the preceding 35 matches of the season as they did during that kick-about, maybe yesterday's match wouldn't have been a chase for eighth place in the league...

Frustratingly, Montrose saved their best performance of the season for the last day of the season, absolutely ripping Clyde to pieces. All of the players selected played well, and there was a drive, hunger and most notably, an assurance that has been missing all too often this season.

Hopefully the core of the side sticks together for next season's push further up the table. I'd definitely like to see Winter, Boyle, Masson, McNally, Young, Lunan, Johnston and both Woods hang around, not to mention Dougie Cameron and Alan Campbell if they can play like they did yesterday more often.

From bottom of the table last season to eighth this year - Montrose are on the up...

If Ray Farningham, as expected, does leave to return to Dundee as assistant manager, I'd be keen to see Stuart Garden move into the hotseat. Otherwise, maybe Ralph Brand would be worth a punt?

Man of the Match: Inevitably, on the day he made sure of the top goalscorer award and scooped six trophies at the end of season bash, Martin Boyle is man of the match. A tremendous hat-trick, including a rare header, if yesterday proves to be Boyler's last match in a Montrose shirt, he went out on a high. He was the first among equals though, with the whole side deserving of praise, particularly Stephen McNally, Lloyd Young and Terry Masson.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

"A Good Product Which Does What It Says"

A colleague forwarded this link to me, and I've spent the last 20 minutes crying with laughter at my desk, much to the alarm of those sitting near me.

The reviews on this Amazon product page are comedy gold.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Speccy Bastard

Apparently the ZX Spectrum is 30 years old.

That makes me feel very old. I think the Spectrum was the third computer/games console I laid fingers on. The first was a BBC Microcomputer at primary school, and the second was an Atari 2600 (I think) owned by a friend. That was also the first time I played a game involving the Super Mario Brothers.

The same friend and his older brother also had a ZX Spectrum, and I remember watching them in 1987, sitting for what seemed like hours programming in a BASIC game. It was distinctly underwhelming.

It's almost strange that in today's modern society you can take computer classes for programming now.

But by 1988/89, I was desperate for a computer of my own, and Mither and Faither (or Santa Claus anyway) very generously bought Baby Brother and I a ZX Spectrum +3. Not only did the +3 boast 128k of RAM, but it had a built-in floppy disk drive, which was a revelation in the tape-dominated home computer market.

I actually broke our first Spectrum on Xmas Day, jamming the power cable into the back of the computer upside down and bending all the pins.

But we got a replacement, complete with a disk of six games that I still love to this day:

  • Gift From The Gods - based on Greek mythology, you float around a sprawling underground maze attempting to find stones that will unlock a gate.

  • NOMAD  - An armoured droid (NOMAD stands for something something Mobile Attack Droid) batters around a spaceship shooting stuff.
  •  Mailstrom - You play a postman in a post-apocalyptic England. Deliver the letters and futuristic violence. Dark humor persists.
  •  Daley Thomson's SuperTest - Follow up to Daley Thomson's Decathlon, the sports were more obscure, but the button-bashing was just as fun.

Those games would comfortably run on a modern mobile phone. But at the time, they were cutting-edge. Games on the Spectrum generally had very high playability - they had to, as the graphics and sound were so weak.

Days spent playing Chucky Egg, Dizzy, Footballer of the Year, the games above and hundreds of others are amongst the happiest memories from my childhood.

And now I've found all of the games above on an emulator site. That's my weekend sorted...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


In the six or so years I've been blogging, I've "met" some interesting characters.

It was incredibly saddening to hear today that my favourite blogger - indeed, one of my favourite writers in any medium - known to many as Almax, and to readers of seminal football fanzine The Absolute Game by his real name of Alastair McSporran (which he memorably described as having been invented by a Sunday Post sub-editor), died on Tuesday after a long illness.

Alastair's knowledge of music, conveyed through his blog, was an entry point for me into a whole world of previously unexplored music. Through him I discovered The Incredible String Band, Bunny Wailer, Ornette Coleman, Poco and many, many more.

I also enjoyed the debates he led on football, particularly the fortunes or otherwise of the Old Firm. I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of 35 private members of the blog when public access was revoked a few years back, and the community that Alastair created felt at all times like the world's best, most selective, private members club. No topic was off limits, and it became a safe haven of sorts to engage in occasionally heated discussion.

No words I write here can possibly do Alastair's talent justice. If a professional writer had left behind a body of work so varied, so forthright, so honest and so tear-inducingly hilarious, they would be feted for decades. That his blog was the work of a supposed amateur makes it all the more impressive.

While the main blog that bears his name remains behind closed doors, I recommend everyone visit this collection of Alastair's The Absolute Game writings for some of the best analysis of Scottish football you'll ever read.

Farewell Alastair - I'm listening to Blood On The Tracks in your honour.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Friday Ten: Ten Great Album Tracks

Ten great songs that were never released as singles.

1: Hey Bulldog by The Beatles

2: Champagne Supernova by Oasis

3: Driving South by The Stone Roses

4: The Width of a Circle by David Bowie

5: Mardy Bum by Arctic Monkeys

6: When The Levee Breaks by Led Zeppelin

7: On A Plain by Nirvana

8: Optimistic by Radiohead

9: Exterminator by Primal Scream

10: The Chain by Fleetwood Mac

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Season 2011/2012: Match 21: Leyton Orient 1 Huddersfield Town 3 (nPower League One)

Once again I find myself in London for work, and yet again my visit to the capital coincides with some live football.

Having seen Europa League, Carling Cup and Championship football on my two previous visits, this time I was lower down the pyramid, watching Leyton Orient attempt to drag themselves away from the League One relegation zone and Huddersfield aiming for promotion to the Championship.

I've long had a soft spot for Huddersfield, for a very odd reason - during my uni years, I spent a rather large portion of my life managing them in Championship Manager 1997/98 - 20 years in charge, missing out on promotion to the Premier League via the playoffs on TWELVE occasions.

If it's something you're interested in, there are several colleges that offer degrees in sports management.

Anyway, I digress.

On the tube map and London A-Z, Leyton's Brisbane Road stadium looks as though it's a long way from central London, but I found it a lot easier and quicker to get to than White Hart Lane or Upton Park.

The first thing I saw when I alighted from Leyton underground station was the new Olympic Stadium, which Orient have their eyes on as potential post-games tenants.

Which seems a little odd given that they were nowhere near filling Brisbane Road tonight. Only 3,674 hardy souls braved the heavy east London rain for the match, although that may be understandable given the weather, Orient's league position and form, Huddersfield's league position and form, and the fact that Barcelona and Milan were squaring up in the Champions League quarter final live on TV.

Brisbane Road is a weird little ground - a comparatively enormous main stand (the one in the picture above) with three wee ones completing the set-up. The stand I was in is made of wood, giving it an old-fashioned vibe that even Links Park can't match.

Weirder still, the four corners of the ground are filled with blocks of flats looking out onto the pitch, and many of the balconies were occupied by fans watching the match.

There was the potential for quite a Caledonian connection in the match, with Orient's squad including Scott Cuthbert and Marc Laird, while Huddersfield have Gary Naysmith, Scott Arfield and Jordan Rhodes, as well as former Dundee United striker Danny Cadamarteri and ex-Hibs keeper Nick Colgan.

Only Laird and Rhodes started the match, with Cadamarteri and Arfield coming off the Huddersfield bench.

Orient started the match brightly, and took a deserved lead with a sweet goal from Matthew Spring, the midfielder firing home from the edge of the box with quarter of an hour gone.

But Huddersfield levelled immediately, Orient's Jimmy Smith getting the final touch on Rhodes' back heel, although the Scottish striker did his best to claim the goal as his own.

Rhodes. who now has 36 or 37 goals this season depending on whether the first was his or not, was by far the best player on the park, finishing with a hat-trick (if we give him the opener).

He was a constant danger to a lacklustre Orient team, who looked beaten the moment their visitors scored. They looked devoid of ideas, made fundamental passing errors and struggled to get the ball into dangerous areas. As we can often see, a team down on its luck may struggle even to complete the basics, and too often they passed the ball straight to Huddersfield's players when under no pressure. Midfielder Dean Cox in particular seemed incapable of completing even a simple pass.

That is to take nothing away from Huddersfield, who were combative, first to every ball and quick to get the ball forward towards Rhodes. His was a real striker's performance, slamming home from close range for his side's second and coolly slotting into the net to complete his hat-trick in the last minute.

Arfield also looked good when he came on, and maybe his status as one of the lost talents of the Scottish game is premature, particularly if Huddersfield can push on up to the Championship. Rhodes, it is clear, is destined for greater things, not least a place in the Scotland squad once he's established at a higher level.

A good game, and one I'm glad I picked over a gig - if it had been a 0-0 draw I'd have been raging.

Man of the Match: Only one contender - Jordan Rhodes. A striker of genuine quality, combing pace and power with a finisher's instinct. Definitely a player to keep an eye on over the next few years.