When we moved up into Primary 7 our footballing world changed considerably. Gone were our best players and we didn’t have enough new talent coming through from the year below us to pose a serious threat to anyone. We called in a few of the fringe players from Primary 7 and they actually surprised us even if they weren’t used to playing in an 11-a-side team. The other change was that one of the other local schools was being refitted and their P6 and P7 classes moved into our school for a year. Where we used to struggle to to fill two 7-a-side teams for games at lunchtime we were getting 14 v 14 at times and it became an intense rivalry over the weeks and months that it went on. Games would be started at the morning break if we hadn’t already managed to get a game underway before school actually started in the morning. We’d then have a long ‘half’ at lunchtime where our players would join in as and when they finished their lunch and we would finish it off at the afternoon break. The rivalry went much further than just football though. When it came time for the local school swimming championships one of their players managed to get a silver in the 50m freestyle competition. Their joy was short lived when they realised that Craig had stole the gold and I’d brought home the bronze. I don’t think we ever let them forget that.
This year seen our best result so far and possibly the one result we remember. We didn’t even win and it was our best result. How sad is that? As with almost all schools in the West of Scotland there is a huge rivalry between the catholic schools and the non-catholic schools. Some say it’s a bad thing but at that age almost no one is interested in bigotry side of things as it’s all about the fact we were better than they were at whatever we were playing or vice versa. Our Lady of Lourdes Primary was our enemy. Where we had a healthy rivalry with Kirktonholme as they were sharing our school Our Lady of Lourdes was actually the nearest school to where most of us lived. If I went to the corner shops at the end of my street you could see it. We never mixed with them and so the only time we could get one up on them was during sports. Unfortunately they had one of the best teams in the league. The previous year they were putting six or seven goals past us with ease but this time we were determined to get something back from them.
I’d been moved over to play in central defence by this point and I managed to get a good understanding with the other defenders. Nothing could get past us on the ground as every time the ball came near us we would throw a crunching tackle in and clear the ball back up the park. Where we fell down however was we were still as slow as hell. All it took was someone to realise that we couldn’t keep up with their forwards and boot the ball over our heads and have it come down to a foot race. Our Lady of Lourdes hadn’t worked this out though. We got stuck into them hard during a cup game and pretty soon we were drawing 2-2 with them and the scoreline stayed that way until the final whistle. You would have though we had won the cup given the way we were celebrating. Before the game we were told that in the event of a tie as there was no time for replays and because we were under a certain age and couldn’t play extra time whoever put the most pressure on the other team and won the most corner kicks would be declared the winner. For every corner they had won we must have won at least two we were that worked up about this game. Then their headmistress got involved. It was unheard of for her team to lose like that and was putting in a complaint that the referee was biased towards us. There we were having played our hearts out and finally won something even if it wasn’t technically a win and she was pulling it away from us. I’d skinned the entire length of my leg on the ash park after throwing everything I had into every tackle and ended up having to get a lift back to the first aid room at the school. Whatever happened after that game though we have no idea but we found out at the next practice that we were having to replay the game. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bunch of eleven year olds make so much noise in disgust before. Needless to say they put about 13 goals past us in the replay.
We took part in a seven-a-side competition in Strathclyde Park about midway through the season and were about the only team from East Kilbride taking part. Sometimes I wonder how we managed to get into these things when we were so far down the league but we never questioned it at the time. In our group stage were three other teams and basically if you didn’t win two out of your three games you weren’t going through to the next round. So the first game we played we were completely overwhelmed. There was no beating about the bush they were just far superior to us. At this point we realised that the team we were due to play next was being managed by Derek Ferguson and as we were almost all Rangers supporters we spent more time trying to talk to him than concentrating on the games. As I can completely understand now he got a little pissed off with us and ended up have our manager pull us away so that he could work with his team. It was at this point that someone realised that the reason Derek was managing the next team was that his younger brother played for them. We were royally beaten but the game didn’t end before I managed to kick the younger brother, Barry, up in the air and almost end his future career before it started*. It wasn’t malicious but I was terrified Derek was going to beat seven different shades out of me. We got stuck in and as with any competition we ever entered we started to play well as soon as it was impossible for us to win anything. We beat that team but we were on the bus home within 5 minutes of the game ending feeling as though we hadn’t won a thing.
Again we finished second last in the league although this time I managed to captain the team a couple of times.
Even 7 years later when I was still playing for hours every night I could never get that feel for competitive football again. Throughout secondary school I never played a game outwith P.E. and certainly was never picked to train with the team. I became more comfortable on the ball and my passing improved and with that my position gradually changed from a centre half to somewhere in the midfield. I don’t play football very often now. Those of my friends that do play all have regular games which I can never get into and to be honest until I get a clean bill of health from the doctors anything that involves me running about is off the cards.
I would spend days and weeks playing Football Manager/Championship Manager on my computer during the winter months whilst waiting for the weather to become good enough to play for real. I ate up anything I could find to read about Rangers and followed every game on TV. To this day I’ve still never set foot in Ibrox and in all honesty I’m not really a fan of watching the game but I still love to play it. I guess it makes me feel like I’m eleven again.
* Barry went on to play for and captain Glasgow Rangers and Scotland over his years of playing professional football.