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A bygone era and a match to remember . . .

MEMORIES are made of this.

Images such as this one, of when Alex Ferguson's Falkirk took on Pat Stanton's Hibs at Brockville in 1970, are used to stimulate memories in dementia sufferers. Picture: Newsquest
Images such as this one, of when Alex Ferguson's Falkirk took on Pat Stanton's Hibs at Brockville in 1970, are used to stimulate memories in dementia sufferers. Picture: Newsquest

"It was the 1952/53 season and I remember the steam train from Grangemouth to Falkirk. I remember everything: the smell of the pipe tobacco, the Bovril and even the liniment," says Michael White. He was on his way to his first Falkirk match.

"There were a couple of baldy players - Jimmy Delaney and Johnny Kelly - and I remember asking my grandfather why they were called the Bairns when the players were so old."

More than half a century on, White is still going to watch Falkirk, though Brockville has become a supermarket. He has also used his association, even obsession, with the club to form an extraordinary project that brings moments of joy and lucidity to sufferers of dementia.

White, a football historian with Falkirk as his specialist subject, came up with a simple, marvellous idea after speaking at a day centre at the start of this century. He was using audio visual aids to illustrate his talk when he witnessed a dementia sufferer displaying "spectacular recall".

White then formed a group to go around day centres and homes in and around Falkirk. A chat with fellow football historians at Hampden was swiftly followed by supporters from other clubs taking up the initiative.

The Football Memories project was then launched two years ago. It trains volunteers to spend time with people with dementia who have an interest in football, talking about teams and matches from the past and working with images and memorabilia to stimulate memories.

The project is a partnership between Alzheimer Scotland and the Scottish Football Museum, and is supported by the players of the People's Postcode Lottery and BUPA Care Homes. There are now more than 80 groups throughout the country.

The idea has thus seeped throughout Scotland but comes home today for a special occasion. Falkirk v Alloa Athletic will be the first official Football Memories match, in association with Alzheimer Scotland. Next season, in association with the Scottish Professional Football League, the organisers hope to connect one round of fixtures under the Football Memories banner. "It would be along the lines of the round of fixtures that promotes Show Racism the Red Card," said White.

Today, he faces a problem. Supporters are being asked to wear their first Falkirk top to the game but White insisted: "I may still have mine but I do not think it will fit.

"Happily, I have many others so should be able to slip into one."

He will also be on duty to record supporters talking about their first match as a Bairn. It is more than 50 years since his first game but the memories remain.

n Find out more - and read the Football Memories of supporters and celebrities all over Scotland - at footballmemories.org.uk

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