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There is something about Fir Park that produces bizarrely brilliant football . . .

THE best advice I ever received in newspapers was: don't be seduced by the glamour of it all.

Jutkiewiecz's late volley inspired a spelling bee. Picture: SNS
Jutkiewiecz's late volley inspired a spelling bee. Picture: SNS

Well, that and: don't drink the oil in the machine room.

I remember both fondly as I head out to Fir Park, Motherwell, of a February Saturday. It is not difficult to be carried away with the sheer blessedness of one's life as one walks into the press room at the Mighty 'Well.

First, Andy Devilish of the Soaraway Sun mischievously dunks my balding napper in the tea urn while grinding my medication underfoot and stealing my dinner money. The scamp.

Second, the Motherwell press operation gives one everything in terms of information bar the final score.

Third, Fir Park is a magic ground for me.

If I turn up, there is a match so exciting, so gripping that one would think that the purpose of football was to be entertaining. There are Motherwell fans - the deluded ingrates - who say matches at Fir Park can be less than fantastically, bizarrely brilliant. My experience exposes this as a lie so shallow that one would struggle to bury an anorexic flea in it.

My history with Fir Park stretches back to the Texaco Cup. Previously known as the Fossilised Organic Material Cup, the competition was rebranded just after oil was discovered in my youth. Basically, it was the Anglo-Scottish Cup without the need for a hyphen and the words Scottish or Anglo. Though, this might just be inaccurate, given that Derry City reached the semi-finals.

Anyway. Motherwell played Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur and I went to the matches because I was at school nearby. I know some will be shocked by this. But, yes, there was a school near Motherwell.

I also recollect that the Mighty 'Well duffed up both Spurs and Stoke and I recall too a flamboyant Brian Heron. Though that might have been a David Attenborough documentary. It is difficult to be precise, such is the deterioration of a brain that could once do the Tweenies quick crossword, admittedly in just under a year.

My memory is such nowadays that Devilish has to walk me back to my car, tell me it is a mode of transport and point the Ford Fiasco in the general direction of Glasgow with the aid of steel-capped toe.

But I seem to recall that the 'Well were brilliant against Spurs and Stoke and that the stadium was bursting with screaming Scots. I can definitely insist I was there. There is still an indelible stain that the East Stand cannot quite cover.

I was also in the crowd when Motherwell beat Celtic 3-2 in the Scottish Cup. They graciously gave the Parkhead side a two-goal lead before coming back out after the break and rattling in three. It will be no surprise to learn that Willie Pettigrew scored. Oor Wullie could score on a night out with the Dalai Lama. But Bobby Graham, one of the most under-rated centre-forwards, also netted.

And I was also in the press box when Motherwell drew 6-6 with Hibernian on May 5, 2010. It was my birthday - it always is on May 5 - and Devilish celebrated by giving me the bumps. Picking myself up from the foot of the stand, I remember crawling back up at 5-6 to write my intro stating: "This was a match where defences were on top."

This piece of peerless professionalism was only tainted by the blood seeping from my proboscis and by the last-minute equaliser scored by Lukas Jutkiewiecz. His intervention not only forced a re-write but his name sparked an extraordinary spelling bee in the press box. I hit it with a rolled-up newspaper.

There was a steady recounting of the goals as the assorted press corps recited times and names and came to the conclusion that it was, indeed, 6-6. They all then stormed down to the press conferences while I waited for the tie break.

However, my greatest memory of that night came when Lukas hit that volley straight into the far corner of the net. I let out a murmur of involuntary delight. It was the merest noise, just a squeak.

Devilish noticed immediately. "How's that for glamour you old incompetent?" he said. "Have a sup of this," he added, handing me the trusty flask of engine oil.

Two bits of advice were thus ignored on a heady night.

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Football

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