The grounds have fallen silent, the pie stalls are shut and for football fans the length and breadth of the land, the weekend has lost its meaning.

Deprived of seeing the football in the flesh, a new book is to give fans a bitter-sweet chance to reflect on what the beautiful game means to them, from windswept afternoons on crumbling terraces to the camaraderie of the post-match pint.

Rather than an exploration of the game’s more glossy side of highly paid players, corporate hospitality and television cameras, Snapshot: Scenes and Stories from the Heartlands of Scottish Football, shines a light on the beating heart of the game, the people who devote spare time keeping it alive and the romantic – if often basic - charm of grounds where generations have stood, watched and cheered.

According to writer Daniel Gray, the book is an “unashamed love letter” to the game, the sometimes run-down but much-loved places where it’s played and the people who live for it.

“Football is so much about community. For the last six months without football, those of use who know it and love it, we have missed that sense of community,” he said.

“Whether we attend games as an individual and don’t know the people around us, or as part of a group, whether it’s people going to Ibrox or Linlithgow Rose Social Club, football becomes part of your identity, and we’ve missed that.”

Gray began working on the book with photographer and St. Johnstone fan Alan McCredie before the pandemic caused sport to grind to a sudden halt. It concludes with a reflection of the immense loss that it has inflicted on some supporters, for whom going to the match will never be the same again.

Gray recalls watching as a funeral cortege crawled by Hibs’ stadium, taking one fan on a final journey past the beloved Famous Five Stand. The eulogy at Mortonhall Crematorium, he adds, included a touching remark from the fan’s grieving brother in law: “See you behind the goals,” he said.

“You get the pies, I’ll get the Bovril”.

The moment, adds Gray, reflects the invisible bond football, with all its highs, lows and mutual experiences, creates between fans.

“Some people go to church, some are part of trade unions but there are not many communal experiences rooted in heritage like football. It’s still inherently a working class game.

“It’s the great moments in the match, the goals that you remember forever, wonderful football and crunching tackles. But it’s so much more, it’s the routine of believing and being together and sharing experiences.”

Gray, who was raised in Middlesbrough and now lives in Edinburgh, was taken to his first football match by his father at the age of seven. “Middlesbrough 3, Aston Villa 3,” he recalls. “It was my seventh birthday, and I became a ‘Boro fan.”

Now a ‘nomadic’ fan, he would normally divide his time between Middlesbrough matches with his dad, Hibs with his daughter or exploring Scotland’s lower league and Highland games.

“It’s Saturday when you feel it most, you wake up and think ‘I don’t have a match to go to today’,” he adds.

“During this shutdown there have been times I’ve been brought to tears by the impact it has had. Things like the noise of the crowd on a clip of a game, or Saturday sports music on Radio 5, and I’d have tears dripping down my face.

“My wife would think I’m having deep thoughts about the pandemic, but I’m thinking of football.

“It affects all of us who love football. There’s a real connection and not many things can do that.”

He says the book’s aim is to explore the heart of football, going to grounds which would normally rarely receive attention.

“It’s not football on Sky, it’s football that means something, it’s small places and characters around the game. There are actually only a couple of photographs that show the game, instead the photographs are of the people that keep the game going.

“I love the architecture of the grounds,” he adds. “Many are true to their roots and still have enormous character.”

Poignantly, the book reflects upon some grounds where the last football has been struck, and at clubs where the players outnumber the fans.

“It’s a worrying time, especially now that we don’t know when fans will be allowed back in,” he adds. “Some of the places in the book might not exist in the future without help.

“It’s worth remembering that football clubs play a huge social role, whether it’s mental health, fitness or diet. That’s not really recognised.

“The worry is that people will get out of the routine, and just stop going.”

Snapshot: Scenes and Stories from the Heartlands of Scottish Football by Daniel Gray and Alan McCredie is published by Arena Sport in partnership with Nutmeg Magazine (£14.99, paperback) /