I’VE always been fitba’ daft. Unfortunately, from a young age it was obvious I would be a spectator not a player.

I did however, turn out for my primary school. We were the most consistent team in the league, losing every game. Winning a corner was celebrated. Referees regularly stopped our matches twenty minutes early to save us further punishment. Admittedly, I wasn’t a great asset. I recall a parent asking our teacher/manager, “Why do you play the fat loon (me) at right back?” “It’s either him or the jannie’s bin”, was the response. They weren’t big on self-esteem or confidence at our school. 

My father was a realist and knew that watching from Row D would be the closest I would get to the Pittodrie turf. My earliest memory was winning the old Division A in 1954/55. We made our first trip to Hampden the same year; the League Cup accompanying us north after a narrow win over St Mirren. When does this game get difficult, dad? I was soon to find out. The suffering of Dons’ fans in the 60’s is painfully described by my old classmate, Jim Addison, in his brilliant book, Behind the Goal. The title being where we stood to watch our team annually exiting the cup at the hands of the mighty Clyde, Queens Park, East Fife and Ayr United. Jim’s subtitle says it all; “Sentenced to Life as a Don”.

Our patience was tested, but never our loyalty. That’s what marks out the true fan. Loyalty to your local team is imprinted from birth. You don’t choose who to support, it chooses you. For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, in victory but more often in defeat. True fans don’t have a problem with Old Firm supporters born within spitting distance of Ibrox or Celtic Park. After all, they deserve a bit of happiness.  We have more difficulty with those from further afield who follow teams to which they have no geographical or emotional attachment.  A PhD awaits whoever can unlock the psychology of what underpins the likes of the Buchan Bhoys or Inverness Loyal.  

Scotland being Scotland, tribalism will be somewhere in the mix. Those from the hinterland possibly enjoy the company of the big city slickers. Winning trophies is an undoubted attraction. Yet, experiencing something too often, jades the palate.  Occasional success is sweeter for those who taste ashes most weeks. The best fans in the world are found at Glebe Park, Cliftonville or Ochilview. They have an unconditional emotional bond with their local teams and community.  In their world, Whatever the result, it’s only a game and the game’s the winner.