Football: Fan's eye view - Alloa: Long-distance admiration for the Wasps

Click to follow
The Independent Online
AUGUST 1967. I'm 15 years old, perverse and rebellious by nature, and I'm at a Jewish summer camp in the wilds of Clackmannanshire.

It's Saturday afternoon and I'm bored. This is the first day of the football season and I want to see a match, any match. I don't care. The other boys are more religious than me. It's the Sabbath, they won't ride or carry money, and they certainly won't go to a football match, so I'm on my own. The nearest team are Alloa, which sounds seductively Hawaiian, until you add the Athletic. Desperate for some action - so desperate, in fact, that had our camp been 500 miles to the north I'd have gladly watched Toftir play Gotu in the Faroe Islands' league - I decide to go.

Alloa, it turns out, are not well supported. I phone them for match details, the goalie answers. I ask: "What time is kick-off?" He replies: "What time can you get here?" Old gag, I know, but it started in Alloa.

I go to the match. It's awful. I don't remember the result, but I do remember the police presence was restricted to just one officer on horseback whose sole purpose, it seems, was to patrol outside the ground throwing people in. If the officer looked bored, then the horse, frankly, looked stoned. It was. It turns out a bunch of students were feeding it LSD cubes on their way in to the ground. I think it was the happiest creature there.

From that day on Alloa were my team. Not my No 1 team, you understand, but my Scottish team. All English football fans have their Scottish team. Usually it's Rangers or Celtic, the soft options, they win everything, and don't we all like to support winners? Not me, though. As I said, I'm perverse, and as my main team is Luton - I don't even live anywhere near the place, but I go nonetheless - you'll understand what I mean.

Of course, my support for Alloa doesn't lead me to do anything as rash as go and watch them, apart from that one game in '67. That much I leave to the truly masochistic. But I lend my support in other ways, mostly from the vantage point of my fireside recliner, the teletext button, and the Sunday sports pages. Plus I get their new kit sent to me whenever new sponsorship and a kit change prevails - about three times these past 31 years.

My relationship with Alloa is something of an unconsummated affair, rather like Wendy Craig and that nice chap in Butterflies. I gaze on them, or at least their results, but I don't touch. I can't name any of their players, apart from a guy called Irvine who seems to score quite a lot, I've forgotten their manager's name, and I never did know the name of their home ground, though I think it's got the word Park in it. I think I know their nickname: it's The Wasps, isn't it? With yellow and black hooped shirts it seems logical enough, or maybe I've got that wrong too.

But despite my vagueness no Saturday afternoon ever passes by without seeing how Alloa got on. Even on my recent sabbatical in Peru, I faxed home each weekend to find out how my boys had fared.

Right now, as I sit at my word processor - and tell me if this is not the spookiest piece of serendipity - Alloa occupy the exact same position in the exact same division, Scottishly speaking, as Luton, albeit my two teams reached that division by opposite routes. Luton taking an ever downward path, Alloa being elevated just last May. I don't know how significant this is, but if nothing else it does demonstrate my predilection for naff teams, as will doubtless be evidenced by the imminent slide down the table for which both my teams are fabled. As the saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough lose their nerve, play like tossers, and get relegated.

That was someday back in '67, I don't remember who we played, but I know they were better. I forget the score, but I know we lost. I don't recall the attendance, but I do know that if Maxie, Ollie, Mike and the other guys from Tent Six had come with me, the spectators might have had a chance of outnumbering the players.

I do remember, though, that, within 10 minutes of getting back to camp not only was there a food parcel from home awaiting me - enough bagels, smoked salmon and gefilte fish to feed the whole of Alloa - but I'd pulled this girl from Willesden Green, a rabbi's daughter as I recall, and quite the muckiest girl on the trip. Which only goes to show, if your team can't score, for heaven's sake make sure you do.

Comments