Outside the Box: Gretna ring the changes and groom themselves for revival


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The Independent Football

Rangers are not the only former Scottish Premier League club having to acquaint themselves with straitened circumstances and unfamiliar away grounds. Readers may remember Gretna, who rose from English non-League football to the top tier in Scotland, reached the 2006 Cup final – only losing on penalties to Hearts – and then played in the Uefa Cup.

They folded in 2008 after the man who bankrolled their rise, Brooks Mileson, became seriously ill; he died that year. Supporters then formed Gretna 2008 and they now play in the East of Scotland League, having taken the place of nearby Annan Athletic, who took Gretna's spot in the Scottish League (and recently held Rangers in Division Three).

Their opponents these days may be Civil Service Strollers, Whitehill Welfare and Stirling University but they showed last Saturday that there is life in the club yet, beating Fleet Star 12-3 in the South Challenge Cup (half-time 9-1) in front of a crowd of 106.

Fort with a leaky defence

Rangers' Scottish Cup tie last weekend away to Forres Mechanics (a scrappy 1-0 win) gave some rare publicity to the Highland League, whose real heroes Fort William have been spotlighted from time to time in this column for the way they keep climbing off the canvas.

Last season was the sixth time in seven years they have finished bottom, and the new campaign has yet to bring a revival. After losing 7-1 at home to Deveronvale, key fixtures were eagerly awaited against Lossiemouth and Rothes, the other members of the bottom three who between them had taken two points from 17 games. Frustratingly, familiar waterlogging caused the home match with Lossiemouth to be postponed and then they lost 2-0 at home to Rothes yesterday.

Jose's October fiesta

Stat of the week – or should that be the month? – comes courtesy of Citibet magazine, which points out that Jose Mourinho has not lost a match in October for eight years. As the editor says, it could be a coincidence but "to me it suggests that once Mourinho irons out the early-season wrinkles... he's difficult to play against".

The last defeat was at Manchester City on 16 October 2004, his first loss as manager of Chelsea. Two caveats: 1) At the end of October 2005, Chelsea did lose a League Cup tie on penalties to Charlton; 2) Real Madrid play Barcelona tonight in the Nou Camp. Worth a look on Sky Sports from 6.30pm.

The worst strip he's been in

Tony Pulis, having been nominated in this paper as the Premier League's most demonstrative touchline figure (previous holder: M O'Neill), now has a new song in his honour.

Begun by visiting Manchester City fans but taken up with gusto by the home supporters, it celebrates Pulis's sartorial style of Stoke polo shirt, Stoke tracksuit, Stoke baseball cap etc. To the tune of "Sloop John B", "Tony Pulis, he wears the club shop".

However annoyed Pulis was at losing 1-0 to Chelsea, when he justifiably criticised David Luiz and Branislav Ivanovic for diving, we are assured that Stoke's next matchday programme listing the result as 1-1 was a slip of the keyboard rather than a pointed comment.

Long hard grind for Mills

The former England full-back and Celebrity Masterchef runner-up Danny Mills, whose charity bike ride from Leeds to London had to be postponed after he fell ill, will now undertake all 220 miles of it today with a 5am start. He then winds down tomorrow with an Olympic triathlon – swimming 1.5km, cycling 40km and running 10km round Richmond Park.

After losing their son Archie 10 years ago, Mills and his family have been supporters of Shine, the charity for whom he will be broadcasting the Radio 4 appeal in two weeks' time. Donations to www.justgiving.com/archiemills

s.tongue@independent.co.uk; twitter.com/@stevetongue