Leading article: Spirit of football

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The Independent Online

There has been a disappointing absence of fairytales in football of late (unless you count the content of Jose Mourinho's post-match interviews). So let us raise a hearty cheer for Gretna FC, who have become the first football club in the modern era from the third tier of Scottish football to reach the national cup final.

Gretna's 3-0 semi-final victory over Dundee on Saturday at Hampden Park - for which they managed to muster more travelling supporters than the border town's entire 3,000 population - has thrust some refreshing characters into the spotlight. The club's 59-year-old owner, Brooks Mileson, sports a goatee beard, a long ponytail and wears jeans and cowboy boots. He can usually be found behind the goal with the fans on match days. What a pleasing contrast with the suited, prawn-sandwich-munchers of the executive boxes south of the border.

And we note with approval that Gretna's imposing striker, Kenny Deuchar, is a qualified doctor. So much for the uneducated footballer stereotype. Gretna's manager, Rowan Alexander, is the epitome of loyalty. Before taking control of the team he worked at the club as a groundsman, builder, joiner and electrician. How many other managers can literally claim they built their club with their own hands?

The adventure can go on for Gretna. If they beat Hearts in the final on 13 May, they will qualify to play in Europe. What an achievement. And, as Chelsea threaten to prove that all the money in the world cannot buy success in England, what an example to other football clubs of what can be achieved with relatively modest resources and a strong team spirit.

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