It was one of the most exciting endings I’ve seen to a game: brave, desperate defending from the Saints, against ten-man Rangers attacks that seemed certain, certain, time after time, to nail an equalizer that astonishingly never came.
1-0 it remained, however, and then the big screen next to my table in the Standard switched to Everton v Newcastle. At 2-0 to Everton, some cockney bloke rolled in and started making whoops and monkey punches, dominating the space, forcing the hitherto quiet couples and groups to dip their heads. I’d left by the time Toon got their equalizer, but I dare say some quiet satisfaction reigned..
1-0, then, and Rangers’ last visit to Love Street. The papers have described it as “decrepit” this weekend. It didn’t look that way to me, but nevertheless, the place that’s been the Paisley club’s home for the best of 110 years is to be bulldozed for Tesco in a couple of months’ time. Many of the old grounds have gone without their significance as local architecture being recognised, so I hope someone’s taking a camera around carefully before demolition starts.
It’s always sad when an old ground goes, but this time there’s a great deal to be said for it. I’ve been impressed, since getting here, with the way Scottish football clubs are being run with reference both to their financial future and the future of Scottish football tout court. St Mirren is a good example.
The sale of the old ground will enable St Mirren to move to an entirely new 8,000 seat stadium on the edge of the town, with all their debts cleared. Getting to this point has been a difficult job, with certain banks playing a less than supportive role. But now that the project is nearly realised, it’s possible to step back and admire. The new site is brilliantly chosen, over the road from Paisley St James rail station, and within a hairsbreadth of junction 29 of the M8. It’ll be something of a symbol for the town, straight away, and the improved conditions can only help the club’s performances on the pitch.
There’s another good portent too. The team that beat Rangers came from a squad that is overwhelmingly made up of Scottish players. These players are getting Premier Division experience against sides such as Rangers, who, don’t forget, reached a European final only last season, and Celtic, who have made the last 16 of the European Cup with their current squad. To say nothing, for now, of the Edinburgh clubs.
This is why Scottish football is improving so quickly. There’s some innovative training going on here for kids, too, which I’ll cover in a later post.
It was a good victory on Sunday. But it won’t be the last.