Welcome to a continuation on new series on The 94th Minute, called “Starting XI”. This is where I ask various people, who are involved in football in some manner, eleven questions to get to know them better! The first ten questions will differ for each person, but the eleventh and final question will always be:
“Who would be in your all-time, favourite starting XI?”
This is a question where anyone can be put into their starting eleven, whether they are famous footballers, football legends, past or unknown players who had an impact on their childhood, or even players they have played with or coached. Anyone is acceptable in their XI!
The fourth episode of the series is an interview with The Fitba Nomad, a Scottish-based groundhopper. Focusing on all levels of the Scottish football pyramid, he explores the town, talks about its history (as well as the club’s), and describes his experience in the town’s many pubs, before writing about the game, ground and club itself. Certainly a fantastic and fascinating groundhopping blogsite describing the often colourful and entertaining world of fitba. The Fitba Nomad’s website is https://thefitbanomad.wordpress.com/
1. Thanks for being part of the Starting XI series! How did you first get into groundhopping originally, and then decide to write a blog about your adventures?
As for the groundhopping it came from a love of football but not ‘having a team’. As a kid, dad took me to see Hearts at Tynecastle a few times, in my teens my pals and I went to local club Alloa Athletic, and when I lived in Aberdeen I was a Pittodrie regular for a few years. I love football, I want to watch football and the sport was a bigger draw to me than any club, so why not travel about?
Writing was always something I enjoyed but had little to write about. Then in the two years before I started the blog, I kept a daily journal as a way of dealing with what the GP called ‘moderate depression’. When groundhopping commenced, the logical thing was to write about my match day experience. When 38,000 read about my first trip to Ibrox, I saw it as a sign to continue.
2. How would you describe your blogsite, ‘The Fitba Nomad’ to people who sadly have not visited or read your blogposts yet?
Hard to be concise in response to this question as my blog is a lot of things to different folks. It is a football blog but it is more than that.
It’s a bit of a mix of genres; travel, history, autobiography, pub reviews, comedy (deliberate & accidental) and football. It’s a site that only concentrates on the positives but does contain some NSFW language. It’s often a guide to areas of Scotland that most people never visit.
3. How do you plan your potential groundhops? What makes you choose a specific game to watch?
Sometimes I follow a story; Cambuslang Rangers’ manager got shot, so off to Somervell Park I went. Sometimes it’s a club centenary, sometimes it’s a personal thing like my recent return to Tynecastle. As my profile has risen I’ve also started to get invited to visit places. That’s always nice and it would be rude not to go I suppose.
4. From your many groundhops around Scotland, which one has been the most memorable or enjoyable so far? What makes a good groundhop in your experience and opinion?
Linlithgow Rose was a stunning day out. Not only was it an afternoon at a grand old club with a beautiful ground but a dozen fantastic pubs line the High Street from the train station to Prestonfield Park. The sun was shining, the game was good, we went home at midnight. What a day!
I’ve also had some great days where I was made very welcome at clubs by staff and fans alike. Kelty Hearts, Shettleston and St Rochs were prime examples of such clubs and ones I’m sure would extend that hand of welcome to anyone who visits.
5. Are there any grounds or fixtures you are keen to visit in the near future?
Having not visited Parkhead and seen Celtic on my travels is a major gap in any Scottish (or indeed British) ground hopper. I think I’ll start my third season there in August; I’d love to try the safe standing area.
I quite fancy getting a few foreign trips under my belt too. A mate lives in Gothenburg and has said I can come over and see IFK when I fancy. Would love to attend games in Germany too where football comes with wurst and bier; Dortmund and St Pauli would be the top picks there. If money was no objection Boca vs River Plate would be amazing while an covering an entire World Cup or Euros would be awesome.
6. What is the oddest or strangest thing you have encountered on your travels? I can imagine you may have visited to odd, random boozer on your groundhops?
In Cambuslang one bar had a claw hammer just sitting next to the drip trays. It is a fine town but you have to remember I did go there after a shooting. I always find ‘staunch’ Rangers pubs interesting and am often amazed by what they spend on décor; during my travels there have been quite a few and in them I’ve seen a Davie Cooper oil painting in gilded baroque frame, a Jim Baxter stained glass window and bronze busts of numerous former players.
Often it’s what I’ve missed that is weird. After visiting a pub in a tiny, one street town I was emailed by the landlord of the local pub. He said that if I’d introduced myself and stated I was writing about the place he could have taken me through to the lounge and shown me the county’s last 70’s light up dance floor!
7. How would you describe the state of Scottish fitba at the moment, especially in the lower leagues? Is it in a good position or are you worried for its future?
I think there are ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ at all levels of the Scottish game. In the Scottish Premier League, Celtic get vast crowds in a fine stadium and turn a profit, while others in the same division skirt with administration and get just a few thousand in pretty poor surroundings. Then way down in the non-league East of Scotland Football League (EoSFL) the aforementioned Linlithgow get big crowds in a fine ground making money hand over fist in a massive social club while others at that level play in front of a couple of dozen on practically a roped off public park. I dunno how we change that.
The area that is on the up is women’s football, Scottish champions Glasgow City are like the Harlem Globetrotters and regularly make the Women’s UEFA Champions League knockout stages. The national team just beat Brazil and are headed to the World Cup with plenty of confidence but no expectations.
8. What are your thoughts on the Irn-Bru (Scottish Challenge) Cup? Do you think it is a good idea to have teams from the other “home” nations competing within the cup tournament?
I love it as some lower league Scottish sides have zero chance of making the top flight, far less ever qualifying for Europe and have been playing the same old teams for over a century. The addition of English, Welsh, Irish and Ulster sides gives fans new challenges, fantastic away trips and a break from the same old faces. It doesn’t throw up dream fixtures but it certainly created competitive matches unique in the history of British football. I remember my father talking fondly about a great Hearts vs Newcastle game in the long dead Texaco Cup, the Irn-Bru Cup is a little like that old tournament now.
9. If you could change or amend anything about fitba, what would you change and why?
I’d bring back alcohol to the Scottish Professional Football League, it is ridiculous that Scottish rugby fans can sit and drink a beer during a game and football fans can’t. Many say that it might cause problems at matches such as the ‘Old Firm’ but don’t have a blanket ban, just restrict it to games identified as combustible and let the rest make vital revenue by selling pints.
10. How is the book coming along, and when do you hope to get it completed for?
The book was finished today actually (6th of May) and goes to the publisher tomorrow. Hopefully by August, ‘The Fitba Nomad: The First Two Seasons’, will be available from Amazon, on Kindle and from the boot of my Mother’s car. It’s been fun but a big job to turn my match day blogs into a book and that process begins again in a few months as I begin again with seasons 3 and 4!
11. Finally, who would you put in your all-time, favourite Starting XI?
My Favourite All Time XI: Fitba Nomads FC
Composed only of players I’ve seen play in the flesh.
GK: Andy Goram (Rangers)
‘The Flying Pig’ was a magnificent, world class keeper (and international cricketer) despite his weight and alcohol consumption. Part of the final generation of top class players who could mix football with a full time post at their local pub.
DF: Lloyd Haddow (Alloa Athletic)
A fan favourite from a strong late nineties Wasps side, famous for his lack of front teeth and pulling out his false set on the pitch to entertain fans at Recreation Park. Once say him score direct from a corner to everyone’s surprise, including his.
DF: Craig Valentine (Alloa Athletic)
‘Valley’ was the defensive ‘Rolls-Royce’ of that 1997 to 2000 Wasps side, our brave and dashingly handsome captain. Always felt he could have played full time at a far greater level.
DF: Leanne Ross (Glasgow City)
One of only two players on my team I saw on a blog visit. Ross has 112 caps for Scotland and has won TWELVE Scottish Women’s Premier League titles in a row for City. Seen her three times now and she was immense each time as both a leader and a central defender.
DF: Lucio (Bayern Munich)
A World Cup winner and captain of Brazil who I saw at Pittodrie on Europa League duty. I don’t need to say anything else really.
MF: Sone Aluko (Aberdeen)
I saw this man as a teenage prodigy on loan at Pittodrie in 2008 where they played him on the wing. He was utterly stunning, even scoring against Bayern Munich in the last 32 of the Europa League that year. Has had a great career but for me it should have been better.
MF: Paul Gascoigne (Spurs)
A month after crying at the Italia ’90 semi-final Gazza arrived in Edinburgh for a preseason friendly against Hearts in the first game I ever went too. A flawed genius of a player and man he was amazing, even when I didn’t want him to be such as Euro 1996.
MF: Ryan Giggs (Man United)
Another I only ever saw once in a pre-season friendly, this time at Aberdeen in 2008 but was a player I always loved to watch on TV. The sister-in-law shagger was winger supreme with amazing longevity (on the pitch, not the bedroom).
FW: Willie Irvine (Alloa Athletic)
A prison guard during the week, once held hostage at a HMP Glenochil riot, Irvine was the finest number ten I ever saw when he pulled on a Wasps shirt on a Saturday. So much skill, poise and class he was unbelievable to watch.
FW: John Robertson (Hearts)
In over a decade at the Jambos, Robbo scored 214 goals in 500 plus games including 27 against city rivals Hibernian. The perfect number 9, he and Willie Irvine could have been unstoppable together.
FW: Tommy Coyne (Linlithgow Rose)
Only saw him recently on my travels; the son of the same named Celtic striker scored his three hundredth goal for The Rose when I was at Prestonfield Park last September. A non-league legend who can score for fun he must be on massive money at Linlithgow to prevent him hitting the SPFL.
A massive thank you to The Fitba Nomad for being a guest in the Starting XI series! To follow The Fitba Nomad or view his blogsite, the links are below:
- Website: https://thefitbanomad.wordpress.com/
- Twitter: @FitbaNomad
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FitbaNomad/
To read my previous Starting XI episode, where I interviewed Flintshire School Girls F.A. coach, Stephen Boyes, it can be found HERE.
If there you have any feedback, comments or suggestions who I should interview next in the series, let me know either below in the comments box or tweet me @The94thMin. It would be good to hear what you think about the new series so far!
In addition to the new podcast channel, which has been set up, it can now be found on Google Podcasts and iTunes, the links are below:
- Google: https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy9iMTc4NDA0L3BvZGNhc3QvcnNz
- iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-94th-minute-podcast/id1462582018?uo=4