I was never much of a footballer when I was younger. I did however score the greatest goal in school football history. The greatest goal. Not exactly what you would expect from the guy who looks like the guy from behind the desk in pointless.
So I will set the scene, its nil nil in the Scottish cup quarter final Kilmarnock Academy (us) v Arran High School on a miserable Wednesday afternoon.
It was in the Scottish cup or maybe it was the Ayrshire cup, the details of why we were playing aren’t important, mostly because I cant remember. I do remember why we played early Wednesday afternoon however, instead of after school, it was so the Arran boys could get the ferry back over the water at a reasonable time and as such it meant we got out school before lunchtime to play football and never had to go back afterwards. A great day.
Starting as sub I came on in the second half but the game went to extra time. We won a free kick in the centre circle which Bobby Calder took as he stroked the mitre delta (with Kilmarnock Academy written in black marker on 4 panels to deter thieves I expect) with his grubby looking battle worn puma kings, he was the epitome of an actual footballer in the late 90s.
Bobby I am sure played for Scotland schoolboys, the Victory Shield year group that is on Sky every year and features 1% Michael owen types and 99% future bricklayers and tilers.
Anyway, the ball was in the air and I was running, I was well onside, I knew this because the referee is doing the play on hand gesture and as the ball drops out the leaden sky I bring it down on the outside of my bright yellow, size ten, screw in stud shiny lotto boots, the epitome of a skinny big imposter in the late 90s.
You know what is depressing? How little life playing sport at Scottish schools resembles anything in american high school sports movies. Take the 1997-98 Killie Academy under 18 team. For a start we wouldn’t be playing on a shite Wednesday afternoon in front of one person, it would have been a Friday night under the lights at a the custom built Frank Donnelly Stadium in front of a big crowd. And we would be treated like gods!
Well maybe not me so much as I was on the periphery being a sub most games, but such zero to hero narratives are a staple of the sports movie. Myself and a guy called Ozzie were the regular subs, the forgotten men till the round before this one, where against Troon some Irvine secondary school, due to unforeseen circumstances we only had 11 players and we both got a start and I scored my first ever goal ever, getting on the end of a Gavin Milloy cross which went over the goalkeepers head and all that was needed was for me to meet it with a bullet header, from one yard out, which may or may not have already been going in. Back at full strength v Arran we found ourselves back on the bench.
But from there I was first sub used, then Ozzie.
Ozzie had masses of long ginger hair., hair that remind you of an orang-utans elbow, like swathes of long ginger grass at the side of a motorway. Ordinarily you wouldn’t notice it, its because we warmed up together that I spotted it, stretching out those hammys and a perfectly good head of hair peeks out above a set of shin guards. Its hard to ignore. Yes Ozzie has the hairiest kneecaps I have ever seen.
Or touched, it was so soft, not all wiry like you would expect, I stroked it in a moment where our substitute bond was perhaps stretched a little too far, it was the kind of hair that if it was on a young girl a father would brush on a Sunday night after having washed it with no more tears or vosene.
It was as if he had never kneeled down in his entire life.
So I bring it down with the outside of my yellow boots.
Well I say my, they actually weren’t mine at all they were David Hills, he wore them for Stewarton Annick on a Sunday and I got a wee loan of them when there was a school game any given week, he bought them in Dublin the day after Jimmy Macintyre scored to give us (Killie) a two goal cushion but also an away goal at Tolka Park to see off Shelbourne. As he looped the ball into the net that night I remember looking to the sky and thinking, “its going to rain” and rain it did and my kappa trackie which I had worn every round of the cup winning run of the season before was soaked by the time we got back to the fancy hotel.
Now this was back when you were only supposed to wear brightly coloured football boots if you were a real player. Paulo Di Canio wore fancy boots, a tall skinny future quiz show celebrity lookalike didn’t really fit that particular bill.
But I was hotter than fucking Falcao when I scored this goal so its fine.
So, as I said, I bring it down with the outside of my boot, just on the edge of the box with the goalkeeper rushing out to meet me, as it has came down its in front of me, I had never controlled a ball quite like it in my life and with it in front of me I have slid at it and knocked it under the oncoming keeper and into the net.
As I get up the one supporter is cheering, Marc Hannah dogged the school to be there and I celebrate. I went on to score again, a tap in, and it finishes two nil.
Super sub I was known for a while. It said so in the school newsletter which was circulated and stuck on classroom doors. I highlighted my name and tried to stand near to people reading them, in the hope that they made the connection and asked me about it.
But, if it was an American movie? Fuck me! As the new star of the fitba team I would essentially be like a big flashing hard on, at a different party every week and burds lining up just to be seen with me. In reality no burd in the entire school gave two fucks if you were in the fitba team or scored a double, including the best goal ever scored in school fitba against the future farmers and fishermen of Arran.
In a movie version we would all be dressed better, our varsity bomber jackets on or maybe draped around the shoulders of one of the many braw burds that I mentioned two minutes ago, handing over your maroon with gold piping school blazer which you usually wore with a white shirt and cats deed trousers doesn’t have the same appeal.
The game day experience would be better, local radio stations maybe discussing the potential impact players on the bench, the one with the ginger kneecaps or the tall specky one who scored in the last round.
And what about an inspirational coach, who can pick the wheat from the chaff and then inspire a community by bringing in some success. We had a pe teacher who oversaw 25 a side kick abouts on the rugby pitch as a trial match where a squad is picked on the following criteria.
a. Can they kick it far? and
b. Did the pe teacher like you.
Pretty much the blueprint for the current Killie set up actually. Hardly cinematic.
However if it was a film the final act would be utter shite as the next round I started up front, number nine on my back, lucky yellow boots on my feet……
And I was utter pish and replaced by the guy with the ginger kneecaps after 55 minutes.
So that was it, one of, if not the pinnacle of my footballing career. Its not much I know, however I have dined out on it for 16 years now and most of this formed a stand up routine I done at the Sports Bar in Rugby Park, Killie in February 2013 and later that year at a hospitality after dinner speaking gig in a bowling club in November.
It also got aired at a gig where I died on my hole in Glasgow in March when I totally forgot most of it as it wasn’t really going well and forgot to even mention how the goal actually got scored. It was then that I realised that maybe telling folk about an afternoon I spent playing football while still at the school is maybe for a certain type of audience and should get kept for it.
I am rambling, thanks for reading all this, I am sure some folk might remember it and might even have played that day. So now you have read it, why not listen to it too? Last month a guy called Jim Thomson who was at the gig in the Sports Bar handed me a disk which was a audio file of the whole gig he had recorded so I tried my hand at sound editing for the first time, picked out my set, saved it and uploaded it and in the end you have read all this only for me to ask you to listen to me say pretty much all of it in just under 12 minutes. Go on….
Or go to the site if the inbedded link doesnt work.