Remember I Carried That Queens Baton Thing?

I like a diary so since I carried the Queens Baton thing for the Commonwealth games last week last month, I thought I would fill anyone who is reading in on how that came to be.

wpid-img_20140628_111214.jpgIn diary form of course…..

Some time last year:

I was asked as a board member if I minded being nominated to carry the baton on behalf of the Killie Trust. I didn’t mind at all so agreed. It was as much to see what happened next as anything else, I would say it was pretty unlikely I would be picked at the time so a wee keek at the process for a nosey guy like me seemed ok. They sent out an email to confirm that I agreed to be nominated and then the waiting begun.

March(ish)

They play West FM on the radio at my work, on the news there are clips of people who have been selected as baton bearers and are celebrating. I check my emails, nothing happening there, so assume I haven’t been selected, however later in the afternoon an email appears, but it is blank, just an official header but no text. I phoned when home from work and I am told that it was a mistake, lots of people got sent the same and that they were working on it and would send another email later.

So I waited.

It arrived around 9pm and I had been selected. Haha. Who would have thought it. Magic. I don’t really know what to do now. Seems a bit weird. Luckily I didn’t have to break any news myself as its broke for me on facebook.

wpid-image-3712dbe43cf352163f98c220c8bc82d0077332bcd158f72928945ce6156666c7-v.jpgTuesday 27th May

Got my commonwealth running gear through today. And a letter that says I am carrying the baton through….New Cumnock. Hmmm.

Thursday 29th May

I call the Baton relay hotline (or office phone probably, kinda over selling it here) to see if there has been a mistake in where I have been placed to run. All the letters and FQA stuff I got on Tuesday says that you can’t swap and when its done its done but I am thinking maybe just maybe its a mistake. I get through and explain that New Cumnock is a fair distance away, I am closer to Prestwick, Irvine, Troon etc. all places outside East Ayrshire but closer than New Cumnock. She checks my record. Confirms that it is a fair bit away but then offers her sympathy and says that its just unlucky. Turns out its not a mistake. Ah well.

Wednesday 4th June

The photo call for baton bearers at Burns Monument in Kay Park is today. I have a few hours off my work to attend. the Provost gives a speech then we are out for the picture. I take a place up the back, out the way. The photographer snaps away without really making wpid-img_140042282903989.jpegit clear he had started then shuts the chair he was standing on and give the floor to the family and friends who were there with their point and shoots. I am positive I wasn’t looking in most, and I doubt I was smiling as I assumed he was just getting a few practice shot in before directing us to wave flags or cheers or whatever. Or maybe he did and I wasn’t paying attention. I was standing away up the back.

A photo appeared on facebook later on. Don’t think it was an official one, however, I’m not smiling in it. What a surprise.

Thursday 12th June

The photo that was taken appears in the Kilmarnock Standard. It looks mostly like the one above except I am looking at my phone in it. Brilliant.

Friday 20th June

After dodging it for almost a fortnight I was finally coralled into an interview for the local radio station, I did it over the phone down at my cousins house as I needed an iphone to record it on and send via email for whatever reason. After a shaky start I relaxed and answered the questions as fully as I could. I mentioned The Killie Trust when asked why I was nominated, rambled on some boring pish about the process of finding out, then when asked if I was nervous about anything I replied that I was more concerned about what I should wear on my feet as my running trainers are fithy and on their last legs. My choice would be my checkerboard Vans, but I would probably regret that. I wonder what all the other people will wear, I should do some research and check some photos online and see what has been the footwear of choice the past few days its been carried around Scotland. These are the type of things that entered my head at the last minute on the day before sadly. I also became concerned about how my running style would look as its not my best feature, and thats when running naturally (naturally is a curled shoulder shambling mess), I am guessing I will be trying to run a bit slower to savour the 200 metres but that will only make me look dafter. The reason I was dodging the interview is because I have a quite a dour personality and I was concerned about how that would come across. I tend to downplay things that happen in my life instead of come across excitable and cheery. I didnt want to sound ungrateful or miserable on West FM. Or any Fm for that matter as it couldn’t be farther from the truth, but my voice could convince you otherwise. I did it though, and we will se what clip gets used if any.

Anyway, at night I went to a stag do in the Brass and Granite pub, I repeated my worries there to a few people. Never got much helpful advice though.

wpid-dsc02524-20140624-150423.jpgSaturday 21st June. The Big Day

Woke and managed to get to New Cumnock for half 8 as requested. Turns out there were plenty of folk from Kilmarnock running here, this makes me feel good but also a bit of a dick for being so awkward about it and phoning to see if there had been a mistake, I bet they never made a phone call mind you. Just me. On the way down I hear myself on the radio, rambling on that boring pish about being told I had been selected. I’d love to say I was cringing however I wasn’t as my voice wasn’t as much as a whiny loser as I thought it was.

After a quick briefing on the minibus we were driven to our spots on the course. I was number 9 so third in New Cumnock (actually I was second as the person who was sencond never turned up so the first person ran two legs) my number indicator sticker was wrapped around a lamppost so you couldnt see it properly. I took a photo with my phone anyway but it’s not too clear. One of the bits of info that we were told on the bus was to try not to have your phone in your back pocket as the cameras were catching either arse cracks or people pulling up their trackies because of the weight in the back pocket. I had mine and hoped to hand it off to someone at my start place. However everyone congregated at the end of my 200 metres so I had to just take the risk of scanting myself with my phone.

The police escort came up and filled me in with how it all works. Again, some research prior would have been useful as when he told me there would be time to get my family in for a photo I didn’t know what that really meant and so when we got to them up around the changeover I didn’t know what to do. Since doing it I have seen clips and photos and folk getting good photos and the likes. Mines were kinda rushed and a bit of a mess actually. I hold my hands up there.

So my police escorts were there and then the lady who carried it 400 metres appeared. At the handover we get our photo taken with the baton together,then she would leave and I get my photo taken myself. This was something I questioned on the minibus beforehand actually. As it is the minutiae of things that bother me, as I have mentioned it’s not the carrying the baton that I worry bout rather the shoes I wear, how I run and now who holds the baton in the photos. It was cleared up though as it turns out we both hold onto it. Which is fine, and we do both hold it. Then she lets go and it’s me. So I start running. A light jog I think it would be best described.

I should note that it’s a bit of a strange thing in that you would expect to see the runner coming first with the baton in hand. The runner is pretty much last after a car with a led message thing on it’s roof, the BBC truck with the cameras filming each runner then you surrounded by cops running and motorbikes. So when I have it my family and friends out to see me don’t actually get a glimpse until the truck has passed.

I tried to take it all in, look around, spot things but really it’s over in a flash and there isnt much to look at really, few houses on the right, fields on the left, and the tv truck right in front, I suppose I just looked mostly at that hoping against hope that I didn’t look too odd and that I was holding the baton right and my trackies weren’t slipping down at all, that sort of thing, plus the thought that I could have a quick minute with my wife and kid before giving up the baton was on my mind.

As I said, when it came down to it we made a bit of a mess of it. Unsure where the cameras were and me being paranoid about what to do with the baton and how long we had we smiled and posed for something but not sure what. My wife hade made cracking wee daddy flags for Codys pram which ultimately have got in the way of a good photo.

wpid-dsc02540-20140624-150431.jpgI then jogged the last few feet and saw my mum, dad and sister who had arrived a bit late due to my dad taking advice from a guy from his work on where I would be running rather than the black and white of the letter I was sent. I then handed over the baton after the official handover photo and that was me. I walked back up to my family and the waiting West FM roving reporter Vicky Murray who interviewed me post run. She followed up on pretty much all the daft things I said the yesterday, in particular about my choice of running shoes, which in the end up I plumped for my blue adidas ones, and I admitted to scanning everyone elses feet as they arrived in the morning to make sure I hadnt made an awful mistake in chosing those particular ones.

That line of questioning didn’t make the edit when they played my clip on clyde 1 and West FM later on that day, rather it was my surprised delight that so many folk had travelled to see me. Like the one in the mornign, wasnt as bad as i feared. My worry of having a whiney, neddy west of Scotland accent faded more and more as the day went on.

wpid-img_139917026103988.jpegAfter that I walked back the length of New Cumnock to my car, saw the famed outdoor swimming pool, and drove home. Had a wee nap. Woke up to find my picture on the bbc website after my wife emailed it in and for the Killie Trust and others to have posted pictures on facebook.

Later on we headed into the town centre to see panto star Liam Dolan MC the proceeding in a saltire suit. Liam, back when he was called William was the DJ at my wee sisters birthday party in the Riccarton Community Centre actually. we waited around to see the baton finish its journey for the day in a wrestling ring at Kilmarnock cross in front of a big crowd.

A wrestling ring.

Was pretty cool actually.

Back home I barbecued in my baton bearer tshirt.

Tuesday 24th June

On my way back from a gig in Dumfries i decided to turn left at the roundabout in New Cumnock to the spot where I collected the baton to see if i could prise the wee number 9 sticker off the lampost as a memento of the day. Sadly it was stuck on fairly tightly and even though I badly need my nails cut i couldn’t get underneath it to get it off. Sake.

Thursday 26th June

Time to check the local papers and see if I feature.

I don’t. Well, I don’t know if I do or not, I only checked the Kilmarnock Standard and I am not in that, unsurprisingly since I was in the Cumnock Chronicle (i think) area.

Wednesday 16th July

After a shower I fire on my commonwealth trackie bottoms and remember that I haven’t posted this blog so put the final touches on it, give it a once over and write this short entry for today to complete it. At leats its published before the baton relay is finished so has (some) relevance. Which is the best I can hope for really.

So there we have it. All done, well not quite, obviously I have my commonwealth tattoo to get somewhere on my body, the Olympic athletes all get the rings on their bicep ot somewhere so surely I am now qualified to get some sort of emblem forever etched onto my person, athlete/baton bearer are the same thing in the whole movement, no? And of course there will be the unveiling of the mural on New Cumnock main street with me on there somewhere no doubt.

Or maybe not.

No, it was a brilliant experience and I am honoured to be a part of it, thanks to anyone rewding who came out and supported me or supported me from home or wherever, and to Andy Millar and the Killie Trust who nominated me, I really appreciate it. Thanks.

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The Greatest Goal in School Fitba History

schoolbadgesmallAHS

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!

Frank Donnelly: Headmaster, Author, Golfer, stadium named after him guy.
Frank Donnelly: Headmaster, Author, Golfer, stadium named after him guy.

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.

This is not the boots, google images couldnt find the boots. Close enough.
These are not the boots, google images couldnt find the boots. Close enough though.

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.

Killie fans at Shelbourne
Killie fans at Shelbourne, I think we were round to the left a bit.

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.

Sad really.

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.

standupwebad6
Check me out, on a poster no less.

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.

Ta.

Being on the Telly and the Subsequent Attempt to Master the Art of Self Deprication

The following is in no way the view of The Killie Trust as a board more the opinions and feelings of a guy who happens to be on the board.

This time last week i was sat squeezed inbetween two gentlemen, on my right as i look out, a representative of Hutchy Vale B.C. whom i am assured have produced many Scottish professional footballers over the years and on my left, Barry Richmond, chairman of the Killie Trust and who will be for the rest of this blog post be called Baz. In front of me was DUFC and national team coach Peter Houston, SPL man Neil Doncaster, SFL man David Longmuir as well as Mark Wotte the new chief of youth development and other such people making up a kind of whos who of Scottish football. We were sitting waiting on the panel of Steven Pressley, Rod Petrie, Craig Levein, Stuart Regan and Jim Traynor taking their seats in front of us so Rob Maclean could kick off the taping of Scottish Football: The Debate.

Rob Maclean, the tv just doesnt do him justice. A very handsome man in real life. Cut from stone he is.

Why i was in such illustrious company? Why i was dressed so casually? I will try and explain now.

At work that afternoon i had a voicemail from Baz asking me to call him back when i got the chance, Baz is quite downbeat on an answering machine, i thought i had ballsed something up in my role as press officer/communications/social media type thing i try and do. I hadnt though, its just his telephone manner, he was calling to see if i wanted to go to this debate thing which was a follow up to Traynors documentary Match for Europe shown the night previous. Having watched the doco and commented to friends and colleagues that it was half an hour of stating the obvious, we’re rubbish, germany and holland have the right idea, grass roots football is way forward, i still decided to go.

I did delay my decision to check in with the wife, only five months married and have arsed up plans before so just made sure i hadnt committed to anything prior. I had, ikea, but i brushed that aside like the alpha male i am (agreed to give up my saturday to go instead (pussy)) and called back to confirm late afternoon.

Now at this point i was completely unaware as to what we were going to, in my mind it was going to be like Question Time with a panel and a assorted audience of varying backgrounds and a fans of several clubs. I did know it was invite only at this point, though not to the extent of its exclusivity.

With the QT idea in my head i rushed to get ready post work, pre pick up. I would normally have worn a tshirt and jeans but actually consciously chose a shirt as didnt want to seem too underdressed but in a biggish crowd it woudnt make too much of a difference anyway. Oh the irony.

The drive up we spoke of how neither of us really knew what we were going to but Baz had been filmed for a segment of the doco which was left on the cutting room floor. That footage i am sure would have given some good insight into fans views and given that it was a show about improving a product to make it more attractive to fans some input from said people was sadly lacking from the broadcast. In my mind it seemed that this was why we were asked, the interview was cut but here is an invite, in fact here is two, bring someone else. Me.

Dunno if you were supposed to hand this back in, a nice little memento.

On arrival we got our visitors passes and were taken to the green room by a nice woman. Out of the car i reflected that under his overcoat Baz was dressed much like me, check shirt and jeans though he paired this classic look with shoes, im still young and trendy so i had plumped for my trainers.

We entered the green room and my heart sank, shirts, ties, blazers and brogues and nowhere near the amount of people to constitute a big QT style audience like the one in my head. We took a seat and had a quick look at the set up of where everyone would be in the studio and its at this point we realised the rarified company we were keeping.

The squad list to be submitted. Things to note: the placement of John Speirs and Barry Richmond originally compared to where we ended up being seated. And no Michael Johnston. Sole Killie reps, Baz and me.

A look at the photo above shows who was all there. It also shows that originally Baz and myself were to be behind one another over at the end as far away from panel as could be. Imagine my surprise when i got downstairs to the studio and there on the back of the seat dead centre on the back row (of two rows) John Spiers and Barry Richmond. Now i decided against pulling up the spelling error on my surname because i was excited and nervous about being in a tv studio. Plus i bottled it. Baz and i then took off our jackets to reveal the extent of our father and son style nearly matching outfits. Side by side in tablecloth glory our check shirt look seemed likely to stand out.

We were asked to say our names and how we got to the studio to test levels and our reaction to the boom mic. In hindsight given my harbouring ambitions of being a stand up i should have looked dead on down the cameras lens and told them i swam the clyde to their pacific quay building in my Calvin Klein suit and only had the attire i have on now to change into which would have both got my comedy schtick over to a new crowd as well as address the elephant in the room which was the “brokeback Killie fan” look being sported, but i never, bottled it and told them i was John Speirs and i came by car while glancing at the boom and getting a wee silent look of a telling off by the director.

The show itself came and went in a flash, there was probably as many people working behind the scenes as there was in front of it. The debate was less a debate and more a running through the ills of the game with opportunities for the panel and certain members of the audience to deliver carefully considered soundbite filled answers. Well, i presume that they were carefully considered, i also assume that they were pretold what they would be asked in order to formulate an answer, some people on our row even had notes though i guess i have no real way of knowing what those notes were. They might have been a message list for Asda (probably Sainsburys) on the way home. However one person who wasnt pretold his question, is said pretelling was done, was Baz. His came out of the blue and he did well to pull together a decent answer to the question posed.

The infamous "chin scratch". I told the wife i did that so she could see my wedding ring. Also, the shirts.

While the show is being taped there are big tv screens showing what is been filmed (effectively the edit of the show) on the studio floor. On these I was able to see when i was in shot at any given time and watched myself wriggling around a bit. The twitching and the scratching wasnt any attempt to stand out in anyway i should add, more a reaction to the heat of being between two bigger guys and only having one bum cheek on each of the two chairs i was spread out over.

When it was done and they checked to see if the show was actually there (if for some reason it hadnt taped we would have had to have tried again, in hindsight maybe this would have been better for both halfs of the Killie Trust representation, i could have shown off some rapier wit on the sound test and Baz could have retooled his earlier answer in some way and removed the use of the term leisure dollars i would expect) we were taken back upstairs for something to eat and drink. On the way up we spoke about the shock of being put on the spot like that, i mentioned the leisure dollars thing and Baz asked me who said that, when i replied it was him he burst out laughing.

The canapes, if i can be so bold as to call them that, were great and Baz and i stood on the outside of the throng of Scottish football pressing hands and chatting earnestly. They probably all knew each other already though there did look to be a bit of networking being attempted by some in search for a bit of gravitas, if there was a baby in the green room i would suspect it would have been in danger of being kissed if you know what i mean. Feeling a little left out but reluctant to join in it was nice when a representative of The Spartans FC came to talk to us. He told us about the ownership model his club uses which was very interesting and we discussed the evening we had just experienced. We left soon after so as to be home for the screening on BBC1.

During the screening itself i dont think i have ever taken as many pelters online and through text and phone calls about anything in my life before. The wardrope malfunction was a keen talking point as on the 19in tv in my bedroom our bright shirts stood out a mile. Looking back on my facebook timeline it was mostly about the shirts, the rest of the discussion was actually about Scottish football and points raised in the debate, looks like i will be giving the SFA a month to approach us to donate the shirts to the museum at Hampden or i will have to torch mine for fear of putting it on to go out without realising and someone digging me up about it when out.

All in all it was a great experience and i was chuffed to bits to be involved in something with so many important people. Personally i think we might have been a bit stitched up and put dead centre in order to give the impression of two ordinary punter fans (in the broadcast Baz had his name come up on the screen as he spoke describing him as Kilmarnock fan rather than as Killie Trust Chairman as he was invited as) maybe it was naivity on our part to underestimate the importance and exclusivity of the debate or maybe it wasnt. All in all it was a nice bit of exposure for our Trust and got people talking about Scottish football. I enjoyed it, Jim Spence said hello to me.