Sunday, September 28, 2008

Well done East Stirling - a real team!

With all the money floating around at the top of football, and the very really danger the game will (at the top-flight, at least) disappear up its own backside sooner than later, it's easy to forget there are real teams and real players trying to ply their trade at the lower levels.

East Stirlingshire, of the Scottish Third Division, are one great example. They huff and puff every week, but are usually on the wrong end of the result. Their players, who may not even be paid enough to buy a round of drinks, are not household names and they certainly don't earn millions of pounds a year in sponsorship.

But East Stirlingshire are no less a team than Manchester United. And Colin Cramb is no less a footballer than, for example, Cristiano Ronaldo. The fans who watch the team - there were 352 yesterday - are arguably far more "real" football fans than those who watch the so-called "big" teams.

Thankfully, those 352 fans (okay, perhaps a handful were watching the other team) were given a treat yesterday as East Stirling thwacked Elgin City 5-2. The fans deserved such a game, as did the players and everyone associated with the club.

And while few people who don't follow the Scottish Third Division will really care, the result did bring a smile to my lips - a smile that real football is still alive somewhere. Perhaps, once the top-flight is culled, real clubs, real players and real fans will be able to rise to the surface.

I certainly hope it happens - there is still too much good in the lower-tiers of the game for it all to implode when the "top" clubs go bang.

(For a little more on East Stirlingshire, who were once managed by no less a figure than Sir Alex Ferguson, take a look at the Wikipedia article. Which may or may not be 100 per cent accurate...!)