Fan Interview – Elaine Forrest – Beith

My name’s Elaine Forrest and I moved to Beith with my family when I was a child. I moved away to study but have since returned. I’ve worked in libraries for 16 years and working on Saturdays hadn’t been an issue. Since I’ve become fanatical about following Beith Juniors I’m going to wind up using all my holidays by November instead of being able to stop mid-December as I used to do.

elaine-forrestCan you think back to your earliest football memory? I was interested in football from early on. I bought Shoot and dutifully used the league ladders every week and was very proud to have a letter printed in the sports magazine Scoop. I was always playing football with my brother and sister or with the boys at the youth club that I went to.

Beith had a sports shop so I persuaded my Mum and Dad to get me a Manchester United top and the white away Admiral tracksuit, and I would walk round the town on Saturdays with a radio clamped to my ear listening to the match.  I was so impressed with the United forwards: Coppell and Hill on the wings and backed up by Macari, Greenhoff and McIlroy in midfield.

As I got older I began to follow Scotland if only on TV, and I remember being astonished to see my Dad’s uncle crying because of a 5-1 defeat by England (1975). The 2-1 win in 1977 was a much happier memory but I became really excited by the world cup qualifying campaign that autumn. I ran home from youth club to see the Wales v Scotland highlights. I can still vividly recall Martin Buchan’s run down the right and perfect cross for Kenny Dalglish. I joined the Sunday Mail’s world cup club, bought “We’re on the march with Ally’s Army” and was bitterly disappointed not to be taken to Hampden for the team send off to Argentina.

Which team do you support and how did you first get in to junior football? I began following Beith Juniors in the run up to the junior final, and asked my brother, a long-time Mighty fan, if I could sit with him at Rugby Park as my friend was unable to come. He said “yes, but I’m really loud” which is an under-statement. I just discovered one of his nicknames was “rent-a-crowd”. I wound up sitting with one of my nephews and the excitement of the game got to me and I’ve hardly missed a match since.

I brought a friend to the league match at Bellsdale the following Wednesday which we lost to Ladeside, and she was feasted on by the infamous Beith midges. Next up was the excellent Ayrshire cup quarter final which we won on penalties again, this time against Talbot. By the time we’d beaten Vics then Meadow in the final I was hooked. On a family day out in June we had to head to the Beith fete first so that I could have my photo taken with the cups and buy a DVD of the final.

Best Match You’ve Watched? I do love to see the team knocking in the goals so the Ardagh cup match against Kilwinning at a sodden Abbey Park was great fun. “Was that 6? No 7” I couldn’t keep up with the texts to let my brother, who was working, know what was happening.

The best contests so far have involved Auchinleck Talbot. They’ve done so much in the game and deserve respect for the period of time they’ve dominated. The Ardagh semi at Beechwood was the noisiest I’d heard our support other than the cup final. The atmosphere when Paul Frize scored was electric though it was almost dark so you could barely see what was happening. Sadly we lost that so I was concerned about the Scottish cup tie a few days later. We had to replay a match we really should have won the first time round and headed to Beechwood for the replay. The team were so psyched up we’d taken control of the game midway through the first half. It was a fantastic day and as my wee brother was in full voice they could probably hear him back in Beith.

In senior football watching Aberdeen win the Cup Winners cup against the legendary Real Madrid the day before my birthday was out of this world: such a fantastic header by John Hewitt.

In women’s football it’s the 4-3 semi-final win by the USA over Canada at the London Olympics. It was a fantastic topsy-turvy contest that helped change the public’s perception of the women’s game and had a huge attendance.

Best and Worst Moments as a Fan? Best is undoubtedly winning the junior cup. The whole mood of the town lifted beforehand as the flags and mural went up and businesses joined in by decorating their windows in the teams’ colours. I took to driving through the town to savour the atmosphere rather than taking the by-pass. By the 29th the excitement in the town was palpable with crowds gathering at the ground, the strand and the cross.

There haven’t been any terrible moments as a Beith fan though I’m a little disgruntled to hear that some players might finish up at the end of this season. Nooooo, they have to stay forever.

When I had a season ticket for Pittodrie, losing the league on the last day of the season broke my heart. A journalist friend said their paper’s photographer had photos of me with my head in my hands, in tears, taken after the final whistle which sounds about right as I can be a bit of a drama queen. Back at the 1978 world cup my brother had a tortured explanation of how Scotland were really the third best side in the world because we beat the Dutch. Not buying, but oh that goal by Archie Gemmill! Fully deserving of all the plaudits.

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BSC Glasgow & Beith in Scottish Cup Action

Favourite all time player and reasons why? Just one? Seriously? OK. Johann Cruyff for his speed, skill and innovation. As the instigator of “total football” he took the Dutch and football to a whole new level. It’s an exciting system to watch but obviously it’s very technically demanding to be able to attack and defend as the game flows.

So many players I’d like to have seen more of, other than just the clips of their greatness. I’d like to have seen the likes of Jimmy Johnstone and Jim Baxter at their peak. They had such confidence and the skill that allowed them to do anything on the pitch. At least I got Jim Baxter’s autograph when I saw him on the Glasgow underground one afternoon.

I enjoy watching the American women’s side and Hope Solo is everything a keeper should be. Athletic, strong, a great shot-stopper, commands her area and has that touch of eccentricity so many keepers have.

Do you support a senior team? My Dad’s family were from Aberdeen and his uncle indoctrinated me, telling me about his favourite post-war Dons side. So when I began going to matches on my own that was where I headed, first with tickets through the Lenzie branch, then with the Glasgow Aberdeen Supporters Club who ran buses to most matches. When they didn’t a fellow fan from Beith would drive us.

For a lot of reasons, I stopped going. It became tougher because I was working Saturdays, the group I went with began to grow up and apart, and the bizarre choices for managers pushed me over the edge. I did think briefly about going to see the league cup semi against my late Aunt’s team, Greenock Morton, but that was the date of the Beith tie away to BSC in the Scottish Cup so it wasn’t even a contest.

Why junior football? What does it mean to you? There’s an element of accountability and a sense of community in the juniors that’s missing in the seniors. When I asked about acquiring a scarf for my friend the day before a match, people offered (through twitter) to lend me one or suggested that our treasurer, Janet Wallace, might have one I could buy.  I got the scarf and at the match our chairman, John Boal, said “I see you got your scarf”.

There’s a friendliness in the juniors that runs from the top to the terraces. There’s also more integrity in the junior game which seems to be organised by people who have their club and the games’ best interests at heart, and are very welcoming to new supporters. I also like how much the younger supporters enjoy interacting with the players, going to the touch line to greet them after they’ve warmed up. As you say “choose honest football right on your doorstep.”

What has been your favourite ground to visit and why? So far Beechwood because of the competitive nature of the matches we’ve played against Talbot.

Are you in favour of the league pyramid? Why? I understand that sides need to be promoted and relegated on merit so that the game doesn’t stultify. But I’m against the juniors moving up into any system that puts more financial pressure on the club. Playing in the super league allows us to travel roughly an hour to most matches. If we were to travel greater distances on alternate weeks it would place increased demands on the players, trying to balance work, family and playing.

It would be a huge strain on club coffers trying to comply with the need for the improved facilities needed to play in the senior pyramid. The potential for weather induced cancellations would be even greater if we had to travel to the highlands which could create worse fixture back-logs and put extra pressure on the team at the end of the season that you don’t need. Although there are several junior sides which could compete successfully in the senior system the financial pressures will deter most.

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Your thoughts on junior sides playing in the Scottish cup? It’s great and I love it. It’s a great day out and the chance for the club to have a nice little pay day. I can see that the lower league sides might resent our inclusion as we have nothing to lose and fewer expectations. They have the expense of complying with the requirements of their league and the potential embarrassment of losing to a “lesser side”.

I’m sure neutrals would enjoy the potential upsets by the under-dogs and anything that makes the cup more diverse and attractive is clearly a good thing.  I hope we can at least equal our last cup run of 2011-12 and still be in the big cup into the New Year.

Are there any rule changes you’d like to see introduced to the game? What about getting rid of the off-side rule?  It just slows down the game and can lead to negative tactics.

Traditional grass surfaces or artificial pitches? Why? I think artificial surfaces have their uses. Having the astro pitch beside Bellsdale allows the club to play friendlies that can help the players maintain their match fitness which is particularly useful for players missing out on first team football. Although the astro turf allows some form of football the bounce of the ball is higher and changes the game.

Look at the junior cup final at Rugby Park. I don’t think the football in the first half was as composed as it would have been if it had been played on grass. I don’t think big matches or tournaments should be played on artificial surfaces. Look at the women’s world cup in Canada last year. The pitches were over-dry no matter how much they were watered and the players complained of erratic bounces and basic skills being made harder by the surface.

I understand that having an artificial surface is a vital revenue source for some clubs who could rent out their facilities without concern about damage to the playing surface that would arise with grass. I understand that in the middle of winter most grass pitches will be difficult to play on and have little grass left by the spring but it’s still more aesthetically pleasing than plastic, (whatever Sepp Blatter used to say)

Funniest thing you’ve seen in a football match? That would be our last league game of the season against Pollok. There had been a few tackles flying and their right back was deservedly booked. He and the referee spent the next five minutes arguing about who was the biggest “a**e” along the lines of you are, no you are.

What’s your typical match day routine? Checking twitter to see what everyone is saying or if there’s been a pitch-inspection as there was against Strathspey.  Then I have to go and get some cash so that I see if there’s any merchandise I want to buy. My friends say “it’s Elaine and the queen who don’t carry cash”. If I’ve got time I’ll make a sandwich as I’m veggie, so sadly the prize-winning pies that were sold out at the Strathspey game are wasted on me.

What could junior sides do to improve the match day experience? Everything boils down to money. Better facilities and proper seated areas for the elderly would be helpful. Maybe making the day longer like the American football system by having the underage matches or girls teams play too. Make a small adjustment to the entry fee and maybe use nearby playing surfaces to prevent overuse of the precious grass pitch.

Any ideas on how the junior game could increase its appeal to a wider public? I think we have to think outside the box about how we run our game and look to other success stories. Take ice-hockey where Braehead Clan play in front of sell-out crowds having only begun in 2010-11. Several factors are key here. Firstly they have the advantage of the Braehead shopping centre to advertise on the big screen and have meet and greet sessions with potential new fans but the marketing principals can be applied on a smaller scale to the junior game. Placing posters advertising forthcoming games anywhere that there are large groups, town hall, pubs, libraries, supermarkets and community centres and so on. Or hang flags with the next match dates off the mound or strategic point in a town as Beith fans did in the run up to the cup final.

Braehead Clan also got groups of supporters wearing club jerseys to promote the team at events and in the community. Obviously it worked but it is time-consuming for the hard-pressed volunteers who run junior football but it does pay dividends. What about having match reports printed and made available to the aforementioned outlets so that people feel a connection to their team?

I naively got to the Kilbirnie match early after our Scottish cup win in case I didn’t get in. It is a little disappointing that so many people went to Rugby Park but don’t come to Bellsdale as often as the team deserve. Our club and committee do sterling work involving the school in the run up to, and after the cup win, but I think clubs should invite a few school classes along to a match, with maybe reduced admission for accompanying adults.

The growth of ice-hockey and basketball shows that there’s a need for sport that’s seen as family entertainment. We need to show that we can provide that. The other model that serves as an example to junior football is that of the Iceland national side. Coach Heimir Hallgrimsson began holding talks in the pub where the supporters club meet to discuss tactics and team selection. Initially they only had a handful of fans but now they have up to 400!

It’s astonishing to note that half of the population watched their Euros matches. Obviously they were fortunate to have the coaches and infrastructure but it’s Hallgrimsson’s ethos of “discipline, focus and hard work” that has made the difference. Like him, our junior teams have to see the bigger picture and use both social and traditional media to reach a wider audience and involve them in helping to fund the clubs so they can do more.

What would you say to football fans that have never experienced junior football? Come along and give it a go. As our clubs are community based it’s very friendly. When a group of us had to be moved onto the team bus for our Scottish cup game due to space issues someone from the supporters’ bus said to me “I wondered where you’d gotten to”.

Photos Courtesy Of Stephen Kerr & Elaine Forrest

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One Response to “Fan Interview – Elaine Forrest – Beith”

  1. Avatar Gavin hairy baws says:

    Shite

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