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Saturday, May 25th, 2013, was another of the most magical days in my life. I was at Tynecastle Stadium to report on and take pictures of the Craig Gowans Memorial Cup Final between Spattans and Tynecastle under-17s. I and everyone else who was at the home of Hearts FC was in the company of Sheila and John Gowans and their lovely daughter, Lyndsay to see this final, the latest in memory of their beloved son and brother, Craig, who died so tragically almost nine years ago now (how time flies) while with Falkirk FC. Craig’s brothers, Dean and Darren, were not there as they were stuck in an airport trying to get a flight back to Edinburgh.
For me, it was such a special occasion as I am a close friend of the Gowans family. I try my best to support their work in helping the Sick Kids Foundation. I was at Sunndach House in Livingston last year to record and take pictures of the presentation of a specially adapted mini-bus that is used to take out or trips, the young severely disabled young patients who live in this lovely home staffed by the most dedicated nurses and staff it is possible to find in the world. Sunndach is a gaelic word meaning joyful place. While at the presentation I found out why it is such a joyful place. That moment, another of the most wonderful times in my entire life, came when charge nurse Maureen Theurer and other nurses came out to get their pictures taken with the young children. There I was, big, so-called tough and wise old Ian, with tears in my eyes as I photographed the Gowans family and the nurses with the young kids. I try to find God wherever I go in life and I certainly found God in that part of Livingston. The sun shone that day and the legendary Darren Jackson was also at Sunndach as he is another great supporter of the Gowans family.
It is Darren who organises the main event at Saughton Enclosure each year on the Craig Gowans Memorial Day. This year, on Sunday, June 16th, a team of former Rangers and Celtic legends will provide the opposition to a Hutchison Vale Select Squad. Vale are another great contributor to the Craig Gowans Memorial Fund. More than £6000 was raised at last year’s event. It would be true for me to say I love Sheila and John Gowns; their lovely daughter Lyndsay (and her flying hocky sticks, she gets upset when she is sent to the Sin Bin), and also Dean and Darren. Two more wonderful young men, indeed. Sheila checks on me both morning and night, every day of every week and I have been honoured to go out with them for meals and to the cinerma when they can take a break from their busy and successful lifes as business people in the City of Edinburgh. There is a well-cared for Memorial Garden to Craig in the grounds of Stewart’s/Melville School in Edinburgh. Craig was a highly skilled pupil and artist at the school and the garden is lovingly cared for. A bright, vibrant heather plant is in the garden too, in memory of my wonderful, dearly, so dearly missed wife, Sarah (Ray).
So, this is an easy match report for me to publish. Nothing was going to spoil my day and nothing did, either. It was a great game in every way, full of superb young players and how skilful they all looked to my tired old eyes. I enjoyed another nice wee moment when the players went in to prepare for the opening parade. Two footballs were lying near me on the far side of the ground and although I knew many people were watching me I had a couple of wee kicks at the balls - but not strong enough to put them in the back of the net. Ha, ha, where is the oxygen? And, during the game, when the ball was wellied in to the upper reaches of the stand where I was on my own, I (stupidly) decided to go and look for it. I duly found the ball and carried it back down the steep steps to the side of the pitch. My knees ached, my breathing was laboured! Try not to collapse, Ian! I pretended I was OK but took care to sit down until I got over my exertions.
There is no way any of the young players who took part in the final were either short of breath or had aches and pains to slow them down. This was a high-tempo game of football and one of the goals was, arguably, one of the best seen in a youth game for years and years. Spartans, who won the Scottish Youth FA’s Challenge Cup recently at Airdrie, looked in good shape at the start. No 9, Blair Atkinson, one of their best players. How well this young striker is developing and I have watched him over many years, from schools’ football and now in the youth leagues. And in Duncan Player (No 4), Spartans had again in my humble opinion, one of the best players on the pitch. Duncan certainly has something special in the way he plays.
As the game progressed (and how), it was Tynecastle who got over their uncertain start to finish up 2-1 winners. No 7, Connor Brydon, was one of their star players and he was involved in so many of their best moves. I’ll add No 14, Blair Rutherford and a very special, cool, calm and collected No 3, Harry Oliff, to that list and I hope to mention all the rest of the players in this match report. It was a free-flowing final in every way and how well play flowed from end to end. The confidence of the Spartans side gave them an early edge, or so I thought, but gradually the hard word and industry of the Tynecastle players brought about a charge. Gregor Lockhart (No 6) was great in midfield.
Then Spartans were given a massive lift when a free-kick awarded to them by brilliant referee, James Sim, was changed on the advice of assistant, Michail Tsagkarakis, to a penalty! Blair Atkinson had in fact, been brought down on his great run from the right of the Tynecastle goal, INSIDE the box. Blair, who never stops amazing me with his ever improving skills, took the spot-kick and Spartans were in front by 1-0! That goal came in the 4th minute and, just for a wee while, Tynecastle struggled to get over the set-back. But not for long! The boys in maroon took up the challenge from Spartans and the final really took off. Scott Siegel (No 5 in the Tynecastle ranks) made his mark with good play, while Spartans goalie, the magnificent Callum Speedie, saved well from No 7, Connor Brydon. It was, as they say ‘one hell of a game of football’! Have a wee seat (thousands of them to choose from) and sit back and enjoy the game) and so I did just that!
Jordan Brown (No 11) was superb for Spartans when they attacked and, as the game and afternoon, hotted-up, the ball took a bit of a hammering. Woof! Keep yer heid doon, Ian! I thought as the ball took a real belting from up and under clearances. And, what was that on the pitch, Spartans looked to be losing their touch and Tynecastle it was who looked good. Very interesting and for some reason, I felt a wee bit disappointed when the ball went out of play. I really enjoyed it when the young players on the pitch kept the ball down and played passes. As usual, a lot of free-kicks were awarded but most of them caused little or no problems to either goalie. That is until the 20th minute (where had the time gone)! Tynecastle were awarded a free-kick away out on the right, in the shadow of the aging main stand at Tynecastle Stadium, and up to the mark stepped No 19, Bradd Campsie. What followed will live in my memory as he hit the ball and it left his boot travelling at the speed of sound (an overstatement on my part, but to hell), and it hit the back of Speedie’s net still travelling like a runaway train. It was 1-1 and the big yin disappeared under a mass of celebrating Tynecastle players.
I was up out of my seat and trying to clamber over the wall to join the celebrating players. But infirmity took over and I sat down but surely one of the all-time great goals I have seen in youth club football. Oh, yes it is! Campsie, I wonder if he is a relation to the motor-mouth Campsie who used to commentate on football for STV. I think that Campsie also won the Brain of Britain title on TV! But, I digress! The Tynecastle No 19 went on to have one of the best games of his entire life. Immense, in every way! In Tynecastle’s next raid on the Spartans goal, bit Duncan Player blootered a clearance away up to the other end. There is nothing to match the finer touches in football?
Spartans were rattled and it showed in their play while Tynecastle were on a high! Scott Siegal went down in a tackle and had treatment - a chance for the players to take water on board! Bruce Scott came on for Spartans and looked very good. A very good sub if you don’t mind me saying so! A good move between Scott and Atkinson resulted in a very tempting cross from the left, but Bradd Campsie it was who cleared the danger. At the other end, the Spartans goalie repeatedly came off his line to clear - Speedie by name and action. It was 1-1 at the break. A very good first half of good positive football.
Half Time: Spartans FC 1-1 Tynecastle FC
It was a blistering second half and Tynecastle introduced No 15 to the fray, Danny Baron. Possibly, the biggest player of them all complete with yellow boots! Yuck! Barron was involved immediately and he combined with Lockhart in a good move but that was cleared by Spartans No 8, Jamie Dishington (dare I say it, another good young prospect) up to Atkinson, but the Tynecastle defence was as tight as a frog’s backside (water tight). Oh, boy, it was a rousing cup final and Ryan Travis was forced to give away a corner in another Spartans attack. From the corner, the ball was headed behind the Tynecastle goal.
Another good Spartans move, this time involving Connor Brydon, Gavin Stevenson and Sean Williamson (No 9) whose shot cannoned back in to play off the right-hahd post. That was followed by a lung-bursting run down the left by Spartans No 2, Kerr Allsn, but he had to settle for a free-kick about 30yd out. Oh, no, the free-kick went straight in to the hands of Tynecastle’s inspired goalie, Cameron Tulloch. Jordan Brown then set up Atkinson for a shot at the Tynecastle goal, but the ball flew over the crossbar. The game livened up even more and it really was a final to savour. Kerr Allan, superb play, set up Jordan Brown to fire a great shot at the Tynecastle goal, only for Tulloch to throw himself at the ball and save. Great play, Cameron!
More and more players shone in every area of the big pitch and the pace of the game never slackened. In the 25th minute of the second half, Tynecastle went 2-1 in front and it was another superb goal. No 3, James Redpath, it was who suppled the cross from the left to the near post and No 16, Liam McNeill, it was who delighted the Tynecastle contingent and possibly sickened the Spartans contingent when he scored Tynecastle’s second goal.
Spartans certainly did not take that set-back lying down. Kerr Allan was inspirational in his runs out of defence and more free-kicks than before followed on as the tackling became a wee bit desperate. One free kick to Tynecastle went to No 19, remember him, Bradd Campsie, and he - to my abject horror - smashed the ball in to the top deck of the Gorgie Road stand! Help ma’ boab, as Oor Wullie would say. Crikey jings! But there was no doubt in my mind which of the two sides sparkled in the closing minutes. And it wasn’t Spartans! Speedie continued to play as a good sweeper at the back Then Campsie produced a brilliant saving tackle to win the ball from Duncan Player, up in attack in a last throw of the dice by Spartans.
Towards the end, superb play by Spartans No 9, Atkinson, took him around his marker but his good shot came back in to play off the right-hand post. I have to say Spartans threw everything at the Tynecastle defence and it was desperate at times. Fantastic to watch however, but this was just not Spartans day. Tynecastle were deserved 2-1 winners at the close of a great Craig Gowans Cup Final. My heroes, Sheila, John and Lyndsay, made a wonderful group photograph for me and it was this magnificent family that did the honours in the presentation of individual awards and then the wonderful moment when the lovely trophy was handed over to the safe keeping of the Tynecastle captain.
Let the party begin! And it did! I, was presented with a special medal by the Gowans family, along with a good bottle of wine and Thornton’s chocolates. What a great day for everyone at Tynecastle and indeed, for the South East Region Youth FA officials. It was truly a perfect day and a great credit to the image of youth club football.
Full Time: Spartans FC 1-2 Tynecastle FC