At Random with Martin Laing – week 31

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A truly great sport

Football. Hmm. Much in the news this week, and with good reason, so well done to the English women’s team for winning the Euros but more so for bringing the distaff version of the sport to such global prominence.

Remember that old rasper from the great Bill Shankly? The Liverpool legend once said: ‘Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that.’

Many good souls scoffed at Shankly for that comment but the reality is the so-called ‘beautiful game’ grips some people that way.

That devotion to footie was never more evident than in last week’s Oban Times and the matter-of-fact report of Oban Saints’ latest match, an away fixture against Craven FC. For those who don’t know and didn’t read the write-up, Craven FC play in the Burnley and District Sunday League. The encounter involved Saints in a 600-mile round trip to play the English side in a pre-season friendly.

There was a throw-away line about my old chum and Oban Times colleague David Buchanan making a presentation to Craven stalwarts in the intriguingly named Craven Heifer – a pub, I presume.

Davie, as we all know him, is a Saints superstar. He has dedicated countless hours over several decades to the Oban club, as a player, coach, secretary and dogsbody, with never any expectation of reward or recognition. He has incurred, I suspect, considerable personal financial expense in his pursuit of excellence and continuity for the Mossfield club.

Davie is utterly devoted to the Oban football club, so much so that he could well be the subject of Bill Shankly’s famous quote. Saints owe Davie an incalculable amount but I know he will reject that suggestion and deride me for making it. Davie is, indeed, a real Oban saint.

As a footnote, when I was a young man, I knew Bill Shankly’s brother, Bob. He was manager of Stirling Albion when Bill was at Liverpool. Both sides were managed by Shanklys, both played in all-red strips and played at the, curiously perhaps, differently spelled Annfield or Anfield stadiums. There, dare I suggest it, the similarities ended.

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