WHY YOU SHOULD GIVE A SHIT ABOUT SCOTTISH FOOTBALL (BEYOND THE OLD FIRM)
Words: Sam Diss
Images: A View From The Terrace / BBC Scotland
You might’ve seen that “Scottish football presented like a Wes Anderson film” video doing the rounds lately and thought: that looks a bit of me.
That video’s from A View from the Terrace, a new series on BBC Scotland that aims to talk about Scottish football away from just the histrionics of the Old Firm, celebrating the wit and warmth of the lower reaches of the Scottish game, and occasionally poking fun at it, too.
We spoke to Craig Telfer, host of the show, about the richness of Scottish football away from the two big teams everyone knows only too well.
MUNDIAL: When I was watching the show, I was struck by how little I knew about Scottish football beyond Celtic and Rangers. I’m sure you get that a lot.
Craig: It's a common thing. That’s one of the things we’re trying to do with the show. I think there's a perception, not just within Scotland but outside, that it’s only the two teams. So what we’re trying to do is treat every single team with the same level of respect regardless of how big a club they are
I know it's obviously on BBC Scotland on TV, but have you had people outside of Scotland or people who didn't know a lot about Scottish football watching the show? As an outsider, you literally don't see anything about them.
It's getting more of a reaction. When it was first broadcast, we started quite well, but since then—particularly the stuff on social media, not least after episode four with the Wes Anderson homage at the Arbroath highlights—there's been a lot more attention on the show. There are people from Scotland, people in England; they’re are sort of saying similar things to yourself, they're saying that there's a real richness that they didn't know about that Scottish football had before, so it's brilliant to see that more people are engaging with it.
Do you think that's the end goal, then? To inform people about the other options that are out there other than the big two?
Yeah, definitely. There are so many good stories in Scottish football. Albion Rovers, for instance, they had gone almost the entire season without winning a game, but suddenly they find themselves coming off the bottom of League 2. There are so many good stories like that across the leagues, without Rangers and Celtic, and it's just a shame that they aren't given the airtime that they perhaps deserve, and I think that that's one of the things that we're trying to do. It's not a deliberate thing not to talk about the Old Firm as much, but it's just whatever we find interesting from the weekend games coming up and, for me personally, all of that stuff is in the part-time leagues.
A lot of people in English football can feel especially jaded by the big games and how sometimes it's just a big race to who has the biggest pot of money. Now we’re seeing a lot of people reverting to lower league football, whether that's League 2 and below. Do you think that’s similar in Scotland?
I think you're absolutely right. I think it's probably the same in Scotland and England because we've got the same access to Sky Sports and BT Sports so we've seen the same games and I think you're absolutely right that people are just fed up. Particularly the bigger teams in England where they're owned by overseas investors, they don't think there's a real connection with the club there, so people are turning more inwards and looking at what's on their doorstep. In Scotland, as I say, I think there's a real richness and vibrancy to Scottish football that might not have been there a couple of years ago. I mean, the national team is still shit; we got beaten by Kazakhstan 3–0. Not ideal. The best way to describe it is it's shite, but it's your shite. So you can appreciate it more, and it is a bit tin-pot, but people, rather than be embarrassed or ashamed of that, people are sort of revelling in it and celebrating it, and all the quirks and funny things that happen.
I think it becomes about enjoying all aspects of the game, rather than just what happens on the pitch. From our generation downwards, a lot of people's entry points into football as a kid is through video games and that. You're conditioned to only really give a shit about the nuts and bolts of what happens on the turf rather than, as you say, the richness and culture of everything else around it, which can be, at times, much more interesting. Especially if you support a bit of a shitty team.
Exactly. I was at Airdrieonians v Forfar Athletic on Saturday. I was sat near Forfar Athletic’s ultras team. There must be about twenty or thirty of them, all boys who must have been around 12, 13, 14, or 15, they had a drum, they were singing. Airdrieonians had their own little ultras, too, that were of the same sort of age and they were getting right into it. So it's great to see these guys at such a young age connecting with their clubs. They were there, both sets of these young guys singing the entire game. They're playing FIFA and stuff, and that's their entry to football, but these are guys that are saying ‘we can still go out and support our local team’. The fact that Forfar Athletic can take 30 youngsters halfway across the country to Airdrieonians, I think that's fantastic, and I hope to see more of that, particularly at this level.
As you alluded to just then, what do you think it is that's encouraged this increased participation in watching lower league Scottish football?
I don't know if there's anything that I can put my finger on. It definitely feels like it's turned over the last couple of years and I don't know if that is because clubs in Scotland are becoming a little bit more savvy with their social media. You're seeing a lot more clubs have got highlights packages on YouTube so that there's a real sense of they're a lot more accessible than say the bigger teams. Certainly, as a Stenhousemuir supporter, that's how I feel towards the club. There is that level of connection with the fans, the people running the club, the players, which you might not necessarily get if you're supporting a bigger team.
There's definitely an important part of supporting those teams that are part of the pyramid; that there's a dialogue to being a fan rather than being monologued at by billionaires.
Definitely. I think when clubs at this level can live and die by their attendances, there's a genuine appreciation. You really do feel like every penny you spend there is part of the clubs lifeblood. It all goes towards paying the players wages, paying the ground staff, the upkeep of the stadium. All that sort of stuff. It's a closeness. I do feel that the lower leagues foster that.
The entry point for us in the show was obviously the Wes Anderson thing. There's a particular aesthetic to that part of Britain that lends itself to quite a filmic quality. It adds a bit of a bonus to games there, the fact that its look is the opposite of airbrushed, glossy football. Do you think part of the appeal is it's a bit of a throwback for people?
[Arbroath’s stadium] Gayfield is one of the most iconic grounds in Scotland, in the whole of the UK. It’s the closest ground in the UK to the sea, and you can see in that Wes Anderson homage, the waves come crashing up at one point, and there are the kids looking at it, and that's what Gayfield's like all the time. It's notoriously the windiest ground to play at as well. It's beautiful, and we're all big fans of going to Gayfield and watching games at Arbroath, but it was Jordan Laird, the series director—an incredibly clever guy, a very, very creative guy—who had the idea to go there and said 'why don't we do match highlights, but do it in the style of our favourite director?’ So that's where the idea to film it in the style of Wes Anderson came along from; the same sort of pastel colours, the same sort of music, the same camera angles. It just really encapsulates lower league Scottish football. My favourite clip in it is at half-time; you can see the referee doing the 50/50 draw out of a carrier bag. That is just fantastic. Everything they got there was just down to luck. Big Rab Douglas, an iconic goalkeeper who played in the UEFA Cup final for Celtic, is the goalkeeper coach; you can see him there catching a ball one-handed. [Arbroath manager] Dick Campbell is one of the most iconic managers around, he's just great fun. So it was a perfect storm when they were shooting that, and they did a fantastic job, and I think the response to it has just been brilliant. It's well deserved. Jordan and the guys he was up there filming with have done a fantastic job there.
Do you think that from outside of the Scottish Premiership people will start having soft spots for teams? Or maybe outside of Scotland altogether, people in England might start having an affinity with Arbroath or whoever? Is that what you want or is it a bit condescending to people outside of Scotland?
I think it's a good thing. It’s about treating teams with respect. Just because you're a big team, when you get spoken about by a View from the Terrace, you’re treated the same as if you were a part-time team. I don't want to be so big headed to think that we're doing a brilliant service for Scottish football, but people have said that it's the kind of show that our football has needed for a while now. That we can showcase these smaller teams and if it does bring these teams to people's consciousness, people in Scotland and people further afield, if it does do that then I'd be delighted. Like I say, there are so many good things happening in Scotland, and it's great to be able to showcase and talk about it.
I'm working with my friends, I feel incredibly lucky to do it, and I'm having the most fun I think I've ever had doing anything. We're halfway through the ten episodes, and I don't want it to stop.
BBC Scotland’s A View from the Terrace is available to watch on iPlayer now