Academy Fans Pack Shiefield Park
Academy Fans - The best in the business - By Ken Wood
Last Saturday's Scottish Cup tie between Berwick Rangers and Wick Academy was more than just a ninety minute experience for the two hundred plus Wick fans who made the trek to Shielfield Park.
[KEN WOOD met many of them for a crack before and after the game. Ken, our Man with the Mic at Harmsworth Park took over the Berwick tannoy for a couple of minutes at half time to pay tribute to the travelling fans and does so again here in his brief 1500 word article!]
Dozens including photographers Bob and Mel Roger travelled south on Friday to ensure a timely arrival for the game. They were there, cameras at the ready when the team bus drew up behind the main stand shortly after 1 p.m. Friends and family from Thurso were not far away.
This Academy team coach, supplied by D&E Coaches of Inverness and sponsored by William Hill, sponsors of the Scottish Cup, had left Harmsworth Park on Friday at 2 p.m. and on board as well as players, management and committee was former player and Chairman Ken Green who now lives in Orkney. After a brief stop in Inverness for press photos with the trophy the team continued to their overnight stop at Kings Manor Hotel just south of Edinburgh. At the hotel to greet them were some of Harmsworth Park's ‘Behind the Goal Gang' - Brothers Drewie and Johnny Robertson, Tam and Michael. No drum at that point but it was safely stored for the game. Jimmy Durrand, a winger in the Academy 1957 Scottish Cup team (I wont embarrass him by giving the score of that game at Lossiemouth) was there too along with three or four of his family.
At Berwick in good time were Gordon and Maureen Doull, George and Marion Mackay having caught up with son Robert on the way.
While the team relaxed on Saturday morning and enjoyed a 10.30 brunch, some fans, like a car-load from Keiss had been up before the crack of dawn. Leaving Keiss at 5a.m. the foursome of Tank, Check, Minner and Davie M, along with several other fans caught the 07.55 East Coast train at Inverness. Elaine and Mandy also caught this Kings Cross bound express. When it called at Edinburgh at around 11.20, students and other young fans from Aberdeen, Glasgow and the capital, including Hendry brothers Ben and Sam and friends Craig, Kris and Paul boarded to give the train the air of a Wick Academy Supporters' Special. Dan Mackay was on board too with brother Alexander. So too was Dave MacKinnon. Big John Cuthbertson from Glasgow, a Carlisle and Yoker fan became a Wick fan too after watching the game at Girvan three years ago and he was on the next train half an hour later. Meantime a handful of fans were travelling in the opposite direction from London to arrive at Berwick station at about 12.30, among them Graham from Gillingham attending his fourth Academy game, the previous three at HP and Craig who had left his wife of exactly one year at home in Upminster from where she sent a best wishes email which was read out over the tannoy.
Over the years many ‘ground-hoppers' as they are known have ‘bagged ‘ Harmsworth Park, the most northerly venue in senior British football and have enjoyed the experience so much that they have adopted Wick as their second team. So, early on Saturday morning the self-styled ‘Solihull Scorries' - aka Darren Licence and friends Paul and H - met up in the Birmingham area at 7 a.m. for a 640 mile round trip by car, coincidentally exactly the same distance as Wick to Berwick and back, which fireman Ian drove in the day. Other fans journeyed from York (Colin Campbell who meeting up with HP regulars mother Anne and Richard) and Chesterfield ( William McCartney with Wicker David Munro). Another Munro, down from Aberdeen, sponsor and programme collector Stevie had a nasty shock when he heard that the 3rd Round would clash with his wedding! What was he thinking for the 88 minutes that Academy did so well! Another sponsor Jim Kelly from Fife, with Michael and Julie from Prestonpans, was joint Man of the Match sponsor with James Innes of Achairn Energy. Another Academy sponsor, Ewan Mackenzie went down on Friday and collected a family group on the way.
All these fans met up in the Berwick Rangers Social Club, ‘The Black and Gold', adjacent to the club's stadium at Tweedmouth, south of the river and thus well south of the border. Before kick-off they were joined in the stadium by many others who had made comparatively shorter journeys from Edinburgh, Glasgow and the central belt. Having been a teacher at Wick High School for 30 years I was bound to meet a few ex pupils and sure enough Scott Mackenzie now in Glasgow was in the stand with daughter Edith (9) and son Magnus (7). I spotted Isobel Buchan, now Thompson, at the Spartans game with husband Mike and they were at Berwick too.
Doubt may have been expressed over years about Irish, Scottish and other nations' players being picked because of the birth place of a grandparent. Well on Saturday at least three Scorrie fans were at the game because they had a grandfather from Wick. These folk wore the Academy colours with pride and showed as much enthusiasm for the cause as the sixty or so Harmsworth Park regulars who sat or stood beside them.
Scott Geekie was with his mother Helen (nee Miller) whose father, brought up in Nicolson Street played for Academy in the 30s before moving to Glasgow to work. Down from Edinburgh for the game was Jim Rendall whose mother was a Sinclair. Peter Macdonald's family were from the Bilbster/Watten area.
The supporter who had the shortest distance to travel, approximately 200 metres, found himself in a slight quandary. Peter Oman has lived near Shielfield Park for many years and is a regular at Berwick home games. He is Wick born and bred and a cousin of Academy treasurer and former striker David Rosie.
Spare a thought however for one late arrival whose car suffered a fault just half an hour from Berwick. Courier and Groat reporter Will Clark had been in good time but lost over an hour while a repair to his vehicle's exhaust was effected and arrived at Shielfield Park ten minutes before half time.
The fans gave their team tremendous encouragement throughout the game and were only stunned into silence seconds from the end of normal time when referee, James Campbell pointed to the penalty spot for a foul which none of the other 500 pairs of eyes in the ground had spotted. It was as BBC radio and TV reporter Dave Donaldson commented on air, ‘a soft, soft penalty'. Dave is of course a son of Wickers Noel and Marge Donaldson and like his brother James has followed father and grandfather ‘Hot News' into a career in journalism.
Academy players and officials were full of praise for their loyal followers. Club chairman Colin Stewart said on Monday "We were all gutted at the end. I was so proud of the players and their efforts. They can all hold their heads high. They played some great football especially for long spells in the second half and deserved at least a draw. Before the penalty kick I think a lot of Berwick folk were looking out their maps ready for the replay. As for the fans, they were magnificent and I'm lost for words to express fully what it means to the club to have these supporters travelling hundreds of miles, not just from Caithness but from all over the country, to cheer us on in the Scottish Cup. That's our Scottish Cup adventure over again for another year but at least we now have the North Cup Final to look forward to in Inverness at the end of the month."