Rod McLoughlin loves theatre, music, opera and Airdrieonians football club. Graduating with a First Class English degree from Edinburgh University, he was deputy news editor of the Jersey Evening Post where he also specialised in writing about the arts. This led to a career in arts management and the civil service though he has never lost touch with his journalistic roots, undertaking regular theatre, music and art reviews for a variety of publications in Jersey.

A Lifelong Fan

‘You support whoooo?’

I like it when people draw out the vowel like that. It’s a disbelief which at least implies they’ve heard of the team. Far better than the blank look which means you have self-consciously to repeat yourself.

Of course, it’s not just surprise that an opera and classical music-loving English graduate with a home-counties accent should feel at home on a Saturday afternoon in a football ground. The reaction wouldn’t be the same if I’d just said one of the Manchester teams, or Chelsea or Liverpool, for example.

The fact is that there aren’t many Airdrieonians fans in the Channel Islands: they aren’t that many in Airdrie, come to think of it. Yet, since the age of ten, I’ve taken every available opportunity to follow a team who last won something significant six years after the Great War ended. It’s been downhill since then.

Over the years I’ve felt anguish in Ayr, desperation in Dunfermline, frustration in Falkirk and misery in Methil (twice). Home games in Airdrie? That’s no better. The glory days of the Premier league – or the ‘golry days’ as one fan dyslexically put it on the internet forum recently – are more than 25 years away. What comes to mind today is no longer the excitement of a visit by Celtic or Rangers; it’s watching inept performances against teams from ‘the seaside league’ while your body
temperature falls to life-threatening lows.

Why do I do it? My late uncle, thinking to provide a child with a holiday treat, has a lot to answer for. Little could he suspect where the one-all draw against Aberdeen would lead. Mind you, it’s given me something back too.

I’ve always felt better able to understand what Aristotle was on about when he described the ingredients of classical tragedy for they’re all present on a Saturday afternoon in Airdrie. You start with hope and pride, there is an unforeseen tragic error or ill-deserved hammer-blow of fate, and then disproportionate punishment and suffering that leaves you to ponder the meaning of the universe.

When the final whistle blows and the agony is over, you leave your seat and emerge outside feeling that, by comparison, the world can’t be such a bad place after all! Shakespeare captured it all in King Lear and Macbeth but I know I can experience it in 90 minutes at the weekend in a small town on the outskirts of Glasgow.