The final countdown……

A week to go and time for a pre ride round up. As I get ready to put away the desert boots and settle in to a pair of Specialized road shoes as my footwear of choice Paul Wellers proclamation of “Direction, Reaction, Creation” seems to capture where things are at…….

Some exciting contact through Raith Rovers put me in touch with Ali Gibson from the Armed Forces TV station who explained that a documentary on the Battalion has developed in some part thanks to discussion she had with Major Tait who has been a challenge ambassador for me. So some of the training has been filmed and a time is set for the camera to capture my departure from Starks Park. The documentary will contain pieces from clubs with connections to the Battalion including time with our own manager who was delighted to be invited to speak about a subject he holds dear to his heart.

Sponsorship is currently just creeping over £1600 and given this was an area where we had no set aspirations I am pleased that so many people have been so generous. It is truly a special thing to see the names of friends, family, colleagues and names of people not yet in my contacts list get behind my efforts. McCraes Battalion Trust wholeheartedly thank you for your kindness.

imageKit- it’s here and it’s awesome, I wouldn’t have got a gig as a catalogue model but this sharp outfit is set to show up any pro-peloton threads as unimaginative and frankly dull!
Adding on to the kit theme my main bike is now the proud owner of a new headset cap provided by Kapz.com. If I have even a moments doubt I simply need to look down and see the message RemembeR staring back at me.

 

 

imageSelling the jerseys- Amongst many kind actions I wish to thank John Greer (Raith Rovers former players association) who has taken a huge amount of time to secure some signed tops from the senior clubs who had players commit to the Battalion. On my return watch out for an online auction including: A Hearts top signed by the team that took them back to Europe, An away Hibs top signed by the cup winning team, A Falkirk top signed by their play off team and with the help of our own Kitman and Rovers fanatic Simon Pollock the Rovers team that gave us such a great season have signed a RemembeR top. Particular thanks to those who helped John out; Brian McLauchlin, Peter Houston, Liam Fox, Lewis Stevenson and Tom Phillips. I know 2 of our ex players are diligently working to fill in the gaps in the teams represented so an update may be needed as teams get back to business in the coming weeks.

The route is now set and again simple kindness has saw key people, share the product of their labours freely. So thanks to the London-Edinburgh-London audax for the use of their route and associated garmin direction files. The big battlefield ride have been free with their mapping of a route from Dieppe to Amiens and I enter France with some confidence. Though distant roads create challenge I have actually never cycled in Edinburgh and I am indebted to my good friend Alex for his company on my first day. As the senior groundsman at Murrayfield his presence adds a rugby connection which is again fitting given McCraes had internationalists amongst their ranks. I also wait on news of a possible meet with Leyton Orient supporters who may be able to ride with me accross London. With such as shared history in elation to their own players sacrifice at the Somme I would love to make that connection.

The final update is that we seem to be set for entry in to Comtalmaison through a ring of steel thrown up for security reasons. The kindness and sense of inclusion which has characterised the actions of Jack Alexander and John Dalgleish has been of great reassurance to us in our preparations.

 

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Tour to France- Raith Rovers website

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Raith.net

Pushing pedals for McCrae’s Battalion is the task facing RaithTV’s David Hancock as he takes on a challenge to cycle from Stark’s Park to Contalmaison in France this summer.

July 1st 2016 will see the Centenary commemorations for the Battle of the Somme take place in the French village of Contalmaison. These will mark the contribution made by McCrae’s Battalion which was named the Sporting Battalion as it included football players and supporters of Raith Rovers, Hearts, Hibs, Falkirk, Dunfermline Athletic and East Fife.

David shared that, “having chatted the idea over with Major Tait MBE (Chairman of the McCrae’s Battalion Trust) when I interviewed him for RaithTV in October last year I am now committed to cycle the 670 miles to the French village arriving for the memorial service.”

On behalf of Raith Rovers, Tom Phillips (Director) commented “The Battalion are an important part of Raith Rovers’ history and we have been proud to show our respect through our ‘RemembeR’ away strip for the past few years. This sponsored ride extends our links and it is also exciting to see one of our supporters represent the club in such a positive manner.“

David’s voice will be recognised by many as part of the RaithTV team providing game time commentary and match day manager interviews. Raithrovers.net caught up with Manager Ray McKinnon who added, “We wholeheartedly support David in his efforts and encourage our supporters to donate to the fundraising efforts. It’s a big ask but with good planning, training and support he can definitely do it.“

David’s planning and preparation can be followed at: https://coaltownvelocity.wordpress.com/sponsor-me/

while donations can be made at: https://www.givey.com/mbtcycle

It is with thanks that we acknowledge the sponsors who have helped so much to make the event possible: fosterplus.co.uk, Leslie Bike Shop, the Raith Rovers Community Foundation; Jim McMillan Club, Raith 200 club, Raith Trust, Rovers down south and Raith Rovers supporters club.

Claude Anelka and the third force…

“Gizza job, c’mon Gizza job…I can do that” In a case of life imitating art there is more of a parallel from this scene from Alan  Bleasdales “Boys from the Blackstuff” than we in Kirkcaldy would wish to acknowledge.

The British film institute described the TV programme as a “seminal drama series….a warm, humerous but ultimately tragic look at the way economics affect ordinary people..” the only part of that description which isn’t relevant to Claude’s tenure in Kirkcaldy would be the use of the word funny!

Its the stuff of urban legend, sporting myth and bonkers fiasco that a man can contact a professional football club  and set in motion a course of events which lead to a job….

Well not just any job within the club. THE JOB!

Call the post Technical Director, Director of Football, Manager, Coach or omnipotent overlord. It doesn’t matter to a great degree in this story as the point is that a man (Claude Anelka) was able to use his; influence, connections, social standing and the currency of his family name to embark upon a sporting odyssey which belies belief. Claude was to be quickly portrayed as a man who would be defined by his grandiose statements (who can forget that we were to be the third force of Scottish football!!)

If Claude will ultimately be remembered as a character akin to Aardman animations Wallace then the people of Kirkcaldy had to take on the role of the characters sceptical canine grommet as we strapped ourselves into the sidecar for a ride which the AA route finder would simply describe as “destination unknown”

It did indeed end in tears and tantrums, but hey it’s Raith Rovers we don’t mind marching to a very different beat to the path treaded by others. The stats tell the story in fairly graphic terms and I would point the interested or mystified to Shaughan McGuigans article on his blog “Tell him he’s Pelé” for a neat synopsis of the full gory details including the view of Turnbull Hutton who held the Chairmanship at that point in time.

Tell him he’s Pelé

What came next? well, financial meltdown leant heavily on the shoulders of Raith Rovers as the club sought to reinvent and regenerate itself. It was my own involvement in the “Reclaim the Rovers” campaign of 2005 which followed which forced me to take a decision as to how I would interact with the club into the future if indeed Raith Rovers actually had a future.

Note the campaign had the remit of succeed or see Starks Park sold for housing development…crisis nobody does it quite as good as us!!

The campaign forced upon me a simple question- Remain on the outside shouting inwards, fuelled by a sense of entitlement or roll up my sleeves give my time and whatever skill base I had of value to assist the club. I chose the latter.

It was through that process that important friendships were formed and the section on the Treatment Table radio show gives some note of the level of creativity which was prevalent at that time. So when an email address belonging to Claude Anelka came my way I had a simple thought: why not contact Claude and give him the chance to share his thoughts first hand.

The email was quickly responded to and within a day calls from the Langtoun to Florida established a window of opportunity where Claude would be in the UK and if we wished he would sit down and chat, on mic for us to use on the Rovers radio show.

I floated the idea and to his credit Tom Phillips stepped up to the plate. My side kick when presenting the radio show Tom made a simple comment which can be paraphrased along the lines of “life is just a barrel and you can either fill it with interesting experiences or just sit back and watch” Hence we set about organising a trip to London and more specifically the Hilton Hotel Paddington where we recorded the following interview.

I’m not too sure how well it stands the test of time but it is an interesting curio which is worth a listen. It’s something I’m glad we done, I also think it’s something Claude needed. The preamble to the interview shares where our heads were at in that moment and I stand by most of what is said.

Raith TV

rtvI have been very lucky to volunteer with a collection of lads who have developed a service which Raith Rovers are rightly very proud of.

I joined the interview pool at a time when paper and pen were the most used formats, this evolved to audio recorders, mini discs, phones and now into the world where volunteers can capture great quality video and audio.

Interview duties were inherited from Tom Phillips who had set in motion a relationship with Adam Smith College which saw students film for the website.

As the students progressed towards employment the new blood wained and it was Lylle Kilbane and Steven Ward who emerged as the guys who had the most stick ability. Steven has subsequently taken Raith TV to a new level. Between us we have interviewed a fair few people, here is a list of some;

 

John McGlyn, Grant Murray, Ray Mckinnon, Frank Connor, Jimmy Nichol, Turnbull Hutton, Allan Young, Eric Drysedale, Laurie Ellis, Marvin Andrews, Gregory Tade, Ian Davidson, Kyle Bennidictus, Lewis Vaughan, Lewis Toshney, James Craigan, Craig Barr, Rory McKeown, David McGurn, David Bates, Ross Callachan, Ross Mathews, Grant Anderson, John Daley, Ryan McCord, Jason Thomson, Paul Watson, Dougie Hill, Liam Fox, Kevin moon, Mark Stewart, John Baird, Callum Elliot, Ross Laidlaw, Christian Nade, Scott Law, Jamie Mackie, Joe Cardle, Greg Spence, Reece Donaldson, Lee Robinson, Joe Hammil, Simon Mensing, Allan Walker, Pat Clark, Brian Graham, David Smith, Greig Spence, Willie Dyer, Colin Wilson, Scott McBride, Danny Thompson, Jamie Walker, Iain Williamson, Damian Caselenovou, Chris Fahey, Andy McNeil, Steve Simmons, Mark Campbell, Mark Ferry, Robert Sloan, Kevin Smith, Gary Wales, Johnny Russell, David Goodwillie, Gareth Wardlaw, Graham Weir, Andy Cook,  Robert Sloan, Scott Mcbride, Stevie Hislop, David Sinclair, Colin Cameron, Gordon Dalziel, Craig Brewster, Ronnie Coyle, Ernie Till, Gordon Wallace, Gordon Arthur, Julian Broddle, Scott Thompson, Shaun Dennis, Stevie Crawford, Jason Dair, Ally Graham, Bobby Geddes, Peter Heatherston, Claude Anelka, Alex Taylor, Jason Rowbotham, Pat Bonnar, Tommy Coyne, Paul Byrne, Paul McStay, Jackie Macnamara, Dennis Irwin, Gary Palister, Jonathon Johansonn, Mark McNally, Tom Boyd, Allan Moore, Jocky Scott, Staurt McCall, Terry Butcher, Ally Mccoist, Walter Smith, Mark McGee, Jim McIntyre, Gary Bollan, Brian Reid, Derek Adams, John Brown, Gus McPherson, Allan Maitland, Gary Naismith, Kenny Black, Derek Ferguson, David Weir, Jimmy Sandison, David Baikie, John Hughes, Jim Duffy, Neil Cooper, Ian McCall, Gordon Chisolm, Davie Irons, Barry Smith, Steven Presley, Gordon Brown, Paul Heaton, Val Mcdermid, Ian Rankin, Arthur Montford, Allan Rough.

Mcglynn RRTVgrant micray

Interviews tend to be of the moment so don’t translate well to a blog some years later. However i have inserted Rory McKeown from a recent match as it shows how we try to work with the players and staff to give fans a bit extra after the match.

If anyone has a burning desire to access something particular we are happy to have a look. meantime I will do some homework to see if we can get some of the end of season reviews and mini docs uploaded.

My upmost gratitude to 99.9% of the interviewees who have been great with us and a particular mark of respect to John McGlynn, Grant Murray and now Ray McKinnon who meet with us so regularly. As the longest serving manager in our time it would be no exaggeration to suggest that over his time at the club John must have met with us in excess of 250 times. Let’s hope Ray can beat that total.

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The Treatment Table and Burntisland Discs

“Never mind Desert Island Discs what about Burntisland Discs” it was on the basis of that one comment that I got involved in one of my favourite off shoot projects from my time volunteering with Raith Rovers.

The comment came on the back of a discussion with VRN volunteer John Murray as he told me of a feature he ran some years earlier. A blether between the 5 main participants on a Raith Rovers radio show we had run for a couple of years through Victoria Radio Network and we had a commitment o take the idea on again.

That show “The treatment table” took a mix of Rovers audio interviews and magazine style pieces mixed with our collective take on what was happening at Raith Rovers and at times the wider footballing landscape.

I have attached a couple of shows at the bottom of the page to give a sense of how; myself, Tom, Phil, John and Neil pulled together a weekly slot about an hour long.

 

We had prior to the show never been in a radio studio and while it did at times show, we were proud of what we put out.

We even hit the dizzy heights of gaining an award through Creative Fife.image

The offshoot was a take on the notion that the club had a set of volunteers, ex players, managers and employees who had a story to tell. Through the format of taking on board their musical choices we tried to link in their love of the club and where possible capture what the Rovers meant to them.

The guests who kindly took up the invite to meet were;
David Sommerville (Chairman)
John McGlynn (Manager at the time)
Ally Gourley (Former players Chairman)
Alex Condie (Fans board member)
Gregory Tade (Player)

A dig through the hard drive in the loft sourced a few of these, if you take the time to listen I hope you enjoy them.

The Treatment Table

Burntisland Discs

More post-match pondering

As I mention in my programme piece “the happy albatross” the post-match dance of discussion which takes place between manager/player and journalist/volunteer is a thing of skill or at times an exercise in total futility.

I love this cartoon sent to me by my sister as it nails the topic with such cynicism.

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There are a couple of good articles online exploring the topic which are worth a look.

Guardian-post match

Post modernist deconstruction of the post match interview

The interesting feature as a volunteer is that you have a pressure from your peers to approach the task as a fan and as such you will therefore know what to ask to get to the crux of the matter. Your emotional involvement as a fan will unearth the truth and force the interviewee to face up to the reality that; this, that or the other isn’t good enough.

Note: folk only want to hear about what isn’t working. A 4-0 defeat will see the interview ratings soar. A 4-0 victory….Nah not so much.

The reality is that if you watch any post-match interview facilitated by the most respected of journalists they will inevitably ask the same half a dozen questions dressed in a variety of different outfits. The interview is therefore by its very nature always going to flatter to deceive. Consider the standard questions you have heard uttered across every news channel, every local, National and every satellite football broadcast.

In fact the questions themselves are so woven in to our DNA as supporters that “Match of the Day” can even take the stance of cutting out the question all together in their set pieces yet we still know exactly which one of the above list what was asked by the manner and tone of the answer.

So, as the dog whisperer may ponder the only real decision that appears to be left for the interviewer is one of style: “to lead or not to lead”

So, either

A) What are your thoughts?

or

B) You must be hurt by the manner of that crushing sole destroying defeat/delighted with that gargantuan earth shatteringly significant victory?

I was initially surprised by the fact that journalists (in second tier Scottish football) have such a set format to work to and they are not striving to put managers to the sword when they are under pressure. The reason appears to be clear “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” or at least the hand that gives you some copy to enable you to return next week to repeat the same process.

There is something quite endearing about this even though it doesn’t feed any supporters frothing at the mouth for change. What it appears to show is a degree of respect for the vulnerability of managers the challenging task they have. It also reflects the challenging nature of a task itself where (if you interview both managers) someone is going to be gutted/upset/annoyed or irritated by the outcome. It’s a steady hand that holds the mic after a shock cup exit to ask “Where now for your team?”

This is a stark contrast to fans forums where judgement is passed instantly and freely under anonymous user names. The gulf between the type of post-match analysis fans share and the information delivered from traditional broadcasters and club sites is huge. No longer is the after match post mortem restricted to pub debate or the occasional boardroom protest when enough is enough. It will be interesting to see how this evolves over the next decade.

Where will it go? maybe a club should experiment by calling a press conference for the Monday after a game when folk with user names culled from obsolete computer games and prog rock bands who never made it big should be made to hold that mic look the manager in the eye and put forward their “expert “points.

If that does ever take place who knows, it might be the salvation of Scottish football as it spirals into a parody of Mad Max with the ensuing armed combat between club staff and their alleged supporters on the Monday replacing Saturdays match as a spectacle. Neil Doncaster and his business team might even be able to secure a TV deal for that sort of action.

To be clear I’m not saying that’s a good thing but who wouldn’t want to be part of a far off future where Raith Rovers need to be managed by a 6 foot 9 ex MMA cage fighter with a robotic torso and telescopic reach?

The Happy Albatross?

One of the things I will likely witter on about is the benefits of volunteering your time to assist with whatever your passion is.  For me this has seen me take on whole host of tasks in and around Starks Park to the benefit (I hope) of Raith Rovers FC

This is a programme article (from a couple of years back) which details some of that work:

It seems like every fans dream, watch the Match and then have a one to one with your manager, the visiting gaffer and the players of your choice.  But is it such a good thing?
For the past 5 or 6 years that’s what match day has had in store for me.  Well that’s after commentating on the match for Raith Rovers Abroad.
It did go further than that for a few years with mid-week trips to Starks Park necessitating an early work start in Perth (6AM) as this allowed me to nip back to where my day started to meet the manager in Kirkcaldy before returning to the Fair City.
So how come this dream gig gathers such hostility from a section of our support who take to websites demanding post match run through interviews resemble a cobatative David Frost meets Jeremy Paxman interrogation ?
Well put simply volunteering with a football club can a times require the diplomacy of a United Nations representative.  Get the questioning wrong ” the guys clearly not fit why do you insist on playing hime? The formation is not suiting the playing personal etc” and the contact which exists is put in real jeopardy.   So Push too far and you risk bringing disrepute to your club and ask the obvious question at your peril as that’s most likely the one the gaffer is working through with his back room team.
A football interview is therefore by nature more cliche ridden than Greame Norton’s Eurovision script.  Since volunteers are representing the Official website it’s even more imperative that we don’t “corner” an interviewee. The powers of the Scottish game do monitor output and action has been taken on the basis of interviewees comments in the past.
It would be wildly inaccurate to suggest its all doom and gloom and it has certainly taken me to places and introduced me to people who have been a joy to meet. Luckily I most often have the company of Steven and Lyall who are our volunteer camera technicians as they provide a valuable sounding board.
The good
My favourite interviewee? Easy, forget Prime ministers, National coaches, footballing legends and Hollywood stars. 3 words sum it up Tade, Tade, Tade.
Gregory lit up the room when he chatted with his energy enthusiasm and ability to mix his love of our team with his passion for a style of music far too hip for my ageing tastes. Inverness fans will have seen light of his personality and he carries my best wishes for his future at Cluj (now with Steaua Bucharest)
The bad
We’ve been beat 5-0, my mate leaves Cappielow and says “chat about the game later”. Little do we know that he will be home in Kirkcaldy, kettle on and the hurt of the afternoon waining while I am still pitch side waiting for the RRFC dressing room door to open.  The lights have been put out, the groundsman has gone home and the professional journalists are body swerving the chance to pick over the game with our guys. That’s  left to me!! Where do I start…? Also spare a thought for anyone getting a lift to the game with me. You do so at your peril.  Make sure you bring a flask and a good book as you a likely to have a long wait.
The ugly
It’s a game with a huge carrot dangling for the winner, Aberdeen in the next round. Jimmy Nicholl chats before the game to Rovers fans wishing us all the best so the script is written …..isn’t it. Well no because we don’t do cup wins V Alloa.  Jump forward to the end of the evening and there is no one bar me waiting to speak to a dejected Rovers manager who would probably rather not have my pigeon football knowledge picking over the events which have left the squad in a state of shock.
Still it’s not all bad, I will get back to Kirkcaldy at 12.30am and all I have to do is edit the audio, write a match report and then get up at 5 to make sure I am at work early enough to get back to Kirkcaldy for the midweek interview at 10am.
It really is like having the friendliest Albatross in the world round your neck.  The players, staff and most importantly mangers have been unconditionally helpful.  They know we have a task to complete the same way I know they will only go to certain areas in their  post match discussion. Sometimes it’s negotiated more often body language tells the story. Better that than some visiting managers who want every question written out for approval before they “chat”
Some interviews are with gregarious story tellers while most are with guys more comfortable with an answer of 15 words or less. So why do we use the leading question so much?  Simple, watch sky sports, listen to BBC Sportsound and you will see why this is the stock tactic of the paid professionals. Taking the interviewee to uncomfortable places is not the way to ensure we have future access and build a rapport which gets us information which is often reserved just for the website. Believe me forensic questioning after a poor performance is more akin to my real world obligations but it’s horses for courses and Paxman wouldn’t last a fortnight at the post match merry go round.
Mind you I am sure he wouldn’t be volunteering anyway, would you?