I went to watch the first football match of the new Scottish League First Division season this afternoon. The supporters' bus - sponsored by the newly formed Honest Men Trust - left the Somerset Park Hospitality Suite (know in my family as the "Executive Portacabins") at the back of 1pm, bound for Clyde FC's Broadwood Stadium in Cumbernauld. Ayr United (my team) lost 3-0, but it's not the match that has left an impression on me.
I was sitting right next to the segregation tape to the right-hand side of the Ayr supporters' section. Sometime before kick-off, a guy who looked like my dad (or Willie Thorn, the snooker player) appeared from the tunnel with a wee kid next to him. I thought at first that they were together, but the man climbed up the steps to sit level with me across the barricades, while the kid stayed down the front of the section. Usually I can't stand kids - especially at football matches: I think most of them are little shits - but this Dewar Kid was different.
I guess he was about 8-10 years old. The first thing that struck me about him was his greasy hair. His haircut wasn't very fashionable, kinda mushroom-topped and uneven. Then the poor wee bastard turned around and I saw his thick, free-on-the-NHS spectacles. You know those ones where the frames are so thick that the kid compensates for their weight by tilting his face up too high when he's looking at you; the ones that are constantly slipping down to the end of his tiny wee nose. Bless 'im. He was wearing an old Clyde top, with pointy red arrows on the shoulders and "Dewar 11" on the back (was this his surname, or his favourite player from a previous season, I wondered), and a striped red, black and white scarf. He was sitting in a row all by himself, with red barriers in front of him, which he leaned on with his milky, candle arms. I couldn't figure out who he was with, if Willie Thorn wasn't his dad. Was he here all by himself? At that age? Most kids at football matches have an accompanying adult, even if they are allowed to run off wherever they want once they're over the turnstiles - usually causing havoc and annoyance to me. But this kid looked like a loner. There were other wee boys playing together in the section in front of him, but there was no chance of him joining them; he was too much of a weirdo, too much of a loner, and he would never have the confidence to go and join them, even if invited. He had probably been burned too many times before. This sort of kid is an easy target for bullies. My heart went out to the wee fella. Bless 'im.
I started to imagine what his home would be like. He probably came from one of the rougher parts of Cumbernauld, which I think is one of those '60s New Towns. He probably didn't have a dad; only a fat mum who didn't love him. She probably didn't even know where he was; probably didn't even care. She probably beat him just for being there. And I bet his personal hygiene was bad - as the greasy hair would suggest. The girls would probably refuse to sit next to him in primary school. He'd be wearing really cheap school uniform from Woolworth's or What Everyone Wants. His wee grey trousers would have an elasticated waist-band. He probably still wets the bed. Bless 'im. I bet this wee kid is actually really nice, but just isn't given a chance, isn't given the love he deserves.
But how did he get enough money to be at the game? Did he steal it from his mum's purse while she was asleep in front of the telly? Did she give it to him to get rid of him for the afternoon? Or was he one of those wee boys who waits around by the turnstiles until some obliging man lifts him over because he used to be helped in for free when he was a kid? But that wouldn't work at Broadwood: the turnstiles are head-high. In any case, if this wee boy doesn't wash very often, would anyone want to lift him up and over?
I watched him occasionally throughout the game. When Clyde scored, he enjoyed it, tentatively. You could see him desperate to be a part of the crowd. He kept looking over to his right, where the vocal section of the Clyde home support were chearing and dancing in time to the cheesy music, jiving their arms in the air. He copied them, but it was a little half-hearted, as if he was cautious of being clipped round the ear. After the third goal, he glanced across to the Ayr fans in triumph, smiling, with his nose scrunched up trying to support his glasses. He's probably seen other fans during more heated matches taunting each other across the segregation line. This was his gentle boast. Bless 'im. He was so cute! And I don't even like kids!
Even though I'm an Honest Man, and I want to see my team win, I didn't mind losing too much this afternoon, if it meant that this wee Dewar Kid got a little bit of joy in his day.