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A fond farewell to Love Street

Chick Young | 12:20 UK time, Monday, 5 January 2009

It was an afternoon of tears and cameras; memories triggering the former, the latter to take pictures which in days still to come will set the eyes moist all over again.

They were photographing everything; the pitch, the pylons, the pie stands, the seats, the seagulls, the signs. And the old ground looked pretty as a picture in the winter sunshine.

It was a long and lingering farewell kiss to an encounter that was far from brief. St Mirren Park and its loving support embraced one another for 114 years.

buddiesfarewell438.jpgOn Saturday the attendance topped 10,000 - once a miserable turn-out for a St Mirren home game - but then that was in days long ago and far away. Buddies can't spare the time any more.

If only.

It was that kind of day, when the mind was set racing to conjure up dreams of clubs like Saints having that kind of backing every week. But you dreamed on.

I thought about my old man who passed on just months after St Mirren won the Scottish Cup in 1987 and who first infected me with the disease.

I wasn't a fan as a kid, in fact I confess to some foolish infatuation with Hearts, a condition long since cured. My mum re-married a brilliant bloke called Alex Rowan, who was Paisley to the core.

At first oh, how I laughed. Then it turned to apathy. And then everything in black and white started to make sense.

And by the seventies, when I covered the arrival of Alex Ferguson for the Daily Express I had caught the blasted bug.

Don't believe Johnny Watson. I'm not a Rangers fan from Paisley. Quite the opposite actually, a St Mirren fan from Govan.

It was a grand day. If this is what football flittings are like then bring them on. Don't buy, just rent.

The board of directors were glorious in their understanding of the emotion of it all. Chairman Stewart Gilmour, vice chairman George Campbell and his gang have performed quite fabulously in their financial machinations, in taking a club out of the red, producing a new dream home and clearing the debt.

But on Saturday they showed that they are also men of the people.

One supporter, Brendon Farren, put a framed photograph of his recently deceased dad - a lifelong fan - on the roof of the tunnel, his smiling face peering out just above the heads of the players as they took the to pitch. "No problem," said George.

You can't help feeling it might not have been that way at other, allegedly bigger clubs. That adjective describes their turnover, but not necessarily their soul.

St Mirren couldn't take three points, but in just about every other department they came up with the winning numbers.

The world's biggest removal van will cart the Reid Kerr stand - the Love Street end accommodation - down the road to, of all places, Cappielow, where it will protect Morton fans from the raging storms at the Tail of the Bank.

St Mirren have even pocketed about fifty grand for that.

So whatever else it was, Saturday turned into a fair old pay day for the Buddies. A capacity crowd, match programmes - collectors' issues if ever there was one - on sale at a fiver a go.

The only element of the afternoon which didn't crackle was the fireworks display.

The phrase damp squib comes to mind. I've seen better pyrotechnics in what Strathclyde Police euphemistically call a domestic.

Actually the game wasn't much cop either. A 0-0 draw, and only because Motherwell were denied a pretty good claim for a late penalty, although the irony of Paul Quinn mumping about not getting it was rich, since he should earlier have been red carded for an elbow in the face of John Potter.

But this was about an occasion, not a game. Well, Saints fans would say that given absence of a sense of romance among the football gods.

Of course, tales of the demise of Love Street may be premature. If the team draws with Brechin in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup then it will have been proven to be a false dusk.

And we'll have to start the greetin' all over again in the replay.

Stand by with the Kleenex and the cameras...

* You can listen to a documentary presented by me, 'Love Street Story', which tells the tale of the ground, on BBC Radio Scotland on 810MW from 1830 GMT on 8 January.


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