The poem opens with the portrayal of the football club’s success. We begin with the team defying expectation in their highest point -
the zenith. This introduces the central idea of physical height and falling.
Old film showcases
silent footage of McGrandle’s dignified skill in action. This already places the club's glory days in the past. McGrandle is
majestic, indicating greatness, and godlike with his
golden hair and command of the whole pitch. The idea of a God again links to the concept of the heavens and achieving a high-point. Paterson creates contrast between the
golden hair and black and white film. He creates further contrast between the grand language of
majestic with the more colloquial
toe-poke, and even the very Scottish
...his balletic toe-poke nearly bursting the roof/ of the net...
Paterson creates further contrast between the perceived delicate elegance of something
balletic and the immense power and force as the ball hits the net. This works to emphasise the aesthetic appeal of the footballer as well as his athleticism.
The crowd responds with
a plague of grey bonnets. The metaphor
plague evokes the sheer number of hats flying through the air as well as reminding us with the word
grey that the film is in black and white, belonging in the past.
The reader can imaging the hats flying up and then quickly falling again - echoing the central fall of the club (and later the pilot). The fact they fall
out of the clouds suggests that there are so many supporters they essentially make up the sky. It also highlights the enclosed world of the stadium – once inside you are lost in the game.
But is a pivotal word in line eight.
Attention now shifts to the other half of the metaphorical
game – as the team begins their decline.
An eleven line sentence describing their losing streak then follows. The obvious key players
McGrandle, Visocchi and Spankie are described:
...detaching / like bubbles to speed the descent into pitch-sharing...
The simile here suggests they gently disappear, floating off into non-existence and leaving the club to suffer financial ruin. The image potrays them as light, like balloons that held the club up in the air. Without them it plunges further down.
The list of consequences, with its use of alliteration and internal rhyme emphasises the impact of this loss of talent:
...pay-cuts, pawned silver, the Highland Division...
The team now faces the worst with
absolute sitters ballooned over open goals - the word
ballooned implies the almost farcical nature of their errors. The expression
dismal nutmegs, meaning to kick the ball between the opponent’s legs, suggests other players are running rings around them.
The only event worth remembering at this time is the skilful moment of
Farquhar’s spectacular bicycle-kick which is not in film footage as before but in an obituary, consolidating the overall failure of the club.