My first venture into photography of any note was football in my homeland of Scotland. I was on the committee of Glenafton Athletic, my home town Junior/Non-League side, when I struck up an idea to use Twitter to collect all scores from around the country’s Junior matches and display them on a website. With the help of Martin Young, The Juniors.info website was born.
To give the website some credibility and content, it required photos, match reports, interviews and much more. This was where my love of photography truly began.
I did the lot. It was difficult to find assistance with match reports for instance but over a period of three years, the site grew in stature and attracted fans from every team from the Scottish Junior Football Association.
I travelled the country covering matches in all weather conditions and it has to be said, I met some wonderful people, who gave up their free time to run their favourite club via their respective committees. People would sell raffle tickets, programmes or collect rubbish from the terraces. No job was too big or too small for these hardworking people.
My highlights from the men’s game has to be working at three Scottish Junior Cup Finals, covering Dalry Thistle’s giant killing missions and St. Rochs’ visit to the mighty Auchinleck Talbot in the Scottish Cup, a game that I had covered by video by a good footballing friend Martin McKenna. His video of St. Rochs’ manager Davie Greig at half-time is legendary.
I was even featured on a couple of local radio stations in Paisley and Edinburgh.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time working on the site and promoting the Junior game but despite all my efforts, I failed to get the backing of the governing body. Yes they loved what I was doing for the game but refused to commit to actually permitting me to use the official brand in anyway.
So when an offer from the Scottish Womens Football Association was put to me, I duly accepted, despite not being convinced I could build a following but as the SWFA were paying expense and backing my efforts, it was worth a try.
Another issue that concerned me at the time, was I did not believe the standard of the women’s game was high enough to justify my time and effort but I am delighted to say I was wrong.
I handed the running of The Juniors over to Martin Young, who has done a fine job by all accounts in maintaining support and adding to its success. I commenced work on a new site called SWFITBA.
This one was hard work initially, in that getting clubs on board was not an easy task. I began with a few selected clubs such as Hamilton, Troon, Glasgow City and Hearts and built it from there. Then I made a decision to support the lower leagues and give them coverage with match reports and photos and that’s when the site took off.
Every club within the association suddenly wanted me to attend their games. SWFITBA was a huge success but unfortunately had people in power who thought they were bigger than the game and offered little in support for what I was doing. Sadly they were committed only to a select few clubs and not interested in the emerging clubs from around Scotland.
To this day this brings great sadness to me, for it was the lower league bread and butter clubs who suffered when SWFITBA ceased production.
Eventually I decided enough was enough. However I am proud of what I achieved for the women’s game and despite uproar from the lower leagues when I departed the scene, it was impossible for me to continue without the 100% backing of the governing body.
I am humbled that I was permitted to work at European Champion’s League matches and Scotland internationals, these were the icing on the cake. But I cannot emphasise enough that my love was covering the teams outwith the top three or four.
But the best memories came from being invited to attend the home side’s hospitality events following a match. Again, almost all the lower league teams invited me along, where I could meet and interview players, enjoy some free food and beverages and have a good old chinwag with new found friends.
Following a break from football and venturing into studio work with a variety of models and styles, I was asked to help out at Kilmarnock Ladies.
“What do you want me to do?” was the first question I asked.
“Oh simply help us promote our Facebook, Twitter and Web Pages, so that we can attract new players” I was told.
I liked the Chairman and his ideas for the future and he listened to what I had to say, so I signed up to what was meant to be a few weeks of promotional work.
But….. I was hooked again. I began travelling to their games, doing match reports, photography, interviews, player profiles and more or less anything that was requested from me.
I created and maintained the Website and Twitter account so that the world knew about Kilmarnock Ladies FC.
I even coached the goalkeepers for a couple of months until they found a trainer and then I joined the committee. In fact at the time or writing, the seniors goalkeeper Morgan Hunter was put in place on my advice. She turned out to be a real find for the team.
I was in my element. I travelled to games all over Scotland not just with the senior team but with all age groups. I would often be seen at three game every weekend, travelling hundreds of miles over the period. Then I would sit editing photos being hassled by girls asking “when will the photos be ready?”
I managed to get university students to film one of our matches but lack of funding prevented it from continuing. I attracted other photographers and reporters but again with no expenses available, many weren’t interested.
I however was not in it for the money. It was a passion. I love football, I enjoy writing and of course my true passion is photography, so I was in heaven.
It would have been brilliant had I been employed on a paid basis but that was never going to happen within the women’s game in Scotland. In Europe, where finances are superior, that could always be a possibility but Scotland does not have the support of the press and media, nor does it attract the fans in the same way the continent does.
Sadly all things come to an end. My main problem at the time was depression, something I have suffered all my life but came to the fore in my second season with the club. My life was turned upside down for over two years, meaning I could not commit to the club or anything else for that matter.
I took redundancy from my work for the same reason and struggled to find motivation for anything, irrespective of its importance. Life had little meaning.
Sure I still did photography when my mood was good. I even covered an odd football match here or there but it had to be my decision whether I attended or not.
So Kilmarnock and I parted company but the door was left open for me to return but I never did.
Now of course I live in Pattaya in Thailand but how long that will be for, I cannot say. I am desperately trying to find work in Asia, so that I can remain in the area but it is not easy to achieve.
If I return to the UK, it will be for one reason only. To work and save up some cash, so that I can travel further.
Football gave me five or six terrific years. Some of the people I met, were awesome, especially around the smaller clubs. Whether it was male or female orientated it did not matter. The organisers from the lower league sides had more time to speak to me, for all they wanted was promotion and support for what they were trying to achieve too.
The larger clubs were not so accommodating for they had the support of the national press or made use of their own media personnel. But every role in life has its restrictions and its benefits. You take the good and you do your best to work around the bad.
Over the piece I had a fantastic time with brilliant memories. I do miss the football and all that it entailed but I guess those days are long gone.
It did provide me with one photograph that I will never forget. It was taken at one of my first matches at a ladies game. The sun was shining, not a breath of wind was to be had. Perfect conditions for playing the beautiful game.
Half way through the second half of the match; a Kilmarnock player who was unknown to me at the time, suddenly went down screaming in pain, clutching the back of her lower leg. Cramp!
Not being allowed on the field of play to help her, I did the next best thing. I snapped away to capture the moment. Kirsty Munro was livid when she noticed me but I continued nevertheless. If looks could kill I would have been struck by a bolt of lightning.
A year or so later, I was attending a Kilmarnock v Aberdeen game and I had the photo printed in poster size and with the help of one of the Killie backroom staff, I had it placed in the home dressing room wall before the players arrived. A bit of fun to give what was a struggling outfit at the time, a lift in morale.
Miss Munro took the poster home so I guess she liked it eventually.
The image is above. A face etched with pain, dirty knees and painted nails. Brilliant!
This blog is best viewed on a computer or tablet.