Kynoch Park . . . The Longest Journey
We welcomed Richard Murray to Kynoch Park to watch his first ever game here!
Read on to find out about his family ties with Keith and how much he loves the game . . .
Life can indeed be a strange thing that’s for sure and my first ever match day visit to watch Keith at the famous Kynoch Park on the opening day of the 2019/20 Highland League season has certainly been a long and windy road to finally get here.
My family links with the town and the club are quite extensive, my mother was brought up on Westerton Road in the 1940s and went to almost all of the home games as well as many of the away games mainly due to the fact my great grandfather James Birnie had a spell as trainer of the club in the 1950s.
My grandfather who was a local cattle dealer originally owned land behind Kynoch Park but a compulsory purchase order resulted in a move to Balloch Road, if this isn’t a further link to the football club the actual bungalow he bought still looks onto the ground and is clearly visible from the main stand but the ultimate form of irony was that he inexplicably had no interest in football at any level.
It was indeed my mother who was the fanatic of the family and I was brought up on tales of watching the maroons in all types of weather and away trips to wonderful sounding places in the north of Scotland and although by the time I was a teenager the family had moved south my love of the game had already been well and truly developed but in fairness this was still an era when Scotland could actually qualify for the World Cup!!
I was actually born in 1967 which was of course a seminal year in Scottish football but never as a child had I actually had the opportunity to watch the maroons at Kynoch Park, by the time I was a teenager and now living in England I started to travel around the country to watch the likes of Kenny Dalglish, Frank Stapleton, Bryan Robson, Glenn Hoddle and Trevor Brooking in an era of Liverpool domination but by now my interest was starting to become a bit of an obsession and also the realisation that this football lark was a terrific excuse to travel and see places you normally wouldn’t have any reason to go to.
My work eventually starting taking me overseas and I soon developed a keen interest in Eastern European football in particular the Russian and Ukrainian leagues but latterly the discovery of the former Yugoslavia and the Balkans, none more so than the Serbian and Croatian leagues, the people and the fanaticism of the fans in those places and in particularly Belgrade resonated with me and reminded me of the passion and intensity of our own Scottish fans, the warm greeting and reaction the word “Scotland” had in this part of the world also couldn’t fail to impress me about this misunderstood and misrepresented part of Europe.
It was in Eastern Europe that my writing began and I started to write blogs and contribute to various websites where I could share my passion with others, several years later and after relocating to Germany and after discovering the wonders of the German Bundesliga and in particular the lower level of the game over there I took my football watching levels to new heights, I am now fast approaching 100 different stadiums in Germany I have attended a game at and I must say I am unashamedly hooked on the culture and atmosphere within stadia at all levels of their football, if you haven’t seen it for yourself then you should, ignore for now the high profile places like Dortmund or Munich and seek out the likes of Magdeburg, Rostock, St Pauli or Dynamo Dresden would be my strong advice if you want to see German fan culture and atmosphere at its very best.
So things now turn full circle and after many holidays in Keith when I was young which always fell in the summer meaning of course no opportunity to see the the team in action, I decided in my 51st year that I should finally put that right and make the long trip up to the north east, more poignant is the fact my mother recently passed away and in her honour I felt it was the right and proper thing to do in addition to finally achieving a long held desire to watch Keith at Kynoch Park, to say it’s been a long wait is an understatement as I’ve already visited 338 grounds and stadiums in Europe before visiting arguably the most important of the lot.
It seemed very fitting that on a lovely sunny day on the opening day of the 2019/20 Highland League season I finally via 23 other countries made it to this in my eyes “mythical” place for the almost equally “mythical” Saturday three o clock kick off, very much a rarity for me and many football followers these days.
The welcome I received from the club was even warmer than the weather and my pre match tour of the ground was possibly the days highlight for many reasons but mostly for meeting the wonderful people behind the scenes at Keith FC who put so much time and real passion into making the club what it is and are responsible for what goes on behind the scenes on a match day, you don’t or very rarely see this level of dedication and passion at the higher levels of football let me tell you.
The main stand is indeed an incredible thing, full of real character, charm and just as I remember when seeing it all those years ago in my childhood, to actually sit in it and watch a game was indeed a real treat despite Formartine United threatening to ruin my day by playing some excellent football that the maroons sadly couldn’t cope with at times. The Formartine onslaught continued as I decided to watch the match from the terraces in the second half and it was there that I fully appreciated the beauty and character of Kynoch Park and where my connection seemed to grow stronger still, the 90 minutes albeit one to forget for the team, simply flew by for me and inevitably gave me the taste for more and hopefully the opportunity to cheer a goal the next time I visit.
Despite a 5-0 reversal at home on the opening day to an excellent Fortmartine United it couldn’t take away from what was a truly emotional yet highly enjoyable day for me in the company of new friends who’s love and passion of the game more than equals mine and are without question the true definition of the word “fan”
Many thanks again to everyone I came into contact with on the day for making the occasion such a special one and I promise my next visit without doubt will be not so long in coming!