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Morton V St Mirren Championship


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Herald article:

THERE is little logic behind any rivalry based solely on geographical proximity. That point wasn’t missed by the makers of The Simpsons who created an ongoing spat between the citizens of neighbouring towns Springfield and Shelbyville, despite the fact that both places were almost identical in character, culture and demographics. The only thing that really separated them was Shelbyville’s policy of allowing first cousins to marry that didn’t go down well at all with those in Springfield.

Which brings us on nicely to the Renfrewshire derby. These two towns in the west of Scotland, just 18 miles apart, would seem to have more that unites them than divides them. Both are former industrial heartlands - Greenock with its proud shipbuilding heritage and Paisley with its hinterland of the mills and textile industry - now trying to find their feet again. And at the centre of both are their football clubs, proud, venerable institutions who, like the communities they are based in, have known difficult times but always found a way to survive and endure.

None of that will matter a jot on Friday night, however, when the two teams meet in league action for the first time in 15 years. There won’t be a soul inside Cappielow, or watching live on BBC Alba, stopping to question the futility of a rivalry based on a region – Greater Renfrewshire – that exists largely now only in a historical context. The hatred and animosity may not anything more cerebral than “my town’s better than your town” but it will still be heartfelt and deeply personal.

It is an occasion not without its share of controversy, either. Paisley Panda, St Mirren’s erstwhile mischievous matchday mascot, once invoked the ire of the Morton travelling support by parading a giant air freshener in front of them while the address system played Cher’s “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves”. It was hardly humour with the subtlety of Peter Ustinov but it had the desired effect. At the next derby, Morton’s dinosaur mascot responded by proudly displaying a toy panda strung from a noose.

It was a fixture that captivated even those who had previously known little about it. Mark Yardley arrived at St Mirren from Cowdenbeath in 1995 and would quickly discover that the best way to silence Morton taunts was to score against them, and regularly.

“I didn’t realise how fierce the rivalry was until I joined,” he said. “We had Morton in my second game and we got battered 4-1 at home. Martin Baker got sent off in the first half, John Boyd then attacked him in the changing room at half-time and Kenny McDowall had to jump in to get Boyd off him. And I was sitting there thinking, “is this what this derby is all about?” So that was some introduction. Thankfully my win percentage over the years in the derbies ended up a lot higher than my losing one.”

Yardley, by coincidence, now works alongside Pete Cormack Jr, who spent five years as a Morton player in the late 1990s. Cormack still has a photo of a spectacular derby strike at Love Street in January 1996 that he believes was hugely significant in him winning over a previously sceptical Morton support.

“I still get comments all the time from fans reminding me of it,” he said. “It’s probably the best moment of my career. After that the perception of me by the Morton fans definitely changed. It was a defining moment for me.”

Such was Cormack’s determination to impress that he was sent off twice in the derby games, one of which was, as Yardley laughs, for “nearly taking Barry Lavety’s head off with a kung-fu kick.” Cormack is rather more sheepish about the whole thing. “The derbies were always fiery games,” he added. “It was like the Old Firm game but on a smaller scale. With my dad being involved with the club I was trying to be accepted by the fans probably. I thought that if I pushed a St Mirren player or put in a hard tackle then I would win them over quicker. But I overstepped the mark on a couple of occasions after getting caught up in the atmosphere.”

Stevie Aitken will be at Cappielow in his capacity as the Dumbarton manager but there is a part of him also curious to see if the Renfrewshire derby has retained its lustre after all these years. Aitken became a central figure in the matches between the teams during his eight years as a Morton player.

“I always seemed to get an awful lot of stick from the St Mirren supporters,” he laughed. “Although that was maybe because I had the red hair that stood out. But I always enjoyed playing in those games. It’s great the derbies are back, they’ve been missed.”

In the Wee Dublin End that houses the away fans at Cappielow will be Barry McLaughlin who grew up attending the derbies as a St Mirren fan before realising a lifelong dream by playing in them, too.

“I can remember going to the games at Love Street as a boy and when St Mirren scored you would be right up against the fence to noise up the Morton fans,” he recalled. “One time my mate got a pie right in the face, while another time me and my pals were chased through the park all the way home after a game. So to go from watching the derbies to playing in them was a massive thing for me. We always seemed to do well in them, too. It’s great to have them back again.”

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No, it's really poor, even if it is on tv. Alba coverage is horrendous, the only broadcaster I've seen that misses goals whilst giving a close up of a player on the half-way line. Then there's the commentary... could make Barcelona v Real Madrid seem dull.

Cappielow isn't great for sure, but when a big crowd is in the atmosphere is very good. I've only been at the 'new' St Mirren stadium once, and I genuinely felt sorry for St Mirren fans - I thought it was awful. Love Street was a great ground, the away end was one of my favourite places to watch football.

Indeed. The away end was a great stand. We had a main stand on death's door, a freezing cold wind tunnel at the other end, and a seated North Bank with pillars restricting the view and a walloping great fence down the middle that had its glory days when it was terracing and away fans were packed on the other side of it.

The away fans got the best deal. Pretty much like today then when we get shunted around for big supports like Celtic, or small ones like Dumbarton.

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On hols and docked in Naples just now - sitting on my balcony with a wee glass of champers enjoying the sunshine. Yet my thoughts turn to Cappielow and wish I could be there tonight. Got my St Mirren beach towel draped over the balcony to let the locals know that the Buds are in town.

As always COYS !

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Murray has some big calls to make in the starting line up tonight hasn't done great so far with his stating 11 imo

Either way I wouldn't play conlan been poor for me if either start Stewart or put kelly at lb

Think Tommo has to start tonight and I'd put Gallagher up there with him

Hope Murray gets it right

Edited by buddies1877
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Murray has some big calls to make in the starting line up tonight hasn't done great so far with his stating 11 imo

Either way I wouldn't play conlan been poor for me if either start Stewart or put kelly at lb

Think Tommo has to start tonight and I'd put Gallagher up there with him

Hope Murray gets it right

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From the Official Facebook page 1 minute ago

It has been confirmed that cash turnstiles will be in operation at tonight’s game at Cappielow. Adult - £17, Conc - £12, U16 - £3

To any buddies who've not yet decided. Get down there and support your team. We have a squad, full of young guys who would benefit from your backing. We have been in some right shitey games with no atmosphere, now we have a game we should all be buzzing for. Great night to hopefully get our first league win. COYS

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