TT No.63: Mike Latham - Sat 24 November 2012; Largs Thistle 2-0 Hurlford United; Stagecoach West Juniors Div 1; Attendance: 220 (h/c); Admission: £5; 28pp programme: £1; Raffle ticket: £1; FGIF Match Rating: 4*.




Matchday images (12)


Winter’s icy grip was getting firmer as a cold and misty morning in Scotland proved; combined with a preceding week of heavy rain the weather spelt problems for many Junior clubs anxious to get fixtures played. The postponements list mounted and soon it was decision time- I decided to take the ‘rain card’ option and head to the Ayrshire coast where football was guaranteed.


Traditionalists can scoff and protest but undoubtedly the way forward for clubs in Scotland is the latest generation pitches that do not freeze and make play possible in the wettest of conditions. The biggest obstacle is the cost, but for Largs Thistle that was not an issue.


During the summer Thistle took possession of a simply magnificent 4G pitch at their Barrfields ground, courtesy of the largesse of two of their supporters. When Colin and Chris Weir scooped £161m on the Euro lottery they set about ploughing back some of their colossal winnings into the community. They funded around £750,000 into the new state-of-the art pitch and training facilities at Barrfields and attended a friendly match against Morton to mark the opening.


As a result Largs Thistle’s modest home has been transformed into a hub for the local community; the pitch is used by many different sporting groups and there’s a real buzz around the town and a huge sense of community pride.


After the heavy rain this game was switched from Hurlford, both sides sensibly opting to beat the weather and promised much- leaders Hurlford playing neat, inventive football against third-placed Largs, who could go top if results went their way.


Largs is one of my favourite destinations- having spent many happy summer days in the town on family holidays. The island of Cumbrae is a 15-minute ferry ride away where Millport is a small seaside resort that has remained unspoilt over the 40 years I have visited. Bicycles can be hired from local shops and a stunning 20-mile ride round the island can be enjoyed at leisure. On the mainland the famous Nardini’s is a fine café that rivals the Café Ariete in Moffat for its excellence.


But Barrfields has a rival to both those fine establishments. Once inside the ground, situated in a quiet residential part of Largs on Brisbane Road just off the main drag on the coastal road leading north, attention is drawn to a small pavilion from where delicious food is dispensed at ridiculously cheap prices.


Examination of Largs’ excellent colour programme gives more information. Don McKillop is the self-styled ‘Gordon Ramsay’ and Head Chef with assistance from ‘Chief Bottle Washer & Money Grabber’ Margaret and ‘Bovril Queen’ Carol. I went for the Chilli and rice (£1.50) and homemade soup (£1) and later enjoyed a coffee- all magnificent. Judging by the queues throughout the afternoon Don’s reputation goes before him.


Largs have been going since 1889, their ground is a long oval shape dominated now by the distinctive new pitch. Surrounded by shallow terracing there is a distinctive deep covered enclosure along one side though most of the spectators chose to watch the game from the open terracing behind the dug-outs. The ‘Largs experience’ is further enhanced, if that is the word by the presence of an elderly supporter armed with a megaphone who continually addresses the players with advice throughout the afternoon. The gist of it is to get down to the Hurlford end and score a goal; a case of keeping things simple.


The pitch plays superbly- it’s the best artificial surface I’ve seen- and play is fast, skilful and competitive. But ten minutes into the game the visiting goalkeeper handles outside his area and is red-carded, a decision, perfectly correct from my vantage point that changes the game. Largs score from the resulting free-kick and Hurlford have to re-group. Though they have plenty of possession the visitors fail to take a couple of chances and Largs seal their valuable win with a close-range second just before the end of normal time.


I really enjoyed my visit to Barrfields for all sorts of reasons. The Weirs’ legacy will be long-lasting and far-reaching. They have donated to a number of sporting causes since their amazing lottery win and can be satisfied that they have invested wisely here. 

contributed on 24/11/12