THEY wore Andy Murray face masks, draped good luck banners from the rooftops and cheered themselves hoarse.
The town of Dunblane erupted with joy yesterday as its local boy made good and became the first British man to lift the Wimbledon trophy in 77 years.
Last night, as a hot sun slowly set, the air was filled with the honking of celebratory car horns and the cheers of weary fans winding their way home.
It was, as 48-year-old Aileen Kelly said, “the best moment ever”. From the neighbouring town of Braco, she was among 150 spectators who crammed into the Dunblane Centre to watch the match on a big screen.
As the fans in the centre joined in a chorus of Flower of Scotland, she said: “It’s just a historic moment and brilliant to be part of it in Dunblane with the people of Dunblane. We’ve been through the tough times, we cried with him last year. To see him win is just the best moment ever.”
The centre was just one of several places in the town where the match was screened live to the delight of his army of fans.
Inside the centre, minutes after Murray had won the final point, Bryan Potter, 72, sporting an Andy Murray hat, said: “It’s brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I’m just so proud of him.”
Across town at the Dunblane Hotel, the match began to the sound of bagpipes played by Harry Richards, 15, whose skirling was interrupted with shouts of: “Let’s go Andy, let’s go” and “Here we go”.
The tiny pub was a sea of sweaty supporters waving Murray banners reading “Come on Andy” and saltire flags, and screaming with joy every time he won a game.
When Murray won his third and final set, strangers hugged one another in celebration, as champagne was sprayed over everyone from behind the bar.
Back at the Dunblane Centre, stereo speakers outside the centre were blasting out Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, as if to chase away the bad luck of the previous year.
Among the early arrivals was Fiona MacLeod, a teacher from the north of Scotland who had driven five hours with her three children to watch the game in Murray’s home town.
“We watched on telly last year and thought this would be the best place after Wimbledon,” she said.
When the match began, the cheers were so loud when Murray won each point that you could only imagine, at least for nearly three hours, what would happen if he actually won.
Outside, the baking streets of Dunblane were quiet. Two police officers took the opportunity to take turns and pose by the golden postbox bequeathed to the town following Murray’s gold medal victory in the London Olympics. A pensioner sat out to enjoy the sun wearing an anorak and woolly hat.
ELSEWHERE, another hugely competitive match was taking place, at the local bowling club, but if these individuals were not there in front of the TV, most could still be assumed to be with Murray in spirit.
In the bar of the Dunblane Hotel, the patrons, crowded in front of a flatscreen TV to watch. If the tipple of choice at the Dunblane Centre was Irn-Bru, at the Dunblane Hotel it was chilled lager.
Among those cheering was Anne Marie McGonnell, a nursery nurse, who had come with her husband, young son and daughter, and a signed Andy Murray flag. “He was so friendly. I think he’s going to do it,” she said.
So did Chris Griffin, an ornithologist, who was driving from Somerset to Thurso while listening to the match on the BBC’s Five Live.
When Murray won the first set, he decided to pull over and find a television set, and a second later spotted the road sign for Dunblane.
“It just made sense,” he said. He managed to squeeze into the Dunblane Centre just before it reached its capacity and spent the next two hours cheering Murray on.
As one set was followed by another and victory seemed to inch closer with every point, the crowd in the centre became even more animated.
The final game in which Murray lost three championship points saw emotions rise and fall, and each time it looked as if he was going to win, camera phones were hauled out to capture the moment.
When victory did finally come, everyone took to their feet as if every chair had suddenly been electrified.
A few seconds later, just as First Minister Alex Salmond was seen to produce a saltire at Wimbledon, the crowd burst into a chorus of Flower of Scotland.
Mr Griffin, who should have been a few hundred miles up the A9, found himself leaping and cheering with strangers. “It’s been just the most amazing day to watch him win, to watch him win in Dunblane, among all these people. I feel quite emotional.”
HE was not alone. For Iona Leishman, a local artist who had been in the hall for each of Murray’s previous finals, the victory meant more to Dunblane than to any other town. “I met him when he came back last year after the Olympics and I shook his hand – he has the palest eyes – and I said, ‘Thank you’ for coming back.
“After the shootings, for years if I was in England, I never said I came from Dunblane, I said I came from ‘north of Stirling’.
“Last year, a taxi driver asked me where I came from and I said ‘Dunblane’ and he said, ‘Oh Andy Murray’ and I just thought, ‘Yes’.”
Dunblane has been so long wreathed in shadows, but yesterday it basked in the sun and the historic achievement of the man who first picked up a racquet as a boy at the local courts.
Neil Graham, 41, from Larbert, said the atmosphere was even better than the World Cup.
He said: “We’re just ecstatic. The atmosphere was out of this world, it was unbelievable. We were in Paris when Scotland beat France in the World Cup – this was better than that. This is the biggest sporting achievement ever, by a Scotsman.”
Mr Graham said: “The people here now have something positive to think of and be proud of. He wanted to do that, and he has.”
Twittersphere erupts in joy at historic victory
First Minister Alex Salmond: “A truly phenomenal victory by @andy_murray. Hard fought and well deserved.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg: “Congratulations @andy_murray! What a match, you’ve made us all proud!”
Ed Miliband: “Congratulations Andy Murray. A historic and amazing moment for him and for the whole country.”
Former tennis star Andy Roddick: “Pretty sure @andy_murray might have to change his twitter name to @sirandymurray!”
Victoria Beckham: Congratulations to @andy_murray and his family. Wonderful day at #wimbledon!! So proud to be British!”
Music producer Calvin Harris: “Andy Murray Scottish legend, now official – congratulations.”
Presenter Andrea McLean: “HE DID IT!!!!!!!! Have a house full of emotional and exhausted Scots. Fan-tastic.”
Former Wimbledon champion Jimmy Connors: “Andy Murray ends Wimbledon curse on Brits with some outstanding tennis.”
AS THE US Open winner last year, Murray returned to Dunblane for a victory parade and thousands lined the streets, writes Alix Ramsay. But whether he will be able to take the Challenge Cup itself to Scotland depends on the All England Club, as the trophy rarely leaves its environs.
Murray, however, will get a replica for his trophy cabinet or, indeed, to take back to his home town. The question is, when he could arrange such a trip. He does not play again until August, but will try and squeeze in a brief break to let his body recover, then has to prepare for the American hard court season.
Beckham league beckons with brand deals
Andy Murray’s victory could result in him becoming the third highest-earning British sportsman of all time, a marketing expert has said.
Murray is expected to land a raft of sponsorship deals worth millions after his victory against Novak Djokovic, on top of his £1.6 million in prize money.
The boost to his finances could put him just behind Lennox Lewis and David Beckham as one of the top earning British sports stars in history.
Nigel Currie, director of sports marketing agency Rapport, said the British No 1 is likely to profit from a series of lucrative new contracts.
“Murray could secure some really big deals with the biggest brands,” he said.
“He’s reported to be earning £8m or £9m off court at the moment. We could see that edging up to £15m after his win at Wimbledon.”
Murray already has lucrative contracts with Head, RBS, watch maker Rado, and one with Adidas worth a reported £10m.
His annual income would put him “just below” Lewis and Beckham, Mr Currie said, adding: “Any sportsman that succeeds these days has a huge advantage because the money is so much more than it was when [Tim} Henman was earning.”
PR guru Max Clifford said Murray could make £100m in sponsorship deals in the next five years, making him the nation’s richest sports star still playing.
“He is the first British Wimbledon champion in 77 years and it is difficult to put a price on that,” Mr Clifford said.
“Tennis is a very lucrative sport and, depending on the deals over the next five years, he could easily make £100m.
“We haven’t had a Wimbledon champion for 77 years and we might not have another one for many years.
“Wimbledon champion has got a unique ring to it and that is exciting for advertisers and sponsors.
“He will be inundated with offers, and if he continues to be successful and play at the top level and win, he could easily make up to £100m because of today.”