BOWLING’S fantastic four staged a bouncing huddle on the greens of Kelvingrove yesterday and then when asked where they planned to celebrate their gold medal quipped: “Every pub in Glasgow”.
Paul Foster, David Peacock, Neil Speirs and not forgetting Alex “Tattie” Marshall – a great character of these Games whose baldy heid has been as emblematic of them as mascot Clyde’s purple shock of hair – thumped England to win the men’s fours.
For Marshall, 47, and 41-year-old Foster this was double gold. After their pairs win in another Auld Enemy clash, Tattie found himself on the front of just about every paper in the land with a celebration freely interpreted as “Get it right up yooz”. He wasn’t about to do that again, he said, so they opted for the wheeling, jumping mass cuddle which possibly didn’t please the Kelvingrove greenkeeper overmuch.
What the quartet said to each other shall remain secret, at least for now, but Marshall stressed he had no intention of copying Eilidh Child’s Hearts gesture from the previous evening, despite being as a big a Jambo as the 400m hurdles silver medallist. “No, I wasn’t going to do that,” he said. “This is about bowls, not football.”
Indeed it was. And nor was it only about Marshall. Asked how he was coping with his Games fame, he said: “Ach, it’s not just about me. Today has been about the four of us. We play as a team and we win as a team. These guys have got to get the bowls in for me to play the shots.”
Nevertheless, when it was pointed out that fans in Saltire capes had been waving “Tattie for First Minister” placards, Foster said: “I’d vote for him, we all would. Tattie’s an absolute legend. What he’s done in the game, 19 world titles, will probably never be beaten.”
Every man played his part in this triumph. Peacock, 44, a computer graphics operator, was the lead, throwing the first bowl, invariably bang on. Speirs, 35, an engineer, often consolidated Scotland’s position. Foster – the big man, runs his own taxi business – would sort out any stramashful situations. Then: enter Tattie, sales manager, with the Hollywood bowl.
He did this quite a lot in the final, despite insisting: “Paul, Davie and Neil all played brilliant shots.” One in particular stood out. England were lying three but then suddenly they weren’t. Marshall engineered a six-shot swing and it was Scotland who were up three. No wonder the others charged down the rink to bearhug him. Tattie had minced England, with another banner proclaiming him “The Lionel Messi of bowls”.
On the handy Team Scotland app, every athlete gets a profile page with “fun facts” about them. There’s plenty of trendy music and cool telly kicking about but I love the vignettes of the bowlers. They’re older than the others. They hail from towns and villages like Tranent and Danderhall. So: nothing too fancy.
Marshall likes Chinese grub and Tina Turner with her thunder thighs belting out Simply the Best. Foster likes “any Steven Seagal film” and Eye of the Tiger. Bowls, you might think, fits in fine with their simple lives but that’s a bit patronising, because over the past week and a bit at Kelvingrove this foursome and the rest have turned their cosy little pastime into compelling theatre.
Take Tattie’s throwing style. It’s now fixed in the minds of the crowds how he keeps the arm extended after the bowl has gone and he sort of staggers after it. This makes him look like a drunk feeling for the door of the pub to wind his way home after a night on the batter. Maybe his signature move won’t be copied by kids to the extent of the Mobot or the Lightning Bolt but it’s there now, part of our sporting culture.
Early on yesterday, England led 5-4 but after that they wouldn’t get another score on the board for a long time. These winning ends – and Scotland would shoot to 14-5 without reply – were the result of the quartet “really gelling on the green”, according to Peacock. “We’ve blended together well,” added Marshall, who revealed the celebration had been worked out after a competition win in Spain three months ago. “Davie and Neil are a fantastic front end. Then [pointing to Foster] there’s this guy, the world No 1. We’re a great team and that’s why we’re Commonwealth champions.”
The win – and the medal presentations – were greeted with huge roars from the cognoscenti and also some converts. “All week I’ve been explaining the rules of the games to folk who’d never seen it played before – that’s been great,” said Peacock.
Foster thanked the crowd for their support, always worth a couple of shots before the games had begun. He said the foursome would all be back at their day jobs on Tuesday but that the celebrations would begin “right away” and continue “everywhere”. “This is unbelievable, a fantastic feeling. And to do it with such friendship, us guys, is the icing on the cake.”