It may have taken a slight gloss off Fraserburgh’s hosting of Rangers in the Scottish Cup that the tie fell victim to the weather when it was originally to be held ten days ago, but the efforts made to avoid the rescheduling of the encounter for this Wednesday would simply have reaffirmed to club secretary Findlay Noble what he prides himself in about his football team and his town.
Community is everything to Fraserburgh, says the 48-year-old, who has been 36 years involved with the club. And that same community did everything they could to prevent the icy conditions ending hopes of welcoming the Ibrox club a week past on Sunday. Noble has spoken of being “humbled” at a host of volunteers who stayed all night to attempt to do what they could to prevent Bellslea Park being fatally bitten by frost.
The willingness of locals to give “their time and their sleep”, Noble said, would have surely reinforced the committee’s belief that they were right not to countenance moving the tie from what has been their home since their formation in 1910.
“You always dream of drawing a Rangers or Celtic, and we used to talk about it in meetings,” said Noble. “And we always said, if it ever happened, we wouldn’t move it because we would want to give back to our community who have always given us great support.
“We knew we could make more money with a switch to a ground that could hold much more than the 1,800 we have been able to accommodate, but far and away more important to us was what it would mean to the town. You only need look at the shop fronts dressed to recognise the sense of occasion that people feel in the air. It’s actually been quite emotional walking down the street and seeing people smiling and having a spring in their step because the club’s biggest game is on the horizon. It generates such a warmth within you to think you’ve played a part in making people feel good.”
The experience of becoming the first Highland League club to have a game screened live on television would pale if the club currently second in that league could make an impression against the Ibrox men. In one sense, Fraserburgh have form. The Dundee side against which they pulled off one of the Scottish Cup’s most seismic shocks at Bellslea Park in 1959 – the 49th anniversary of which will fall on Wednesday – were one of Scotland’s leading clubs. That day is carved into Fraserburgh folklore. So too is Jock Stein, a week before the 1970 European Cup final, bringing Celtic to the town to play a benefit for the five victims of a local lifeboat disaster earlier that year. Nine of the 11 that played in the loss to Feyenoord started that day as Celtic won 7-0.
“There are elderly gentleman who talk of these days that are the great historical moments in the life of our club and I hope that our younger supporters who come along to the Rangers match are doing the same in years and decades to come.”
The unique element to Fraserburgh is that, when it comes to this week’s Scottish Cup tie, the community spirit they foster won’t simply revolve around “I was there” but extend to “I played then”. Noble believes that no other club stages more testimonials for players. By next summer, they expect to have organised three in four years alone.
“We don’t buy players, we don’t scout about to bring players from other parts… not that this would necessarily be easy with our location anyway,” he said. “We want to have players who are part of the community, who supporters will identify with because they went to school with them, live round the corner from them, or know their relatives. It is really important to us. And the fact that players stay with us for such long periods shows that we must be doing something right.”