What unfolded in the third-round Scottish Cup tie between Drumchapel United and FC Edinburgh, though, was Saudi Arabia shocking Argentina in miniature. In all the madcap messiness guaranteed when a non-league team from a scruffy part of Glasgow enjoys its greatest moment. United, the brainchild of John Black – now no less than both chairman and co-manager – only became semi-professional three years ago. Their formation as amateurs was just 2001. Now, though, thanks to a 1-0 victory courtesy of a 46th-minute Ally Docherty strike, they have earned themselves the possibility of drawing Celtic or Rangers in Monday’s fourth round draw.
Reward for refusing to become unstuck on a gluepot – which they required to play on as their Donald Dewar Centre home is having its astro relaid – as Alan Maybury’s side did. The away players hardly hid that they hated every minute of an encounter as the challenge proved all about digging deep down amid the dirty. Drumchapel produced a herculean effort as they mastered the conditions. With a courageous display of inexhaustible energy and a lick of composed football that led to them being “absolute lions”, Black roared. The architect of United couldn’t resist joking about how he would love to set sights on one of Scotland’s two big beats in a draw he will gather his players to watch. Perhaps in the pub the club were “crazy” to buy in ‘the Drum’ – the hostelry renamed from The Peel Bar to The United Bar – so they could pay for a better standard of player. An unused sub for them, no less than former Rangers and Hearts winger David Templeton.
“Christ, aye, just geez them up here and we’ll do them,” Black said of hosting Celtic or Rangers at Lochburn. A comment made full in the knowledge the reality is that any such draw would be hosted at Firhill or Hamilton. “To be honest, we are just a wee bit excited to be saying things like that. It’s just an amazing feeling and we are all a little emotional. We are new to this, and have had barriers to come through, but we had the community out for us today. We have 41 teams, from two-year-olds to over-70s, and 120 coaches. To share this with so many of them … it seemed every family was out.”
A club that averages crowds of 60 had more than 600 to share their triumph. “Everyone will know who we are now, all in our area, they can see us on Sportscene results, our biggest day – without a shadow of a doubt – just delivered,” said secretary William Chisholm, who pointed to them upsetting almighty odds in skewering a team from four tiers above. The victory over an Edinburgh outfit pushing for promotion to the Championship was discounted pre-match by all but those in the United camp; their team in the First Division of the West of Scotland League, one level below the set-up’s top flight. However, this was no one-off following their away successes over Highland League club Nairn County, defeated 3-1, and Lowland League side Gretna 2008, thumped 4-1 in their Scottish Cup run.
The afternoon served up so many snapshots of such a contest being football … but not as most of us tend to know it. It felt like every single home supporter in the crowd had to bellow “unbelievable” as the final whistle sounded. Earned by Docherty stabbing in after Robbie Mutch had fumbled an edge of the box drive, which followed a corner seconds after the restart. The keeper perhaps could be forgiven considering a stretch of his six-yard box resembled a mud-wrestling octagon.
Many of those squaffing alcoholic beverages in the social club missed the precious moment. “Alkys all”, one person shouted as they raced out at the news. To which a glass-swilling patron replied: “Hoi … I resemble that comment”. It certainly proved a day for pyrotechnics – in the literal sense. An impromptu firework display was staged seconds after the final whistle at the ground’s entrance. Even before kick-off – delayed for four minutes apparently because of a hole in the net, sorted when a couple of pegs were rustled up to provide a running-repair – pyros were clogging the sky. One young supporter casually lined up seven flares on the advertising hoardings. And proceeded to let them all off over the course of the opening period. At one stage, he swirled around one in each hand – red and black, to denote the club’s colours – for a display that left him looking like a human Red Arrow. No-one seemed to bat a smoke-filled eyelid.
Some of the same eyelids threatened to fill up at the magnitude of Drumchapel’s accomplishment, though. Including those of Frank Smith. A goalkeeper in the late 1980s for the amateur United forerunner Lockwood – “basically a pub side” – the outcome had him pinching himself. “A team from Drumchapel doing this? We are only supposed to be a scheme full of druggies, but the Black family has changed that,” he said. “The community is coming together again. And it’s a fairytale.”
Or a nightmare, if you were Maybury and his men. The Irishman did not miss the SFA over the decision to go ahead with the tie, despite the state of the surface. “It’s not our grapes but questions need to be asked about playing on that pitch,” he said. “Someone from the SFA decided this was playable. Even someone from Maryhill said if this was their game they wouldn’t have played it. We’re out the cup, I’ll take my medicine on that, no problem. But for me I’m not sure it should have been played.”