Extensive travels for Galashiels’ walking football squad

Gala Fairydean Rovers walking footballers twice made the 160-mile round trip to Toryglen Sports Centre in Glasgow last week to take part in two national tournaments.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 18th March 2020, 2:50 pm
Gala Fairydean Rovers walking football players
Gala Fairydean Rovers walking football players

On Monday, the team, which was missing four first-team regulars, took part in the Over 60s Glasgow Cup alongside 23 other clubs from throughout Scotland, including Tweedvale from the Scottish Borders.

Former Rangers and Brighton player Gordon Smith and Scotland legend Jim McCalliog, who scored the third goal in the historic 3-2 win over world champions England at Wembley in 1967, attended the event to show their support. Smith actually played for Glasgow Sport West in their opening match against Tweedvale.

Gala were drawn in a particularly difficult group which included tournament favourites Ayr United and North Lanarkshire, plus large established sides Kilmarnock, Sauchie Juniors and Linlithgow Rose.

In the opening fixture, Ayr demonstrated why they are currently considered Scotland’s top side and won comfortably 2-0. But for some fine saves from stand-in keeper Glenn Milne, the margin of defeat could have been larger.

A similar 2-0 defeat to North Lanarkshire followed before Gala found their form against Kilmarnock.

John Hislop opened the scoring from close range after a superb through ball from John Webster, before goals from Tony Peyton and John Dodds secured a deserved 3-0 victory.

Despite dominating against Sauchie, a last-second goal against the run of play ended any hopes of progressing and Gala finished the day with a 1-0 win over Linlithgow Rose, thanks to a Grant Leitch goal.

On Friday, the Over 50 squad returned to Toryglen to compete in the Euro2020 Walking Football League where they have been representing Budapest.

The unique tournament which was organised by Glasgow Sport involves 12 teams from throughout the country who represent a different European City where games will be (Coronavirus permitting) taking place this summer.

This time, Gala were without eight regular squad members after a late call-off from Milne, which meant Gala were without a recognised ‘keeper.

Hislop volunteered but a recurrence of a shoulder injury in the warm-up resulted in Jim Watters taking over.

Ex-Hearts and Scotland manager Craig Levein, former Dundee United and Rangers striker Jon Daly and ex- Hearts winger Jose Quitongo joined former Dunfermline manager and current Provost of Fife, Jim Leishman MBE, at the centre to celebrate the event.

The opening game was against Amsterdam, who are represented by on-form Linlithgow Rose, and Watters justified his decision to go in goals with several outstanding saves before Rose took the lead.

It looked like Gala were heading for a defeat but, in the dying seconds, Hislop intercepted the ball in midfield, strode forward and fired an unstoppable 20-yard strike which few into the top corner of the net, leaving the Linlithgow ‘keeper stranded.

In the next game against Bucharest, represented by Alloa, Gala produced the free-flowing brand of football for which they have become known and took the lead with a goal fit to grace any game.

A fine move involving Jim McLaren, Webster and Howard Edge ended with a low strike from Hugh Henderson which gave Gala a deserved lead.

Gala created a number of good chances but were unable to secure the second goal and Bucharest grabbed a late equaliser. The final match against Ayr United finished scoreless.

Chairman John Hislop said: “It’s been a busy week and every one of our players has performed admirably. We have now played 11 games in the league against all the top sides in Scotland and have only lost one. When we have everyone available, we are more than a match for anyone.

“All future walking football tournaments have been suspended because of the coronavirus, which is sensible and understandable, but we are all looking forward to the resumption.”