In all my years working as an editorial photographer in Scotland I always tried to stay away from shooting the obligatory football matches. It isn’t that I didn’t like football, or didn’t follow the results, just that I had no desire to sit and photograph football games on Saturday afternoons or on wet Wednesday nights. It wasn’t what I got into photography for. And then I relocated to Japan to work for a few years and I was ever further away from Scottish football, and every time I had to explain the Rangers Celtic rivalry, bigotry and hatred, I would feel glad that I was a few thousand miles away from it all. To hear the occasional result was enough. I didn’t have to live it or photograph it.
But then a funny ol’ thing happened. I moved back to Glasgow to live and work at the same time as Rangers FC began their new adventure, their new battle to climb the table, but this time in the Irn-Bru Third Division. The mighty ‘Gers, with their incredible club history stretching back to 1893, have this season found themselves at the bottom of the table, taken there not by their own bad results on the pitch, but by bad results in the boardroom and by years of financial mismanagement. And now they face a climb back to the top, with games away to exalted teams such as Elgin City, Berwick Rangers and Annan Athletic.
A colleague in Tokyo and I discussed the Rangers story and it struck me that a year with Rangers in the 3rd division might just be perfect for me. I can immerse myself in all things Glaswegian, I can see the country, the landscapes and feel the raw fresh weather on my face, and of course the story is rich in material for photographs. It’ll be great to document, the fans, the stadiums, the culture of Scottish lower division football. And so it is I have embarked on a season of football. I find myself smirking as I contemplate buying a Rangers season ticket. I woke up yesterday, Tuesday, already wishing it were Saturday and there was a game on. I find myself saying “We’re away to Annan next week” and I’m not discussing a family weekend away to Annan.
The tear sheets below come from this week’s Der Spiegel German news magazine. My first assignment back in Scotland two weeks ago, and with huge fortune and fate, I was to accompany a sports writer and the story was to be Rangers in the 3rd division. The referee had just blown the whistle and signalled that I was onside. An omen perhaps, and a great start to my season of Life In The 3rd.
I’ll post more images as the season and project progresses, but for the time being here is the Der Speigel pages which had my images, and also a shot, above, from an away game to Berwick Rangers FC a week ago.