A Home Fixture – Kenny Farquharson

Home is where the heart is, especially when you are a football fan. A home fixture has an almost religious significance. For a lapsed Catholic like myself it has a sacramental quality. Match day is a holy day of obligation. Or sometimes a sorrowful mystery.

I left Dundee in 1980 at the age of 18 to go to university and in the decades that followed I was a fair-weather Dundee United supporter. Occasionally along the way I returned to Tannadice but I felt more like a tourist than a true fan.

Then a couple of years ago I bought a season ticket. I was travelling every weekend from Edinburgh to Dundee to visit my elderly mother. It seemed like an opportunity, finally, to be a real United supporter.

On a whim I took my camera, an unobtrusive Fuji X100F, and after a couple of matches decided I was going to take pictures at every game. Only rarely did I point the lens at what was happening on the pitch. What interested me was the home crowd. The kids, eyes shining with excitement. The old men, stoics from Ancient Greece. Tough guys being tender. Teenage boys experimenting with swagger. The fellowship. The easy familiarity.

The faces fascinated me. There seemed to be a number of archetypal Dundee looks. One was sandy-haired, pale-skinned and soft-featured, almost delicate. Another was dark, angular and Irish. And yes, some of the men looked like me. Dundonian DNA. To quote one of my mother’s favourite phrases, you always know your own.

In the George Fox stand, with a good view of the Law Hill between the floodlights, I felt the contentment of being where I belonged. It felt nourishing. It felt good for the soul. I admit at times the football was almost incidental. This was about reconnecting with the city of my birth, the place that shaped me. Admittedly that shaping process was more panel-beating than sculpture, but that is neither here nor there.

Despite being a godless heathen these days I occasionally go to mass with my mother to keep her company. And I always enjoy the colour and spectacle, the singing of hymns and chanting of responses, the strong sense of community. What I miss about being a churchgoer is what I value about going to the football.

Just as the liturgical seasons give shape and texture to the year so too does the football season. The game has its own feast days, its own colour and spectacle, its own rituals, its own communitarianism. Sitting in the crowd, part of the pleasure is having your emotions hit highs and lows in unison with 10,000 others. An adrenaline choir.

My photographs are the inexpert work of an amateur. But I have watched professional press photographers at work for four decades and, as an editor, I relished the job of picture selection and page design. I had good teachers.

The pictures I am happiest with are not necessarily the ones that are pinsharp or well-composed. Just as well, because technically mine are a bit of a mess. Instead I like the ones that make you wonder who that guy is, what that kid is called, what thoughts are going through that bloke’s head.

These are my fellow Dundee United fans. Thanks to them, match day feels like coming home.

Kenny Farquharson is a columnist with The Times. He microblogs on Twitter @kennyfarq. For more of his photography visit: tinyurl.com/y4apm4d2. This article is from the current issue of Nutmeg, a Scottish football periodical, nutmegmagazine.co.uk.

Fancy some extra time? – Join Kenny Farquharson, Colin McPherson and Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert on the Document Scotland supporter’s platform for a video chat and to listen to them discuss their respective photography projects looking at Scottish football culture, and hear how they approach the subjects, the insights behind images, and a few little tips. There’s also a free to download pdf of football photography from Jeremy and Colin to download, and enjoy!

Fitba’ Crazy

It’s back! Just a few, short, soggy weeks of summer, and another season of Scotland’s obsession hoves into view. With a glut of oddly-matched pre-season friendlies upon us, it’s a sure sign that winter is coming and the stands and terracing will soon be resounding to the cheers, taunts, curses and groans of legions of football supporters the length and breadth of the land. From Harmsworth Park in Wick, to Stair Park, Stranraer, replica strips are squeezed into, scarves are adorned, beer is consumed and before you realise, it all kicks off again.

Football has always held a grim fascination for me. From my youth, spent grubbing around the fetid underbelly of Scottish soccer as a die-hard Meadowbank Thistle supporter, to my current incarnation as a documentary photographer and some-time chronicler of the national game, what interests me most is not the multi-million pound wasters or the diving prima donnas clogging up my television screen, but rather the relationship between the clubs and their fans, who dutifully follow their chosen teams to the extremities of life. And it’s the places where they choose to worship which captures my attention too. Yes, there is nothing I love more than the throbbing gristle of a Hampden full-house. But give me Glebe Park in the rain too, and I’ll show you where real life exists, or life really exists.

With Scotland’s first clash with the Auld Enemy since the turn of the century taking place next month at Wembley, there is much to look forward to. Will I be there, or will I be sent to somewhere like Whitehill Welfare as they kick-off the newly-created Lowland League? Wherever it is, I’ll be happily shooting pictures and whistling the tune to ‘Fitba’ Crazy’!

Colin McPherson’s images of Scottish football were taken on assignment for the long-running monthly football magazine When Saturday Comes. To view further images, please visit Colin’s website.

A groundsman securing signs for spectators at the entrance to Central Park, prior to the Alba Challenge Cup second round tie between Cowdenbeath and Dundee. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2009, all rights reserved.
A view from the top of Dundee Law showing the city’s two senior football grounds. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2011, all rights reserved.
Kirkintilloch Rob Roy supporters watching their team taking on local rivals Kilsyth Rangers Junior cup match.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2008, all rights reserved.
Heart of Midlothian fans gathering outside the Tyncastle Arms before a league match with Inverness.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2006, all rights reserved.
Fraserburgh South church dominates the skyline at Bellslea Park, during Fraserburgh’s Highland League fixture against visitors Strathspey Thistle. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2010, all rights reserved.
The groundsman’s hut at the BetButler Stadium pictured as Dumbarton play Cowdenbeath in a Scottish League First Division match. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2012, all rights reserved.
Ukrainian police dressed in riot gear segregate fans of Scotland and Ukraine as they arrive for the match between the two countries. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2005, all rights reserved.


Alloa Athletic football supporters watching their team defending at Recreation Park against visitors Aberdeen, with the Ochil Hills providing the backdrop. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2010, all rights reserved.
Spectators in the main stand at Easter Road watching Hibernian taking on Peterhead in a League Cup tie.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2006, all rights reserved.
Queen’s Park players celebrating their team’s goal against Alloa Athletic in a Scottish League second division match at Hampden Park. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2007, all rights reserved.
The souvenir shop open for business as Pollok take on local rivals Neilston in a Junior cup tie at Newlandsfield on Glasgow’s south side. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2008, all rights reserved.
The view of the second half action at the BetButler Stadium seen from Dumbarton Rock as Dumbarton play Cowdenbeath in a Scottish League First Division match. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2012, all rights reserved.