The back seat of the 56 First Bus was about to witness a monumental occasion. If the driver was aware of what was about to happen, he’d surely have pulled over and unveiled a cavalcade of tooting horns to mark the occasion. For the first and most likely last time, a conversation was going to take place between Kendo Richards and Rab Walker which cited something learned in school.

“Rab, remember that thing we learned in school about the sodjies in the War?” Hardly the sort of conversation starter that would prick up the ears of people listening but it seemed to have some form of impact on Rab.

“What ya maddie? I don’t even remember what classes I take in school let alone the lessons from them. The sodjies in the war? What war…doesnae matter, they’re aw the same anyways. Pure mad dafties shooting at each other…”

“Naw, no that stuff, the thing about the fitba. Remember, the first War, on Christmas Day, they aw stopped for a game of football.” A look of pain was etched across Rab’s face but this was just due to his brain being asked to function above its normal level, clearly Kendo had punctured through his skull and managed to revitalise some long forgotten part of his brain.”

The Sodjies playin Fitba

The Sodjies playin Fitba

“Aye….a lotta pish – every other day you’re fighting folk and then one day you’re mates with them playing fitba? Nah Kendo, that’s not happening..unless it was a dead dirty game. Could you imagine, it’d be like a Cellic and Rangers game, they’d be pure flying into each other from the kick-off.”

“Aye man…thing is though, it was different times back then, even during a war there was a bit more niceness between folk.”

“Aye, life’s full of dicks these days, that’s the problem.” The irony of this statement was clearly lost on a boy smoking a cigarette with his feet up on the seats. “Anyways…what aboot it? What aboot these sodjies in the war?”

“I was thinking”…..”haha, you don’t want to be daeing that mate, it’ll hurt too much” “Aye Rab, you’d know…anyways, I was thinking, why don’t we dae that with the Nitsy Tongs.”

Rab paused for thought longer than the buses pause at the Star Bar in the Eglinton Toll before coming back with; “Why you always so keen to get the fighting and scrapping finished?”

“I’ve got an aunt that stays up that way…it’s alright for you lot if you can stay out of there but I’m, always cutting through watching my back. I’ve told my maw that I’m oot the fighting game so she says I’ve no excuse for no going up. So….hows about we get a game against them?”

“And what…we’ll become mates wi’ them? The day after Christmas the sodjies were right back killing each other and it’ll be the same with us” reasoned Rab and it was easy to see his logic. Football can be the great leveller in bringing people together but if it was a sure-fire solution to bring rival gangs together, it would surely have been done before?

“Look, let’s just try it….if it doesn’t work what have we lost oot on? Thing is though, it cannae be Christmas Day, my maw will no let me oot to play fitba but we could aw play on Boxing Day.”

A suitable moll who had a foot (and other parts of her body) in both camps was sent scurrying to Jemsy Weir, the self-appointed leader of the Nitsy Tongs. Rab might not have had a way with words but he was handy enough on the computer and an invitation was created for the game of the gangs:

Challenge Fitba Match
Priesty Star v Nitsy Tongs
We’ll wear white tops…you choose wan colour of kit
Boxing Day 11am
Pitch: The Hurlet
Nae chibs, nae tools, nae nuthin…just fitba
Ref: Mad Dan fae Peat Road
If you accept this challenge, inform Shannon you’re intae it.
Rab – The Priesty Star

Shannon didn’t need a response to know that Jemsy was intae it but it seemed that a game of football between the gangs was appealing to the Nitsy mob as well.

Christmas Day had arrived but for the two teams, there was something else that was taking their attention. Just when many people were settling down for their biggest meal of the year, Kendo’s phone rang.

“Awright mucker, Merry Crimbo…right, naebody’s to get steaming the night, we need to batter this mob the morra.”

“Aye mate, I’ve a few bottles of cider for efter my dinner but I’ll be keeping the lid on it mate…my old man has broke out the Merrydown but he’s keeping the Buckie locked away until the morra night so I don’t get mad wi it.”

“That’s what I need to hear ma man…that’s why you’re vice-captain….you get any new fitba gear? I got they Messi boots, I’m gonnae rip they Nitsy arseholes a new arsehole by the time we’re done.”

“New shinnies and one of they Under Armour taps…a white yin so that’ll go great with our gear. Right mate, my daws dishing oot the spud, see you the morra.”

Messi's Boots

Messi's Boots

“Nae worries ma man…remember, we’re meeting at 10 for a warm up and some tactics.”

Peace and goodwill to all gentlemen was being spread around the world but with one more sleep, a little bit of violence and anarchy was going to be breaking out on the South-side of Glasgow. Tis the season after all….

It was a brisk Boxing Day morning at the Hurlet but by 10:10, the full Priesty team had been assembled. Jossy the Giant in goals, full backs Mac Smith and Johnny Herbert, brothers Ronnie and Pete Mackie were the rocks at centre half. The midfield was made up with Rab in the middle of the centre park, accompanied by Terry “Rocket” Marks. For many sportsmen, the nickname rocket means a powerful shot or a turn of pace but not with Terry, he was an absolute rocket who would have fitted in with the notion of a 70s and 80s midfielder. The wide players were tiny winger Josie Wallace and the somewhat slower and chunkier Johnny J on the right wing. Up front were Kendo and his lightning quick partner Willie Wilson.

It was a traditional 4-4-2 but the team talk that Rab was about to deliver was certainly far from the traditional.

“Right lads, you know what’s at stake here…so just get right intae them…mad Dan’s the ref so basically, nae knives and I think you’ll be alright…dae it tae them before they dae it to you…get control of your individual fight….and then play fitba. Right Josie, we’ll try and protect you but you know they’ll try and hammer you…so be smart…and don’t worry about leaving a leg trailing. Apart fae that, defenders play it long and wide and we’ll chase it down.”

The boys were fully focussed…well, as fully focused as these lads could ever be at 10:30 on Boxing Day morning. Football talk leads to players talking about a mythical 110% but the Priesty boys were doing well to reach 65%….Rab was hoping it would be enough.

“Set pieces…just grab a man…oor set pieces, Johnny J, fire it intae the middle with pace…any free kicks worth shooting, I’m on or I’ll let Kendo crack one. But we’ll see how it goes….right, we’re jogging roon the park”

The Priesty team were suitably warmed up and started to wonder if their opponents were going to show up. There was a thought that the Nitsy mob could be having a right laugh at the Priesty boys, getting out of bed on Boxing Day early was bad enough but running about a field was far from the best of ideas…..but just as that fear was starting to build, over the hills came a squad of bams that would never normally get a warm welcome in this part of the city. However, there was a sense of relief amongst the Priesty team that their opponents had turned up…now there was just a ref needed and everything would be set.

With Mad Dan eventually surfacing around 11:15m stinking of Supies, dope and moderate shame, the game was belatedly underway. Even if the players had kept their promise to not get blootered on the eve of the match, both teams started a bit leggy. There was a lot of stake and the fear of losing was possibly bigger than the pride that would come with a win. The first ten minutes passed by in a midfield battle with the game needing something to spark it to life.

Unsurprisingly, this spark was to come quickly..and it was a brutal challenge on left winger Josie Wallace. Josie had been the stand-out performer of a dull game so far, taking his right back to the cleaners on a number of occasions. It seems that a nutmeg was the last embarrassment the defender was willing to take and retribution was taken with a sly kick as Josie sped by him. It wasn’t that bad a foul and Josie wasn’t hurt but in a game between two sides who hated each other…it kicked off a fight. Players waded into each other and even though Mad Dan was doing his best to get in between the players and break it up, there were a few fly punches dished out to either team. A shout of “that’s what yet get for showboating ya Priesty blackneck” didn’t help to calm the matter down but it may just have given the home side further impetus to push on.

Ya Priesty Black Neck - © Get Around Glasgow T-Shirts

Ya Priesty Black Neck - © Get Around Glasgow T-Shirts

The squabbles settled down with a yellow card being delivered to the Nitsy right back but a bigger impact on the game was about to occur. The free-kick was swung in and Pete Mackie rose highest at the back post to power home a header. The home players celebrated, leaping on top of Pete and the crowd went wild…well, the dug being walked on the spare ground was yelping his approval but its owner didn’t seem too fussed about the opening strike.

“Right boys, just play as if it’s still 0-0, keep it tight at the back” was the advice of Rab but the underlying message of his meaning was lost on Rocket. “Rab, was the goal chopped off?” asked the dim midfielder but a look from his captain was enough to ensure the midfielder kept his mouth shut and just carried on with the game.

The game was ticking down to half-time but if the Priesty team were hoping to hold a lead going into the second half, they didn’t bank on a shock. A long ball was booted up the park from the Nitsy centre half and it should have been an easy one to deal with but Johnny Herbert was starting to feel the effects of a late night. As the bar fell from the sky, a simple header was missed as Johnny unexpectedly threw-up, allowing the Nitsy centre forward to run free. Jossy had no chance of saving it and on the brink of half-time, the game was tied at 1-1.

Mad Dan blew the whistle and both teams shuffled off to their respective sidelines and collapsed, it had been a long half and both teams had given their all. “Johnny, what the hell was that?” asked Rab.

“I’m sorry boys, I was running for the ba’ but there was some dug shite on the park and it was honking, my stomach just went…I’m dead sorry.” Laughter ripped round the team and any thoughts of blaming Johnny stopped there and then.

“Right Johnny, man up, get some water doon ye. Everybody else, keep it going, we did well…is anybody else feeling sick? Right lads, time for the half-time orange.” Rab reached into his bag and pulled out two bottles of orange flavoured MD 20/20 with the team, minus Johnny, getting wired in. “This’ll get us going in the second half…same again boys”

The second half was pretty much of the same but as the game wore on, both teams started to tire. The lack of subs was a big drawback and the players didn’t even have it in them to take out their opponents, it was just lucky that no one was in the mood to try and dribble by them. The long ball game was becoming the main tactic with a mistake likely to separate the sides if there was to be a winner.

With 5 minutes to go, a breakthrough looked on. Priesty had a corner and the big guys were sent up from the back. As the opening goal of the game came from a free-kick, there was hope for a second goal from a set-piece but a tame header was grabbed by the Nitsy goalie and launched up the field. The bounce took it over the head of Rocket and the wee Nitsy striker was through on goalie. There was only the keeper to beat when the striker’s attention was taken from the ball by the on-rushing dog who had slipped his owner’s leash and was now bearing down on the player. The striker tripped over the ball and just as the Priesty team started to laugh, the dug sank his teeth into the ball, effectively ending the game there and then.

The Nitsy boys were in a rage but the sight of their player lying spread-eagled on the deck with a wee dug running aboot the field with a ball in his mouth was a rather hilarious sight. Mad Dan peeped his whistle three times and the game was over. Some hearty handshakes were exchanged and perhaps Kendo’s plans had worked. A common cause was a good way for the boys to come together and the two captains were having a post-match chat in the middle of the field.

“That was a good game Rab, you boys done well. We got lucky with the goal….but you got bloody lucky at the end there.”

“Aye, hahaha, sorry about that Jemsy, I’d say these things happen but I’ve no saw that at Hampden…saw a few mad dugs but they’ve all been on the terraces!”

“You had a good game mate, my Sunday league team is looking for a central midfielder, do you fancy coming along for a trial? I’ll put a word in with the boss”

Rab reached out to shake his counterpart’s hand and agreed to head along for a trial at some point in the New Year. It looked as though the two gangs had put their differences aside…but there was talk of a New Year rematch to come in Nitsy and who knows how that would end?

New Year Fireworks in Nitshill

New Year Fireworks in Nitshill

Here’s some more Glasgow Christmas Stories:
Glasgow Christmas Story
Into The Valley
Fair Means or Fowl