My Killie Rituals: Ross Calderwood

“Ross Calderwood is a Kilmarnock supporter of 24 years. As part of our Killie Rituals series, he kindly shared with us a personal essay about his rituals, being a Killie fan, and following the action in the pandemic era.” 

Football, in normal times, for me is a real sensory carnival. I tended to go to games on my on to keep the whole thing sacred, but occasionally go with one or both of my young kids which obviously dramatically changes my routine and enjoyment of the day.

My Grandad started taking me to Killie games and now it’s one of the few things I can do to be really close to him (he passed in 2006) I’ve still got the same seats for me and my oldest son as I used to hold with my Gramps. That alone maintains Rugby Park as a bit of a cathedral for me. Then when you throw in the past 24 years of ups, downs and in-betweens it takes on even more gravitas than just being the Theatre of Pies.

I am an incredibly structured guy so my matchday tended to run like a military operation where I’d be convinced that any glitch or modification to my superstitions would be the downfall of Killie that day. So I always try to go for a run close to midday including a quick lap round RP as the matchday activities build around the ground, I’d always be hoping that I’d pass a player whilst passing but rarely did. Home for a shower and then dressed in the same football clothes as every other home game (Away games had a different dress code) drive down to the ground and try to park on Old Irvine Road, anywhere else wasn’t as good luck, then march down to South Hamilton Street and Rugby road towards the Frank Beattie.

Ross’s two sons take in the action

Always in through the same turnstile, again any other one wasn’t as lucky, then Scotch Pie, Killie Pie, Bovril and Empire Biscuit (consumed in that order) from the till furthest to the right in the tea bar. Then, up to my seat which I’d only ever actually sit on at half time.

The rigidity with which I follow this structure is totally bonkers but always felt like the best way to set up a matchday. The actual viewing of the football often receded to being a bit of a side show to all of the other little details of the day. The chat with the guys I sit close to, the pre-match tunes and build up from Gav, especially his rolling build up immediately before kick-off which I really miss. The melt your face temperature of the Bovril. The soggy bottom of the pies. The shuffle of feet on the wooden decking. The smell of everyone else’s jackets that they only wear to the football and have never washed due to superstition (it can’t just be me) – the list goes on.

There are so many things that bring depth and different dimensions to what is just 90 minutes of some guys running round a pitch in a fairly random fashion. What is crazy is that more often than not it’s not the 90minutes that make the day. It’s the sum of all the other parts.

Move forward to 2020/21 and the matchday experience has become a very monochrome and one dimensional experience.
Knowing fine well that I’d miss ‘going to the football’, I built what can really only be described as a lean-to roof with ranch fencing piggy-backing on to the back of my garage. It’s a garden room at best but it is very definitely outdoors.

An overview of the Kabamba Cabana

Along with an extension lead, TV, and firestick it has become my football cabin (Kabamba’s Cabana/The Alan Power Pavilion). The trouble being that the WiFi out to the garden is patchy at best – so my previous military style prep for a trip to RP has become a frantic muddle of switching adapters on and off and restarting fire sticks which isn’t something that happens instantly. It’s almost an analogue process to furiously try and get it all hooked up in time to log on and establish the stream before kick-off.

Something I’ve only managed twice so far this season and I think the fact that it is so accessible has resulted in me being a bit blasé about it all. Totally my own fault, of course, but is one of various aspects that is reducing the quality of matchday.

There is no company (none of my household are that fussed about football and certainly don’t want to sit out in the garden watching it on the internet). There is no catering. There’s no Gav Wallace build up. No march to and from the car. No smells, sights, sounds of RP and the other patrons. I don’t even have the fixtures written up in the family calendar like I usually would. It has actually put a lot more focus on the 90 minutes itself, which maybe isn’t my comfort zone.

The Alan Power Pavilion by night

It’s mental that I’ve even just said that! You know how some folk have an Odeon unlimited card cos the just love the cinema, they’ll go to see a film which maybe isn’t their style but just because they can? It’s still an experience and they can munch on a huge carton or popcorn. That’s almost like me at the football. Sometimes the film you see is great! Sometimes the film is crap but the trailers were great?

So thrown in the fact that sometimes this season the games have been bad, sometimes the refereeing has been poor, the players have sometimes made terrible decisions/mistakes and we have been losing games – along with glitchy streams, dodgy wifi and the general downer of COVID it makes for a pretty unsatisfying experience more often than not.

To really cap off the bad matches you don’t even get the chance to let off steam on the way back to the car – you are already at home, and the kids are already on top of you, or the housework is immediately on the agenda etc etc and you can’t easily let go of the football induced frustrations and of course all of the superstitions that had tried to be followed earlier in the day get blown away by another last minute defeat.

Do you know what? I want to do it again on Wednesday, or the following Saturday. I don’t really want to miss a second of football and Killie in whatever medium I can get it in.

Like I said – it’s more than just 90 minutes on a Saturday.