Rangers v Celtic. Hearts v Hibs. Barcelona v Real Madrid. Boca Juniors v River Plate. Bathgate Thistle v Armadale Thistle?
At first glance you may look at this list and think to yourself – what is the last game doing sitting alongside the others? And you would be forgiven as of course those first four are all massive games. Full to the brim with passion and rivalry. Emotions running high, vital goals and tackles flying in. Two sets of players giving their very best to ensure that their fans leave with the bragging rights intact. Lifelong friendships set aside for a nail-biting hour and a half. Actually, come to think of it, maybe ‘The Battle of The Jags’ has more in common with those other matches than may first appear.
You see, football like everything else in this world is relative. A local ‘Junior’ derby carries as much significance and meaning for fans of either club as any of the matches listed above. The heart beats just as fast and the adrenaline swirls around the veins just as furiously. No difference indeed to the euphoria felt when that final whistle sounds and your team has won; the same crushing despair and disappointment of defeat.
Bathgate and Armadale are not separated by much. Indeed you could argue that as local developments continue to sprout on their edges like the first flowers of spring the boundary lines appear to be becoming ever more blurred. But separate they remain. Split by their own history and traditions. A quick look on Google Maps will tell you that both teams’ home grounds, The Creamery and Volunteer Park, are 2.1 miles apart. This is as local a derby as you can get.
And the players know what it means too. At OUR level of the game, because it is ours, these warriors on the park aren’t mega stars who live their lives far removed from the punter on the terrace. Local lads themselves; they are more than sensitive to the collective will on the terraces for victory. They know the part they have to play in this grand theatre. They all want to be stars and not just bit-part players; exerting every effort to achieve the acclaim that follows a precious, precious win.
This Saturday it all begins again. Come along and lend your support to the teams.
Venue: Volunteer Park
Kick off 2.30pm
Together we are stronger.