Yesterday I told you about my second Scottish soccer match day experience at Kilmarnock, and today I’m back to finish the tale.
A quick walk through the gates at the back of Rugby Park, and you quickly find yourself standing in the front lot between the grounds and the Park Hotel. If you remember my first trip to Kilmarnock, the Park Hotel was where so much happened pre-match. This time, the hotel bar provided everything pre- and post-match.
I met my friend Dougie at the bar, and the kind gentleman had a pint waiting. Quick back story here: Dougie was the friend of the gentleman I met at the first Kilmarnock FC match, who took my information down to pass to his friend (Dougie) who was going to Orlando for holiday and was planning to go to an Orlando City match. I met up with them at the match, and did my best to help them experience an American soccer match. I don’t know how much better it gets than drinking cold Founders All Day IPAs out of the trunk of a car in a hot parking lot, getting to hang out in the Publix Fan Zone (with free food, water, and cookies), and end up on the Jumbotron (sarcasm, folks). But alas, I tried. The end result of all of this is that Dougie and I have stayed in contact throughout. Now back to our original story line.
The Park Hotel is a complete oddity to me. It is basically on the grounds of Rugby Park, and the players and staff are easily found in the bar/common area prior to the match. What made today even more special was that the club was having its Ladies Day. There was an entire section of the Park Hotel — I am assuming it was the ballroom or something equivalent — that was reserved just for the ladies, and if you are not familiar with Ladies Days around Europe, it is an absolute spectacle. The women come dressed to the nines, some in fancy attire, some looking like they are going to go party at one of those super exclusive clubs with velvet rope dividers in the super fashionable part of town, but they all looked amazing.
I have no earthly idea what was happening in the area reserved for them, but it certainly sounded like they were having a blast. Dougie’s wife and two daughters stepped out a few times to say hello, as did some of the other gents’ significant others. While the ladies were having their fun, the gents were at the bar doing exactly what they did in March, drinking pints, eating a pie, talking shop, throwing a few quid at the betting pool or raffle to help support the supporters’ club, and enjoying the afternoon.
The match was held in sunlight. Can you believe that? This time it was to be Kilmarnock FC vs. Motherwell FC. This match — I will say primarily due to it being played in slightly warmer weather so I wasn’t focused on freezing, and also being played in the afternoon vs. an evening kickoff — gave me a slightly better look at Scottish football. It is much more physical than what I am used to watching in person, it is much more over the top, and it is a bit more chaotic. My seats were a little better as well.
By the way, the ladies who were taking part in the Ladies Day festivities had an entire section reserved for them. Looking at the picture above, they are one section to the right of the section below my vantage point (i.e., they had nice seats). The ladies also appeared to be having a ton of fun, and this certainly seems like something that would be amazing to do at Orlando City.
As you can see from the picture, it is an artificial surface, and you can also tell by the way the ball loves to skip and take odd bounces. As I mentioned before, this game was very much played over the top. Both teams played relatively quick balls over the top to streaking players, hoping to catch back lines off guard and get a breakaway, maintain possession for a few seconds and let the midfield catch up and get into scoring positions, win a free kick through a defensive foul, or win a corner. This tactic was the vast majority of play for both sides, and it worked well for Motherwell first as can be seen in the highlight reel below.
Unfortunately for Motherwell, the game turned when Curtis Main, who scored the first goal, missed a penalty kick. Kilmarnock then rattled off two goals in four minutes before halftime, and sealed the win with a successful spot kick in the second half. Goals from Chris Burke, Greg Stewart, and the successful penalty conversion by Eamonn Brophy meant that the walk back to the Park Hotel after the match was a joyous one.
I tried so hard to maintain once we got back to the Park, but to be honest, travel and pints and travel and more pints were starting to take a hold of me. In other words, I was getting really tired and needed to head back to the hotel. I finished my pint with Dougie, said goodnight to everyone drinking around us, and walked up to the desk at the hotel to kindly ask them to call me a cab. It was just cold and windy enough that I didn’t want to brave walking back to the train station. I waited for my cab up front, but wasn’t quick enough when it arrived, as a couple of folks just said they were me, and jumped right in. This was perfectly fine, because I had just spent enough time outside in the cold to wake up and catch a bit of a second wind.
As I walked back in, thinking if I should go sit with Dougie and crew for one more pint, I heard a voice yelling. I looked around all over the lobby to see a man with a goatee pointing at me, yelling for me to come over and talk. As I approached, he introduced himself to me and said he had to take a picture with me, because we were bearded brothers. I gladly agreed, on the condition that he would take one with me. It was just then that he realized that I wasn’t from around those parts. He asked all the important questions about why I would come down to Killie for a football match. I explained the circumstances of the last trip, and how I now have a big soft spot for the whole Kilmarnock FC experience, and as much as catching a match at Celtic Park or Ibrox would be amazing, if Killie is at home, I will gladly reach out to my friends and take the train down.
This man is rock and roll, has two Harleys and two Triumphs, and is Lord Provost of East Ayrshire. We took four pictures together, all the while chatting about Kilmarnock, the match, metal music, and how I need to reach out to him the next time I am in town.
I can assure you, before I leave Scotland I will connect with this fine gentleman and see what happens from there. I only wish I had accepted his offer for a pint. I think I was on the edge of delirious, which you can see in my facial expression above, that I didn’t even realize what I was politely declining until it was to late. I also completely forgot to get a Kilmarnock jersey, or scarf, or anything. I even forgot to get my picture in front of Rugby Park with my Orlando City scarf to post up. The fact of the matter is, once again, Killie took me on a whirlwind ride. I even got an escort back to Glasgow Central Station.
There are other clubs in Sottish Premier League Football, including clubs that see Champions League play almost every season. There are sights to see all around Glasgow. I have missed them all, and gladly so. The town of Kilmarnock and Kilmarnock FC have a new fan. I will be watching from afar. I will cheer with you, I will cry with you, and I hope nothing but success for this club. I have much to learn, and I will certainly get there. Orlando City is my first true love, it is my home club, and I will bleed purple forever. However, as pretty much everyone I know have a love overseas, I think I have found mine. And you Celtic friends, sorry, not sorry.