This weekend, Edinburgh City welcome Stenhousemuir to Ainslie Park with the two sides experiencing largely contrasting seasons. While the Citizens are pushing Cove at the top of the division, hopeful of achieving promotion via the play-offs, Stenhousemuir are languishing in 8th having drawn their last two fixtures 0-0. Indeed, it has been their inability to turn draws into wins, leading the division in the most games drawn and the second least goals scored.
The last time the two sides met was at the end of January, City coming from behind to secure a 2-1 win at Ochilview Park thanks to second half goals from Handling and Shepherd. City will be hoping for more of the same as they look to continue their momentum in the closing weeks of the season before they face the play-offs.
A Norsk connection
Looking ahead to this fixture allowed me to delve deeper into one of the most bizarre yet heart-warming lower league stories in Scotland – Stenhousemuir’s Norwegian Supporters Club.
Sitting at home scrolling through Teletext in 1992, Rolf Wulff, Christian Wulff and Kjell Jarslett thought Stenhousemuir’s name sounded unusual and almost relatable to their mother tongue. Initially, their appeals to form a Norwegian Supporters’ Club for Stenhousemuir were met with confusion and trepidation – the Warriors’ Chairman assuming their interest would soon pass. However, the following Easter, they made the trip to Falkirk and 28 years later the Supporters’ Club is still going strong.
Current chair of the Club George Mathisen chose the perfect game to watch Stenhousemuir for the first time in 1995. The club had made it to the final of the Scottish Challenge Cup final in which they toppled Dundee United on penalties and achieved their most prized piece of silverware. George was hooked and over the years has helped to grow the connection between Norwegians and the Scottish Division 2 side.
As membership numbers grew, so too did the bond between Stenhousemuir and their Norwegian fans. To show their unity during one of the country’s most difficult times, the club held a minute’s silence after the atrocities extremist Anders Breivik carried out in 2011 murdering 77 people in Oslo and Utoya, a gesture which was deeply appreciated by the Norwegian supporters.
The Supporters’ Club peaked at 100 members and are long-term sponsors of Ochilview’s main stand, coined as the Norway Stand. Furthermore, they help to fund and organise events which raise money for Stenhousemuir’s award-winning community and youth projects. Perhaps as admirably, you cannot accuse the Norwegian fans of being glory hunters. In the years of the Supporters’ Club’s existence, they have only the Challenge Cup to look back on, as well as a couple of promotions which were counteracted by relegations. Most foreign fans of football follow the bigger, more glamorous sides of the English Premier League but that is the beauty of the lower-league game – the feeling of community.
Let’s hope for an equally committed performance from both sides on Saturday.
UPCOMING FIXTURE DETAILS:
Edinburgh City (2nd) vs. Stenhousemuir (8th)
Ainslie Park Stadium
Entry: £12 / £6 / u12s free with paying adult
Written by Miles Lockhart