SONS ARE UP FOR THE CUP
Wonder goal – Dimitri Froxylias, scored from 40 yards.
By WILLIE COCHRANE, adopted Son of the Rock and former Lennox Herald reporter now of The Scottish Sun. Pictures by Donald Fullarton
February 27, 2018 – DUMBARTON in a cup final. Who’d have thought it? Certainly not me back when I was covering the Sons for the Lennox Herald during the rank-rotten days of the Neil Rankine regime. But it’s happening. Thanks to a 2-1 win over Welsh champions The New Saints in the English town of Oswestry, Dumbarton will play in a major Scottish final for the first time in 121 years. And their sensational Irn-Bru Cup run has been inspired by a sparkling ginger of their own. Manager Stevie Aitken may not be one of the big-name managers in the Scottish Championship, but he’s proved time and again that he’s one of the best. The flame-haired former Morton midfielder has guided his gutsy part-timers to some sensational results over his two-and-a-half years at the helm so far. No Sons fan will forget the two home wins over Hibs in Aitken’s first season and the 2-2 draw in Leith during the Easter Road side’s title-winning campaign last term. Against Dundee United, Aitken led his men to seven points out of 12 last term and a Tannadice draw back in September. Full-time big guns Falkirk, St Mirren and Inverness – who’ll be their Irn-Bru Cup Final opponents at MacDiarmid Park in Perth on March 24 – have all been bitten by Aitken’s underdogs. But for me, that dramatic comeback win over The New Saints – a team that plays in the Champions League qualifiers every season – topped the lot. Roared on by more than 500 diehards who made a 580-mile round trip to Shropshire, Aitken’s side had grown men crying tears of joy as late goals from Danny Handling and Dimitri Froxylias sealed their final spot.
Never in my 21 years as an adopted Son of the Rock has a Dumbarton victory caused such a buzz in the town.
Now Stevie has the chance to go one better by guiding his team to cup glory – and it would be incredible if the whole district got right behind the club. How great would it be to see our shops and pubs – and maybe even the council – getting the bunting out and turning the town black and gold? Wouldn’t it be amazing if families or local youth groups took advantage of the free tickets that are available for Under-12s and a cup triumph inspired a whole new generation of Sons season ticket-holders?
And imagine if a few hundred of those Celtic and Rangers fans who ‘keep an eye out’ for their local team’s result actually decided to go to this game and the Sons support outnumbered that of the ‘big’ team.
Whatever happens, it promises to be a memorable day.
It’s just bizarre to think that Dumbarton could end the campaign with a trophy in the cabinet AND suffer the misery of relegation. After dodging the drop in each of the past five seasons – quite comfortably, in some of them – it looks increasingly likely they’ll finish this one in the dreaded play-off spot. Given a choice between cup glory and Championship survival, I’d take the silverware. Let’s face it, Sons might never get to a final again never mind win one. But Aitken will believe his team can do both – and you certainly wouldn’t bet against Stevie’s Wonders.