The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)
New book pays tribute to fans’ community spirit
● Author celebrates ‘unique culture’ of Highland League football
Wrapped in his grandmother’s hand knitted Salisbury Football Club scarf and standing close to his grandfather at Victoria Park amid a sea of supporters rippling with waves of excitement, a young boy is in awe of the passion of local football.
Fast-forward four decades and venture more than 600 miles north, and Mat Guy is still struck with that same feeling as he attends Highland League games.
Despite the author residing in Southampton, he has dedicated a year to travelling around the north of Scotland for his new book, Barcelona to Buckie Thistle.
Spending many of his Saturday afternoons at football parks across Moray,
“ThefeelingI goteverytime wasoneof overwhelming passion”
Aberdeenshire and the Highlands watching their small-town teams, Mr Guy learned of the rich heritage of the 126-year-old league from the communities themselves by standing among the dedicated supporters.
He said: “The feeling I got every time I went to a match was one of overwhelming passion.
“It may be a remote league but it’s not missing the blood and thunder of the game and so this book really is a celebration of the Highland League.”
A long-time football enthusiast with a passion for watching teams from all levels, the author was introduced to Britain’s most northerly senior football championship after discovering his family ties to the region.
From learning that his grandmother lived in towns throughout the north-east as a teenager during the Second World War, to becoming enthralled by the “unique culture” of the Highland League, he says it married up to be a “no-brainer” to write the book.
He says he called the book Barcelona to Buckie Thistle to show the parallels he found throughout European nations of smaller leagues being dismissed or overlooked, as the Highland League often is.
Mr Guy said: “There’s no difference to me – whether it’s the world’s biggest team Barcelona or the league’s Buckie Thistle, the passion and the pride of football remains the same.”
As well as being moved by the unwavering fervour and fierce identity of the Highland League’s teams, Mr Guy was taken aback by the community spirit.
He added: “Of course people want to win, but it’s done with a sporting, cultural and community respect.”