Fort William’s plight first stuck my eye in the spring of 2018. Even then, the side who play their football at the foot of Ben Nevis had long gone 12 months without a win and were propping up the Highland League, the fifth tier of Scottish soccer.
And they were to go 840 days winless before at final, particularly, and to utter jubilation on the picturesque Claggan Park, victory becomes their last Wednesday, with poor Nairn County on the end of a hiding. There become, I will confess, something in my eye at this tale of sporting redemption.
In among, I made a behind-the-scenes television documentary, approximately Fort William. I fell in love with the team, the supervisor Russell MacMorran, the lower back-room team of workers, and this unique community.
It’s referred to as The Fort, and it was broadcast on BBC Scotland on Tuesday, simply the night before they, in the end, shrugged off the hex.
When we first pitched up with our cameras, I questioned whether or not there would be sufficient engaging characters to style a compelling documentary out of this plucky underdog. It seems the adversity facing the financially-troubled club become far extra than I ought to have imagined, and their fortitude far stronger.
The previous board had stepped down en masse. When I met the new board – a policeman, a property agent, a holiday park proprietor, and an aluminum smelt employee amongst them – what burnt via became the love they had for their community and the stunningly beautiful surroundings they inhabit. None had any enjoyment of strolling a football club, but they had cast-iron determination, and over the next yr, they would research speedily.
I was inquisitive about exploring why the team persisted inside the face of reputedly impossible demanding situations. With so many remaining-location finishes, a self-fulfilling stigma had advanced around the club. Who wants to be associated with losers? For nearby lads to turn out, he takes kamikaze balls.
It no longer assists that Fort William is a hotbed for shinty and home to some of the game’s maximum successful teams. It is straightforward to apprehend why youngsters select to play for a crew they see triumphing trophies instead of losing in double digits every week.
As the months exceeded, what struck me turned into the management’s warmth and the way advantageous everyone remained despite the mounting losses. You should see the pain in the dressing room after every other 11-0 defeat; however, it turned into shrugged off notably fast. How ought to this be? Many concepts were a guffawing inventory; their quest regarded completely futile. What turned into the factor?
But none of this bothered them. They had this uncrushable, wonderful remedy.
What must have been clearer to me earlier was that those men did it for the love of it, the noblest carrying vital of all? With that came indefatigable desire. And this turned into approximately constructing a network interest, investing for the destiny.
Without an expert group inside the region, “the kids would have nothing,” as one father placed it. While the senior group was abject at the park, the kid’s groups are some of the most powerful in Scotland. However, as children attain their mid-young adults, they’ve tended to wasteland the vicinity for golf equipment that promise greater than the £20 a recreation Fort William gamers acquire each week.
With a median gate – hitherto, of less than 100 – the club is also greater than 100 miles from Glasgow and nearly 70 from Inverness.
Many gamers journey for numerous hours to get to training and domestic matches.
Initially, the club was guarded approximately, letting a movie team capture their every communication. But from board conferences to dressing-room team talks, Fort William opened up fascinatingly. Battling PTSD and gambling addictions, the non-public struggles of a few club individuals frequently matched those of the pitch group.
The club has turned its weak point right into electricity, harnessing social media to create a cult online fame. Victory this week more than trebled Fort William’s Twitter followers to fifteen,000. People from as a ways away as New Zealand try to shop for duplicate tops, and the curious-became-faithful followers now tour from a long way away for a matchday enjoy like no different at Claggan Park.