I reckon this football thing could catch on

Amanda Rae, Head of Policy & Development

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Hampden Park - Scotland vs MaltaGrowing up in the West of Scotland, there was always football – from wee boys playing in the street to grown men charging round pitches on a Saturday, and hung-over teams playing five-a-side on a Sunday morning (and then strangely heading back to the pub) it has always been there. I, however, in the main have ignored it.

Then I joined CPS, where it became apparent that it pervaded more than playgrounds and Saturday afternoons….and then I got the call…you’re up to accompany our new Charity Partners, the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) to Hampden for a Scotland game. Having avoided the glorious game for a lot of years, it was now “work” and I was going.

So yesterday afternoon, Harry McQuillan and I set off to drive to Glasgow in the rain (other types of weather are available, just not in Scotland). We arrived just before 5pm, and were shown in to the Lomond Suite. Imagine my surprise – I thought I was coming to experience “pies and Bovril” and found myself on the set of “The Great British Menu”. Immaculate tables, flowers, wine, beer, white china… Maybe this would be ok!

Our guests arrived – Jo Anderson and Billy Watson from SAMH – and following introductions, the conversation flowed as we talked about our two organisations.

SAMH is Scotland’s largest mental health charity, who advocate that there is no health without mental health. Their reason for being is to provide help, information and support to people affected by mental health problems.

By 2020, depression will be second only to heart disease as an international burden and every year one in four of us will experience a mental health problem.

SAMH provides community based support services for people across Scotland with mental health problems. It is easy to see how this fits with the community pharmacy network and how we can work together.

Pies at Hampden Park - Scotland vs MaltaDinner was served and the conversation turned to food. The starter arrived – a sort of haggis scotch egg (haggis, surrounded by ground pork, then breadcrumbs and served on a bed of mashed sweet potatoes), followed by a chicken main course and dessert. Harry was disappointed not to get a “school dinner” type of apple pie and custard thing, but was consoled by the slightly less substantial excellent cherry and cream concoction. Conversation turned to cookery shows – MasterChef or Bake Off? SAMH going for MasterChef, while CPS opted for The Bake Off. Looks like a bit of a fund-raising competition coming up.

A note here on the “Rest Rooms” (well the “ladies” ones at least). I reckon the quality of a restaurant is reflected in these, and often at big events, they fail to meet the required standards. I am pleased to report these were excellent, and when I write my book of “Great Bathrooms of the World” I will rate these well

At last, it was time for the football. It was quite a spectacle to walk on to the terrace and see the teams, the colours, the floodlights. It is all much bigger than it looks on TV. The National Anthems were played – Malta first, and then, accompanied by a young man signing for the hard of hearing, a piper played Flower of Scotland. The crowd sang with enthusiasm, and then the game was underway.

By half time, Scotland were 1-0 up. It was then back to the Lomond Suite for more food – pies and tea this time. Well it was 45 mins since we had any sustenance. More conversation continued about SAMH and CPS, and how we both have the care of patients at the heart of what we do.

15 mins later, we were back in our seats for the second half (a game of two halves this football thing). Soon there was another goal for Scotland and the crowd were happy. More singing ensued – who decides what the song is going to be, and how do they keep in time? Another mystery of this glorious game.

Cheese and Biscuits at Hampden ParkIt was near the end now, and Stuart Armstrong was declared “Man of the Match” Not sure how this decision is reached, but he seemed to have done a great deal of running around all over the pitch for most of the night. It was also revealed that Billy, Harry, Jo and I had been joined by a further 26367 others in the stadium to watch the game. It seemed pretty crowded to me, but at full capacity it holds 60,000 – now that would feel busy!

The night wasn’t over yet – it was back to the Lomond Suite for Cheese & Biscuits and drinks. More conversation around lobbying, politicians, finance and how our two organisations can work together. This will be a great partnership.

So that was it!

If you get a chance to go, here are my top tips

  • Take it! It is quite an experience.
  • Don’t have a big lunch – you will eat a week’s worth of calories in around 3 hours.
  • If you go in the winter – take your duffle coat, a scarf and some gloves. It could get chilly!

In closing, big thanks to our guests Billy and Jo from SAMH, you were excellent company and we very much look forward to working with you.

Who knows, this football thing could really catch on……