Far from the rugged terrains of professional fields, the world of amateur football brings with it the same thrill, the same camaraderie, but often with far less predictability. And so it was, on a blustery Saturday in Aberdeenshire, that St Machar Thistle AFC found themselves facing an opponent they had suffered a brutal 19-0 defeat to just the previous week. Yet the fresh-faced team – formed a mere eight weeks ago – assembled with grit, determination and a commendable sense of optimism. Their aim was clear: to stand tall against AC Mill Inn Academy, despite going into battle with a shortfall in their ranks.
A confluence of circumstances – family obligations, work pressure and academic commitments – meant that St Machar could muster only eight players. There had been ten, but their ranks diminished at the eleventh hour when two trialists were deemed ineligible. Yet, the fledgling team, recent additions to the Aberdeenshire Amateur Football Association Division 2 East, did not falter. “Most others might have walked, but we took it as a challenge,” states confident manager Cameron Ashwood. “These are the trials new teams must face, and there is no shame in that.”
In the face of imminent adversity, there is always room for a hero. True to this adage, team captain Eoin Devlin, a regular outfielder, bravely stepped into the shoes of the goalie. His courageous decision brought an atmosphere of admiration among his teammates. It was at half-time, with a staggering 25-0 on the scoreboard, that the gravity of their situation struck home. Still, the resilience of St Machar Thistle remained unbroken.
Manager Ashwood isn’t disheartened and sees these stumbles as lessons for the nascent team. In fact, he believes the defeat will not deter their spirits, but instead, rally them back to training with renewed zest. “We are molding a team from the ground up, interacting with people, and helping them find joy in football – that is the real victory,” says Ashwood. He further adds, “We accept and learn from our setbacks. It’s all part of the game.”
While the scoreline on that wet Saturday afternoon was 51-0 in favor of AC Mill Inn Academy, St Machar Thistle emerged with their heads held high. They had tasted defeat, but had also found camaraderie and grit on the rough stones of the amateur football battlefield, a victory in itself.