At this year’s Six Nations match between Scotland and England I will be there watching from the stands.
That’s not unusual in itself, I’ve been to Murrayfield dozens of times over the years, but for the first time ever I will be watching over a bunch of teenage school pupils at the same time.
That’s because I’ve volunteered to help my PE teacher wife take some of her more enthusiastic pupils to the biggest game in the Scottish rugby calendar.
When she asked me if I would do it I did initially think “No chance, that sounds like a good match spoiled.”
Then I thought back to when I was still at school and the kindly/mad adults that made the long trips from Ross-Shire down to the capital ever year to allow my friends & I the chance to see our heroes, and what that meant to me.
At that time it was for Five Nations games, before Italy made their colorful entry to the top level of European international rugby, and as a rugby daft youngster from the Highlands these annual jaunts were a thing of wonder – a genuine adventure.
Getting to go to one of the big cities south of Inverness was a treat in itself, but to go to Edinburgh when it was full of rugby fans was pretty mind-blowing for someone from a wee village in the middle of nowhere.
It was a good five hour trip in a coach with the rest of your mates by the time you factored in (probably all too regular) food and toilet breaks, and I can only imagine what an arduous time that was to endure for the coaches and parents that were daft enough to accompany us.
Stopping at Kinross to load up on Pic ‘n Mix was always a highlight, and meant that we were probably all riding the crest of a massive sugar high as the bus inched through the outskirts of Edinburgh towards the stadium.
You were always straining to be the first to spot it, and what a sight it was too. I still remember the first time I laid eyes on Murrayfield in the flesh at 12 years old – it gave me goosebumps.
I couldn’t believe the size of it, having had only visits to Ross County’s Victoria Park as a comparison, and I just stood gazing up at its towering stands in awe.
Once inside it was even more impressive, and the sound of the massed pipes and drums swirling around the cavernous bowl on the wind was electrifying for a wide eyed youngster.
To see guys like Gavin Hastings, Doddie Weir, Gary Armstrong and Kenny Milne run out and play there was a huge privilege, and getting to see those legends in action made the long trek worth every minute.
I went to a few Five Nations games at Murrayfield before getting to the big one against the Auld Enemy. Wins against France, Ireland & Wales were all savoured, and different in their own special way due to the atmosphere created by the various sets of fans.
However I remember the first time against England and how the noise just about blew the roof off the place. It was like someone had suddenly cranked the volume up to max, and it made all the games before seem tame in comparison.
Predictably Scotland got turned over by a very good England team that day, but the impact of the atmosphere left me buzzing all the way home to the Highlands afterwards.
It was trips like that which formed my early experiences of rugby, made me want to play the game and why I became a life long fan.
That’s why even if the short trip from a Falkirk school to Murrayfield with the school kids is more fraught than some of my more recent visits I won’t mind, as long as it inspires some to take up the game and become Scottish rugby fans for the rest of their days too.
A Scotland win would be a nice reward mind you…