The start of the season is now upon us, and if you’re like me that means a return to the weekly ritual of match day. Over the years I’ve found a few things to enhance the experience of being a Scottish football supporter – here are a half-dozen ideas for you.

1 – An iPhone app

When Apple started allowing developers to write custom applications for their groundbreaking iPhone, I thought “wouldn’t it be great if there was an application which would provide you with everything you could ever want to know about a team.”  Ideas are all about execution, and like so many I’ve had in the past, someone else got there first.

For general news on a surprisingly wide range of leagues worldwide, I use iFooty (basic free version here or iFooty plus here). It provides near-realtime scores, regularly updated news and match reports, league tables, and even chat forums.  What it doesn’t provide is the fixture list – these are owned by the leagues and require licensing to publish. To get around this, it can direct you to other web pages from within the app, though the links aren’t 100% accurate.  This minor annoyance aside, iFooty does the business, though it’s iPhone-only so Android and Blackberry users are out of luck.

For more in-depth news on any particular team, check the app store – there is a solid-but-spendy ($4.99) official Rangers app, numerous Celtic apps, as well as apps for many other teams – Motherwell and Berwick Rangers, for instance, though I can’t attest to the quality of their software.

2 – Some Bookmarks and Twitterers

If you don’t have a smartphone, or these apps don’t do it for you, you’ll want to have a decent set of websites bookmarked for news and results. I have always been a fan of the Sporting Life site, though others swear by football365.com or even the venerable BBC.  Also, for the broadest coverage, my ex-boss – and avid football gambler – recommends livescores.com, which really does cover the globe.  Your club site may be an option too, though I tend to find that most of them are more interested in getting you to buy the latest logo-encrusted piece of tat than giving you in-depth and up-to-date news.

Twitter is a relatively new development on the scene.  “Twitter is a rich source of instant information,” says the website, which is a concise way of describing it (it also says “It’s a whole thing” which is less useful.)  Twitter allows anyone to publish short messages (“tweets”) that can be read by anyone else – you can either search the twittersphere – a word I just made up – or subscribe to (“follow”) individual twitterers.  Although twitter’s been around for a few years now, and was all the rage in 2009, I didn’t really see the point so I was firmly in the “twitterers are twats” camp until quite recently.  A couple of things changed my mind: firstly, during the England-USA game in the World Cup I was regularly searching for messages tagged with #worldcup and it meant I had a live stream of Robert Green jokes to relay to my English co-viewers.  Secondly, I’ve started following people and organisations who provide useful information and realtime news about Scottish football.  You can follow, follow (sorry, couldn’t resist) @billywNYC if you want very occasional updates from me, or you can see who I’m following and add them.  Twitter isn’t for everyone, but give it a try to see if it’s for you.

3 – Online viewing source

I reviewed options to see matches overseas last year and that mostly still holds – get your arse to the nearest overseas supporters club! – though the international division of Setanta Sports has reformed as “Premium Sports” and now offers residential online viewing.  There are various restrictions on what you can watch where, and it’s expensive at $20 per game – so you might be better off sticking to your club website if that works for you.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I may do soon.

On the definitely illegal side of the internet, justin.tv is still around although the men in black seem to be better at cutting off illegal feeds there (I used it occasionally during the World Cup).  Another source that has proven useful, believe it or not, goes by the name “Iraq Goals”.  A quick google will take you there.

If you’re interested in seeing highlights or goals after-the-fact, the bad news is that YouTube is now fairly effective at preventing uploads of useful content so you will need to be creative and scour other filesharing sites for highlights – rapidshare.net often has some, though it’s not a particularly usable site (Rangers fans can keep an eye on rangers.hk which aims to post links to highlights when they are available).  The BBC site claims to have SPL goals highlights but it doesn’t seem to be working for me so it may be UK-only. FootyTube is sometimes useful too.

In another legal grey area, uknova.com often has a bittorrrent download of Sportscene available a day or two after it airs – Monday or Tuesday depending on where in the world you are.  However this depends upon someone in Scotland capturing and uploading the program.

4 – The New Kit

New year, new shirt – never used to be that way but that’s how it is now.

I’m a frugal fan so I prefer to scour eBay for interesting ‘vintage’ designs – still haven’t found that CR Smith 80’s Gers top though – but there are a lot of Scotland’s best and worst jerseys (previously reviewed here) there to view (try this link for Scotland shirts).  If you haven’t used eBay before, don’t be afraid – the overwhelming majority of users are honest people, and eBay provides guarantees against being ripped off.

Shameless plug: the new Scotland tops are available in the Dear Scotland shop. Buy from us to help keep the site running!

Virtually every club team will have a new home or away shirt this year, and you can buy online from your club’s website – the best option to ensure your team gets the most cash, and they all need it.  Or, you can again turn to the Dear Scotland shop for a broader selection of new and old shirts.

5 – Your fanzine subscription

Away from home it’s harder to keep in touch with terrace culture, which is why you need to support your club’s unofficial fanzine – every club has them, though of varying quality and frequency.

I am a long-time subscriber to When Saturday Comes – though it’s probably 50% English and 50% international, I read every issue from cover to cover – or more accurately now, from start to finish because it is now available digitally as an iPhone/iPad application (lovely on the iPad) and also via the web. As well as saving some trees, the digital edition is half the cost of a regular overseas subscription.

More Scottish-focused, I still miss The Absolute Game – come on Paul Hutton, surely your kids have grown up by now and it’s time to get back to it? – but the “Famous Tartan Army” magazine is well worth a read (no website yet, so check their Facebook group while the website Scotzine publishes “The Twelfth Man” fanzine, both digitally and with a limited print run (they are expecting huge demand this month when they include my review of the McLeish report in their new issue).

6 – The Wee Red Book

And finally, no Scottish football fan can be complete without this years copy of the legendary Wee Red Book, the Bible of Scottish football. Containing listings of every Scottish trophy winner, every capped player, Scottish teams in Europe, and lots more besides.  OK, you can get all this on the Internet now but can you carry the internet in your pocket?  Yes, you can, but it doesn’t work on the Glasgow subway – so there.  Available from Evening Times street vendors and Scottish newsagents, which isn’t great for us expats, but it’s  also listed on Amazon UK although at the time of writing it’s sold out – which just goes to show how magnificent it is.  After all, Mao-Tse Tung and a billion Chinese can’t be wrong – or was that another Wee Red Book?

Billy

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