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Football in COVID by Iain McLean

1 February 2022

Albion Rovers FC play in the lowest league in the SPFL (Scottish Professional Football League) and occupy Cliftonhill Stadium which can be found in Coatbridge, a traditional coal mining/iron works town 8 miles east of Glasgow.

I’ve been following the club for 22 years and started going along with the idea of recording a social document of the fans and environment of lower league football however the project spluttered along before eventually picking up a head of steam around 2010. Since then there have been many days and wet Tuesday nights (my favourite) spent at Cliftonhill as well as quite a few away stadiums visited over the years.

When the Coronavirus lockdown came along in 2020 the games in our league were suspended. Fans were fortunate to have access to a live stream to watch games, but sitting in the back room watching on the lap-top was a poor second best so I contacted the club and through my connections there, and my press card, managed to get into the stadium to shoot a sub-project showing the effects of Covid on the football club.

This photo was taken at the end of April 2021 during a 1-0 victory over Annan Athletic. With the dark, grim winter over I was in the ground and spotted a sizeable group assembled on the hill overlooking the stadium enjoying the game in the spring sunshine. Refreshments had been taken and the boys were pretty lively, so after hovering around for a while getting them used to my presence I decided to go down the hill with my back to the stadium to see what happened. A few of them were very nervous about being photographed but everyone reacted with this explosion of joy when we scored.

It had been a terrible time for all at the club so these guys were all just glad to be out with their mates, having some beers in the sun and watching their team again.

A feature on project was recently published by Document Scotland .

Iain McLean is a freelance photographer based in Glasgow and was previously an imaging specialist with the Herald and Evening Times newspapers. Outwith commercial work he produces self-initiated projects.

See more work by Iain McLean

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