The Benchman: Football needs the fans

This week the Benchman takes a swipe at the English Premier League, looks back at some League Cup disappointments for Falkirk and pines for the return of real-life crowds at the match.
MYSTERY PICTURE: Can you solve this week's question, below?MYSTERY PICTURE: Can you solve this week's question, below?
MYSTERY PICTURE: Can you solve this week's question, below?

DERBY DAYS: There was great excitement when it was announced that the Dunfermline and Falkirk clash in the Betfred Cup was to be televised live. It always intrigues me where all the ill-feeling between the two sets of fans came from, as I can recall encounters in the 50s and early 60s that were played in good spirit. You could field two teams made up of players who have played for both sides, and the November clash should see more than a few reunions.

THE BEST LEAGUE IN THE WORLD?: You could hear the balloon deflate when the English clubs made their exits from the two European tournaments. It might be the richest league in the world with its inflated salaries, sponsorships and unbelievable fees being paid to agents, but is it really the best? The shortage of British talent playing in the top flight will have a detrimental effect for the national teams in years to come.

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SECOND TIME AROUND: The best news to come out of the club for a long time was the announcement that Blair Alston was returning. There have been many second-time-around Bairns and not all of them were successful. Blair will be a huge asset to the promotion campaign and it’s a real coup for the management team.

ANSWERS: Last week’s picture was a Falkirk Technical School team at Brockville to face Falkirk High School. These games attracted big crowds in their day and the Technical School team includes Ian Rae, Alex Duchart and Gibby Ormond.

MYSTERY PICTURE: Can you identify the team - and the Falkirk connection?

THE LEAGUE CUP: It has had many incarnations, but many fans welcomed the return to the mini-league format. Falkirk have never lifted the trophy, and only appeared in that one final back in 1947. There have been several semi-final disappointments, none more so than that of 1971 when a strong Falkirk side under Willie Cunningham fell to eventual winners Partick Thistle.

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FOOTBALL WITHOUT FANS: Let’s hope some form of reality can return soon. The fake crowd noises are getting better, but it’s no substitute for the roar of the crowd and all the singing and chanting. The game is all about crowds, rivalry and tribalism. No amount of technical wizardry can replace the atmosphere of a real game.

IT AIN’T HALF HOT, KALLUM: While half-watching a TV programme in the background, I saw a familiar face in the documentary about Real Kashmir. I thought the player in the Kashmiri team looked remarkably like an ex-Bairn. Low and behold it was none other than Kallum Higginbotham himself, who was having a difference of opinion with manager David Robertson. I couldn’t quite catch what the eloquent advice from the manager was, but it sounded like David was telling Kallum to get to Falkirk. Anyway, Kallum is on course to equal John Burridge’s record for the number of clubs one player had as he pitches up at Kelty after Kashmir.