My uncle used to take me to Ibrox every other Saturday, even though Govan was quite a trek from Barrowfield … when I was young … I’d go into the Celtic game because you’d get in for nothing at half-time. I’d be in … with the opposition supporters, whoever Celtic were playing, in the Dundee-end or the Dunfermline-end or whatever, just to watch football.
Recorded conversation between Stevie Noble, Rangers supporter, and artist Roddy Buchanan. Conducted as part of the From Scotland to Corby residency programme with Fermynwoods Contemporary Art during the summer of 2017. The subject of conversation – living in Corby and following Rangers. Stevie and Roddy meet in the hospitality lounge of Corby Town Football Club, Jimmy Kane Way, Corby on the 9th September 2017.
Stevie: My name’s Steven Noble, I’m 56, I’ll be 57 on Tuesday.
Roddy: Where are you from?
Stevie: Barrowfield, Glasgow.
Roddy: … And how long have you been living in Corby?
Stevie: I came here in 1971 when I was ten – 46 years ago.
Roddy: Did your family come down for work?
Stevie: My dad came down here for the Works, yeah. He didn’t work in the steel industry in Glasgow. He worked on the roads for Tarmac, but he got laid off and, obviously, they were looking for workers, and we had family – my mother’s sister who was down here, and her brother was already working in the Works, so he came down here and got a job.
Roddy: When did you start supporting Rangers?
Stevie: Och, I can’t remember. When did I start eating? When did I start drinking? I don’t know! I was just brought up with it … and we lived in Barrowfield, – Stamford Street, looking right at the opposition.
Roddy: So, was the family a Rangers family?
Stevie: Not entirely, the family was more or less like most Glasgow families, there were Rangers and Celtic supporters in the family. There were definitely more Rangers, but yeah, I grew up with cousins that were Celtic supporters. I’ve still got them. We were a very close family. I mean, every Saturday and Sunday we were all with my Grandparents. You know, there were both sets of supporters there. In fact when I was young – in my teens when I used to go to games, I’d go to games with my cousins. I’d be staying with family when I was up and we’d all leave my Grandparents house together.
Roddy: Where did your Grandparents live?
Stevie: Well, one set was in Barrowfield; the other set was up in Maryhill.
Roddy: Did your Grandparents follow football?
Stevie: Oh, yeah both sets of Grandparents were Rangers.
Roddy: When did you first start going to see the Club?
Stevie: Every Saturday I was at the football. My uncle used to take me to Ibrox every other Saturday, even though Govan was quite a trek from Barrowfield but I also used to watch the cars for Celtic Supporters who parked on Stamford Street when I was young and then I’d go into the Celtic game because you get in for nothing at half-time. I’d be in Parkhead with the opposition supporters, whoever Celtic were playing, in the Dundee end or the Dunfermline end or whatever just to watch the football.
Roddy: Was that a group of mates?
Stevie: No, no, just a crowd of kids who hung about the area – the scheme. We would go into the stadium at half-time and spend the money we’d make on the cars on Wrigley’s chewing gum and macaroon bars.
Roddy: What was happening at Rangers when you first went to see your team?
Stevie: Well … that was the mid-sixties, obviously, Celtic were just starting their nine in a row. I don’t like recalling it because Rangers lost in the Cup Winners’ cup final that same year, but I was at Barrowfield when Celtic come home with the European Cup. The streets were hectic at that time because Glasgow teams were in the final of the two biggest competitions in Europe. We really felt it, they were from our city you know? … I mean, when you’re a young boy from Glasgow you just thought you were at the centre of the football world…we even beat England – World Cup Winners, that year.
Roddy: Can you remember that?
Stevie: Vaguely. I do … Well, I can remember all the family and all that celebrating and all that. But, as a boy, you were on the street playing football, weren’t you? You know?
Roddy: So, to come back to Corby and your own work history? Can you tell me a bit about that?
Stevie: I left school at 16, 17 … Went into painting and decorating. Served my time and then just went into other things. I’ve worked at the British Rail booking office which was handy to be honest, because I travelled up quite a lot on the trains to the games. I did that for many years, then I went into insurance. I was a sales manager for several insurance companies, and that helped, because one of the companies was based in Manchester – so that helped me watch football as well. I was up there for the week, and then I’d go tae the game from Manchester at the weekend. So every job I’ve had was based around the football.
Roddy: Did you ever develop an interest in an English team?
Stevie: Corby Town.
Roddy: When did that happen?
Stevie: Soon after we came here because, you know, every Saturday in Glasgow I was used to be going tae the football, and on some Wednesday nights as well – I was a young boy so I never got tae a lot of Wednesday night games because of school – but when I came down here, obviously, I moaned about not going, so my dad took me to see Corby Town. At that time the Club used to do a thing with the schools where they come in and if you went to the game on a Saturday, you get a bag of Golden Wonder crisps and a carton of juice and you didn’t pay in – obviously you had to take an adult so, the parent paid in… Anyhow, that got me going and as I said I already had the football bug. My dad was working double-shifts when we came down here. It wasn’t an easy life for them. So, there was no way I could travel up to Scotland. I mean, I got to see Rangers when my family went up there on holidays. Probably from the age of ten, eleven until I was about fourteen, it was only when the family were going up to Scotland for holidays that I got to see Rangers until I started doing a paper round. At that point I started earning good money – and that’s when I started going up on the Barton’s bus on a Friday night.
Roddy: What’s that bus?
Stevie: The only bus company that ran between Corby and Glasgow at that time was Barton’s – a local bus company. They had regular buses to Glasgow. In fact, I think they went seven days a week, and I used to go on a Friday-night bus and travel overnight going to my grandparents, and then travel back on the Sunday.
Roddy: And I guess other people were going up for the football …
Stevie: Quite a few yeah
Roddy: Were there also Supporters’ Clubs in Corby at that stage?
Stevie: Yeah but I was too young to be in the Supporters’ Clubs. You had to be 18.
Roddy: Were you conscious of them?
Stevie: Yeah, yeah. I knew them. My dad knew them but my dad was at his work. He couldn’t be going, he used to do continental shifts – you know?
Roddy: Were there many Supporters’ Clubs in Corby?
Stevie: Aye there were lots. I don’t know every one of them but there were several Celtic Supporters’ Clubs. All the working men’s clubs in the town ran buses up tae the games, and at that time, there was a big Rangers Supporters’ Club in town that used to run a bus up to every home game.
Roddy: When did that club start? When was its foundation?
Stevie: I think it was the early 70’s. I think it was ’71, actually, or ’72 they started. But there was clubs previous to that. They also had the clubs that were based in pubs.
Roddy: So, what were the pubs in town that were associated with Rangers or were they all mixed pubs?
Stevie: I think most of them were mixed to be honest. I mean, I was too young to be going to pubs at that time, but from what I can know from talking to people, in those days, most of the clubs – not like Glasgow. I mean in Glasgow it was one or the other, but down here it was very much mixed, and that was part of the allure. They also had Scotland international clubs as well – every pub and club, they all had travel clubs. So, I think, a lot of the travel clubs, when I first joined – had an International club, and they were mixed. So, you were travelling to the Scotland games with Celtic Supporters. You know, and I’d never been to games with Celtic Supporters…I’d been tae games with my cousins, but that was different.
Roddy: When you were growing up at school, was their people following Chelsea and Liverpool and these clubs?
Stevie: Very few, to be honest, when I grew up in Corby – yeah, probably Man United had a following … Not so much Chelsea, Arsenal, perhaps Leicester.
Stevie: Yea, there was a bit of Leicester …
Roddy: I know it’s the nearest Premiership club but I haven’t picked up much of a following while I’ve been here. Even in Sports Direct I didn’t see a Leicester strip on sale up there. I counted seven Celtic strips on display, no Rangers tops and no Leicester.
Stevie: Well all the Rangers ones would have been sold out.
Roddy: When you were young, did you experience any racism for being Scottish?
Stevie: No, it was the opposite. I think the English people in the town experienced racism. School was just full of Scottish kids. Scottish kids and Irish kids – to be honest. It’s a Scottish settlement in the heart of England. It’s a bit like Gibraltar; we’ve never given it back to the English yet. But it is getting diluted because I’m going to my grandson’s birthday today and he’s born here, my son was born here.
Roddy: … and do they follow Rangers?
Stevie: My son’s Rangers through and through – no English team – and he’s a member of the Tartan Army, but that will dilute. You know, it is diluting. Even with Rangers and Celtic families – lots of sons following two teams.
Roddy: You see that in Glasgow also. You get on the plane and see guys going to see Chelsea from Glasgow now.
Stevie: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, it is diluting – but, when I was at school, yeah, you heard of Man United. Leicester… Corby Town played Leeds United in a friendly a few seasons ago and it was one of the biggest gates we had. People of my age from my era – there’s a lot of Leeds United fans in the town.
Roddy: From the Billy Bremner era?
Stevie: Yes there was a lot of Scotsman in that Leeds United team – so, my dad – you know, down here, he’d like watching Leeds United because they had a lot of Scotsmen, and they were all in the national squad.
Roddy: What’s your feeling about this current Rangers team?
Stevie: Well, first of all, I’m glad they’re back. Whatever happened, happened. I think the punishment was far too excessive, I think most Rangers fans would say that. Yeah, I think it was excessive, you know – especially when a lot of the things were never fully proven. Anyhow …
Roddy: It’s still not fully played out yet. It’s still going on … Barry Ferguson recently applied for bankruptcy.
Stevie: Yeah, yeah but whatever happened has happened, and you can’t dae nuthin’ about what’s happened. First of all, I’m glad they’re back to where they are … Well, they’re not back to where they were. It will take a while for them to get back, but at least we’re on the platform to get there, and they’ll come back. I have no doubts about that because of the amount of supporters that they’ve got worldwide, I don’t care what anybody says, as far as I’m concerned they’re the best supported team. You know, Ibrox is rammed every week. They’ll get there at some point – whether it’s with the regime that’s running it at the moment, I don’t know, whether they’re good enough or not, I don’t know, the jury’s out.
Roddy: Does the team feel better this year than it did last year?
Stevie: Well, I’ve been to a couple of games already this season, and – yeah. There’s progression.
Roddy: How far …
Stevie: Progression is measured, and this has always been the case, against Celtic. We’ll be judged…and rightly so…against Celtic because that never changes. I think, if anything, proved that Rangers and Celtic are the only two clubs in Scotland, is that when we got relegated, nobody stepped up to the plate; nobody even attempted to step up to the plate, did they? They were all just happy to get to come 2nd. If ever any of these clubs were going to challenge for the top spot that was the time. And look how it affected Celtic, you know with Rangers not being in the League. That year Celtic shut their top tier.
Roddy: Aye, support just ebbing away.
Stevie: Yeah, that’s it. It had a knock-on effect all over the country.
Roddy: Can you tell me a wee bit about when you were travelling up on the supporters’ bus from Corby?
Stevie: When I was young I travelled up with 1 or 2 of my cousins and we travelled up on our own, but once we were old enough – 18 – I started travelling with different clubs because it was regular and easier you know, they organised the buses.
Roddy: What time of day did you leave Corby?
Stevie: First thing on a Saturday morning.
Roddy: Is that like half-7?
Stevie: No, no, no…about 5 o’clock in the morning. Even if you went on the trains … the train service was a lot better at that time…. You’d get the train at night and go overnight, get tae Glasgow early morning, come back Sunday. But yeah the supporters’ buses would go up first thing on Saturday morning early doors, and then come back Sunday morning.
Roddy: Did you get picked up at a certain location?
Stevie: Yeah! Maybe in the town centre, depending on who I was travelling up with, I’ve travelled up wae buses frae different pubs in the town through their clubs, you just meet at that pub first thing in the morning.
Roddy: And what time do you get back at night?
Stevie: At that time, you’d go on a Saturday and come back on a Sunday. In later years, when the Works shut, the dynamics of the town changed, and guys had different jobs, you know? At the Works you could swap with a guy to make sure you were covered. I personally didn’t do that, but a lot of the guys who were travelling on the bus would swap shifts to make sure that they had that weekend but obviously when the Works closed, they changed to modern factories which ran different systems, and there wasn’t so many guys that worked in one area to swap swifts with – so, a lot of guys started travelling (the same with Celtic supporters) – up first thing in the morning, and coming back straight after the game and I did that for years – loads of years.
Roddy: What time did you get back?
Stevie: You’d get back about 11 o’clock on a Saturday night. Just make sure there were 2 of you that could drive a car, or if it was a coach you needed a coach company with 2 drivers – so, the expense went up.
Roddy: During that period is it true Corby had the biggest Rangers supporters club outside of Glasgow?
Stevie: It did, yeah, yeah, its membership, that’s a fact.
Roddy: And what sort of numbers would travel up?
Stevie: Each club, I think would take a 52 seater.
Roddy: In Corby you’d have several clubs
Stevie: Yeah, the same with Celtic fans as well.
Roddy: Coming back to the situation as it stands today, do you feel the pressure of the Premiership playing out on an interest in Scottish football in the town?
Stevie: Oh, yeah, definitely. I mean, I’ve got cousins that have got boys that are Rangers supporters but they’re also Chelsea, or they’re also Liverpool or Man United, Man City – whatever… Arsenal.
Roddy: One of the photographs I’ve taken was in the White Hart as it’s being handed over to Liverpool fans. It was quite a poignant afternoon because the small side room with the small TV was being offered to the Rangers supporters and you could see they were a bit hurt about that, understandably, because I think the White Hart had been a long-established Rangers pub.
Stevie: Yeah, I ran the pub for 14 year – so although, I’d show all the games in there because, at the end of the day, business is business, because it was my pub there would be a lot of my mates in their with their families and they’d come in and watch the Rangers games – so, that would be why they’d be upset.
Roddy: If you were going to see a Rangers game now, where would you go to watch it on the telly?
Stevie: I’d still probably go to the White Hart, to be honest – or wherever my mates were going.
Roddy: What about the Viking? There’s a crowd up there, is that right?
Stevie: Ehh … There’s a lot of Celtic supporters up there. I think it’s a bit mixed there.
Roddy: [Chuckles] A bit mixed?
Stevie: Yeah, I think it is in general. Well, my cousin drinks in there, he’s a Celtic supporter. He only watches the Celtic games in there, so …
Roddy: So, to round off, talking about your roll as Chairman of Corby Town – does the club have a tradition of taking players from Scotland?
Stevie: Years ago they did. We don’t now, but we did have years ago when Corby Town as a football club was basically run by the steelworks, you know – so, they had a big affinity with anything Scottish, to be honest. We’re the steel-men and Motherwell are the steel-men. We’ve got a bit of an affinity with Motherwell at the moment and we had ex-pros from Scotland down playing for the club and that sort of thing. Eric Caldow was the manager – you know, Eric Caldow? He broke his leg playing against England, for Scotland in 1963. It was never the same for Rangers after it, but Corby took him on as the manager. They built a house for him. I know that because it was my father-in-law’s brother that built it, and it was commissioned by the steelworks for that purpose. So, he was here, and whilst he was here, he took a few youngsters from Scotland – but that fizzled out when the Works shut, because the money stopped.
Roddy: And finally – really finally – how did you find yourself becoming the Chairman of Corby Town …
Stevie: I’ve always supported Corby. I managed as well when I was with Stewarts & Loyds in the town …
Roddy: You’ve managed a football team?
Stevie: Yeah. Not at this level, at a lower level – so, I’ve always been involved in football, anyhow, I’ve followed Corby all my life, when I was here – good and bad, rain or shine. Under the previous regime the club was going to the wall, to be honest, so a group of local businessmen got together to save the club, and I was asked to come in as chairman because I think I was the only one who had any football experience, and that’s it.
Roddy: In terms of your business during the week, how do you make a living?
Stevie: Oh, I’m a licensee. I’m not at the White Hart anymore but I’ll be going somewhere else.
If you would like to read the conversation with ‘Charlie O’Hare, Celtic Supporter, Corby’ please visit fermynwoods.org/from-scotland-to-corby