Poet In Chief III

Julie McNeill, our Poet In Chief, welcomes you to ‘The World Home of Football Poetry’. The Hampden Collection is the world headquarters of Football poetry with a collection of poetry from the finest football poets on the planet.

Poet In Chief III – 28th November 2021

Julie was the Hampden Collection Makar for the SWNT Poet’s Society and started Braw Words to promote the voices of the football bairns. She is the poet in residence at St Mirren FC CF, the only female poet in the world attached to a professional football club.

Her debut poetry collection ‘Ragged Rainbows’ is available through Dreich Publishers and she has also co-authored a book for children and families with dyslexia ‘Mission Dyslexia’ published by JKP Books.

Julie says ‘it’s a great honour to follow in the footsteps of previous Hampden Collection poets Jim Mackintosh and Stephen Watt who have done so much to nurture the Hampden Collection Poetry offering. This is a unique and important collection and I’m delighted they have entrusted me with it. So – send me your poems, be part of the story…the greatest story ever told, the birth and life of football itself and the celebration of all its highs and lows.’

You can follow Julie on Twitter @JulieMcNeill1 and her Facebook Page @thesoulscribbler

THC18 – small acorns

I wonder if they knew it –
those eleven Queen’s Park men
who played at West in a nil-nil draw.

Mist hung low the night before
the clans gathered in celebration.
A glow from pitch-side flats now spotlights

this ground, long since settled underfoot.
Sure of its place in the history books
as the birth site of Pioneers and Professors.

Great Grandsons walk their ancestors’ steps
and children run excitedly to re-enact
the match that changed everything.

Listen closely to the mist-whispers.
Each one, an acorn, a trusted single seed
to anchor our game.

Branches now strong enough
to hold the disappointments
and the shards of pure, unadulterated joy.

Deep roots sustaining new ways of playing,
doors coaxed open
for fresh shoots in grassroots

and the boot marks made
by the Scotch Professors
are still running rings around the globe.

by Julie McNeill

(Celebrating 150 Years of International Football on St Andrew’s Day 2022)


We are in it for the big games
We are saving our lucky seats
We’re securing the season tickets,
the transfers  
We are new strips revealed
We are the buzz of club signings 
We are ‘It’s going to be our year’ 
We are staying off the bottom 
We are summer games 
and mid-week nights under the lights 
We are VAR – aye right! 

We are derbies, away days
fixtures in the back of beyond. 
The road trips, the packed bus 
the snacks
the tunes

We are ‘Could we just nick it,
if we get an early goal?
We are the upsets 
the underdogs 
We are that beautiful overhead kick

We are ‘That was rubbish 
but same time next week, yeah?’ 
We are avoiding play-offs 
pitches – pristine and waiting 
We are that glistening net 
the shine off the brand new ball
We are new managers 
breaking in the new boots 
We are looking over our shoulders 
checking the six o’clock
to get to the top six 
We are the pies!

We are phone-ins 
What’s your point caller? 
We are the armchair experts 
the bar-propping scotch professors

We are the unbeaten run
the clean sheet
We have Europe in our grasp 

We are full crowds
packed out 
We are ‘Refereeeeee!’
“Offside, surely! 
We are going to do it this year 

We are the new songs
the big drums 
the Frost bitten toes 
the Squeaky bums
We are extra time 
just in time 
down the line 
he’s off his line
out of time!

We are the highs and lows and anything goes.
We, are Scottish Football

by Julie McNeill

Recorded at New Cathkin Park ahead of the 2022 start of the football season with a group of Scotland’s leading poets; and added to the collection to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of Third Lanark Football Club on 12th December 2022.

THC16 – From Hampden park with Heavy Feet

We had 90 minutes to prove it
we were practically a shoe-in
the flights were booked
for Qatar and Cardiff
just 90 minutes to do it.

The Tifo Saltire glistened proudly
we were freed from desire
the blue and white
the blue and white
this was going to be our night.

But then came the blue and yellow
the flag we’ve all been rooting for
and despite a rally at the end
we just didn’t make the score

the sun shined down upon their glory
as we tasted the defeat
dragging bucket hats and scarfs and flags
from Hampden Park with heavy feet.

But today we dust them off again
today we hope for something more
today we tell ourselves
we’d rather go to Germany than Qatar.

by Julie McNeill

(Post Match Scotland v Ukraine; and ahead of Scotland v Armenia – June 2022)

THC15 – Pass it on

We are nothing without someone to pass to
an open foot bent to cushion the ball
or a hand to raise up when we inevitably fall
because everybody falls.

The twelfth man or woman
to heat up the car, to get us there,
no matter ow far, to dab the skint knees
or give us a much needed ruffle of the hair

the power is always in the crowd
willing us on.
In the numbers standing proud.
We are all guardians of our history

and as the magic of our game
sweeps us all away 
it’s our job to remember the build up.
To remember where it started

Who started it
Where and when

and then
to take it as far as we can
before raising our heads to pass it on,
because we are nothing without someone to pass to.

by Julie McNeill

THC14 – Echoes

On Glasgow’s Southside
by a rose scented garden
a man waits patiently
for the post.
Too afraid of the echoes
he walks from Cathkin Park
to the cricket ground, to
Hampden and back
to the old bowling club
to the pavilion, to the beginning.
It’s in his hands, now
and so with trepidation
he tears the envelope open
and scans the railway map inside

fragments of legends gather
from across the decades
the way shards of iron
bend towards a magnetic force.

They form the words that change everything
‘football ground’ he smiles,
right here by the railway line
as sure now as the earth beneath our feet.

by Julie McNeill