Those three days between the end of the World Cup and the start of my football season were some of the most challenging of my life. Yes, it was almost certainly the best tournament I had lived through but nothing ever really beats being at an actual game. I was excited to start at a new ground in Bo’ness and of course with a new pie review as I followed my team Pollok east for some friendly action. Imagine then my disappointment as I scanned the terraces of Newtown Park to see that my post work dash to West Lothian was not going to be rewarded with a meat filled pastry dinner. I really hoped this wasn’t going to be a sign of things to come.
Fast forward to the following Saturday and a message exchange with my Kilmarnock supporting mate from uni saw me off to Dumbarton. Going “undercover” as an away fan is always a unique experience, the fans tend to be that little bit more boisterous, fuelled by a travel beer or two, the characters slightly more eclectic and the whole day just that little bit more enjoyable than taking seat with some of the home team regulars.
Despite the pies selling out at half time due to the volume of travelling fans I had snagged a pie just past the half hour mark, and with it securely wrapped inside my paw I welcome you to Season 6 of Meat Filled Pastries with Pie 138: The Dumbarton Steak & Gravy Pie.
Without much further ado, let’s rate some pie!
Where: The C&G Systems Stadium, Dumbarton 2-4 KIlmarnock, Betfred Cup Group Stage
Price: As it was the first pie of a new season I thought I would treat myself to a little bit of luxury but at a whopping £2.60 – a full 70p more than a scotch pie – I was slightly aghast. Now maybe it’s because this was the first game of the season but when I looked up at the price board an audible “whit!” could be heard coming out my mouth. Remember this is Scottish League One fayre, not Ibrox or Parkhead. I was quite taken aback.
Presentation: A common presentation style for a steak based pie of a tinfoil case and medium-sized white napkin although the mis-shapen nature of the case (more pear shaped than round) should have hinted about the taste experience that was about to follow.
Meatiness: The meat content of this pie was dispersed in some what of a higgledy piggledy manner meaning that at one side you were biting into some pastry lightly tickled by gravy whilst at the other there was a wealth of meaty treasure to be found. Various sized chunks of meat wrapped in a well seasoned if not particularly mind-blowing gravy. The meat was cooked well but didn’t leave you yearning for more nor wishing you’d never took a bite. It was just there.
Pastry: The pastry was on the surface fine. A nice golden tinge to the edges although the top was perhaps looking a little under-baked. The side walls had cracked quite a bit leaving its structural integrity in question but all in all it was holding and seemed passable without being in any danger of making it on “the best pies I have eaten” list. Then I took a bite. A bite of raw, sticking to the tinfoil bottom layer of something that was…well it was awful. Claggy to the bite and with the ability to roll it up in a ball between my fingers. By the time I had finished my pie I needed more than a few slurps of fizzy pop to wash my mouth clean and seperate the paste from my teeth. Poor.
Brown Sauce: Just a reminder that luxury pies require no brown sauce although in this instance it may have helped with the pastry.
Gravy Factor: We were on our way to an OK steak and gravy pie, with a golden if under-baked top and a decent filling however that base. That mush of paste masquerading as pastry was the definition of, no nice.
Overall: Not a fan.
Well I hope that’s not the season standard going forward. Luckily we have an early shot at redemption as I headed to Fife to take in a pre-season friendly between Kelty Hearts and Brora Rangers and of course scran a pie. I’ll keep you posted if anything interesting happens along the way, however, until next time go forth and eat pie.
Just maybe not this one.
Chris Marshall, is a BJTC accredited Radio Journalist with an honours degree in Communications & Mass Media from Glasgow Caledonian University. He has contributed to prominent football sites including Pie & Bovril, The Terrace Podcast, The Football Pink and The FBA’s as well as featuring in The Scotsman, STV and a number of other media outlets. A perennial ‘Scottish Sporting Optimist’ and part-time Madrileno with a passion for food that has manifest itself in the wonder that is Meat Filled Pastries.
It’s here! After two season of meat flavoured sweat and tears pie 100 in this enduring journey of pastry has finally arrived and for many there would be no pie more fitting to commemorate a century of meat filled wonder than by reviewing the much vaunted Killie Pie at the Scottish Junior Cup Final. A pie almost so legendary in nature that is often perceived as the best that Scottish football has to offer (although those that read my World Scotch Pie Championships Judges Story will know that wasn’t in fact the case) and the one, above all overs, that I get asked about the most.
This pie also signifies my last review of the season, and the last to grace these pages. Whilst I am conscious that there is still a plethora of pastry for me to plough through, not only in Scotland but across the globe, I have also been been starting to feel the need for a break from pastry based writing. Well a break of sorts anyway.
You see recently a discussion with a friend (which one I can’t remember but if you’re confident enough that you can take credit for this then let me know) about my journey’s and how I had become a little fatigued about the pie life at which point he/she asked me if I had ever thought about writing a book based on my adventures. At first I kind of laughed it off, as cult-like as Meat Filled Pastries has become would there really be an appetite (pun intended) to actually create a tome of pie? However the more I thought about it the more it made sense. When I looked back at old reviews I could see a story waiting to be written. One of my journey, of the people who I have shared each step with, of the places I’ve visited and some of the downright ridiculous situations I’ve found myself in all thanks to the humble pie.
It’s a month or so after I stared putting the feelers about what interest, if any, there was in hearing my story and to my surprise more than two people seemed keen, and so, considering I started this site on the premise of zero percent interest and watched it bloom, some genuine interest was all the incentive I needed to commit to sitting down and trying my hand at being an author. I haven’t started as of yet, work will begin as soon as this last review is posted, but it’s safe to say that I am as excited about this next chapter (another pun, this time unintentional) in my story as I have been about anything else related to Meat Filled Pastries for a while.
Although I will be taking a break from fresh pie reviews, I will still be keeping my quill in the ink pot when it comes to pies and football. I have recently been asked to review a bakers full range of pastries and I will continue to share my tuppence worth about the beautiful game when requested.
But for now I think I have rambled on enough, and so without much further ado, let’s rate not just any pie, but Pie 100, The Killie Pie!
Where: Rugby Park, Auchinleck Tabot 2-1 Musselburgh Athletic, Scottish Junior Cup Final
Price: Now such is the legend of this pie that in a handful of junior grounds in Scotland the Killie Pie is offered as an alternative to their own brand scotch variety, in fact Browning’s have done such an impressive job of bigging up their pastry that some have even escaped the terrace kitchens and made their way to the supermarket shelves. With such wide-ranging availability there was often a temptation to take the plunge at a venue other that Rugby Park, particularly due to the fact that a Killie Pie at the likes of Hurlford United, is cheaper than that found at Kilmarnock FC itself. I resisted those economically sound overtures however and awaited until I was in the aforementioned pies natural surroundings before taking the plunge and as such was required to part with £2.20 for my pie. A full 70p more expensive than those on offer at Blair Park but still considerably cheaper than those found at the big three of Hampden, Ibrox and Celtic Park.
Presentation: In a metal tin foil container to retain the heat with the option of a small napkin to be taken from the dispensers located at the back of the kiosk. Luckily these were self-service as realistically you needed at least two to provide full coverage and to prevent any spillages.
Meatiness: So did it live up to the legend? Well, kind of. When it comes to luxury pies, I am forever going on about the sumptuousness of the gravy and with the Killie Pie there is very little risk of your lips remaining dry as there really is a gush of meaty flavour heading down your gullet as soon as you take that first bite. It was perhaps slightly salty for some if I’m being honest, the seasoning on the very edge for those with a blander set of tastebuds than myself. There were some nice chunks of well cooked tender steak in this pie, but the emphasis here should be placed on the word some and the none use of the word many or lots. Maybe some drops of gravy could have been sacrificed for a couple more bites of meat, that said it was still a very satisfying mouthful.
Pastry: The pastry was pretty tasty with a nice buttery finish, however a couple of things bugged me about it. Firstly the puff pastry top sagged a little in the middle. While that led to strong mingle of gravy and pastry it meant that as you bit down it became really difficult to get a one bite expose. In fact the only way this was achieved was by squeezing the pie a little to open it up. The base had also fell foul of its tin foil container, and while not sticking this pies soggy bottom meant a fair bit of juggling was required to complete consumption.
Brown Sauce: It was a luxury pie. There is no brown sauce. If you were expecting sauce then quite frankly you should know better.
Overall: Was this a very good pie? Yes. Was it the best pie available on Scottish football’s ever critical terraces, I don’t think so. While the gravy was tasty it could have done with some more meat and if you insist on using a tinfoil safety net to house your pie then you must, must prevent the soggy bottom which this pie unfortunately had.
Gravy Factor: The kind of gravy that you’d get from Five Guys only to find later that actually a Big Mac is just as good. Tasty gravy but the best I’ve ever had, I’m afraid not.
So there you have it, The Killie Pie, finally reviewed and with that this journey sets off in a new direction. As I said I’ll still be keeping my toe in the water and you never know, after writing one book I might summon up the enthusiasm for another run at the life of pie, but for now the time is right to focus on taking over 70,000 pie based words and making some sense out of it all.
Before we wrap up I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who has helped turn this into more than just a drunken notion and into a project that has been a lot of fun helping to re-ignite something within me that had been slowly dying as the 9-5 so many of us have to live to survive dragged me further in.
Until next time, whenever that may be, go forth and eat pie! I know I will.
Chris Marshall, is a BJTC accredited Radio Journalist with an honours degree in Communications & Mass Media from Glasgow Caledonian University. He has contributed to prominent football sites including Pie & Bovril, The Terrace Podcast, The Football Pink and The FBA’s as well as featuring in The Scotsman, STV and a number of other media outlets. A perennial ‘Scottish Sporting Optimist’ with a passion for food that has manifest itself in the wonder that is Meat Filled Pastries.
With more and more Scottish sides, at all levels reverting to next generation AstroTurf pitches and the Women’s World Cup next year in Canada set to be played on majority artificial parks, despite the protest of top figures in the ladies games, is it time to accept that ‘plastic’ pitches are here to stay?
A decade ago most of us would return from a kick about with grass on our knees and a clump of mud inexplicably mashed into our scalp and whilst that scenario is still applicable today it becomes an ever rarer sight as grass stains are replaced with the occasional graze and clumps of mud being replaced by thousands of tiny rubber balls that get into every human crevice imaginable, and I mean all of them. For most casual footballers a midweek evening or Saturday morning is spent running about one of the thousands of artificial pitches across the country. So why is it that players with no discernible quality can muddle through but highly tuned athletes throw their toys out of the pram as soon as they’re asked to adapt ever so slightly? After all the ball is still round, the goals are still the same size and there is still the same number of players running about a marked out area of rectangular land, I think it’s time it throw off the shackles of negativity and embrace something that is here to stay.
So how do you start to look at something with a glass half full point of view? By focusing on one of the most predominant glass half empty arguments. Artificial pitches cause injuries that when playing on grass would never occur. The evidence suggests that this is the only real true negative of playing on an artificial pitch, I am happy to admit that on certain artificial parks I leave the pitch a lot sorer than others but then my warm up usually consists of eating a pack of fruit pastilles, a few impressive looking but ultimately useless stretches and blasting the ball at anybody who makes the mistake of bending down to tie their laces. I don’t spend my week training on it, following a properly structured warm up and warm down regime whilst having the luxury of immediate access to physiotherapists and trainers when required. Football and it’s stakeholders are renowned, when they want to be, for innovation and are quick to move the game ‘forward’ whether it be with neon ankle high boots, skin-tight muscle armour or shaving foam in a can. So why can’t Nike, Adidas or Gillette create something that helps with the aches and pains so many players fear? Do you know what? They can and they no doubt will. Therapies will develop and training regimes will be altered to accommodate the variances in conditions between grass and not-so-grass.
In fact it’s football’s ability to innovate that has seen the growth of these pitches in our game, for you see the UK, and Scotland in particular, is prone to the kind of weather that makes football in winter a bit of a challenge. neNer mind getting a match on sometimes teams can go weeks without training. Football’s solution: all weather training pitches, the pre cursor to those that are being used in competitive games today and in this lies the flaw in the argument that players aren’t used to playing on them, they very much are, in some cases everyday. The excuse that a team is not used to playing on an artificial pitch is catching up on the referee and injury lists as a justification for an abject performance. A win one week on is quickly forgotten when a defeat occurs on the same surface soon after.
The excuses of failure, which often infuriate me so, can usually be justified by one of the following lines when a manger is pressed in a post match interview:
- The ball just doesn’t act the same on an artificial pitch
- Grass is better.
Let’s address these points together as best as we can. Firstly yes it is true that on occasion a ball can grip on an artificial pitch resulting in a bounce that’s a little higher and a run that’s a little quicker but let me give you some names to consider. Tim Flowers. Peter Enckleman. John Terry. Each victim, if they are to be believed, in some way shape or form to variances in a grass pitch that an artificial park never would have thrown up. Even considering my relatively young age at the time I still remember Flowers going down on one knee to catch a fairly tame long-range effort from Stan Collymore only for it to hit a divot, hop over his shoulder and drop into the net. While many will remember Peter Enckleman’s inability to control a throw in during a Birmingham derby resulting in an own goal that will forever stand the test of time the Finn bettered the trick a couple of years later when a miskick, no doubt of which will be blamed on a bobble, gifted Preston forward Chris Brown the easiest of goals.
Perhaps the best example belongs to John Terry though, self-proclaimed King of Chelsea and publically divisive figure. In 2008 he had the opportunity to do something that no other Chelsea captain had done before and lift Europe’s biggest club prize, the Champions League trophy, even better he could score the winning penalty. With the chance to confirm his blue tinged legacy the defender slipped and the ball went high into the sodden Moscow sky. The irony being that despite the Luzhniki Stadium housing an artificial pitch for much of the season prior to the final UEFA decreed that their grandest prize must be played on grass. If the grass had never been laid then Dorgba’s glory a few years later could have all belonged to John. So you have to ask would Tim, John or Peter have preferred a pitch that would behaved itself like it should have done rather than one that made a ball bobble or a foot slip. It begs the question is grass really better?
Yes. In an ideal world a well manicured grass pitch is infinitely better than even the highest spec artificial surface. However how many of those parks really exist in today’s highly commercialised society where football stadiums also host rugby, NFL and music concerts amongst a plethora of other things. With ever-expanding international and domestic calendars designed to engage clubs of all levels football grounds are used more now than ever before so naturally wear and tear will become ever more prominent. All this though is based on the theory that the pitch to start off with is of a high standard.
Pitches at the last two World Cups in South Africa and Brazil, for example, have been chastised for their poor quality with brown patches painted green and enough sand to populate a small beach just some of the measures to improve the potential quality of play. How often during the festivities in South America did you hear managers moan, particularly in Manaus, about the state of the pitch.
I have to ask, what do you expect? A tropical climate where it’s baking hot one minute torrential rain the next is hardly an ideal place to grow a football pitch. The African Cup of Nations is forever being played on pitches that have as much grass on them as can be found in the middle at Lord’s or the Oval. The list goes on. Wembley couldn’t get grass right for years and switching sports for a second Murrayfield’s nematodes became as synonymous with the Six Nations as Archie Gemmell’s goal at the 78 World Cup became with Scotland’s ability to achieve glorious failure. When those at the very top can’t get it right what chance do those at the bottom have?
That’s not to say you don’t find many a fine grass park at lower league grounds because you surely do but when clubs are ever increasingly looking to find ways to make ends meet the last thing they need is an impromptu 6 week winter break and it is here that the artificial pitch comes into its own. In the summer Rugby Park became the ninth Scottish senior ground to host an artificial surface and the second in the current Scottish Premiership (Hamilton being the other). The reason for the move done at some cost, was done to facilitate a clearance of debt and move the club back to Kilmarnock on a day-to-day basis. But it doesn’t stop there as others have shown. Hamilton have hosted a number of Scotland youth internationals at New Douglas Park while current SWPL champions Glasgow City play their league and European games at Airdrieonians Excelsior stadium while clubs such as Stenhousemuir and Queen of the South amongst others use their artificial pitches to create revenue 7 days a week renting the pitch out for local teams and everyday punters like you and me for kick about. Making their stadiums the hub of their community, it sounds pretty fanciful but these things are actually happening right now.
This has even tricked down to the juniors, and while its sad many an old ground has fallen by the wayside for identikit supermarkets and three bedroom houses the money earned has been used to rejuvenate clubs who had merely been surviving. In a country where fiscal responsibility has been ringing in our ears for months is it not fiscally responsible for Scottish clubs in particular to make the most of the assets they have? In years to come will these teams be seen as innovators? I think so.
In an ideal world football should be played on grass at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. Maybe those that lambast the usage of artificial pitches are longing for a simpler time, nostalgia has a funny way of doing that. Maybe they have some genuine concerns about the long-term health of players some of which doesn’t appear to be without foundation but just as television has made a 3pm kick off as common as 7.15pm on a Monday night so will an ever-changing climate and financial responsibility see artificial pitches work hand in hand with traditional grass park’s marrying the past and future for many clubs across the country, maybe even the world.
Artificial pitches are here and they won’t be going away.