womens football

Pie 152: The Partick Thistle Pie

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Back one again with the Scottish pie master,

Brown sauce dribble, meaty in the middle.

Back one again with the Scottish pie master,

Brown sauce dribble and the meat filled pastries,

and the meat filled pastries,

and the meat filled pastries,

and the meat filled pastries…

That’s right we are back once again with another pie review from Meat Filled Pastries. Much to my surprise pie 152 sees a first review from Firhill, home of Partick Thistle and for this visit, the home of the SSE Women’s Scottish Cup Final between Hibernian and Motherwell. I’ve gone on quite a bit about the need for people to support the women’s game and for those that run it to do their bit by making sure that the match day experience in as enticing as possible. It certainly feels like strides are being made in both those regards and I’ll be interested to see what the numbers are like when I see Scotland take on the USA on Tuesday 13th November at whatever they are calling New Love Street these days.

One of the biggest challenges women’s football faces in my eyes is how to address the quality gap from the very top of the domestic game (Glasgow City & Hibernian) to the rest. Whilst there was no doubting the Leith Lassies fully deserved their 8-0 win against the Women of Steel (love that nickname!) it did somewhat dampen the spectacle to see one side 3-0 up after only 15 minutes. Of course the game could have went differently but a quick look at the SWPL1 table shows that there is a gap there for the chasing pack to address.

Quality of competition not withstanding I’m really interested to see what impact the new entry criteria for next season will have on the – and I hate to use this word – product. 2019 is shaping up as a big year for women’s football in Scotland and I really hope that those in control grasp the opportunity to turn everything up a notch, not only for the fans but for all involved with their clubs too.

It’s also World Scotch Pie Championship Judging Day this week and this year’s event has had the good grace to fall on my birthday so whilst there won’t be any cake I will no doubt be pie-eyed by the end of the day.

That’s it for the pie-atribe this week so without much further ado, let’s rate some pie!

Where: Firhill Stadium, Hibernian Ladies 8-0 Motherwell Ladies, SSE Scottish Women’s Cup Final

Price: At £2.40 this is one of the more expensive scotch pies that I have had during my adventures. It will be interesting to see with the requirement for catering in the SWPL going forward the pricing strategy implemented by Scotland’s top female clubs.

Presentation: This scotch pie was presented in a tin foil case, common in the upper echelons but less so in the juniors, and with a small white napkin taken from one of those dispensers you see at large stadia.

Meatiness: This was a generously filled scotch pie. The meat reached almost every nook and cranny inside it’s pastry walls. The texture was both crumbly and firm meaning that each bite held well on initial impact before easily giving way as you made your way through. There was also a good pepper kick to this pastry, something has been feeling absent from the last few scotch pie reviews I’ve done. Not too strong to cause any harm to the overall taste experience but just warm enough to give your taste buds a little thrill on what was a pretty cold Sunday afternoon.

Pastry: The most impressive thing about this pastry was that it did not stick to the shiny base below. It was also golden on top with some lovely crispy edges accompanied by a little steam hole to give the filling some room to breath. Whilst the pastry didn’t stick it was perhaps a little soft on the bottom but it was nothing that would be of detriment to the overall eating experience.

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Brown Sauce: Small sachets of brown that helped bring the appropriate level of zing to this pastry party.

Overall: Good pastry with a generous and well seasoned filling that was complimented by a peppery kick means that this was a very good pie indeed, even if it was £2.40.

Gravy Factor: A scotch pie worthy of a cup final.

This was a top pie from Firhill. They actually had quite a wide range to choose from but for me it’s important that I always continue to give reference to the core pastry product, the one that you will find everywhere, the scotch pie. That said for those fans who do enjoy a bit of deviation you are in for a treat as next time out I review a bridie from Ardrossan Winton Rovers in the Scottish Juniors.

Until next time, go forth and eat pie!

Chris Marshall, is a BJTC accredited Radio Journalist with an honours degree in Communications & Mass Media from Glasgow Caledonian University. A contributor to various football websites and publications he also currently acts as Heart & Hand Podcast’s resident Iberian football expert and hosts “The Isco Inferno” a weekly take on all things Spanish football. A perennial ‘Scottish Sporting Optimist’ and part-time Madrileno with a passion for food and football that has manifest itself in the wonder that is Meat Filled Pastries.

 

 

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Pie 149: The Stirling Albion “Steak” Pie

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Welcome to another edition of Meat Filled Pastries as we induct the 149th baked good into these hallowed pastry halls. This week’s offering comes from Stirling Albion but instead of seeing the Binos do battle I was present for semi-final one of a SSE Scottish Women’s Cup semi-final double-header. I had got out my bed fairly early for a Sunday to take in Glasgow City and Hibernian as the two dominant forces in Scottish women’s football went head to head at noon before Motherwell and The Spartans kicked off four hours later for a place in the final to be played on Sunday 4th November at Firhill. A two game semi-final double header at the same venue on the same day. Can’t think where I’ve heard that before…

I’ve talked at length about what I think needs to be done to really capitalise on the success of Shelley Kerr’s World Cup bound national side and the need to move the domestic game in Scotland forward. If you haven’t read those then conveniently there is a link right here where I gave my opinion a couple of months ago. At this point though I want to commend some of what I saw at Forthbank Stadium that certainly seem to suggest things are moving in the right direction, especially after the introduction of the new entry criteria for the 2019 season.

Firstly, whilst the announcement that the 4 semi-finalists in the Betfred Cup would all play on the same day had people proclaiming the end of days, the idea of a Semi Final Super Sunday works in a Scottish women’s football context and although the announced attendance of 364 sounds meagre it is considerably higher than your average SWPL match day turnout. They had also struck a deal with the BBC similar to the one currently being exercised for the early rounds of the FA Cup to stream both games live on the BBC Sport website accompanied by some proper english speaking commentary. There were team sheets available for each game and whilst it was good that these were free there was perhaps a missed opportunity for a double edition programme to be sold. The historic problem of kick off times clashing with big games on the men’s side did rear its head again though as the crowd appeared noticeably smaller as I watched game two in my flat prior to Scotlands’ 1-3 defeat to Portugal “B”. A game that kicked off only an hour after Motherwell and Spartans did so making it impossible to properly engage in both.

The biggest thing though, and the one that is most relevant to this site, is that there was some hot food to be had and national team aside this feels like a bit of a first. So without much further ado let’s rate some pie!

Where: Forthbank Stadium, Glasgow City 1-2 Hibernian Ladies, SSE Scottish Women’s Cup Semi Final

Price: At £2.50 this was perhaps a bit pricier than I was expecting given the Scottish League Two surroundings. The price becoming a greater bone of contention as I started my consumption.

Presentation: Presented in a tin foil case, the napkins were a self-service job from the table beside the counter. Plenty of large white napkins to choose from so you could go wild in a totally environmentally friendly way.

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Meatiness: Ooft, this was dry, which was a little upsetting. There was some large chunks of steak present but these meaty morsels were quite tough which – coupled with the lack of gravy – didn’t make for the most joyous of bites and an overuse of your jaw muscles. The seasoning wasn’t much cop either and it’s fair to say that I was a little disappointed when I looked at the empty napkin and foil tin that sat in my hand. I know this is a luxury pie but I wish I had whacked some brown sauce on it.

Pastry: The pastry was a bit weird. Whist the scotch pie shell with puff pastry lid has been seen before the puff had seemed to forget to do its growing thing and the shell had a strange grey-brown-yellow sheen to it. Structurally it was sound but again it wasn’t much of a taste sensation.

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Overall: This wasn’t a classic. The meat was a little tough and the paucity of gravy meant that it was all just a little dry, especially when paired with the slightly odd pastry combination surrounding it. I’m not going to lie, part of me thought that these were left over from a Saturday somewhere, and that’s not a great sign.

Gravy Factor: Just a mirage of gravy in this pastry desert.

Well with us one pastry away from 150 there is some pressure to be had on our next hosts after this underwhelming effort. Who that host will be I genuinely don’t know but what I can assure you of is that there will be a pie celebration to be had and maybe I’ll knock something up a little bit special too.

Until next time though, go forth and eat pie!

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 and  The Football Pink as well as featuring in The Scotsman, STV and a number of other media outlets. He currently acts as Heart & Hand Podcast’s resident Iberian football expert. A perennial ‘Scottish Sporting Optimist’ and part-time Madrileno with a passion for food and football that has manifest itself in the wonder that is Meat Filled Pastries.

 

 

 

In Search of the SWPL

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The second half of the Scottish Women’s season is about to get underway following the traditional midsummer break. Hibernian and Glasgow City sit head and shoulders above the rest with the Edinburgh side looking to end City’s 11 year run of domestic dominance. Both sides on 35 points with 11 wins and two draws to their names with an end of season showdown already feeling inevitable. I often attend women’s games, choosing real life entertainment against whatever Premier League fixture have cobbled together under the guise of “Super Sunday” but for many a stigma remains, one that dictates that the quality isn’t very good and that nobody really cares. But what’s the cause of this and is there a resolution to be found?

A first attempt to find a list of women’s fixtures instantly flags an issue. Whilst the Scottish Women’s Football (SWF) website is a reliable source, including regularly updated kick off times and locations across all senior women’s leagues it’s a resource that is only known to those that know. Google obviously helps but statistics dictate that your average fan is more than likely to head to one of the two behemoths of web/app based sports coverage in the UK, namely the BBC and Sky Sports. The problem is should you rely solely on these then your search for Scottish women’s fixtures will be ultimately fruitless.

This, along with coverage in general, been a constant source of bemusement to me for some time, with BBC Scotland particularly culpable such is their perceived lack of ability to cover the mere basics. A deficiency made even more stark when you look at the coverage the women’s game gets south of the border on the very same site. While an entire subsite is dedicated to the women’s game direct from the BBC Sport home page this is very much an England centric proposition. Here you can find latest news from the clubs, view fixtures and league tables. It would be remiss of me not to mention that Scottish football does feature but the aforementioned basics are nowhere to be found.

Then there is the Women’s Football Show a regularly scheduled look at the going on’s within the Women’s Super League (WSL) including match highlights and interviews with prominent figures. The Women’s FA Cup Final is now a key part of the BBC’s May Bank Holiday schedule, broadcast in full HD and with over 45,000 in attendance at this years final. It feels like a big deal. Meanwhile in Scotland fans are treated to BBC Alba and picture quality that would have raised cries of derision twenty years ago. At least you’ll get to brush up on your Gaelic. There will be some people who read this and automatically go into defence mode, how it’s not Scotland’s fault and how we are forever marginalised on a UK scale. There is a smidgen of merit in that, anybody who has lived in the south of England particular will have had at least one conversation about Scotland that has left you dumbfounded in its ignorance but are the people that should be held for account not those in charge of the BBC Sport Scotland mandate? Is it not their job to be that voice?

There is some evidence they are trying though, albeit in a near typical backwards fashion. During the World Cup a common consensus formed that Alex Scott – by taking the rare approach of combining enthusiasm and research to her football punditry brief – was a welcome addition to the coverage. Sportscene had already followed that path somewhat and have had current and former Scottish Women’s footballers appear on Sportscene and Radio Scotland to pass comment on frequent occasion although the coverage itself on these outlets can sometimes leave a lot to be desired. There is also, usually, a couple of articles buried on the Scottish Football section of the website giving a summary of the weekend’s action although it’s regular brevity leaves you wondering how much pressure is put on to produce high quality content. BBC Alba does at least play the game a little, not only showing the Scottish Cup Final but regular coverage of both international women’s football and the odd Glasgow City European adventure, though once again you do have to ask if this really is the best way to get new eyes on the game?

I’m not sure that the blame should be left solely at the BBC’s door though. Imagine if you will that you have somehow made your way to the SWF website and now find yourself looking at the upcoming Sunday’s fixtures. The likelihood is that you will already support a men’s side and so naturally you peruse the page looking for their female equivalent.

Unfortunately that doesn’t always work.

Let’s take this weekend for example. Not only is it the return of the women’s season but it is also kick off time for the SPFL. On Sunday, Aberdeen play Rangers in the stand out fixture of the weekend as Steven Gerrard makes his league debut away to one of the teams his side will be looking to overhaul. With a 1pm Sunday kick off to allow for TV coverage you would think that this would provide you the perfect opportunity to get yourself down to your first women’s match. Well, I’m sorry to report, you would be wrong. Whilst the seagulls at Pittodrie look on in hungry anticipation of that first flung pie in the SWPL Aberdeen travel to Dalkeith to take on Hearts at 2pm whilst Rangers travel to Station Park to take on Forfar Farmington. The kick off time there? 1pm. So I ask, as a fan with a stronger connection to the men’s side than women’s of one of these two sides, what choice are you most likely to make? For many it’s an easy decision.

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This isn’t confined to same club conflicts though and often top women’s games are forced to clash with the best that Scottish football offer. For example, the 2017 Scottish Women’s Cup Final was played at the same time as the men’s Scottish League Cup Final. I mean give yourselves a chance! Now there’s reasons for this, pitch availability I have seen often cited but when the SWPL, and in turn the SFA, don’t make the game a priority how can they expect a fan too?

Irrespective of the challenges above you’ve thrown caution to the wind and picked a fixture, the next thing you need to know is where you need to go. Most women’s clubs will have somewhere that they call “home”. Teams with affiliations to their male counterparts will often ground share such as Forfar Farmington (Station Park) and St. Johnstone (McDiarmid Park). Some clubs will host their women’s fixtures at local junior or lower league ground such as Rangers at New Tinto Park just a ten minute walk from Ibrox and Hibernian at Ainslie Park home of Lowland League Spartans. The recurring theme, and by association the problem, is that while these teams will have a “home” none of them are a place that they could call their own and so on occasion they have to go on the move. Where they move to though is often telling of the challenges the women’s game in Scotland faces.

Let’s take a look at the 3rd Round of the SSE Scottish Women’s Cup. Scottish women’s football most successful club and current SWPL champions Glasgow City host league counterparts Stirling University. The dominant force in Scottish women’s football for well over a decade have been most recently based out of Petershill Park in the north of the city. For this tie, arguably the pick of the round, they find themselves based at St. Mungo’s Academy, a school linked sports complex close to their spiritual home. They’re not the only ones though, Hearts usually based from Kings Park, home of Dalkeith Thistle, host Spartans at Glencorse Community Centre. It’s hard for critics to take the women’s game seriously when you’re watching teams being hurried off the park because the local men’s amateur game is next up.

So you’ve managed to find a fixture, you’ve mapped your path there and triple checked the kick off time. You walk up to the venue and find yourself wondering just what should you expect from your first women’s football experience? The honest answer is pretty much anything.

Much like at any level or grade of football the quality of play in show could be anything from utterly mundane to totally ludicrous with the majority falling somewhere in between. For example, a Scottish Cup tie between Blackburn United and Ayr United that I attended earlier in the season finished 10-9 after extra time, it was a mere 8-8 after 90 minutes. The quality wasn’t great but the drama as the game ebbed and flowed would be the stuff of TV executive wet dreams. An hour later I was back in Glasgow watching a fairly tame 2-0 win for Queen’s Park against Morton. You are probably more likely to get the odd 15 goal procession as the standard varies greatly from top to bottom but even those sometimes provide their own strange little spectacle.

Quality of play aside, what else do you need to know? Well, it’s a bit of a bargain with even the top sides rarely charging more than £5 although I would suggest that you have low expectations around catering facilities. Scotland games aside I am yet to find a women’s game where a pie can be had although usually there’ll be a way to at least find a beverage. Also whilst modern football stadia confines you to just one seat, given the relative sparse nature of the crowds and the types of venues these games take place at, you will be free to roam the terraces looking for the perfect spot. You will also invariably end up in a conversation with someone who is usually a friend or relative of one of the players.

All that being said the experience you have will be very much dependent on your mindset going into it. If you go with expectations of seeing the female versions of Messi and Ronaldo duelling in front of a packed stadium then I suggest you have a re-think. If however, you turn up with an open mind then I suggest the experience you have will be considerably better than lying flat on your couch as Huddersfield and Southampton do battle in pursuit of 15th place in the Premier League.

In a country where the women’s national side is infinitely more successful than their male counterparts it seems strange to say that the domestic game hasn’t really progressed all that much. Whilst Hibernian have emerged as real challengers to Glasgow City’s monopoly on the SWPL title, a recent top of the table clash between the two had an attendance no more than a couple of hundred and was delayed due to a lower league game being played on the same pitch running late. Top Scottish players now in the main play abroad and I have no doubt that some of the challenges covered here will have played a part in that.

Taking all things into consideration though it is important that you don’t let the sparse attendances make you think that the SWPL doesn’t matter. That you don’t use the occasional sloppy pass as a trigger to question it’s quality. Don’t let a 12-0 win let you think it isn’t competitive and don’t let a lack of media presence let you think that it’s not worth talking about. So why not take a chance one Sunday afternoon, you just might like it.

Pie 119: The Falkirk Macaroni Pie

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The “see you laters” have been said in my last post so I’m not going to labour the point. Instead, like all good encores this will be brief nod to the fans designed to keep those of you on who are interested on tenterhooks with the insinuation that in years to come an overpriced reunion tour will occur where a bedraggled version of me will rate pies through a straw as people stare and wonder, “Has he been on the smack?”

Anyway, before this tangent writes me off as dead in a pool of my own vomit let’s get on with the show.

Let’s rate some pie!

THE SURROUNDINGS

Where: The Falkirk Stadium, Scotland Women 0-4 Iceland Women, UEFA Women’s European Championship Qualifying Group 1

Price: £1.90. Not breaking through the two pound barrier makes this a cheaper luxury option although overall this is still at the top end of the matchday pie market.

Presentation: As oft found towards the upper echelons of the Scottish game this pie came in a silver foil case accompanied with a pick as you need selection of napkins from a dispenser beside the kiosk. I went for two. Two seemed right but not excessive.

THE PIE

The Final Bite...
The Final Bite…

CheesyPastainess – As a macaroni pie filling this was a very good effort. The tightly curled tubes of macaroni were soft to the bite without turning into a mushy pulp adding the right amount of texture to this filling. The cheese was also a lovely blend, with the right balance of savoury and salty. The texture here too was spot on, no gelatinous globules of tasteless cheese, instead long strings of fromage based goodness graced my presence with a crispy brown later on top Lovely stuff.

Pastry: I’ve mentioned this before but I’ll say it again. Macaroni Pie pastry is pale and whilst the walls of this particular offering were I was intrigued to find that the top was a little browner and as such a little crisper. There was some issues towards the bottom of the pie meaning the pastry tore against the tin foil tin and a little bit of filling recovery was required but all in all this was a solid effort.

Brown Sauce: Nostalgia dictates that red sauce is used here. A wee sachet (all sachets are too wee for my liking) of perfectly serviceable tomato condimentation. (Note: pretty sure that’s a made up word).

Overall: A friend of mine swore to me that macaroni pies were the best thing ever, whilst I still disagree with that statement I feel confident in saying that they have more than earned their place on these hallowed pages.

Gravy Factor: Cheesy Gravy. And as we all know cheese, much like bacon, is always good.

So that’s it for now. Over the coming months I’ll be trying to pull 3 years of pie based jiggery pokery into something that people may pay for money for (or at the very least download for free from Amazon). There’s a lot of people to thank along the way but I think I’ll save that for the book.

Until next time, go forth and eat pie!

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.

Pie 108: The Motherwell ‘Steak’ Pie

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Hello and welcome to pie number two from Fir Park consumed at the Scottish Women’s European Championship qualifier against Belarus. As promised I’m once again going to try to convince you to give women’s football a chance if you haven’t done so already. Here’s five reasons for starters:

  1. It’s cheap, with SWPL games costing a paltry some of £5.
  2. Games take place during the summer and on Sundays. No longer do you have to spend a July afternoon in IKEA, a dead-eyed stare across your face whilst somebody tells you that the Malm bedside cabinet collection is the hottest thing in Swedish design and innovation.
  3. Scotland actually tend to win more than they lose. Yes there is a few one-sided drubbings against the likes of Belarus and The Faroe Islands in there but it’s Scotland winning. The majority of the time. I’ll take that any day.
  4. If you have one child, and that child is a daughter, then what better way to trick her into getting the football bug than by taking her down to her local women’s football game so that she can find herself some new heroes. The fruit of your loins will play for Scotland after all!
  5. It will get you out the house and that can only be a good thing. Surely it can’t be any worse than sitting through Sunderland v West Brom on ‘Super’ Sunday.

There’s probably more reasons but I’m going to stop at 5, the season has just finished but the national side have their next home qualifier against FYR Macedonia on Sunday 29th November at St. Mirren Park. So go on, give it a go, you might like it.

Anyway with the soapbox tidied away until another day so without much further ado, let’s rate some pie!

THE SURROUNDINGS

Where: Fir Park, Scotland Women 7-0 Belarus Women, 2017 Women’s European Championship Qualifier

...aaaaaaand break!
…aaaaaaand break!

Price: A steak pie is your conventional luxury offering and this one was priced at £2.30, 30p more than the pasta and pastry hybrid available (Pie 107: The Motherwell Macaroni Pie”) from the same venue on the same evening. About average for the level of football normally on show here.

Presentation: The staple luxury arrangement of the pie being placed within a tin foil case and on top of a medium-sized white napkin, nothing too fancy here.

THE PIE

Fuzzy Pie!
Fuzzy Pie!

Meatiness: The meat within this pie was a tantalising mix of small and large chunks of tender steak, soft enough to easily bite through with the odd-shaped meaty bits bursting with a solid steak flavour. The gravy was fairly unctuous, not an absolute topper, but certainly nothing to be sniffy about and overall the whole thing was well proportioned and well seasoned.

Pastry: A classic puff pastry top, more dome like than usual suggesting a generous rise had occurred in the oven. The sides were nicely baked and the pastry had not stuck to the bottom of the case, an often found fundamental flaw at Scottish footballs top end pie establishments. Solid effort again.

Overall: This was a good pie, with a nice filling and well-baked pastry but as this journey continues to chug along it didn’t feel like it was anything out of the ordinary.

Gravy Factor: A premium supermarket brand. Good quality and definitely tasty but not quite at the very top of the game.

So that’s my Fir Park double dunt done and dusted and I return to my junior roots with a review from Benburb, with a classic scotch pie on offer from New Tinto Park. Until then, go forth and eat pie!

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.