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Fanzone: Hey! That's my home town; POOL-HALL owner Gary Cunningham has given Airdrie his best shot all his life. Here the diehard Diamonds fan tells CRAIG MILLER what it's like to follow a team that lurched from crisis to crisis before finally racking up a magical league title triumph.

Byline: CRAIG MILLER

Q Where do you live and when did you decide to become an Airdrie supporter?

A I've lived in Airdrie all my life but the first time I felt any emotion about football was at the Scottish Cup Final in 1975. My dad took me there to see the Diamonds take on Celtic in front of 75,000 at Hampden. The atmosphere was unbelievable. Even though we lost 3-1 was hooked. Funnily enough I still go with my dad to our games.

QWhat's your routine when Airdrie play at home on a Saturday?

A I usually meet the rest of the boys just after opening time at the Double A which is a pub for true Airdrie fans. We head off for the stadium at about 2.30 then return to the pub after the game and stay there all night. We don't go home, don't see our wives, don't get changed or go out for a meal.

Our Saturday night is spent celebrating a win or drowning our sorrows.

When we won the Second Division title last season I booked the place from nine in the morning till late and we had one hell of a party with 220 people there. I made up a CD of Airdrie songs and we danced all night. It was one of the best nights out I'd ever had.

Q Where in the stadium do you sit to watch the Diamonds?

A I actually STAND about six rows back from the dug-out at New Broomfield. Usually there are 10 of us there. We were lucky to be able to get such good seats - even if we never sit in them. We have a great view of the pitch and when we give the players and managers pelters they're sure to hear it!

Q What's the best memory you have from following your team?

A Because run a supporters' bus I was invited to the stadium after we won the league in May and had my picture taken with all the players and the trophy. It was fantastic. I now have the photos on a wall at home.

Q What is it that makes Airdrie United better than the rest for you?

A The connection the club has with the fans - it's personal. You won't get that with Rangers or Celtic. Agood example was when our chairman came in to the local pubs to talk to the fans and buy them pints. That down-to-earth touch is something supporters really appreciate. And the Airdrie matchday programmes are also fantastic.

Q What's been your most embarrassing moment as a Diamonds fan?

A At a pre-season game against Scarborough we were shouting and carrying on and even playing kazoos when the stewards came over and gave us a warning ... after just 12 seconds! That must be some sort of record.

Q What's the funniest thing that's happened to you at a game?

A At the East Fife match the other week my mate got a phone call with 10 minutes left. I heard him say: 'Aye, it's 3-0. We're playin' really well.' Then he added: 'You're joking? Right, let me know later on.'

I said to him 'What was all that about?' He told me it had been his dad wanting to know the score ... and to let him know his daughter was in hospital with a broken arm!

That's the kind of fans Airdrie have.

Q Who is the best player you've seen in an Airdrie jersey?

A Madcap keeper John Martin. tried to get him an MBE by writing to every club in Britain. I got acknowledgments from the likes of Craig Brown, Sir Alex Ferguson and Andy Roxburgh.

My current favourite is Owen Coyle. The guy is 38 and he's still banging in the goals for us.

Q Who is the best player you've seen playing for the opposition?

A When we met Sparta Prague in 1992 a young Pavel Nedved was in their squad. Other fans don't believe the World Player of the Year once turned out at the old Broomfield. We were unlucky in that game and even missed a penalty.

More recently Henrik Larsson was phenomenal when he played against us.

Q What do you reckon other fans think of the Airdrie support?

A We've been voted the most hated club in Scotland apart from Celtic and Rangers. I think it's because we'd do anything to wind up opposition fans.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 22, 2004
Words:742
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