A view from the stands: Inside a Kilmarnock closed doors game at Rugby Park

Even if you don’t like football, you’ll know when there’s a Killie game on.

Cars fill every and any gap on Dundonald Road and the surrounding area.

Fathers, grandfathers, families, women and children quietly bubble purposefully towards Rugby Park every fortnight during the season.

But all that has vanished.

On Saturday, the streets are drenched in the last of this year’s summer sun but they lie empty.

The first sign that this isn’t a typical home game, against Dundee United, is that Sandy Armour is not selling The Killie Hippo fanzine on the final stretch to the ground.

Empty stands have been filled with flags

He’s been replaced by people in hi-vis jackets with clipboards and equipment.

They check your name against the list and a band is placed round your wrist before your temperature is taken and you have to answer a questionnaire relating to the virus.

Killie lotto and programme sellers are gone, as are the masses of people draped in blue and white lurching in every direction, to get to their seat before the first whistle sounds.

Footsteps echo as you clamber the stairs of the Frank Beattie Stand with no music or hubbub to fill the famous arena.

Some of the flags in the stand

And yet it almost feels normal and familiar to emerge at the top of the stairs to see the vast expanse of green.

Sitting at the back of the stand, you don’t feel so alone with media colleagues nearby chatting and working away.

Music creates a din while the players are warming up and it does present a semblance of normality.

However, when the teams emerge from the tunnel there’s no roar of encouragement or booing of the opposition and it hits home that we’re all alone.

In thousands of homes surrounding the stadium and beyond, fans are tuning in on their phones, laptops, TVs and radios as their only way to feel part of the action.

Their presence is felt in the myriad of flags stretched over seats in the stands.

The excitement is drained from the game without the supporters, and more crucially, the rising tension that would usually be a cue for a big chance can’t aid a distracted reporter!

Killie ended up winning 4-0 but it was less special with no fans there to celebrate

The goals are sweet, 4-0 is incredible; and Rory McKenzie’s immense. To know that only a handful of Killie fans get to breathe that goal in is a crime.

After a big win, the palpable pre-match speculation is replaced with a wave of optimism; for the league campaign and the weekend ahead.

When Killie win, it feels like the town wins and your Saturday night has that extra sheen to it. Anything seems possible.

But when you’ve been to every Killie game with your father, it feels like a pretty cheap experience leaving with nobody by your side to chat about the match with.

However, this is all we’ve got for now.

Test events could see some supporters return within weeks. But these strange games – and changes to life in general – that we’ve encountered will serve as a reminder to never take our freedoms and lifestyles for granted again.

Providing it’s safe, let’s hope that Dundonald Road will be teeming with cars and people every second Saturday sooner rather than later.


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