Written by Nairn County FC March 27th 2018

UNSOLD copies of the club’s centenary book are now being put to good use by pupils at Nairn Academy. The book was launched in 2014 to mark 100 years of Nairn County’s membership of the Highland League and traces the origins of football in Nairn as well as the first century of the club’s existence. Now, Academy English teacher and County supporter Kenny Allison is using excess copies to engage his football-daft pupils in personal reading. Mr Allison started working at the school this time last year after 16 years at Forres Academy. Originally a Partick Thistle fan from Glasgow, he had been a semi-regular attendee at Station Park since moving to Nairn in 2000 but over the last four or five years, became a regular and season ticket holder. A shared love of the Beautiful Game with some of his pupils led Mr Allison to attempt to use the club book as a learning tool after bumping into some of the boys he taught on matchdays. He revealed: “You get to know your pupils and I had seen some of them at the Nairn County games. Talking about the game on a Saturday with them at school was just a nice way to get to know them better." “As an English teacher, one of the things you do is encourage personal reading and we have library periods at the school. It is quite hard to get 14 and 15-year-old boys to read as it can be a bit of a turn-off for them unless they are a keen reader anyway. I found myself saying to some of the boys in the class ‘why don't we read some football books’ and asked them what teams they were into." “They would read some of a Henrik Larsson biography and I also suggested Fever Pitch but they were not really into that. But knowing they all went to watch Nairn County, I asked the librarian if we could get some of the Nairn County history books. Nothing really came of it, so I asked Dodo Graham and he gave me three complimentary copies on behalf of the club to take up to the school.” The response from his pupils was instant and far more fruitful than Mr Allison ever imagined. He revealed: “At the next library period, I could not get the books off them. It started off with looking at the photo sections and they were right into it. They loved the early games featured at the start of the book and reading about the games down at the Links – there was a line about Nairn playing a silky passing game whereas Forres just launched the ball up the pitch. They loved that and told me nothing much has changed!” The books also helped the pupils to develop other skills as well as encouraging their reading. Mr Allison said: “We started to go through it and discussed the style of the book. We picked out phrases that were quite useful. It got them reading, which was the big thing and I then looked at something interesting for them to do. I am interested in developing their writing skills as well, so I thought they could write a match report. They were all at the Fraserburgh game a few weeks ago, so we got the Twitter feed up to give them the facts and they all came up with a football report. I also gave them each a chapter and they had to make up a quiz of 10 questions after reading it. It worked out really well because if you can get youngsters to engage with something they are interested in then they will work with it.” Reading about the club also seems to have fired the boys’ enthusiasm about turning out to cheer on their Station Park heroes. Mr Allison said: “I am really impressed by how much they are into the club. A lot of them play in the youth teams and you see them here on a Saturday." “It has been bubbling away with them for a wee while to try to get some atmosphere at the games. They have always come to games and been dotted about the ground but they seem to have got themselves together now and I do not know what the spark has been for that." “They have ordered another flag with their ‘Cowshed Boys’ logo on it. They are doing this all themselves and they are developing their computer skills, their graphic design skills and some of them are developing their language skills too." “They seem to have been well-received and it is good to get a bit of atmosphere. It is good they are coming out on a Saturday afternoon to watch live football and supporter their home team but I have to put my school teacher’s hat on and remind them that it has to be positive and that they are representing the club and the town at games and when they go elsewhere.” Mr Allison received a further 20 books to hand to the boys on behalf of the club at the end of term and hopes they can continue to enjoy reading about the history of Nairn County and giving the team positive backing in the future. He added: “We only have a couple of days left before we finish the term and we will be on to new work in the new term, so I suggested to one of the boys that we write a piece about the Cowshed Boys and how it all came about." “They are quite taken by the stories in the book about how there used to be such big crowds at the games and lots of singing – I think they have thought to themselves that they want to bring that back.” Graeme Macleod

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