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Uncooked Raspberry Jam

In past centuries the Dumfriesshire town of Gretna was famous for smuggling, especially whisky, and run-away marriages, mainly English couples, but in this century the town of some 2,700 inhabitants is quickly becoming more renowned for its football exploits. The rise over the past two seasons of Gretna FC has been  remarkable and the scope of their work, on and off the park and in the wider community, was fully illustrated in a television documentary this week. The second part of the documentary will be shown on Tuesday 16 May 2006 and will bring the story up to the most exciting date, so far, in the tiny club’s history.

This Saturday, 13 May 2006, Gretna FC, after being a member of the Scottish football League for only four seasons, face up to the might of Premier League Heart of Midlothian in the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden Park. Such is the excitement generated by their first-ever Scottish Cup final appearance that the small Border town has sold 12.000 tickets for the Hampden sell-out. A full house of 52,000, including some 37,000 Hearts supporters, will witness whether Gretna can emulate the success of East Fife in 1938 in being the only lower division club to ever win the coveted National Trophy. Thousands more will watch on television, a facility not available when Second Division East Fife overcame their First Division opponents Kilmarnock, 4-2, in a replay watched by 91,700 spectators. At the time of the 1938 final, East Fife were ranked 23rd in the league rankings of the Scottish League, exactly the same position as Gretna are today!

Gretna FC was formed in July 1946 with the assistance and advice from Dumfries-based Queen of the South and played their first season in the Dumfries Junior League. The following season they decided to play in the north of England and were 28 times  champions of the Carlisle District League and twice champions of the Northern League (1990-91; 1991-92). But they were keen on being a member of the Scottish League and made unsuccessful bids in 1993 and 1999 for membership. It was a case of third time lucky for the Raydale Park side and on 18 June 2002 they were admitted to the Scottish Football League. Under manager Rowan Alexander they kicked off their return to Scottish football with a 1-1 draw with Greenock Morton on 3 August 2002. They finished their first season in the Scottish Third Division in sixth place, which they improved to third place in season 2003/04. With the financial backing of English multi-millionaire businessman Brooks Mileson who had bought the club, Gretna turned fulltime and with players such as scoring hot-shot Kenny Deuchar (signed from East Fife)  raced to the Third Division Championship for 200/’05 in only 27 games. A 1-0 victory at Cowdenbeath on 5 March 2005 secured the title and promotion to the Second Division and equalled the 41-year-old promotion record set by Greenock Morton. By the end of the season they had set a new points record for the division of 98 points, beating a previous best of 80 set by Forfar ten years previously. Gretna only lost two games, with two draws and notched up 32 wins, banged in 130 goals and only conceded 29, as they stormed to a higher division.

This season saw the Gretna dream of Premier League football continue as they wrapped up a consecutive league title and promotion to the First Division but it was their success in the Scottish Cup which fired the imagination of all football fans. After seeing off non-league opponents Preston Athletic and Cove Rangers, they showed their mettle by defeating First Division teams – St Johnstone, Clyde (who had put out cup holders Celtic 2-0) and First Division Champions St Mirren. In the semi-final, Gretna again faced First Division opposition, Dundee. In a televised game the men from Raydale Park completely outplayed the Dens Park outfit and cruised to a 3-0 victory and set up the fairy-tale final with Heart of Midlothian, In the other semi-final, Hearts thrashed their Edinburgh rivals Hibernian 4-0 in a one-sided game. Hearts are, like Gretna, enjoying one of their best-ever seasons since they won the Scottish Cup for the sixth time in 1998. Finishing second in the Premier League, Hearts will play for the first-ever time in the European Championship League, and have ensured that Gretna are guaranteed European football next season, regardless of the Scottish Cup result, in the form of the UEFA Cup.Gretna have already arranged to play their first European home game at Motherwell’s ground Fir Park, as Raydale Park doesn’t meet European criteria (yet!).

Plans are already afoot for a new 6,000 seated stadium for Gretna, as they seek to win promotion next season to the Scottish Premier League, Gretna’s owner Brooks Mileson has been a breath of fresh air for Scottish football and the coaching work they do in schools and involvement in the community is an example to all clubs. From his own pocket he has also paid for a 1,000 schoolchildren to attend the big day at Hampden. On the playing side much credit must go to manager Rowan Alexander and his assistant Davie Irons who have blended a successful side capable of playing well above their present league standing. So keen is Brooks Mileson to keep his winning management team together that they were offered a new 5-year contract this week.

On paper Hearts should tie up their seventh Scottish Cup triumph on Saturday but until then Gretna fans can dream that the Scottish Cup will be adorned with Black and White ribbons.

As we suggested last week, an appearance in the Scottish Cup Final is jam on the cake for the finalists and this week we come up with a very old Scottish jam recipe – Uncooked Raspberry Jam - to celebrate the oldest National Trophy in the world.

Uncooked Raspberry Jam

Ingredients:  4 lb (2 kg) raspberries: 4 lb (2 kg) sugar

Method:  Pick over the berries. Spread the sugar in a large shallow fireproof dish. Heat thoroughly in a moderate oven, stirring occasionally, to prevent sugar caking or burning. Place the berries in an earthenware jar. Stand in a pan of boiling water coming half way up the side till all the fruit is thoroughly heated. Remove pan from stove. Turn berries into a heated basin. Mash to a fine pulp, then add the hot sugar. Beat for 5 minutes, then cover basin. Stand for 30 minutes, then beat rapidly again for 5 minutes.Cover and stand for 30 minutes and beat once more for 5 minutes. Pot, seal and label.

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