As part of the club’s ongoing relationship with Forth Valley College, Digital Media Student, Ellis Wilson, has written this article for the Club website.
Since the turn of the century, Falkirk’s Portuguese connection has been notably striking in both perplexity and bewilderment, yet also decisively fascinating through an apex of finishing that saw the Portuguese connection play a meaningful role in the successes of the 06/07 and 07/08 seasons which has been the pinnacle of Falkirk’s premiership endeavours since the turn of such century with the club also teetering on the brink of League Cup glory.
A collective triad that was ever-present within the squad that helped propel the differing nations and countrymen throughout the dressing room was Porto born defensive marshal Tiago Jonas, amigo Vítor Lima, and eventual fan favourite supremo Pedro Moutinho. Joining Falkirk in the summer of 2004 Moutinho was eventually joined by compatriots Lima and Jonas in the coming season when the Lusitania men adjoined at the hip merged with the Bairns on the 15th of June in 2005. The trio were ubiquitous throughout the 06/07 season racking up appearances such as Jonas who played thirty-seven competitive matches within his first season.
Perhaps widely enigmatic and cryptic, Lima was a difficult character to fully grasp and understand throughout his first spell with the club. Arguably insignificant compared to Moutinho and Jonas, Lima was the defensive vanguard within the squad. Lesser attacking aptitude was foreseen as Lima over his two-year spell, failed to net a goal for the Bairns in the domestic scene, as such, his ability to forge assists from the defensive position lacked conviction. Naturally in the rough and tumble of Scottish football, Lima assembled a modest booking tally that outdone both that of his goals and assists statistics, although this would be instinctively expected from a defensive player. Lima’s ability was apparent, synonymous from his hailing nation, Lima had good feet for a defensive midfielder, resulting in the Portuguese star accruing almost five thousand minutes of playing time for The Bairns.
Moutinho was the poster boy of Portuguese excellence within the ranks at Falkirk, and rightly so. Pedro hosted an attacking pizzazz that created a sense of enlightenment when he got the ball. This with Jonas’s gladiatorial awareness at the back created a strong spine within a very apt Falkirk squad. The synergy within the squad was prevalent with the divergent roots of the players, Latapy and Stokes were a duo that dripped with charm that could and would nullify the clubs of Scotland’s Premier Division. Dundee United felt the wrath of the partnership when they were rattled from pillar to post by Stokes and Latapy when they stuck five past the tangerines, a trendsetting encounter as the following four games Latapy and Stokes netted 7 goals conclusively, also beating Celtic in the League Cup within the same period.
Falkirk and Moutinho came to the forefront during the climax of the season, although two large spells in August and September, and January, February and early March slowed progress immensely as the blood of Falkirk’s losses concurred in a concentrated period rather than sporadic losses throughout the season. The team performed passionately from late March to the end of May winning five, drawing two and only losing once in eight games with the Portuguese connection paying fruits to their labour as Moutinho accelerated his goal tally for the season.
Falkirk were wholesomely influenced by the adrenalin of the outset and offset of the season as The Bairns drew one and won two within the opening three games of the season. Including a one nil win over rivals Dunfermline which set the tone of the rivalry which commenced throughout the season as Falkirk stormed the Pars on every single outing. The period between October and December where Latapy and Stokes forged an allegiance greater than Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini will undoubtedly rival over any other period throughout the season largely down to the battle-hardened win over Celtic in the League Cup.
Falkirk had noble success against the old firm throughout the calendar year, although defeat was inflicted by the Glasgow teams, Falkirk vanquished such defeats in the domestic league by defeating both Celtic and Rangers by a goal to nil in both victories. Falkirk throughout the season had fought with esteem throughout the League Cup tournament, a five nil thumping inflicted on Cowdenbeath where Moutinho bagged a brace kick-started the competition for the Bairns. Inverness Caledonian Thistle were the next opponents to overcome, the man of the moment and season, Stokes, came to the forefront to bag the winner in the sixtieth minute progressing Falkirk to the quarters against Celtic.
Largely satisfying about the game was the sheer arrogance, disdain and vanity of the Celtic fan base dismissing the game against Falkirk as a mere bump in the inevitable path to Mount Florida. The hubris of the Celtic fans came to fruition after Celtic broke down the buoyant Falkirk side led by John ‘Yogi’ Hughes after a skirmish resulted in Zurawski scoring the opener. The stiffness of the Celtic fans was loosening after a tough game, their smugness was verified, and they would ride out comfortable victors, right?
Wrong. A quick slap across the cheek left if not a rosy mark not from the force of Stokes’s equaliser but a simmering flush of embarrassment over their pretentious pre-match predictions. Celtics bottle lasted a long minute before direct play from kick off saw Alan Gow square it to Stoke’s who placed the ball with perfection, after a snap reaction, into the centre of the goal; The ultimate hit and run goal if you have seen one.
The game went to penalties, and after Gow missed his subsequent penalty, Kenny Miller needed to simply score to send the Parkhead side through to the next round. Such inducing antics were not finished, in true Kenny Miller style, he hurried to the ball and ballooned it over with excitement in his run-up. A lifeline. Step up none other than Portuguese Vítor Lima. In true Lima style without an indication of nerves or emotion, Lima calmly places it away centimetres away from the foam of Boruc’s gloves. Zurawski and Jack Ross scored theirs and so on continued the game of Russian roulette in sudden death.
Sno of Celtic steps to take his penalty, with a stutter of the foot, he fires it wide. The roar emits from the away end from the Bouncing Bairns, Falkirk had silenced their critics.
Alas, Falkirk’s run came to an end when bogey team throughout the domestic 07 season, Kilmarnock, eliminated Falkirk from the tournament. However, after being within touching distance of silverware glory, Falkirk’s moods were not dampened. On the last day of the season, Falkirk defeated Dunfermline for the fourth consecutive time placing Falkirk seventh in the League. A feat that the Bairns would accomplish in the following season with the influence of Moutinho.
The synergies of nationalities of Falkirk squads over the years have been a key characteristic to a formidable Falkirk team. Think Trinidad, think Portugal, England, Denmark, Holland and so on. No matter their standings in football history the Portuguese triad of Bairns helped Falkirk through a collectively successful period for the club, leaving an admirable spot in the consciousness of Bairns for many years to come.