It was my Dad’s birthday just before Christmas, and this year Ruth, Mum and I clubbed together to get him a VIP trip to Bayview, the storied home of mighty East Fife Football Club. I say ‘him’ but really I mean ‘us’; I say ‘storied’ but really I mean ‘ten years old and already falling apart at the seams’; and I say ‘mighty’ but really I mean ‘crap’.

On the day of the match Ruth, Andy, Dad and I took Dad’s car down to the ground. Bayview — technically the new Bayview, since the club sold up and moved from upper Methil down to the docks a decade or so ago — is set in a commercial park adjacent to the decommissioned coal-fired power station which looms over Leven’s promenade. On the other side of the estate, a solitary wind turbine thumbs its nose at its predecessor.

We skirted the puddles in the car park, passed through the crowd of men smoking outside the entrance and waited by reception for someone to show us in. A series of white-haired men in East Fife ties walked past us in one direction or another, each of them nodding gravely at us as we looked at them expectantly; eventually, one of them stopped and escorted us upstairs to our table in the function room. The elevated viewpoint gave us a magnificent view of the pitch, not to mention the derelict bulk of the power station beyond it, unspoiled by such inconveniences as a second stand.

The man who had showed us in — the head of the supporter’s trust, as it turned out — gathered us up along with the rag-tag bunch of other corporate guests and took us on a tour of the ground, showing us the control room, the changing rooms, the pitch and the boardroom.

‘The Fife’ is a club which knows — which has to know — how to look on the bright side of life. A plaque above the tunnel doors, intended to spur the players on to glory, lists the club’s achievements over the years: following two successive Scottish Cup wins in 1937 and 1938 (the only such victories for a Second Division team, or so I’m led to believe) the general trend was slow, steady, and downwards. On the corridor walls are framed newpaper cuttings celebrating losses and occasional draws to more famous teams; one in particular stands out, recording a 0-4 defeat to Manchester United on the occasion of a testimonial match for an old Fife player, notable mostly for the first appearance of a young midfielder named David Beckham. Pride of place in the boardroom is taken by a plinth bearing an old, brown leather football used in the 1937 cup final, or rather, it should have been. The football was absent. Our guide gestured to the plinth. “Methil museum have borrowed it for some sort o’ exhibition,” he told us. “They close at 12.30 today and promised to bring it back before every match, but obviously they havnae bo’ered.”

The symbol of East Fife’s long-past competitive pinnacle recast as a prop in a local soap opera, or maybe a farce. The walls were practically painted with pathos. I felt proud and heartbroken by turns, and this is no small admission for someone who generally feels complete indifference towards the world of professional football.

It’s just as well the drink was free; a few beers took the edge off the maudlin reminiscences of past glories, as did a cameo appearance over lunch by the current manager John Robertson. As kick-off drew near we were shown out to seats marked “Directors Only” and settled in for a resolutely lukewarm performance against second-placed Brechin City.

At half time we were shepherded back to the function room for coffee and ‘snacks’, where here ‘snack’ is equivalent to ‘scotch pie’. (Quick pie review: made by Buckhaven butcher R & I Moreland, the crust and filling were both of excellent consistency but the filling was let down by a lack of spices and overgenerous seasoning with salt. Good, but not a patch on Stuarts.)

The second half was a little more engaging but ended goalless. In the function room we sank another drink before the bar closed and then wandered out into the grey afternoon to walk back up the road. It had been a fantastic day. I can’t claim to be any more interested in football than I was before the match, but the chance to see this local institution from the inside out had been enlightening and entertaining by turns. Over lunch, Andy claimed that he’d read somewhere that East Fife’s hospitality package is the best value in Scotland, putting such heavy hitters as Aberdeen and Motherwell to shame; I’ve got no idea if that’s true or not, but I can’t remember a better Saturday afternoon spent in Fife for a long time.