Modern fitba, eh?

A few surprises in the Scottish semi-final, funnily enough

I thought I'd just watch a bit of the Scottish semi-final, as it was a 12.15pm kick-off, before it was time to go to Spurs. Queen of the South, total outsiders, from Scotland's second tier, were playing Aberdeen, one of Scotland's top teams.

Queens scored first, a fine goal by Al Armsy Stems, so it said on the back of his shirt. I'm not quite up on the Queens stars these days, not like I used to be, so having what appeared to be a North African in the team did surprise me. But that's modern fitba, eh, these foreigners are everywhere.

Aberdeen equalised, then Queens got a second - scored by a different player, but also called Al Armsy Stems. Yes, that's what his shirt said. Bloody hell, what is the chance of that? The odds must be about the same as Queens having got to the Scottish Cup semi-final for the first time in 58 years. I remember the last one well.

As a little boy, I lived in Dumfries for four years. My hero in life was a bullet-headed centre forward called Billy Houliston, who got three full caps for Scotland - something I've never expected to happen again. I mean a current Queens player getting capped, for anyone, though the way Al Armsy Stems was playing, he could well be getting a call from the manager of Morocco or Tunisia.

Dumfries is a small, isolated country town, population 38,000, near the English border, famous in Scotland for its connections with Robert Burns. Not exactly the heartland of football.

This season, in the English FA Cup, no team from Lancashire, Yorkshire, the north-east or the Midlands, the so-called heartlands, made it into the final. Note, I didn't list London as a heartland. In 1888, when the first ever football league began, there were 12 teams. Six came from Lancs - Accrington, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Everton, Preston North End. Six from roughly the Midlands - Derby County, Notts County, Stoke City, West Brom, Wolves. Not a sausage from London or the south.

Obviously, London and Yorkshire and the north-east are heartlands today, but Cardiff and Portsmouth certainly are not, so well done them for making it to the FA Cup final. Would Queens, from the south of Scotland, do the same, upset the status quo?

Aberdeen drew level, then blow me, Queens went ahead again - another great goal by Al Armsy Stems. It was turning out to be the second-best game I've watched on telly all season - the best being Liverpool v Arsenal in the European Cup. Not as skilful, for that was a cracker, but very exciting.

It finally ended 4-3 to Queens. So they are now in the Scottish Cup final for the first time since they were founded in 1919. Incredible. Must be all these foreigners, look at them, hugging each other, these Mediterranean ponces, never saw such behaviour when I lived in Dumfries.

Oh my God, now I see all their shirts, the whole team is called Al something, hold on, I'll peer more closely - Alarm Systems. Sorry about that.

Yet the Aberdeen team each had their own name on the back of their shirts. Perhaps poor old Queens can't afford individual shirts, being too poor?

As for Alarm Systems, the only local person when I lived there who needed such a thing would have been the Duke of Buccleuch. Still needs it, to stop any more of his Old Masters getting nicked.

I rang Queen of the South to check the names of their players, and every one is in fact Scottish - except Sean O'Connor. He's English.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 21 April 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Food crisis