The rise of the Tartan Terrors

While claiming an “international fanbase” may be (a bit) too strong, a little pretentious, I do find myself fascinated by the global fans that Nashville SC (and, I suppose, other MLS teams) are developing. 

Having written before about the origins of the African Backline, my ears certainly perked up when I found myself seeing, like a number of you, the founding of the Tartan Terrors, a group of Scottish NSC supporters. 

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How in the world did a group of Scots start following the boys in gold? Who are they? Is this somehow connected to the kilts I see around the stadium? What in the world is going on here?

It took little more than a few keyboard strokes to get some answers.

The group was founded by 57-year-old Kevin McKay, a Scot, lifelong Glasgow fan, who was born and lives in a village called Buckie. With a population of about 10,000, Buckie is the home of its own footy team, the Buckie Thistle or “the jags” for short (not quite I understand how jags is short for Buckie Thistle, but I’m all in on it). McKay started his working life as a fisherman, eventually going offshore to work on oil rigs in the north sea, only stopping when his daughter had a daughter of her own, and McKay took an entirely different attitude toward life and how to enjoy it.

Courtesy Kevin McKay

Over the last seven years or so, McKay has made several trips to Nashville as a tourist, encountering Nashville SC while it was just getting off the ground and keeping an eye on its growth through visits, news sites and social media. Let’s be clear, however, while McKay is technically a tourist, he feels very much like a local when he’s in town. Something about the spirit of the place has enveloped him.

While the U.S. game has been relatively untapped as a market for the Scots, McKay tells me that the popularity of MLS is growing for a number of reasons, including of course, the number of European players in the league but also the fact that there are more and more ex-footballers from Scotland going to MLS as a way to work on a career in coaching.

Indeed, after McKay had become an NSC fan, he discovered that Steve Guppy, who had been one of McKay’s heroes during Guppy’s days as a player, is now one on the NSC bench as a coach. “If Guppy coaches as well as he played,” McKay claims, “he’s going to develop even more winners out of our players.”

Although a number of European fans (well, mostly British in my estimation) have been critical about the US expression of fanship (I asked McKay directly about his thoughts on the viral video of Soccer Moses playing the guitar solo a few games back and the oft-expressed critical reaction from many UK fans), McKay loves the development of fan culture in MLS. While he notes that it helps to have his experience of being at some of the games “live” in order to fully get the vibe, he’s enthusiastic about the enthusiasm the Backline brings to the game and admires how well it comes across on television and streaming. The Backine, he notes, has become a veritable twelfth man for Nashville, as well as most crowds anywhere around the globe.

When I asked McKay if he had a message for NSC fans, especially the Backline, he observed that while he wants to encourage fans to share as much information as they can about the club through social media, he mostly wants to express how appreciative he is of the hard of The Backline works in creating an atmosphere live and online. Asked to offer advice, McKay notes that what the Backline is doing isn’t easy, so he hopes everyone paces themselves in a way that they don’t burn out. Moreover, McKay hopes everyone understands the hard work of the Backline and finds ways to express their appreciation of how it alters the gameday experience. 

McKay doesn’t expect the “Tartan Terrors” to become a huge group, at least not anytime soon. However, he is soliciting friends and hyping Nashville SC to everyone he knows. Given how he easily he finds streams of the games, it’s not that difficult to share the team with others.   

The Tartan Terrors facebook page can be found on Facebook, and I’m certain McKay would enjoy sharing thoughts about all things NSC. 

Author: John Sloopgrew up in Asheville, NC, and after forays to Georgia and Iowa, found his way to Nashville over 25 years ago. On a trip to Portland, Oregon, 15 years ago, he watched the (then) USL Portland Timbers youth squad play one afternoon and fell completely and totally in love with soccer, to the detriment of his love of all other sports. In addition to thinking, writing, watching, and talking about soccer, Sloop teaches media and rhetoric at Vanderbilt. He is currently serving as the Chair of the Board of the Belcourt Theater and is part of the team that runs Tenx9 Nashville, a monthly story telling event.

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