Confidemus (Kilmarnock)

A scenic if somewhat soggy drive through Dumfries and Galloway and into Ayrshire brings forth rolling hills and pastoral land nicely portrayed in a wall mural on a house not far from Kilmarnock. The countryside eventually gives way to not unpleasant suburbia and soon into view comes Rugby Park, its blue roof supports and squat floodlights peeking almost nervously over residential rooftops.

A truly ancient club, Killie can date their formation to 1869 initially playing rugby before adopting the football code four years later when they became founder members of the Scottish Football Association. After a somewhat hermetic period playing at borrowed pitches at Wards Park, The Grange and Holm Quarry, the club moved into the original Rugby Park (on the current Charles Street) in November 1878. This ground would stage a Scotland international in March 1894 but by 1899 election to Division One meant a rebuild was necessary. The pitch was moved slightly and new stands erected. It still must have been a surprise when 11,000 attended the first game against Celtic. The Second World War was a testing time for the ground having been requisitioned by the army. Its proximity to key railway lines saw large storage tanks sunk into the pitch with fire trenches dug around them. The pitch took some considerable and costly restoration for which the club did not receive any compensation.

Nowadays the ground has a very much modern flavour to it, though retaining its quirky roof mounted pylons. Redevelopment to an all seater stadium with an 18,000 capacity came in 1994/95. Gone are the wide open spaces, Italian prisoner of war built terracing and the tiny Johnny Walker corner stand. In their place are three modern cantilevered stands, shiny, functional and in the case of the Moffat Stand (South Stand) where my ticket finds me, some what breezy and open to the elements. It does, however, afford excellent views of the action. The only nod to the past is the magnificent main stand which was erected in 1962 has been in recent time been sympathetically re-clad and looks stunning with its four roof mounted floodlight pylons. Outside of this stand a somewhat incongruous modern entrance hides a really classy reception, trophies proudly showcased to either side. Killie are one of those great clubs that embrace their history and promote it with pride and dignity.

The home side have not had the greatest of starts to a season but still covert a top six placing when the League splits into two halves for the final quarter of the season. In monsoon conditions not helping an already sodden pitch, Killie were patently shocked to be two down to Highland visitors RossCounty before the break. Neatly taken goals by Arquin and Songo’o were, however, just reward for honest endeavour in the treacherous conditions.

It would be somewhat rude to visit Rugby Park and not sample their lauded Killie Pie, and half time allows this most experienced of football cuisine consumers to sample the wares. Needless to say that “saying ay to a Killie Pie” is heartily recommended.

Kilmarnock’s club motto is “Confidemus”, translating from the Latin this essentially means “We Trust” and in their veteran warhorse forward, Kris Boyd, Killie trust and back their main man to rescue them. The clubs’ readable programme shows Boyd is now in their all time top ten goalscorers list, no mean feat given the breadth of their history. Boyd doesn’t let his employers down, reducing the arrears moments into the restart. However an equaliser looks increasingly unlikely as the elements take full control, the pitch deteriorating rapidly in the final ten minutes. A minute into the allocated four stoppage time minutes and the burly striker has a glimmer of a chance in the County box. His proficiency in front of goal has been a hallmark of his career, and he lashes home the sodden ball with some venom to the unbridled delight of a small but hardy Rugby Park crowd.

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Scottish Premiership – Saturday February 1st 2014

Kilmarnock (0) 2 (Boyd 48, 90)

RossCounty (2) 2 (Arquin 30, Songo’o 36)

Attendance: 3,372 (at RugbyPark)

Kilmarnock:

1. Craig Sansom, 5. Jackson Irvine, 2. Jeroen Tesselaar, 8. Sammy Clingan, 30. Lee Ashcroft, 29. Manuel Pascali, 36.Greg Kiltie, 28. Craig Slater, 33. Robbie Muirhead, 9. Kris Boyd, 18. Rory McKenzie.

Subs: 7. Barry Nicholson, 10. Chris Johnston (for 2,83 mins), 12. Antonio Reguero, 20. Alexei Eremenko (for 36,68 mins), 22. Vitalijs Maksimenko, 25. Michael Gardyne, 26. Mark O’Hara.

Ross:

20. Michael Fraser, 3. Ben Gordon, 28. Yann Songo’o, 8. Richard Brittain, 21. Brian McLean, 26. Evangelos Oikonomou, 7. Filip Kiss, 12. Michael Tidser, 25. Jordan Slew, 27. Yoann Arquin, 23. Graham Carey.

Subs: 1. Mark Brown, 2. Erik Cikos, 5. Scott Boyd, 10. Rocco Quinn (for 27,88 mins), 11. Melvin De Leeuw (for 25,73 mins), 15. Gary Glen, 16. Alex Cooper (for 12,65 mins)

Yellow Cards: Clingan (Kilmarnock), Kiss (Ross)

Red Cards: Kiss (Ross)

Gallery

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The King of Firhill (Partick Thistle)

Partick Thistle were formed in 1876 and initially led a nomadic existence playing at Kelvingrove, Jordanvale Park, Muir Park and Meadowside. The latter field was on the banks of the Clyde and by 1908 was needed for a new shipyard. The Jags had acquired land owned by the Caledonian Railway in Maryhill for the princely sum of £5,500. The new stadium was ready to be used in August 1909 but occupation had to be delayed for a month when it was discovered the club had failed to apply for a safety licence and, indeed, planning permission for the new ground. With all boxes belatedly ticked Firhill opened for business and by 1922 had set its all time record attendance for a Partick Thistle match when 49,838 crammed in for a match against Rangers.

The present main stand dates from 1927, a detail nicely remembered on the ornate roof pediment above the main entrance. The stand itself is very similar in design to those of the legendary stadium architect Archibald Leitch and with good reason. The stand was designed by David Mills Duncan a one time employee of the great man. Within a year of the new stand’s inauguration the attendance record was shattered when 54,728 were present for a Scotland v Ireland British International Championship match.

After a spell being converted to accommodate greyhound racing in the 1930’s Firhill became one of the great Scottish grounds. The 1950’s saw on field success matched with improving infrastructure, terracing was partially roofed and floodlighting arrived in 1955. Over more recent times, Clyde, Hamilton Academicals and the Glasgow Warriors rugby union side have shared the facilities at Firhill. The tightening of safety laws for sporting venues saw the stadium’s capacity savagely cut and modernisation was deemed the way forward. First to arrive, in 1994, was the Jackie Husband stand housing over 6,000 spectators. More recently the North Stand was replaced with a new 2,000 seater cantilevered stand. The opposite end, the City End, was supposed to have a new 1,000 seater stand but bafflingly the council refused planning permission. The end is now an empty grassed bank strewn with advertising, the Jags fans have called it “The Bing”.

These days the away fans are housed in the old main stand and, today it is well populated by travelling Motherwell fans. They prefer a more European style of support, drumming, bouncing and harmonising while the core of the Jags support in the North Stand prefer a more traditional chant, their acerbic wit coming to the for, especially the moments after Stephen Lawless opens the scoring for the home side.

The whole stadium, both sets of supporters, then breaks out into heartfelt applause marking the sixth anniversary of the tragic death of Phil O’Donnell. The Motherwell icon who suffered a fatal heart attack playing against Dundee United in 2007.

After this touching and shared moment its one way traffic as Motherwell rattle in five super goals without Thistle ever looking like ending their winless home hoodoo. It was good to pick up a copy of “Sick in the Basin”, the reborn Jags fanzine lost in action for many years.

It was a great experience sitting in a vocal crowd that didn’t stop supporting their team despite a severe beating. Despite piecemeal modernisation and the missing end, the retention of the Leitch-esque stand and its roof gable gives that warm glow of more halcyon days for the Jags.

And as for the new King of Firhill? Well on today’s showing, he is still awaiting coronation.

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Scottish Professional Football League Premiership – Sunday December 29th 2013

Partick Thistle (1) 1 (Lawless 7)

Motherwell (3) 5 (Lasley 14, Francis-Angol 20, McFadden 36, Ainsworth 57, Sutton 65)

Attendance: 4,588 (at Firhill)

Partick:

1. Scott Fox, 2. Stephen O’Donnell, 3. Aaron Taylor-Sinclair, 6. Conrad Balatoni, 7. James Craigen, 8. Stuart Bannigan, 9. Kris Doolan (c), 11. Stephen Lawless, 13. Gabriel Piccolo, 14. Christie Elliott, 23. Kallum Higginbotham.

Subs: 5. Aaron Muirhead, 10. Ross Forbes (for 14,27 mins), 12. Paul Gallacher (for 11,60 mins), 17. John Baird, 20. Mark Kerr, 29. Lee Gallacher, 31. David Wilson.

Motherwell:

51. Dan Twardzik, 14. Keith Lasley (c), 3. Steven Hammell, 4. Simon Ramsden, 6. Stephen McManus, 17. Zaine Francis-Angol, 18. Stuart Carswell, 24. Henri Anier, 25. Lionel Ainsworth, 7. James McFadden, 11. Iain Vigurs.

Subs: 8. Paul Lawson (f0r 18,75 mins), 9. John Sutton (for 24,57 mins), 12. Gunnar Nielsen, 15. Adam Cummins, 16. Robert McHugh (for 7,79 mins), 22. Craig Moore, 23. Euan Murray.

Yellow Cards: Bannigan, Higginbotham (Partick), Vigurs (Motherwell)

Gallery

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