North of the Forth (Dunfermline Athletic)

Dunfermline Athletic were formed in 1885 and have always played at East End Park. The club were formed out of a cricket club based at Lady’s Mill (now McKane Park) and acquired the land that became the current East End Park for £3,500 in 1920 from the North British Railway Company. Prior to this the original orientation of the ground was further to the west of the current site. Similarly to many Scottish stadiums, the club garnered vital additional income during the Great Depression of the 1930’s by reconfiguring the ground to cater for greyhound racing. It was in this decade that the club bolstered existing terracing with wood salvaged from the great ocean liner RMS Mauretania which was being broken up at the nearby dockyards of Rosyth. The 50’s and 60’s saw some welcome modernisation which allowed a record attendance of 27,816 for the visit of Celtic in April 1968. The occasion was tempered by chaotic scenes of spectators scaling the floodlight pylons for a better view. One man subsequently died from his injuries after falling off.

The ground was significantly redeveloped during the late 1990’s and became the superb all-seater venue it is today. In 1998 the club named a stand after the clubs record appearance holder, Norrie McCathie, who had died two years previously at the age of 34, along with his girlfriend, after carbon monoxide escaped while they slept at home. His image adorns the stand and McCathie is revered for his battling spirit among the Pars faithful. It is a privilege to take my seat in his stand tonight, for here is a genuine leader and legend.

The club were originally nicknamed “The Dumps” but this was superseded by “The Pars” which has a plethora of folklore as to its origin. Theories espoused include their traditional parallel black pinstriped shirts, a corruption of the word “paralytics” based on their celebrated drinking prowess or indeed their parallel style of play. The club’s iconic badge is worthy of mention, designed in 1957 by an art teacher at the local High School. The eye catching design depicts the local monument of Malcolm Canmore’s Tower in Pittencrieff Glen.

The Pars golden era came undoubtedly in the 1960’s when under the guidance of Jock Stein they became regulars in the UEFA and Cup Winners Cup. Nowadays the Pars find themselves in the third tier and have thankfully survived some severe recent financial problems. Tonight is a big night for the Pars and indeed the League One table. The Pars are second trailing runaway leaders Rangers who boast maximum points from their 16 League games to date this season. The Sky Sports cameras are in town as the Halbeath Road throngs excitably with East End boys and East End girls plus a truly impressive turn out from the visitors. The “Sold Out” signs go up and the Dunfermline coffers jangle with some very welcome revenue in what has been a particularly austere time for the club.

The opening fifteen minutes are even as both sides have chances, however once Fraser Aird bursts clear from the home defence after 22 minutes and finishes with great style, the visitors take a keen grip on proceedings. They rattle in three high quality goals in the second period and are good value for the win which extends their lead in the table to fourteen points. You do have to take your hat off to Rangers who have just rolled their sleeves up and got on with things since they paid a heavy price for financial mismanagement. The Pars however can hold their heads high, a young team under the guidance of the wily veteran Jim Jeffries, have performed well under a cloud of financial constraint. Dunfermline will challenge for promotion until the end of the season. The spirit of Norrie McCathie, both on and off the field, is evident for all to see.


Scottish Professional Football League One – Monday December 30th 2013

Dunfermline Athletic (0) 0

Rangers (1) 4 (Aird 22, Clark 51, Law 70, Crawford 90)

Attendance: 10,089 (at East End Park)


1. Ryan Scully, 2. Ryan Williamson, 3. Alex Whittle, 4. Stephen Husband, 5. Kerr Young, 6. Lewis Martin, 7. Andrew Geggan, 8. Shaun Byrne, 9. Ryan Wallace, 10. Josh Falkingham (c), 11. Jordan Moore.

Subs: 12. Lewis Spence (for 2,89 mins), 14. Allan Smith (for 8,77 mins), 15. Craig Dargo, 16. Faissal El Bakhtaoumi, 17. Chris Kane, 18. Ross Drummond, 19. Robin Goodfellow.


1. Cammy Bell, 2. Sebastien Faure, 3. Bilel Mohsni, 4. Steven Smith, 5. Lee Wallace, 6. Lee McCulloch (c), 7. Fraser Aird, 8. Ian Black, 9. Jon Daly, 10. Nicky Clark, 11. Nicky Law.

Subs: 12. Lewis McLeod (for 4,57 mins), 14. Arnold Peralta, 15. Dean Shiels, 16. Emilson Cribari, 17. Steve Simonsen, 18. Richard Foster (for 10,69 mins), 19. Robbie Crawford (for 8,79 mins)

Yellow Cards: Falkingham, Young, Geggan (Dunfermline), Mohsni and Aird (Rangers).


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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.


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)


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.


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)


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Vers Verses (Albion Rovers)

The small North Lanarkshire town of Coatbridge just outside of Glasgow’s city limits has had Albion Rovers as a Scottish League club in continuous membership since 1919, although they first gained election in 1903. The “Wee Rovers” or more recently shortened to just “The Vers” were formed in 1882 from a merger of Albion and Rovers, and despite that long history have enjoyed very few days in the sun. Their undoubted greatest day came in 1920 when the club reached the final of the Scottish Cup. The Wee Rovers bested mighty Rangers in a semi final that went to a second replay, but succumbed bravely in the final to Kilmarnock. An incredible crowd of 95,600 witnessed the final at Hampden which Killie won by three goals to two.

Only a few months prior to that final Albion had moved into Cliftonhill Stadium on Christmas Day 1919. The stadium is on the Main Road in Coatbridge. Nowadays only the main stand and paddock are used for most matches giving a capacity of just over 1,200. The old stand was augmented by a canopy for the paddock in 1994 which, while offering additional covered accommodation, hinders sightlines further from the wooden seats which already had several load bearing pillars obstructing the view. Given the dereliction of the covered terrace opposite it seems scarcely conceivable that in February 1936 27,500 people were somehow shoehorned into Cliftonhill for a Scottish Cup tie with Rangers. Even this seasons 2,950 crowd against Motherwell could not be housed at Cliftonhill, the tie being switched to Hamilton’s New Douglas Park. The 1994 stand extension was a precursor to turbulent times for the club, the board had voted to move away from Cliftonhill and groundshare with Airdrieonians. The fans of the Wee Rovers mobilised and eventually ousted the incumbent board, voting to remain at their beloved Cliftonhill.

Floodlights had come to Cliftonhill in 1968 but the current system was acquired from Cardiff Arms Park when that stadium was cleared to make way for the Millennium Stadium.

Today’s match had a fairly even opening half with the visitors marginally on top. The closest the Spiders came to opening the score came when a Ross Fisher header crashed against the crossbar. The visitors were still in the ascendancy when Liam Cusack capitalised on some poor defending to open the scoring moments before the break.

It was the Vers that dominated the second half and it was no surprise when they doubled their lead on 69 minutes, Chaplain bursting clear of a square defence and slotting past the keeper with some aplomb. The visitors gave Albion some nervy final minutes when a fired in free kick from Fisher was haplessly headed into his own net by Micky Dunlop. An equaliser did not, however, materialise and as the unrelenting rain battered the leaky old stand roof it was the Wee Rovers that trudged off the muddy field deserving victors.

Cliftonhill is undoubtedly in a state of considerable dereliction, but it has character in every pore and crumbling terrace block. I’m sure the 500 odd that gather for most home matches would not have it any other way.


Scottish Professional League Division Two – Saturday December 28th 2013

Albion Rovers (1) 2 (Cusack 44, Chaplain 69)
Queen’s Park (0) 1 (M.Dunlop og 84)
Attendance: 538 (at Cliftonhill Stadium)

1. Neil Parry, 2. Alan Reid, 3. Ross Dunlop, 4. Barry Russell, 5. Ciaran Donnelly (c), 6. Michael Dunlop, 7. Liam Cusack, 8. Scott Chaplain, 9. Mark McGuigan, 10. Christopher Dallas, 11. Gary Phillips.

Subs: 12. David Crawford, 14. Jordan Allan (for 11, 75 mins), 15. Josh Flood, 16. Martin Maguire, 17. Matthew McGinley, 18. Kevin Nicoll (for 8,88 mins), 19. Ryan Tiffney (for 10,88 mins)

Queen’s Park:
1. Lucas Birnstingl, 2. Ross Fisher, 3. Bernard Coll, 4. James Brough, 5. Scott Gibson, 6. Michael Keenan (c), 7. Blair Spittal, 8. Gavin Mitchell, 9. João Periera Vitoria, 10. Liam Gormley, 11. Paul Gallacher.

Subs: 12. Conor McVey (for 8,75 mins), 14. Ricky Lamie, 15. Thomas Collins (for 11,80 mins), 16. Lee Davison (for 9,88 mins), 17. Shaun Rooney, 18. James Baty, 20. Blair Lochhead.

Yellow Cards:
M.Dunlop, Russell, Reid, Phillips (all Albion), Brough (Queen’s Park)


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