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Lifted Over the Turnstiles by Steve Finan

Scotland’s Football Grounds in the Black and White Era, D C Thomson Media, 2018, 257 p. With a foreword by Chick Young.

 Lifted Over the Turnstiles cover

Annfield, Bayview, Boghead, Brockville, Broomfield, Cathkin Park, Douglas Park, Firs Park, Love Street, Muirton, New Kilbowie, Shawfield, Telford Street, Kingsmills. Names to conjure with – and all gone to dust (or housing, or supermarkets.)

To Scottish football fans of a certain age (which I am) this book is a magnificent nostalgia fest. It features 41 of the historic grounds of the present day SPFL football clubs, plus two more, Shielfield (at time of publishing Berwick Rangers were still in the SPFL,) and Firs Park. The only ones missing are Peterhead’s former ground at Recreation Park and Annan Athletic’s Galabank. The criterion for inclusion in the book was that a photograph had not been widely published before or else illustrated some quirk of the ground concerned. (I was somewhat disappointed that only one photo of Boghead, former home of the mighty Sons of the Rock, appears; but I have my own memories to savour.) And of course for Inverness Caledonian Thistle you get two former grounds, Telford Street and Kingsmills. In the course of following the Sons I have visited most of the stadia here in their heydays, excepting only those belonging to the ex-Highland League clubs (though I have walked past Telford Street Park several times and even been to Clachnacuddin’s Grant Street Park in Inverness for a game – a pre-season friendly they played against East Fife; in 1976, while I was in the town.) I have frequented many over the years since.

The book is a delightful celebration of the history of the beautiful game in Scotland – and also a memorial to what has been lost. Cathkin apart, all of the grounds on the list above have been replaced by bright(ish) new(ish) stadia but most of those have yet to invoke the glories of these now mouldered (Cathkin again) or vanished (most of the rest) temples to Scotland’s abiding sporting obsession. With only one exception, Hampden, the book tends not to delve as far back as pre-World War 2, hence the absence of even longer gone grounds such as the Gymnasium, home to St Bernard’s FC, of which photographs would in any case be vanishingly scarce.

There is a 1930s, Art Decoish-looking, building in the pictures of Shawfield that I don’t remember from my only visit there and which I assume was demolished years ago. My favourite old ground, Firs Park, is shown in the days before that huge concrete wall was erected at one end to stop the ball going on to the access road to the retail park beside the ground; before, even, the office building that overlooked that end of the park in the 1970s. That other redolent relic, Cliftonhill, is shown lying in a natural bowl perfect for siting a football stadium.

The text is studded with various titbits of arcane information. Glasgow had at one time three of the biggest football grounds in the world in Hampden, Celtic Park and Ibrox. And there were plans to extend Shawfield’s capacity to add to that list of superstadia. The world’s first penalty kick was awarded against Airdrieonians (away at Royal Albert in a charity Cup match) and was scored by a James McLuggage. (Not from a penalty spot, that had yet to be invented; from any point along a line twelve yards from goal.) A WW2 pillbox was constructed at Borough Briggs with slit windows/gun ports all round (those sly Germans could after all have attacked from any direction) and remained in place till Elgin City joined the SFL in 2000. It was Ochilview which hosted the first ever floodlit match in Scotland. Falkirk once held the world record for the highest transfer fee and Brockville was the venue for the first televised floodlit game. Rugby Park used to be ‘mown’ by a resident sheep – three in total over the years. Hampden’s square goal posts now reside in St Etienne’s museum as they were held by that club to be responsible for their defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich in the European Cup Final of 1976 since two of their team’s efforts rebounded out from the goal frame instead of scraping over the line. Les poteaux carres is still used as a phrase for bad luck in the city.

Attending football matches is no longer as economical as it was back in the day. One photo shows a 20 p entrance fee at Firhill in 1970. After inflation that 20p would equate to £3 in 2018. Try getting into even a non-league ground for that now! Some things definitely were better in the good old days.

Pedant’s corner:- “the current club were established” (was established,) “the club were on the up” (the club was) sprung (sprang, x2.)

Glebe Park, Brechin, Addendum

From the path to the park which contains Brechin’s War Memorial there is a good view of the reverse of the beech hedge which forms the western boundary of Glebe Park. You can also see the David Will Stand in this photo:-

Beech Hedge, Glebe Park, Brechin

The following two photos were taken of Sons new strip for 2018-19 (now superseded again) at the game on 25/8/18, a game we should have won.

Sons New Strip for Season 2018-19

Sons New Strip 2018-19 Close Up

Martin Peters

The football player who was “ten years ahead of his time” (at least according to Alf Ramsey) and one of a select few – English footballers to have won a World Cup – has died.

Had Wolfgang Weber not scored for Germany in the last minute of normal time Martin Peters would have been known as the man who won that World Cup as it was he who put England into the lead in the 78th minute.

As it was, Ramsey told his players, “You’ve won it once. Now you’ll have to go out there and win it again,” but it was team mate Geoff Hurst who grabbed the late glory.

All in all Peters had not a bad footballing CV.

Martin Stanford Peters: 8/11/1943 – 21/12/2019. So it goes.

Reminiscences

Back when I was young I used to have an order for Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly.

Buchan had been a football player in the 1910s and 1920s – most notably with Sunderland. His career was interrupted of course by the Great War (in which he served and won the Military Medal.)

His eponymous monthly magazine (started in 1951) was the first dedicated to football.

One article I strongly remember (though I forget most of the details) was about the longest FA Cup tie ever played, which went to several replays before finally being resolved.

However the magazine stopped publishing in 1974. When my newsagent pointed this out to me I told him (being well into SF by that time) that I had in any case decided to transfer my order to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (aka to us aficionados as F&SF.)

I forget how many years I kept the order – probably till around the time I got married. I still have all those issues in a cupboard somewhere, though, despite several house moves since.

Though I was never much into the fantasy side of F&SF I did remember with some fondness stories written by Phyllis Eisenstein about one Alaric the minstrel who had been born with the ability to teleport merely by thinking. As a bit of nostalgia I have bought and am now reading a novel featuring Alaric (Born to Exile – see my sidebar for the moment.) I wonder how it will stand up.

If it does there’s a sequel titled In the Red Lord’s Reach which I may then purchase.

Ainslie Park, Edinburgh

Home of The Spartans FC (and, temporarily, of Edinburgh City FC.)

This is only the second Scottish ground I have been to at which my younger son* has seen a game before me. He took in a Lowland League game a couple of years before the Sons made their first ever visit here for the 0-0 draw in the League Cup in July 2018 which is why I was there. That result more or less signalled the demise of Stevie Aitken as Sons manager. The chop finally came a few months later.

(*The other ground was McDiarmid Park.)

Ainslie Park approach from car park:-

Ainslie Park, Edinburgh

Entrance Sign for “The Spartans Community Football Academy”:-

Ainslie Park, Edinburgh, Entrance Sign

Administration and changing room block. Ground entrance to right:-

Ainslie Park Changing Room Block

Concourse and Stand:-

Ainslie Park Concourse and Stand

From southeast corner:-

Ainslie Park From Southeast Corner

Pitch looking north:-

Ainslie Park, Edinburgh, Pitch Looking North

From southwest corner:-

Ainslie Park, Edinburgh from Southwest Corner

Looking east from northwest corner:-

Ainslie Park Looking East from Northwest Corner

From northwest corner:-

Ainslie Park from Northwest Corner

What’s the Question?

So Tottenham Hotspur have appointed Jose Mourinho as manager after sacking Mauricio Pochettino.

Really?

Granted Spurs haven’t been doing well in the league this season and are well off the top four – much nearer the relegation spots in fact – but they’re well placed to qualify out of their Champions League* group even though they got gubbed 7-2 at home against Bayern Munich. And the players surely are as accomplished as they were last season. If it is true they may be a little stale that can be laid at the foot of the club’s hierarchy, notoriously unwilling to make the outlays necessary to attract players to the club. (Okay, the new stadium’s costs are a factor in that.)

But Pochettino has surely outperformed his resources and is still young in managerial terms. Will his sacking come to be seen as a huge mistake?

Given Spur’s traditional style of play Mourinho’s pragmatism seems an unlikely fit – as it was at Manchester United – and will inevitably lead to dissatisfaction among the fans, and probably quite quickly at that.

This may be a hostage to fortune as it is possible (if unlikely) that Mourinho (whose best days seem to be behind him) will lead Spurs to a Champions League win this season. But.

If Jose Mourinho is the answer to Spurs’s problems what on Earth is the question?

*So-called

Trammondford Park, Wigtown

Home of Wigtown & Bladnoch FC.

Wigtown & Bladnoch play in the South of Scotland League.

Like many clubs in this sparsely populated are of Scotland it sometimes has difficulty raising a team. I believe that last season (2018-2019) they took time out from the league due to this.

After a long day travelling round the Machars and Rhinns peninsulas (penisulae?) I found the ground on a late evening stroll down the road to Bladnoch from Wigtown past Wigtown golf course, from where this first picture was taken:-

Trammondford Park from Wigtown Golf Course

Ground entrance, bathed in late summer evening sunlight:-

Entrance Trammondford Park, Wigtown

I had to balance on a round-topped wall to get these last three photos of the pitch, stand and entrance:-

Pitch Trammondford Park, Wigtown

Pitch and Stand, Trammondford Park, Wigtown

Stand and Entrance, Trammondford Park,Wigtown

Porto

I couldn’t help recognising the scene in this photo from Saturday’s Guardian Review:-

Porto

It was illustrating an ensemble piece about various writers’ relationship with Europe.

The photo brought back memories of that wonderful trip we took down (and up) the River Douro from just that jetty in the picture and which I featured in this post:-

aBuildings 20 yacht  river bank

And this one:-

Porto Buildings from Bank of River Douro

Curiously an item on Reporting Scotland on Thursday? night about the trip of Rangers to Porto for a Europa League* game also showed scenes of the same jetty. Synchronicity.

*So-called.

Islecroft Stadium, Dalbeattie

Home of Dalbeattie Star F C, who currently ply their trade in the Scottish Lowland League.

The stadium lies to the side of Colliston Park, Dalbeattie.

Exit gates:-

Entrance/Exit Gates, Islecroft Stadium, Dalbeattie

Turnstiles:-

Islecroft Stadium

Stand:-

Stand, Islecroft Stadium, Dalbeattie

The stadium was closed when I visited Dalbeattie so these views of the pitch are somewhat restricted being taken through or over the fence:-

View of Pitch, Islecroft Stadium, Dalbeattie

Pitch and Dugouts, Islecroft Stadium, Dalbeattie

Part of Pitch, Islecroft Stadium, Dalbeattie

Bury F C

The club’s name seems all too appropriate now.

And so a club with 134 years of history behind it – and an illustrious history at that encompassing two FA Cup wins, one of those with the highest winning margin in a Cup Final [albeit now shared,] from the heartlands of the early Football League, industrial Lancashire, has now gone, from the highest levels of the sport anyway.

I can only feel sorry for the fans. Supporting a football club means it is part of you, a family member almost. Its loss must feel devastating, the more so because most clubs have existed over several life-times and you don’t really expect yours to disappear.

But Bury’s fate serves as a terrible warning to us all about how owners of a club are more or less laws unto themselves, with little to no restraint on their activities – and nothing the average fan can do to influence their behaviour.

Any such shadowy creatures need to be scrutinised with a hawkish eye, ever vigilant, or your club might vanish in a historical blink.

Brabco, I’m looking at you.

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