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Snapshot by Daniel Gray and Alan McCredie

Scenes and stories from the heartlands of Scottish football, Nutmeg, 2020, 208 p.

The introduction claims this book to be “a love letter to the charms of football …. a portal into a different kind of Scotland.” Well, maybe; but it’s a portal through which many people have travelled.

As an aside I notice on the cover photo (of a pitch on Eriskay) there are flags marking the halfway line. I thought those had been done away with years ago.

For each “chapter” we have a page or three of narrative. These describe in turn the unsung background people, the beating heart of every club, “ensuring our Saturdays have purpose, comfort and melancholy;” the return to normality and focus of a new season’s start; the contrasting fortunes of the two “wee” Rangers, of Berwick and of Cove; the bright promise of a ground you’ve never been to before; the “gentle pleasures” of football in the Borders (notwithstanding the brutalist concrete splendour of Gala Fairydean’s main stand;) the rigours and dangers of blaes pitches; the magic of a floodlit game, forever enchanting; the glory and misery of away trips; the local team as the heart of a community, embodied in its social club especially in Junior football; the joys of park football; the content the writer senses in the Highland League.

The match day experience of attending a midweek floodlit game in a minor league is highlighted by a photograph of a neglected bottle of orange juice and a mug with the word “Twat” printed on it sitting on top of a dugout.

Football’s past is given its due with photos of an iron fence and gate before where the main stand stood at The Gymnasium; trees striding down the terraces of Cathkin Park; a single Art Deco style wall still bearing the name Shawfield; the sole survivor of Brockville, a turnstile acting as a memorial in the car park of the town’s Morrisons; the overgrown terraces of Tinto Park, Benburb; Meadowbank stadium’s “oddly alluring air of otherness …. a little pocket of Leningrad tucked behind Arthur’s Seat.”

An even more melancholy note is struck by the mention of two Hibs supporters, one photographed on an away trip, who succumbed to Covid-19, with the final paragraphs devoted to the loss the average fan has experienced as a result of the pandemic’s suspension of the Saturday ritual.

Pedant’s corner:- “a 1,000” (either ‘a thousand’ or ‘1,000’. 1,000 does not stand for ‘thousand’, it is specifically ‘one thousand’; no one ever says, ‘a one thousand’,) “their 54 years of league football had ceased” (Berwick Rangers joined the Scottish League proper in 1955; 64 years, then; 68 if you count the Division C years,) Berwick fans in August “singing ‘Back to school tomorrow’ to visiting young fans of Scottish clubs” (unless it was a midweek game more likely ‘Back to school on Monday’,) Rangers’ (Rangers’s,) Rovers’ (Rovers’s,) “the club … are familiar” (the club … is familiar,) “the first senior league game at Cove’s Balmoral Stadium.” (Okay, the writer used a lower case ‘s’, but…. Cove have been Senior ever since they joined the Highland League, so, ‘their first game in a nationwide league,’) “Galashiels Fairydean Rovers FC” (the club’s name is Gala Fairydean Rovers FC.)

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.)

Shielfield Park, Berwick

Shielfield is the home of Berwick Rangers FC.

There are two qualifications to this post. The category* I’ve placed it in is actually not quite accurate. Though Berwick Rangers play in the Scottish Leagues the ground is of course situated south of the border so is not technically a Scottish football ground. Shielfield is also south of the River Tweed so I suppose it’s really in Tweedmouth rather than Berwick.

There is a grassed lane leading from the road to the ground. The away terrace can be viewed from it.

Shielfield Park, Away Terrace from Lane

A little to the left of the above is the main entrance.

Shielfield Park, Main Entrance full

Entering through the turnstiles you can see the main stand.

Shielfield Park, Stand

The nearest goal to the entrance. Wide spaces between it and the spectator area.

Shielfield Park, Behind Goal

The away terrace with covered enclosure.

Shielfield Park, Away (North)  Terrace

With the low slung stand and slope the ground has similarities to Recreation Park, Alloa – though the terracing and cover there was removed a couple of years ago and replaced with temporary seating. This is the goal at the lower end of the slope at Shielfield.

Shielfield Park, Other Goal

The nearer goal and stand.

Shielfield Park, Near Goal and Stand

Looking back up the slope.

Shielfield Park, Looking Back to Main Entrance

*Edited 22/9/14 to be in new category of English Football Grounds.

Berwick Rangers 1-3 Dumbarton

Scottish Cup Round 4, Shielfield Park, 30/11/13

Well, that’s my Shielfield duck broken. The only other time I’d been there was in a late September, we’d just been relegated to the bottom division – then designated 2 (out of three) – the season before, had started poorly but Berwick were worse and had not yet won. It blew a howling gale and they beat us 1-0.

I had previously seen us beat Berwick away though, but not at Shielfield. There was some dispute over the terms Berwick had for using the ground so they were temporarily playing home games at Cliftonhill. We won that easily and also promotion that season as I recall.

Anyway, to the game. I picked up Eric Brown on the way down in order for him to experience his first taste of Scottish football. He lives in Dunbar now (or close to it.)

The first half produced only one chance but three goals.

For the third game in a row now I’ve seen us lose a goal to a belting strike. This was an exquisitely struck and placed free-kick but Jamie Ewings’s positioning seemed off from before the ball was hit. He was too far over to get to a well-taken shot and every team nowadays has a player that can do those.

We hadn’t managed to create anything either when a cross was handled by a defender in the box. Brian Prunty hit the penalty low and hard enough to beat Berwick’s tall keeper. Shortly before half-time came the chance and beautifully worked it was too, Mitch Megginson despatching the end of a fine move.

Berwick had been trying to knock us off our stride and first half it worked. We had lots of possession but couldn’t get space in their half. Second half we were on top again and another great passing move (Eric was impressed) was finished off by Scott Linton for what I think is his first for the club.

Berwick had two more efforts on goal, one that was scuffed and one bender from way out that Jamie Ewings got a good hand on. They looked spent and devoid of ideas after our third went in, resorting to the long range stuff.

Kevin Smith hit the post with a header, I actually saw Colin Nish – on as sub for Brian Prunty – get the ball in the net but there was a hand ball in there somewhere, he later got a header on target but also on the keeper and Jordan Kirkpatrick forced a fine save very late on.

Comfortable enough in the end, I suppose.

Now. When was the last time we were in the last 16 of the Cup? Heady days.

Cup Draw

On the face of it this looks like a good chance to progress to the next round but we’ll have to wait till Saturday to find out exactly who the obstacle will be. It’s a long trip either way.

I was going to say it’s unusual twice in a row to get someone we haven’t met recently in a cup but then I remembered we played Berwick in the Challenge Cup two years ago. That didn’t turn out well. But it was the Challenge Cup.

Dumbarton 2-0 Berwick Rangers

The Rock, 11/4/09

It’s a gey long time since we last won four in a row. And all 2-0, which is a bit weird. Without our talisman Ross Clark too.

A great run of form, which needs to be kept up.

But… Derek Carcary was carried off.

Next Saturday’s game at Cowdenbeath is our biggest since we last played Alloa in the Second Division. I only hope they’ve got the jitters.

I’ll be on tenterhooks all week.

Berwick Rangers 1-2 Dumbarton

Shielfield Park, 24/1/09

Another away win at long last, another three points, but our record down there is nothing short of astonishing. According to Sons Mad we’ve won 21 and drawn 9 out of 47 games. There surely can’t be another away ground where our statistics are any better.

Two front men scored the goals as well, plus some other results went for us.

Berwick fans on The Pie Shop seemed to think we got the benefit of all the decisions. I’ve never been at a game where that happened.

Dumbarton 5-2 Berwick Rangers

The Rock, 1/11/08


Five is impressive. I can’t recall off-hand the last time we scored five at home.

But we conceded again, twice; once after they were down to ten men.

Still, the forwards got onto the score sheet.

A play-off place ought not to be beyond us if we keep our form.

I’m beginning to hope the Cup doesn’t distract us. Two seasons ago under Gerry McCabe we were well enough placed at Christmas but let it slip, partly due to getting humped by Celtic and partly to postponements.

And winter has come already…

Berwick Rangers 1-2 Dumbarton

Shielfield Park, 16/8/08

At last! 5 games into the season and we finally beat someone over 90 minutes. And away at that.
Plus we came from behind again which shows a character missing in the recent past.
Up from 4th bottom to 4th top in one game, 3rd if you don’t count goal difference.
A point of concern, though, is that no forward has yet scored in the league.
But a win’s a win and it was badly needed.
Big game now on Saturday.

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