Archives » Inverness Caledonian Thistle

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 Cathkin apart, all of the grounds on the list above have been replaced by bright(ish) new(ish) stadia but most of those have yet to invoke the glories of these now mouldered (Cathkin again) or vanished (most of the rest) temples to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.)

Dumbarton 0-1 Inverness C T

SPFL Tier 2, The Rock, 18/4/18.

Well the game made no material difference since Tuesday night’s result at St Mirren meant we couldn’t avoid ninth but it’s still disappointing that Dumbarton nil struck again.

Not encouraging for the last two league games and the play-offs.

And we started with a few players who have mostly been on the bench in the recent past and so shouldn’t have been too tired.

Gloom abounds.

Even if by some miracle we manage to stay up, next season is going to be a bigger struggle.

(I suspect that it’ll also be a struggle if we go down.)

Inverness C T 5-1 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Tulloch Caledonian Stadium, 14/4/18.

We started the game well enough, scored the opener – Andy Stirling skinning his man and cutting the ball back beautifully for Grant Gallacher to thump it into the net – but we didn’t hold on to it long enough. The equaliser was a great strike, but the guy took the ball up in midfield with no-one near him and no-one closing him down.

If we’d held on till half-time maybe things might have been different, but just before the break Craig Barr inexplicably switched off and didn’t chase the ball allowing Nathan Austin in to round Scott Gallacher and roll it into the net.

In the second half we fell right out of it and they started to walk through us. We looked tired. I suppose, as I always suspected they would, games have caught up with us. It’s not really a surprise to me that our first bad winter in this division has coincided with our worst performance in it. And the postponements due to the Challenge Cup run haven’t helped.

The introduction of Liam Burt and Mark Stewart improved us – why wasn’t Burt on from the start? He always looked capable of fashioning something and Mark Stewart was a bigger threat than Calum Gallagher had been – but we were three and four down by the time the subs were made.

At least we looked a bit of a goal threat for the early part of the game. The play-offs might be a stretch too far though.

Dumbarton 0-1 Inverness C T

Scottish Challenge Cup (Irn Bru Cup) Final, McDiarmid Park, 24/3/18.

I’m a bit deflated at the moment as I’m sure you can imagine. Football can be such a cruel game.

I made the fatal mistake of beginning to hope when Scott Gallacher made the penalty save with about seven minutes to go. But to lose it in the last gasp of injury time was harsh; especially on the players who’d worked so hard.

We had the better of the early exchanges, ranking up several corners (I can’t remember them getting even one in the whole game) and having a shot on target without really troubling the keeper. More worryingly they came into it towards half-time by which time the on target count had become 2-2.

They had more of the second half and did make Scott Gallacher handle the ball a few times. The nearest we came was with a Danny Handling shot which the keeper held. I noticed today that Handling has a terrible habit of turning back with the ball. Who was it back in the day who did that all the time. Paul Quinn? Robert Russell? Not Russell I think, much further back than him.

After his debut for Cyprus yesterday (the Sons’ first full international player since 1932) Froxy came on as a late sub but it was too late for him to affect the game much. The only free-kick he could attempt was from way too far out even for him.

Here’s a photo of my match ticket:-

Irn Bru Cup Final Ticket

Before entering the stand I took a few photos of the ground as it’s the first time I’ve been there. Through a frosted glass window I caught Sons’ manager Stevie Aitken in the dressing room probably trying to get a signal on his phone:-

Stevie Aitken

I’m proud of the lads, they did well. But I’m gutted – for them and for me.

They’ll need to raise themselves for Tuesday night’s game now. At least most of the players who were unavailable for today should be in the squad.

This cup run has probably ruined our league season what with all the postponements. We don’t have a midweek free now until the last week of the season.

But when will be the next time Sons are in a national Cup Final?

Falkirk 0-0 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Falkirk Football Stadium, 24/2/18.

Well it wasn’t a defeat, but it wasn’t a win and realistically, while for them it was a mustn’t lose, for us it was a must win.

And it could have been a lot worse. They hit the woodwork four times.

I’ve been resigned to the playoffs for weeks now. We’re not going to make up nine points, not to mention sixteen goals, in the twelve remaining games.

What’s really killed us though is that Brechin haven’t been taking points off the teams above us. The tenth placed side in our previous seasons in this division all managed that sometimes. Without that it’s a hard grind for a team like us.

Given the almost inevitability of us finishing ninth I’d have liked to see us play with a bit more ambition. When we did get forward in the last ten minutes or so we looked like we could have troubled them at the back. Still, I have to admire they way we defended. We might have ridden our luck a little but it was dogged.

Loanee Liam Burt certainly made a difference when he came on – as he did in Oswestry – and we looked sharper with Mark Stewart up front or in wide midfield. Sam Wardrop at right back also makes an enormous contribution. We badly missed him when he was out through injury.

Froxy didn’t make it on. I suppose Stevie Aitken thought that in a tight game his lack of defensive ability could have hurt us. I know he won the semi-final for us but he had a very poor clearance thereafter which almost gave them an equaliser. In a sense he’s a luxury player for us.

I still hope we have a more positive attitude on Tuesday night against Inverness though.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1-0 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Caledonian Stadium, 16/12/17

Ah well. Good run over.

I wasn’t expecting much from this game. We’ve never so much as drawn up there, and only scored once. Mind you we’ve only ever been to the Caledonian Stadium twice before, both times on League Cup duty.

Still we could have done without losing to a team that leapfrogged us as a result.

Big game now next Saturday against Falkirk, who now have two games in hand over us.

Dumbarton 2-2 Queen of the South

SPFL Tier 2, The Rock, 28/11/17.

I suppose a point against a team above us is not to be sniffed at but that’s two games in a row now we’ve failed to see the game out from a winning position. Then again we’re part-time and they’re full-time and we ussually don’t do as well in midweek fixtures.

It was good to see Greg Morrison get his name on the score sheet. He’s looked a bit lacking in confidence recently. A goal should help with that.

Pity Inverness C T thumped Brechin though. A draw there wouldn’t have been a calamity.

Since they’re top of the league I’m not expecting anything from Saturday’s game at St Mirren.

Dumbarton 2-1 Inverness Caledonian Thistle

SPFL Tier 2, The Rock, 23/9/17.

A historic day at The Rock.

Sons’ first ever game against ICT at home – and our first ever win against them.

Our Dimitris (though he seems to have been dubbed Froxy) came up trumps again for the equaliser and Sam Wardrop chipped in with the winner.

So that’s nine points from seven games – only two shy of Morton. Two difficult ones against teams above us now though before the first quarter finishes.

Hell Mend Them?

At the time of writing Rangers Newco are set to play in Div 3 of the SFL this coming season. (A welcome aspect of the SFL decision for me was that Dumbarton voted for that outcome.)

Whether that will be the situation by the end of tomorrow’s meeting of the SPL is another matter.

There has been talk of financial meltdown in the SPL with St Mirren, Motherwell, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Dundee United and Kilmarnock said to be in danger of going into administration should “Rangers” be absent for the SPL for more than one year.

If the fact of Rangers (note, there, the lack of inverted commas) being liquidated were not enough to show the SPL business model as being a busted flush then surely this would be. Not one of those clubs’ finances ought to have been dependent on the presence in their league of another club – nor on the uncertain largesse of any television company. Yet that is what appears to be the situation. As I have said before I have no wish too see any club go to the wall but if they do they have only themselves to blame.

They also seem to have the outright gall to put the blame for this on the SFL clubs’ decision on Friday. If they could not survive without the presence of a phantom club (for that is what “Rangers” now are) why on Earth did they vote to expel that club from their league?

That league was set up in the belief that the so-called big clubs did not need those lower down – that the smaller clubs were in fact a drag on them.

It now turns out that the opposite is the case. By and large SFL clubs have cut their coat according to their cloth; some have even thrived! Indeed, the SFL may well be the refuge for those in trouble higher up.

A time of crisis now no doubt faces the whole of Scottish football. That it will emerge from it leaner and fitter is only to be hoped. If it does so it might be in the absence of some of those who thought themselves above the rest. Some might say, “Hell mend them.”

Administering Rangers

Whatever the temptations to paraphrase Oscar Wilde’s comment about the death of Little Nell in Charles Dickens’s The Old Curiosity Shop (“One would have to have a heart of stone….(not to)…dissolv(e)…into tears…of laughter.”) when thinking about the administration of Rangers FC I nevertheless do feel for the genuine fans of that club. Not the hangers-on, not the glory hunters who desert at the first sign of adversity on the field, but those who have a long and deep connection – perhaps going back generations in their family.

There does, however, have to be a tinge of schadenfreude. After all, this is a club that, along with its great rival, has parleyed their mutual financial muscle into an effectively unchallenged dual hegemony, ruthlessly bought promising players from their competitors in the SPL (and before that the Scottish League as was) and buried them in their reserves to prevent any threat to their domination, pushed through changes that ensured they would receive much more than the lion’s share of any monies coming into Scottish football, perenially exercised undue influence on the governing body and (without even a nod and a wink nor anything direct, merely by their outsized prominence) on the referees who supervise their games. That such a club has been brought low by financial problems (in a misguided attempt to match those whom they regarded as their peers but were in fact always their superiors) could be regarded as karma.

I have no sympathy whatever for those in charge of the club – now and in the past – who ought to have known better: none of whom I hope will derive any financial benefit from the present state of affairs. Compounding their failures in regard to their own club – what amounted to in effect cheating their opponents – £80,000 is said to be owing to Dunfermline Athletic for tickets sold by Rangers on their behalf for Saturday’s upcoming game with a similar amount due to Dundee United for a previous away match, with Inverness Caledonian Thistle also unpaid. Hearts are owed £700,000 for a transfer fee. These are moneys the Pars in particular and Hearts with their recent difficulties could well be doing with. (Not to mention us all by way of the taxman.)

That Scottish football as a whole would be better off (in a competitive sense) without the Old Firm is probably the case but it would be in an even direr state than now were only one of these giants to remain.

And yet…. I do not wish to see the demise of anyone’s football club – even such an overblown leviathan as Rangers; even if I cannot feel that followers of Rangers know what it truly means to be a supporter (of which they may have the merest inkling now.)

The best outcome would be for the club to survive, to live within its means, and for its management (at board level) and fans not to be so greedy (for money/honours respectively.)

That’s never going to happen.

PS. I was amused that Celtic took umbrage at First Minister Alex Salmond’s comment about them finding it difficult to prosper if Rangers were to go under. Chip on the shoulder or what? Without the rivalry to sustain them wouldn’t Celtic’s fans soon grow tired of an endless series of mismatches? They might well drift away. At least at the moment there are four domestic games every season where there may be the possibility of referees being biased against them. (That last sentence was sarcasm by the way.)

free hit counter script