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 Cathkin apart, all of the grounds on the list above have been replaced by bright(ish) new(ish) stadia but most of those have yet to invoke the glories of these now mouldered (Cathkin again) or vanished (most of the rest) temples to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

Peterhead 1-0 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 3, Balmoor, 25/1/20.

According to the BBC Sport website we had the better of the first half. Not so the second. It seems they were all over us.

And it could have been worse as they also managed to miss a penalty.

Even so we still had more shots on target than them.

We badly neeed a fit striker though.

Game Off

I was spared the torture of watching today’s game on Sportscene Results for two reasons.

One: Sportscene Results wasn’t on because the Scottish Premiership is having a midwinter break. (This is another example of BBC Scotland’s contempt for lower league football which they tend to ignore as much as possible. Having said that I do though have to commend them on the TV show A View From the Terrace which does give the smaller clubs and their players most of its attention.)

Two: The game was off due to a waterlogged pitch. Not surprising given the weather we’ve been having.

In one sense the postponement was welcome. We’re down below the bare bones in terms of player numbers and a week off yields more time to get injured players fit.

Whether it was a good thing depends on how the game goes on the rearranged date.

As it is, not too much damage was done in terms of the teams below us as Forfar drew and Peterhead lost.

It’s the Cup game against Aberdeen up next. A free hit – except if we get utterly gubbed.

Forfar Athletic 3-4 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 3, Station Park, 14/12/19.

At least this shows we can score goals.

We certainly need to.

I said it was a mustn’t lose but losing this we were – three times.

I suppose their third, from a penalty, just before half-time, might have been a big downer but we’ve come back from a half-time deficit away already this season – most notably at Peterhead.

Credit to the lads, then, for coming out of it with the win.

Still sixth, but now with a nine point cushion to ninth.

And (amazingly) only four points shy off fourth place – and five away from third.

Will we burst the league leaders’ (somewhat underinflated I grant you) bubble next week?

Nah.

Clyde 1-2 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 3, Broadwood Stadium, 30/11/19.

Hey-ho.

I didn’t quite expect this, what with them beating us by the same score at the Rock earlier in the season – but I’ll take it.

It’s especially pleasing as we came from behind to win. Was the last time we did that the game up at Peterhead?

Good to see Joe McKee on the scoresheet too, with his first for the club. And Isaac Layne with his second in two games.

Plus that’s us up to fifth again.

Dumbarton 1-0 Peterhead

SPFL Tier 3, The Rock, 26/10/19

A win – never to be sneezed at – another clean sheet (two in a row now.)

Odd that last time out we didn’t win and went up one place in the league but this time, when we did win, we went down one.

Football can be a funny game.

It’ll now be a big game next week against the team (Airdrieonians) we swapped those places with. A chance to get revenge for defeat to them earlier in the season.

Or not.

Peterhead 2-3 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 3, Balmoor Stadium, 17/8/19.

I saw this* but I’m still not quite sure I believe it.

After a 6-0 hounding last Saturday and our failure to beat a boys’ team on Tuesday night I doubt there was a single Sons fan who travelled to this match in any hope at all, far less expectation.

And it started out that way *(though I missed the first twenty minutes or so due to being held up on the way.) Peterhead were one up before I got into the ground. Our general play at this point seemed to be littered with misplaced passes and lack of control.

Their second came after they were awarded a free-kick for their forward falling over. Connor Brennan saved the effort well but only at the expense of a corner which they converted to a headed goal.

Cue much discussion among the Sons fans round me about whether this was the worst Dumbarton team they’d ever seen and if we’d even manage to secure any points at all in the league.

Then almost out of the blue we scored. PJ Crossan waltzed down the left and his cross found Ruaridh Langan directly in front of goal and he banged it in. There was strange lack of celebration by those on the pitch though. None of the usual gathering round the scorer.

It did though begin to engender confidence in the team. Half time may have helped here as we came out and started to take the game more towards the home side. We hadn’t really forced their keeper into any saves though but then Crossan took the ball up on the edge of their area and instead of skipping outside as he’d done so often before – there were three defenders lined up waiting for that – he shimmied inside to get a yard of space and belted it past the keeper. Celebrations this time; on the terracing, east stand, and pitch.

Isaac Layne had been lumbering about to little effect and generally being muscled out of things but had livened up by this time starting to win balls played up to him. Apart from a flurry after the equaliser we were dominating possession by now and won a free kick on the main stand side. Layne got in front of his defender to head it in. Delirium among the fans – we were just about pinching ourselves – and plenty of celebration on the pitch.

In trying to get back into the game Peterhead resorted to long balls most of which were pretty aimless. We held out reasonably comfortably. Manager Jim Duffy made late substitutions (to waste time I suppose) and among them was Ryan Tierney who impressed me again with his hold up play. He was unlucky with a late Crossan pull back which he hit first time and the keeper made a good save.

So a win, three points, a journey home much happier than had seemed likely earlier and a season now looking much less daunting than it had. Fans and players indulged in much mutual applause after the final whistle blew.

This might have been a one-off, football is a strange game, but the players at least should take heart from it.

At least we now only need a draw from somewhere in order to equal Brechin’s low points record. One more win would surpass it.

It’s the hope that kills.

Dumbarton 0-1 St Mirren U21

Scottish Challenge Cup,* The Rock, 13/8/19.

So. Humiliation as predicted.

This surely beats even losing to Bonnyrigg Rose for a terrible result.

This Sons team could be about the worst we’ve ever had and the players’ heads must be seriously down. Goodness knows how we can turn the season round. It’ll be some miracle if we do. I am seriously depressed.

I’ve been planning on going to Peterhead on Saturday ever since the fixtures came out. I doubt I will enjoy the experience.

*One consolation. I’ll not need to call this the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup again, this season at least.

Falkirk 6-0 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 3, Falkirk Stadium, 10/8/19.

Two games in, two defeats, no goals scored, seven conceded.

That’s a good start isn’t it?

Looks like Sons’ fans fears for the league season were well founded.

Tuesday night’s game at the Rock against St Mirren under 21s in the Challenge Cup* could be another humiliation.

What Peterhead will do to us at their place next Saturday also doesn’t bear thinking about.

Right now I’m even wondering if we will outdo (underdo?) Brechin’s record low points total of two seasons ago.

It’s the hope that kills you.

*Now the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup

Dumbarton 0-1 Raith Rovers

SPFL Tier 3, The Rock, 3/8/19.

And so it begins….

A defeat in which we didn’t score. Though apparently we should have had a penalty.

I can’t see us improving on that in our next two games – both away, against Falkirk and Peterhead.

Unless the manager can pull off another Dom Thomas-like loan signing I suspect we’re going to struggle badly.

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