Welcome to volume two of my blog paying homage to the football clubs I've visited all over the world and the wonderful people responsible for keeping them going and looking after the stadiums, and in some cases basic grounds.

Since I was a little lad I've been fascinated in football and more so where games are played. With my love of travel and curiosity of the game I wanted to visit as many grounds and see games wherever possible. I was lucky that my Dad also loved the game and spent so much of his spare time taking me to matches. As I got older the boundaries widened owing to my location and increased wages to Europe and indeed the world. The sight of a stand or a floodlight pylon in the distance immediately hightens my senses and eagerness for a closer look.

I hope this site gives you the chance to share in my pleasure and experiences and maybe one day set you on the road to adventure. If you get half as much out of the hobby as I've done I can guarantee some great memories, good friends and stories to pass on to future generations.

Give your local club a go today. They'll be pleased to see you!

Everlasting thanks primarily to my late and very much missed and dearly loved parents; my Dad Bob Bernard and my Mum; Ann, who put up with endless years of football chat and my brothers Nick and Paul who gave me the chance and encouragement to do what I have. Thanks to all my friends who offer encouragement and Sally and Stan who inspire and give me great pride. Young Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby!

Please feel free to post any comments (please use sensible language - I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading) or ask any questions relating to visiting grounds or events. If you want to see any ground reviewed please let me know. It will take quite some time for everywhere to appear, but make sure you keep having a look as the site is continually updated.

If you click on a lot of the pictures you will get a larger version on your screen.

I have also added links to video clips on youtube where appropriate for those of you who are bored of reading or are filling in time at work. I haven't always gone for the most obvious choices, but items that will be in some cases unusual but always historically interesting.

Click to see volume one of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard

London

September 2015

Thursday, January 21, 2016

East Stirlingshire


East Stirlingshire FC is a semi-professional football club from the town of Falkirk in the Central Lowlands of Scotland. ‘Shire’ were formed in 1881, following a club called Britannia who were formed by a local cricket club, Bainsford Bluebonnets, a year earlier.

The club became members of the Scottish FA in 1882 as they moved into their Merchiston Park home ground, and then the Stirlingshire FA a year later before going on to dominate the early years of the Stirlingshire Cup. In 1888-89 and 1890-91 the team reached the quarter finals of the Scottish Cup before being defeated by Celtic and then Heart of Midlothian.


Between 1891 and 1898 the club contained four full international players; Humphrey Jones of Wales along with Scottish caps David Alexander, Archibald Ritchie, and James McKie.

The club joined the second tier of the Scottish League in 1900 after performing in both the Midland Football League and Central Football Combination. In March 1905 it was proposed to merge the club with local rivals Falkirk. Easts members voted against the idea.

In 1920 Shire moved into Firs Park, a new home ground nearer the town centre. The new venue attracted a record crowd of 12,000 for the visit of Partick Thistle for a Scottish Cup tie in February 1921. In 1922-23 the team were relegated to the newly formed third tier, before returning at the first attempt.



East Stirlingshire won promotion to the top flight Division One for the 1933-34 campaign, but they were relegated after just one year. In April 1936 the team were given a 12-1 beating by Dundee United, and continued to struggle until World War Two despite the goals of Malcolm Morrison.

After the War Shire were placed in Division C along with some senior reserve teams. They managed to regain a place in the second tier Division B but failed to be re-elected at the end of the 1948-49 campaign. The third tier had been abolished so the club had to compete in regional football until the 1955-56 when the League was expanded.

Future Scottish international Eddie McCreadie was sold to Chelsea along with other promising talent. The fees were invested in new players which led to another promotion to the top flight in 1962-63 as runners-up to St Johnstone. One again their spell at the top table lasted just twelve months.


In a controversial move, East Stirlingshire were merged with Clydebank in 1964 to become East Stirling (or ES) Clydebank, relocating to Kilbowie Park in Clydebank. A gate of 14,900 watched the team in a ‘home’ game against Hibernian, but the merger was abandoned after just one year as Shire shareholders took to court to reverse the decision.

Lawrence Binnie became the first team manager of the club in 1966, taking over the role previously performed by the club directors. In 1975-76 the team dropped to the third tier Second Division following the formation of the Premier Division.

Sir Alex Ferguson was team manager for a brief spell in 1974 before moving to St Mirren. Billy Lamont took the side up to the second tier First Division in 1979-80 as runners-up to Falkirk. Two seasons later the team went back down.

Firs Park in better fettle, as taken from the internet

Shire were placed in the newly formed Third Division for 1994-95, which was now the fourth tier of Scottish football. A couple of fourth placed finished were soon replaced by spots in the lower half of the table on a regular occurrence.

In 2000-01 the team reached the semi-final of the Scottish Challenge Cup, but were denied a final berth by Livingston. By this time the club were struggling financially, with players only receiving £10 a game and the manager Dennis Newall working for free. For five consecutive seasons between 2002-03 and 2006-07 the team finished bottom of the league.

A new rule was introduced meaning any club finishing bottom for two consecutive seasons would lose full voting rights. On the final day of the 2007-08 season they defeated Montrose 3-1 to move away from last place.

Ochilview Park, Stenhousemuir

The Montrose match also signalled the end of the 1,800 capacity Firs Park, because of the prohibitive costs required to update the venue for new SFA criteria. The club decamped to play their home games at nearby Ochilview Park; the home of Stenhousemuir.

Cowdenbeath defeated a Jim McInally led side in the play-offs in 2008-09 after Shire ended in third place. The following season, Easts finished in the same position. On this occasion they went out in the play-offs to Forfar Athletic. However, the 2010-11 campaign saw a poor season with McInally being replaced by John Coughlin.

The club entered an arrangement with LK Galaxy Sports and others to develop a new playing facility at the former BP Club site at Little Kerse, Grange Road, Grangemouth.

The 2013-14 saw Shire being placed in Scottish League Two, the successor to Division Three following the formation of the Scottish Professional Football League. Planning permission for Little Kerse was given the green light in the summer of 2015.

East Stirlingshire will play in Scottish League Two in the 2015-16 season.


My visit

Sunday 17th January 2016

While snow covered much of the ground from the previous day, I wasn’t going to remain static while visiting Falkirk for their match against Hibernian. I had left Edinburgh around 11am and had planned to go and have a look at the home of Camelon Juniors.

Because I completed that task earlier than anticipated, I continued to Stenhousemuir, where the kind people in the clubhouse allowed me to pop inside and take some photos. I had asked about the old Firs Park ground, hoping that the stand was still in place.


One guy at the bar seemed to think that flats were already on the site, while another thought that the stand had gone, but I might gain access inside for a look. I caught the bus from near to Ochilview Park to the Central Retail Park to investigate further.

The retail park backed onto the old ground, which had huge concrete walls surrounding it. A walk along Victoria Road and then the cul-de-sac of Firs Street led me to where a wire fence was keeping people out.

At least I could see the shape of the ground and see the banking on a couple of sides. The pitch was overgrown, the stand on the far side and near side cover had gone. I had noticed an advert to sell the site had been painted over, which suggested work could soon commence.


I was glad that I made the effort. It was time for a couple of pre match beers, slightly regretting I didn’t get into the travelling bug a few years earlier.








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