Ayr United have the nickname 'The Honest Men', which was taken from the poetry of Scotland's National Bard, Robert Burns, who came from Alloway, near Ayr. He wrote about “Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a toon surpasses, for honest men and bonnie lasses”.
United became members of Division Two, of which they were champions of 1912-13 winning promotion to Division One. Herbert Dainty was appointed as the first club manager in 1914, before several others had their go.
However, he took the side to the Division Two title at the first time of asking, as he remained at the club in the top tier until the league was suspended during to the outbreak of World War Two. Once peacetime had resumed Ayr found themselves in Division Two under Bob Ferrier.
Before the end of the decade United would be relegated twice, but on both occasions the team led by Jackie Cox won instant promotion. Bobby Flavell’s 1960-61 season in charge saw Ayr demoted once again.
McLeod was a popular manager who from 1971-72 to 1974-75 took the team to sixth and seventh place finishes as well as the semi-finals of the League Cup in 1969-70 and the Scottish Cup in 1973, before he was tempted away by the managers post at Aberdeen, from where he later found real fame as Scotland manager.
George Caldwell stepped into the managers seat in 1983 before McLeod returned from his adventures in 1985, with the club being relegated to the third tier Division Two in his first campaign back in charge.
Ayr were relegated in 1994-95 with Gordon Dalziel being given the task of restoring United’s second tier status, which was achieved in 1996-97 as the club were crowned as Division Two champions. In 2000 the team reached the semi-final of the Scottish Cup but were defeated by Rangers.
Bobby Connor was appointed as manager in the summer of 2005 but after three mid table finishes the board turned to Brian Reid for the 2007-08 campaign. Reid’s spell saw promotions in 2008-09 and 2010-11. Unfortunately the 2009-10 and 2011-12 seasons culminated in relegation. Reid was replaced by striker Mark Roberts in the player managers role.
McCall led the side to a second place finish in 2015-16 before the side defeated Peterhead and then Stranraer in the play-offs to be promoted to the second tier Scottish Championship. However, United failed to consolidate and were relegated in May 2017.
Ayr United 4 Dumbarton 4 (Saturday 24th December 2016) Scottish Championship (att: 1,441)
I followed the locals into the club shop. I don’t think many purchased were made, and most went in for a warm. It turned out to be a handy move as I picked up a free teamsheet. Outside I purchased a programme for a couple of quid. I decided on going in the home end terrace, which cost £17.
Having grabbed a Bovril, which was most welcome, along with a local Boaby Pie I headed to the shelter to take in the surroundings. I was most impressed.
Somerset Park was very much old school and much like several grounds I used to head to with Hull City in the 1980’s. Both ends had no frills covered terracing. The Main Stand was raised seating with a few steps in front and an extension on one end. Opposite was a large open terracing backed by a modern building offering hospitality for sponsors and members.
My ticket also allowed access down the open side. The far end was closed with the vocal Dumbarton fans being located in the far end of the raised Main Stand. I really liked the old school nature of Somerset Park. The Boaby's Pie was good but not quite up to Killie's offering the previous evening.
The game was a slow burner. Ayr kicked with a fierce wind at their backs but didn't capitalise until Scott McKenna headed home from a corner on the half hour mark, before man of the match Gary Harkins doubled the lead eleven minutes later.
However 'Sons' were back in it as Robert Thomson glanced home a header with referee Craig Charleston ending the additional two minutes of stoppage time as soon as Ayr kicked off. Some hardy souls stood on the open terrace. I was doing my best but struggling to keep warm under the roof. The action in the second half gave me lots to keep my mind off the weather.
Daniel Harvie levelled things up six minutes after the break when his cross carried in the wind and dropped in off the far post. Both keepers were earning their keep, as both sides went for it, attempting to secure a vital win at the wrong end of the Championship table.
I was admiring the quality of abuse and vitriol, with the Main Stand side linesman getting absolute pelters from those stood in the paddock. Although I could just about pick out the F word, the rest was just a really angry noise.
On sixty eight minutes Sons Andy Stirling and United's Paul Cairney got into a tangle in the box. Referee Charleston pointed to the spot and harshly sent the visitor for an early bath. Alan Forrest sent Alan Martin the wrong way from the spot to make it 3-2. With six minutes remaining Dumbarton were back level again as Greg Fleming flapped about in the home net as Joe Thomson finished off a real scramble.
The downcast Ayr fans were joyous once again just a minute later when Cairney was first to react to a shot off the post to poke home. Yet, I sensed a real feeling of dread and not 100% confidence in their custodian as Dumbarton won another corner in the last minute of normal time. Sure enough their former favourite and boyhood Ayr fan Ryan Stevenson headed home to round off the scoring.
It had been an excellent game for the neutral. The conditions were not easy but both sides stuck at it. If it had been a boxing match I would have awarded the contest to Dumbarton on a split decision.
It had been a tremendous overnighter once again up north and a great prelude to a really happy Christmas.