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


September 2015

Friday, February 2, 2018

Stirling Albion

Stirling Albion FC is a football club from the historic city of Stirling, in Central Scotland, that was formed in 1945 to replace King’s Park who formerly represented the city in the Scottish Leagues.

King’s Park had been formed in 1875, playing at Forthbank Park, after moving from the King’s Park area of Stirling. In 1881 the club became founder members of the Scottish Alliance before leaving after just one season.

King’s Park would go on to play in some lower level league’s before joining the Central Football League in 1909; remaining there until 1921, when they joined the newly formed Division Two of the Scottish Football League.

The team just missed out on promotion in 1927-28, before debutant Jim Dyet netted eight times in one game against Forfar Athletic in January 1930. Alex Haddow became another fans favourite with his scoring feats.

King’s Park played a few friendlies during World War Two until the club went into hibernation. They were dealt a blow when Forthbank Park was bombed by the Luftwaffe. The club folded in 1945 and were replaced by Stirling Albion FC.

Thomas Fergusson, a local coal magnate, had been in charge at King’s Park before becoming the driving force behind Albion. He purchased the Annfield estate, a quarter of a mile from the city centre, where Annfield Stadium was constructed.

Stirling had several promotions and relegations over their first twenty years. In 1948-49 Albion were promoted to the top flight from Scottish League Division B, but went back down just twelve months later.

The team went back up at the first attempt in 1950-51 but finished bottom in Scottish League Division A and returned to the second tier. The Scottish League Division B title was secured in 1952-53. This time ‘The Binos’ lasted three seasons in the top division.

Albion won the retitled Scottish League Division Two championship in 1957-58, before the side was relegated again in 1959-60. Another second tier title arrived at Annfield in 1960-61, but yet again Stirling lasted just one season in the top flight; as the club earned the nickname of ‘The Yo-Yo’s’.

Albion finished bottom of Division Two before winning the title twelve months later in 1964-65. The team lasted until the culmination of the 1967-68 campaign before dropping back down. The Binos remained there until league restructuring in 1975; when they were placed in the third level Scottish League Division Two.

Stirling won that league in 1976-77, and moved up to Division One; where they remained until being relegated in 1980-81. Alex Smith took charge of the team as they finished regularly in mid table.

Smith was replaced by George Peebles in 1986 as the council bought Annfield to save the club from financial strife, before installing an Astroturf pitch to maximise profits. The Main Stand was demolished owing to safety concerns.

Peebles, then Jim Fleeting and then star striker John Brogan took turns as manager; with Brogan leading Albion to the Division Two title in 1990-91. The new Forthbank Stadium, a mile from the city centre, was opened in 1993 to replace Annfield Stadium.

Albion went up in 1995-96 under Kevin Drinkell, before going down to the third tier in 1997-98, a year after the league’s were restructured once again to include four divisions; despite the goals of Alex Bone. John Philliben took over in charge of the team, before former international Ray Stewart arrived as the new team manager in 2000.

The team was relegated from the Second Division in 2000-01 with Stewart being replaced by Allan Moore in the summer of 2002. Promotion back to the Second Division followed a few months later, as fortunes continued to improve.

Albion won a place in the First Division after clinching promotion via the play-offs in 2006-07 as a Stewart Devine goal along with a brace from Robert Snodgrass defeated Airdrie at the Excelsior Stadium. However, the part-timers were relegated after just twelve months.

Moore took the club back to the second tier after the team lifted the Second Division title in 2009-10 before Moore departed to Greenock Morton, while Chairman Peter McKenzie agreed to sell the club to the Stirling Albion Supporters Trust.

John O’Neill took over as manager before he was replaced by Jocky Scott in January 2011. However, the change couldn’t save The Binos from relegation back to the Second Division a few months later. Defender Greig McDonald was appointed as manager in December 2011.

Stirling were relegated to the Third Division at the end of the 2011-12 campaign. Jordan White lifted the gloom at the Forthbank Stadium with his goals. Promotion arrived with a play-off final win against East Fife in 2013-14.

Stuart McLaren arrived as manager in the summer of 2014 but he couldn’t prevent Albion from finishing bottom of the table and being relegated to Scottish League Two for the 2015-16 season. Dave Mackay replaced McLaren in November 2016, as Ross McMillan captained the team.

Stirling Albion will play in Scottish League Two in the 2017-18 season.

My visit

Stirling Albion 1 Cowdenbeath 0 (Wednesday 31st January 2018) Scottish League Two (att: 395)

My trains and hotel in Glasgow had been booked for a few weeks, with my intention being the Premiership match between St Johnstone and Hamilton Academical. However, the game was postponed owing to the Saints involvement in a rearranged Scottish Cup tie.

Other matches had also been deferred owing to bad weather when the Cup ties were originally scheduled. Fortunately Albion’s match with Cowdenbeath was rescheduled so I could tick off another new ground.

After a smooth journey, the beauty of social media came to the fore as it transpired that Patrick Waterhouse and I would be in Glasgow at the same time. We enjoyed a couple of convivial beers in The Horse Shoe.

There was time for me to jump in a cab and enjoy a couple more in the fabulous Bon Accord; where the Partick supporting barman Craig was on hand for a natter. I took the train around the corner at Charing Cross, before changing at Queen Street onto a fast service north east.

Fortunately, I woke from a brief slumber to alight and then walk the twenty minutes to Forthbank Stadium. Admission was £13, with a basic programme another quid. Teamsheets were handed out free of charge.

The unmistakable aroma of the catering drifted through a door and I was soon enjoying a steak pie and Bovril for £4 up in the seats as I took in the stadium. Two seated stands faced each other across the pitch, while both ends had sections of open terracing.

It was neat and had a bit more character than several modern builds. Only the one stand was open for the match; with fans of ‘The Blue Brazil’ having a couple of blocks at the far end. The pitch looked in immaculate condition in the dipping temperatures.

The club song of ‘Beautiful Sunday’ was played with one fan miming along with his guitar while trying to get others to sing along. The teams came out and congregated for a minute’s applause for ‘Mr Stirling Albion’ Peter McKenzie who had recently passed away.

Cowdenbeath came into the game cut adrift at the bottom of the table and already looking like they would need to prevail in the play-offs to secure their Scottish League status for the second consecutive season. Albion were placed just outside the play-off positions.

It is fair to say that the match wasn’t a classic. Home keeper Cammy Binnie made a relatively easy save look spectacular from a shot from outside the box. Albion probably had slightly better quality, but little cutting edge. Cowdenbeath huffed and puffed throughout.

The only goal sunned the game up. Visiting goalie David McGurn parried out a corner, but the ball went straight against defender Jamie Pyper who inadvertently turned it in to his own net for an own goal ten minutes from the break.

Blair Malcolm tested Binnie on the stroke of half time before I went for a stretch. I’d already indulged in an extra Scotch pie and I couldn’t find access to the bar, so I just had a wander about and took some extra photos.

Brad Smith had the next attempt for Cowdenbeath, but Binnie tipped the ball over the bar in extravagant fashion. Feisty forward David Cox was trying his best to get the Blues back into the game, but he lacked pace. He was doing a fine job of upsetting referee Gavin Ross, who eventually showed him the yellow card.

I enjoyed the play of the visitors left back Harvey Swann, who contributed regularly, but it wasn’t going to be his sides night. Seven minutes from time Albion came close to doubling the lead when another corner caused more confusion.

Cox’s lack of pace denied him getting on the end of a fine probing Swann centre. Albion held on to take all three points and move into a play-off place. The visiting team players sank to their knees. They gave it their best, but they lacked quality and looked a poor outfit.

It was time for me to get a move on back to the station. Trains were replaced by buses owing to the electrification of the line between Glasgow and Edinburgh. It was good to jump on the warm bus out of the freezing conditions.

I started listening to the whining Manchester United and Chelsea fans ringing the phone in on TalkSport and awoke outside Queen Street station just forty five minutes later. A train took me on to Charing Cross and I was back in the Bon Accord at 10.50.

A very convivial few drinks and chat followed in a place that made me feel like a regular, despite my fleeting appearances. I took a sausage supper back to my tiny Easy Hotel room before heading back to London on the 8am train the following morning.

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