Friday 5 April 2013

Dunfermline- past times

My first sight of Dunfermline came in March 1973. During that topsy turvey season,  we jumped from bottom place to 7th in the old second division, took massive away cup supports to Brora, Elgin and Montrose, and had the second biggest crowd I ever saw at Douglas Park for the Montrose replay,- the alleged attendance at which continues to rise in Seville like proportions. And yet we also contrived to ship 7 goals on two occasions, to St Mirren and, yes, Dunfermline.

The 7-2 reverse had come during a period of managerial instability, but by the time of the return fixture Eric Smith was directing operations very impressively, and we had begun a stable rise which continued into the following season's promotion campaign. I remember viewing the pars as a bit exotic, big time; something that we had not been used to at Douglas Park for some time. Within the last 12 years, and initially with Jock Stein as manager, they had reached three Scottish Cup finals, winning two of them. They also brought with them a large travelling support, which settled under the shed, and forced us home fans to listen rather sourly to songs about earlier European campaigns, when in fairness they had knocked out  Everton and West Brom amongst others.

Our subsequent 2-1 win was richly deserved, and  probably our most impressive result of the season. I can no longer remember who scored, but hope it was the legendary Neilly Hood, as he got most of our goals that year. It was in fact around this time  that I witnessed for the first time in my young life what might  properly be described as true and  unconditional love - shown by  the Accies supporters  towards Neilly, not least because of  his Ryan Giggs like runs along the touchline not before, but after, he scored.

Like all true love affairs, ours ended prematurely  when Neilly was first sidelined, and then signed for Clyde,  the footballing equivalent of ending it all. However back to the pars and they duly returned to the top league not to be seen again until 1976 when they stopped off briefly, en route to successive relegations ( hee hee!)

Subsequent matches were few and far between,  as we continually passed them either on the way down or up the leagues. Special mention though  must be made of our 1981 win at East End Park in the League Cup, when we came back from 2-0 down to win 3-2,  a performance redolent of our 3-1  win there 15 years later, when Jose and Paul Hartley both gave sparkling performances. They also knocked us out of the Scottish Cup in 1990, after we had fought hard to draw away from home.

The two matches which all current Accies fans will remember are the first two from the 2007-08 season.  A massive away support camped up at NDP on the opening day to watch their team, cup finalists and promotion favourites, take their first step towards an expected Championship. Instead it was Accies, inspired by Mark Gilhaney and Richard Offiong, who emerged victorious. That day also saw the graduation of James McArthur from  promising youngster to pivotal player in our midfield. He pressed the ball, won tackles and changed the flow of the match with his performance - and all this at the age of 19.

On leaving the stadium, for the first time the thought formed in our minds that this might, just might,  finally be our year. After all, we had yet to reintroduce the precocious talents of James McCarthy into the team- at this point he was not in the starting eleven. And so it proved to be. With regard to the second fixture, you all know what happened,  and the highlights remain available on Youtube. It is instructive though that we were 5-0 ahead with more than half an hour left,  and would  have scored more but for substitutions, and a wish simply to see the game out. And for all the magnificence of Richartd Offioing's strike, you will go a long way to see a better goal than the team move extending throughout the full length of the pitch for goal number five.

In closing, Dunfermline are a true footballing club, and one whose current troubles we can readily understand. We somehow managed to find a way back, albeit  the grindingly difficult task of financing a football club never goes away.  I wish them well on their road to recovery.


  1. Sorry to disappoint you Alan but having consulted my trusty Rothmans Football Year Book, the scorers for Accies that day were Gordon Hamilton and Andy Lawless. Mitchell scored for the Pars. But your correct to identify that Neil was top scorer with a total of 24 league and cup goals for the season

  2. Thanks, Ian. Andy Lawless was a winger who scored a good few goals for us, including a cracker later that season against St Mirren, who had Redburn sent off, and then sacked him, for kicking Paul Hegarty in the head !