Groundtastic – Scots Scene – Spring 2003

Between 2002-2008 I was Scottish Correspondent for the wonderfully professional Groundtastic – The Football Grounds Magazine. I can not speak highly enough of the editors and contributors to this glossy magazine that is jam-packed with interesting information and photographic gold.

I haven’t been a subscriber to the magazine since my marriage imploded in 2008 and I was forced to leave Scotland. Since then my dexterity has deteriorated to such an extent that I now find it impossible to simply thumb through a magazine.

Imagine my excitement then when I visited the Groundtastic website to discover that they now have a digital edition available 🙂 I’ll definitely be subscribing.

Anyway, over the next few months I will be sharing a number of articles that I penned during my time North of the Border, including my regular Scots Scene news round-up of potential football ground developments and improvements. The following is from Spring 2003 and it will be evident to ground enthusiasts and football fans just how much has changed from the era in which it was written…

Enjoy a short step back in time.



Euro 2008 will be held in Austria and Switzerland – ending Scottish and Irish dreams of jointly hosting the tournament. This rather surprising decision has had repercussions for three SPL clubs who were planning to move to new stadiums, that would also be used for Euro 2008. Since that will not happen and government support will not be forthcoming, ABERDEEN, DUNDEE UNITED and DUNDEE have been forced to reconsider their options.

As mentioned in the last edition of Groundtastic, there have been objections to the moves from supporters and homeowners in the two cities and they were largely pleased  that the joint Scotland/Ireland bid ended in failure.

The Dundee clubs were planning to share a stadium and had even received SPL permission to groundshare – but crucially they never consulted the supporters whose financial support they now have to rely on if such a move is to go ahead. Not surprisingly, the clubs are now planning to take supporters’ opinions into consideration.

Dundee United spokesman Malcolm Brown said: “We will have to look at the possibility that Scotland may bid for Euro 2012 and assess the implications that might bring. However, I can confirm that we will be taking the supporters’ views into account.”

Over at Dens Park spokesman Niall Scott confirmed that consultation with Dundee supporters was top of their agenda. Scott said: “It’s not a case of going back to the drawing board though. A new stadium for Dundee remains not just a possibility, but an opportunity we should take very seriously.”

Aberdeen have so far spent £300,000 on their proposed move from Pittodrie to Bellfield Farm in the Kingswells area. They have obtained permission to move from the City Council and the plans are currently with the Scottish Executive while a public enquiry takes place.

Following the failure of the European bid though, any plans may have to be dramatically scaled down, though Aberdeen’s plans are thought to be flexible enough to do that.

Dons spokesman Andrew Shinie said: “We are obviously very disappointed that the Scotland-Ireland bid has been unsuccessful. The benefits which could have been derived for Scotland’s economy as well as Scottish football were significant. We still believe that the proposals for a new stadium and world-class sports and leisure facility at Bellfield present an outstanding opportunity for the north-east and we need to consider how we best move this forward.”


HIBERNIAN have joined forces with Edinburgh Education Department to create a Football Academy for Edinburgh. Under the proposals, Hibernian FC will apply for outline planning permission to refurbish and improve facilities at Duddingston Playing Fields. The Club and the City of Edinburgh Council will jointly submit a lottery bid to sportScotland to help fund the development.

Councillor Rev Ewan Aitken said: “These exciting proposals will enable us to develop grass roots football and excellence programmes for some of our most talented young sportspeople, offering them the opportunity to work with professional footballers and coaches. I am sure if these plans go ahead it is only a matter of time before we unearth the stars of the future.”


The dismal Scottish weather has played havoc with the Scottish fixture list yet again and UEFA are looking into the introduction of plastic pitches on a trial basis to extend the life of pitches.

LIVINGSTON and ABERDEEN has already registered their interest in the trial. UEFA are willing to pay half the installation cost of up to six clubs willing to participate. At the moment all league and cup games must be played on a grass surface but the SPL may be prepared to change the rules to accommodate these pitches.

Livingston already use a synthetic training pitch with no problems. Their chairman, Dominic Keane, admitted he was keen on the idea when he said: “We would be happy to take part in the UEFA initiative as there are a tremendous number of merits in having a synthetic pitch. For a start, your stadium becomes a seven-day operation because your pitch can be used three or four times a day.”

Aberdeen’s chief executive Keith Wyness was also keen to be involved. Wyness said: “If UEFA are looking for clubs to try it out, we are delighted to do so and have registered our interest with the SPL and the SFA”.


ARBROATH struck gold when they were drawn to play RANGERS at Gayfield in the third round of the Scottish Cup. The first division side did consider switching the tie to a bigger venue to maximise their windfall until they heard Sky would be covering the game live. Red Lichties boss John Brownlie said “We may have lost money by not playing at a bigger venue but the money from TV means that it’s swings and roundabouts. Everyone at the club is pleased at the way things have worked out”. However, Arbroath had to make a £3,000 investment on their ground to upgrade the lighting system to meet the requirements of Sky who said the Gayfield lights were not bright enough for live TV. Sky in turn coughed up £80,000 so it was money well spent. Unfortunately, Arbroath lost the match 3-0.


CLYDE are going well in the Scottish first division but when the travelled to McDiarmid Park, home of ST JOHNSTONE, on January 18, their supporters were far from happy with their treatment. Clyde’s Director of Stadium Operations, Denis Gowans received several letters of complaint from Clyde supporters and subsequently wrote to St Johnstone outlining their concerns.

The main cause for complaint was that the taped off area, designated for the Clyde support, was inadequate. Police and stewards on duty failed to increase this area to house the supporters comfortably. Supporters attempting to leave the taped area to sit with friends and get a better view met with resistance by the stewards. Clyde supporters also moaned that they had to pay £15 for a seat with restricted views and that there was no separate parent and child gate for Clyde families.

Gowans concluded his letter by suggesting that, given McDiarmid Park has a capacity of 10,000, “consideration be given to housing the Clyde support in a properly segregated section in the stand with sufficient space, where our supporters would feel that they are getting better value for money.

“If something is not done to resolve these quite clearly felt areas of concern in the future then I am sure that many of our supporters will refrain from travelling to your stadium with obvious financial implications to yourselves”.


FALKIRK, INVERNESS CALEDONIAN THISTLE and CLYDE are all challenging for promotion to the SPL but at the moment none of these clubs are eligible for entry to the top flight due to strict ground criteria. The SPL constitution states that clubs must have at least 10,000 seats in their stadium. The respective clubs are currently looking at ways of complying with this ruling.

Falkirk, seem to be on the brink of moving to Westfield and are looking at the possibility of playing games at Airdrie United’s New Broomfield Park until their stadium is ready to use in November 2003.

ICT’s plans are discussed below while Clyde already have three quarters of a stadium and are planning to erect a temporary structure to take their capacity to 10,000.

The only club currently in the promotion race that are eligible for the step up is ST JOHNSTONE.

However, according to reports, the SPL are ready to put another barrier in the way of ambitious first division clubs with the insistence that all members of the SPL must have undersoil heating.

The current rules of the SPL state that teams merely require “pitch-protection”, such as a pitch blanket or hot air bubble. To install undersoil heating would cost in the region of £200,000. It is unlikely that Inverness CT or Falkirk would make that sort of expenditure when they are seeking to move to purpose built stadia.


INVERNESS CALEDONIAN THISTLE could be a step closer to their proposed move to the Bught Park area of the city with Asda building a new superstore on their current home at East Longman. The £25 million deal was discussed in a secret meeting with Inverness planning officials and a purpose-built stadium looks to be the only way the club will be able to achieve SPL status in the short term. The Caley Jags cannot afford to re-develop Caledonian Stadium to the necessary 10,000-seat capacity – though the possibility of erecting temporary stands, should the Asda deal collapse, has also been investigated.

Inverness planning chief Clive Goodman said: “We have had a briefing from Asda and ICT about the possible takeover of the East Longman site. The prospect of Caley Thistle playing at the Bught is not beyond the realms of possibility. However, there are a lot of hurdles to get over.”. The proposed development at Bught Park includes a sports arena, complete with hotel and conference facilities.

The local civic trust is opposing both the Longman and Bught development ideas.

Memory match – 22-08-64

Throughout the 2015/16 football season I will be contributing to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I will be penning a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past that I will share in this blog over the coming months.


Wrexham v Notts County

League Division Four

Racecourse Ground

Result: 4-0

WREXHAM: Dunlop, Jones, McClelland, Barnes, Morrall, Johnson, Colbridge, Griffiths, Phythian, McMillan, Williams

Goalscorers: Barnes (2 pens), McMillan, Griffiths

NOTTS COUNTY: Smith, Edwards, Agnew, Sheridan, Gibson, Carver, Kavanagh, Astle, Bly, Hannah, Barber

Attendance: 7,911


Both clubs were at a low-ebb as they began season 1964/65.

Wrexham found themselves back in the Fourth Division under player-manager Ken Barnes following a disastrous 1963/64 campaign, which included a record 9-0 defeat at Brentford. Our form at the Racecourse was not much better, gate receipts plummeted by more than £11,000 on the previous term and no one was surprised that the season culminated in relegation to the basement. Furthermore, according to local journalists, the club were £24,000 in the red and dependant on handouts from a well-organised Supporters’ Association.

As a result, there had been little transfer activity during the summer with the exceptions of former Welsh international Graham Williams (Swansea Town), Joe McClelland (Hibernian) and Dennis Lambourne (Llanelly). Williams and McClelland both cost nothing while 18-year-old Lambourne was signed for a “nominal” fee after impressing in a Welsh Cup tie the previous season.

“I hope this season will bring better things and, with the normal breaks, I feel that we can be back in the Third Division at the end of it,” said Barnes at his annual meeting with shareholders.

“I certainly didn’t envisage what would happen last season, but that’s football.”

Notts County were the only club to finish below Wrexham in the third tier during the disastrous 1963/64 season and were in something of a tailspin. Crowds at Meadow Lane had dwindled to around the 3,000 mark, Forest had established themselves as the dominant team in Nottingham and the County chairman had been voted off the board. It seemed as if things couldn’t get much worse for the Magpies, but as the new season dawned, any attempt to restore pride were hindered by an injury list that included no fewer than seven players.

Arthur Dunlop was selected ahead of Steve Fleet in the Wrexham goal with the opening exchanges suggesting that he would be in for a much busier afternoon than his County counterpart, George Smith.

The visitors had every reason to be hopeful after a controlled opening period saw their right-winger Eddie Kavanagh beat Joe McClelland to set-up a glorious opportunity for Mick Barber. However, the attacker then contrived to hit his shot from 10 yards against the post when it looked easier to score. This was a lucky escape that shook the Robins from their slumber.

Suddenly, after 20 minutes, Wrexham turned the tables and began to dominate proceedings. Clive Colbridge shaved a post, Graham Williams mis-hit an effort with the goal at his mercy and Sammy McMillan went close after some effective interplay between Arfon Griffiths and Ernie Phythian.

County had lost their early composure and were hanging on for dear life as they struggled to cope with wave after wave of attack. Overworked defender Dave Agnew headed a McMillan lob off the goal line and Phythian smashed a 25 yard drive against the bar before Wrexham eventually took the lead through a scrappy effort from Arfon Griffiths.

If Wrexham were good in the first half then they were simply irresistible in the second. The County defence just could not cope. The forlorn figure of Smith made excellent saves from Eric Johnson, McMillan, McClelland (twice) and Barnes, but three times he was lucky when a header by McMillan and shots by Griffiths and Johnson struck the bar.

The panic stricken away side were under so much pressure that they ended up conceding two penalties on 59 and 72 minutes. The first followed a trip by Agnew on Colbridge while the second was awarded when Dick Edwards saved Peter Jones cross-shot with both hands. Ken Barnes converted both penalties in opposite corners of the net.

Two minutes from the end, Phythian’s fine pass sent McMillan racing away to score a brilliantly taken goal.

“I am quite pleased about our display. I’m not going to go in to ecstasies, but with a little luck we could’ve scored ten,” said Barnes.