Thursday, August 29, 2013

It's been 39 years and 316 days since East Fife played, and won, a Scottish league game at Ibrox.

October 13th 1973.

The Simon Park Orchestra were number one in the charts with "Eye Level", the theme tune to the TV show "Van Der Valk", Bruce Lee's "Enter The Dragon" was still drawing the crowds in at the local picturehouse, and kids were riding around on Raleigh Choppers laughing at the big hair and hideous clothes.

Amidst all that, Jim Hamilton was writing a name for himself in Bayview folklore, with a goal that should give hope and inspiration to the current crop of players proudly wearing the black and gold.

October 13th 1973 was to be the 16th and final time that East Fife would visit Ibrox on league duty until this coming Saturday's game. The Fife's record there made dismal reading - Played 15, Won 0, Lost 12, Drawn 3, Goals For 7, Goals Against 47.

It's incredible really when you consider what a powerhouse East Fife were as a team themselves in the late 40s and early 50's.

East Fife were managerless. Pat Quinn had been sacked 20 days earlier and although a new manager had been found in former player, and League Cup winning goalscorer, Frank Christie, he wasn't taking over until the home game against Morton the following week.

The omens weren't good for East Fife and former legendary player and current kitman Jimmy Philp, and groundsman Alex Doig were in charge of the team in the dugout.

This was to be their third and final game in charge of the team, having recorded a win against Dundee and a loss to Dumbarton. No-one expected them to pull off a miracle at Ibrox but they and the players rose to the occasion.

Jim Hamilton in particular rose well, especially in the 7th minute when he was left unmarked in the box and headed home a Johnny Love cross for what was to be the only goal of the game!

East Fife held their own for the rest of the first half and had several chances to add to their advantage.

Hamilton nearly grabbed his second, but Rangers keeper Stewart Kennedy got his hand to his shot and sent it crashing off the bar. Kevin Hegarty then headed over from under the bar before pulling a shot wide from a good position towards the end of the half.

Rangers pushed for the equaliser from the moment the second half kicked off but found East Fife goalie Ernie McGarr in top form.

McGarr and Bobby Duncan combined to keep out a John Greig shot and then Alex O'Hara saw his shot headed off the line by Davie Clarke.

Those were close calls, but there was closer yet to come when Derek Johnstone crashed a shot off the crossbar.

With five minutes left, Rangers thought they had snatched a point when Johnstone headed home, but the Rangers striker turned centrehalf was flagged for offside and East Fife breathed a sigh of relief.

The final whistle came and East Fife held on for a famous victory.

Both teams' reserve sides were playing at Bayview that afternoon, with the Gers running out 1-0 winners. So momentous was the victory that the closing moments of the game at Ibrox were played over the tannoy for those in attendance to be a part of the occasion!

New manager Christie was undertaking his last game at St Johnstone as trainer-coach and was sitting on the bench following the East Fife game through updates from fans listening in the crowd.

"A big roar went up from the crowd who had tuned in to the commentary from Ibrox and it was then I learned East Fife were leading Rangers," he said. "It was a wonderful result for us."

The line up for both teams on the day were:

RANGERS: Stewart Kennedy, Sandy Jardine, Willie Mathieson, John Greig, Derek Johnstone, Alex MacDonald, Tommy McLean, Tom Forsyth, Alistair Scott (Graham Fyfe), Alex O'Hara, Doug Houston [Sub Not Used: Dave Smith]

EAST FIFE: Ernie McGarr, Bobby Duncan, Davie Clarke, Ron McIvor, John Martis, Walter Borthwick, Jim Hamilton, Johnny Love, Kevin Hegarty (Graham Honeyman 70), Billy McPhee, Grahame Ritchie (Derek O'Connor 72)

The referee was R.D. Henderson and the attendance was around 12,000.

A great game and I wish there were highlights somewhere for us all to see. We'll just have to play the highlights of this Saturday's victory on repeat instead.

'Mon the Fife.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Love them or loathe them, and I firmly fall into the latter category, we’re stuck with them for at least a season.

I’m talking about Sevco FC of course, or Rangers as some would choose to call them.

Next week sees East Fife first visit to Ibrox on League duty since October 13th 1973. Pretty much a full forty years ago. I wonder what percentage of our current support were actually even born then, never mind attended the game.

East Fife won 1-0 that day thanks to a 7th minute Jim Hamilton goal. It is our only ever league win at Ibrox. The same again next Saturday would be wonderful, if somewhat unexpected if we’re being honest.

The last league meeting between the two sides was at Bayview on February 9th 1974.

The Fife lost 3-0 and were soon relegated from Division One, never to yet return to the top flight of the Scottish game.

With that in mind, there is something nice about the fact that we meet next week in ‘League One’ action, although the whole renaming of the divisions is still farcical. There is also something great about having the Fife playing games in front of tens of thousands once again and having a demand for tickets, both home and away.

Of course trips to either of the Old Firm’s grounds brings with it a whole set of other issues that we’re thankfully not used to. You all know what they are. As horrible as it's been in the lower reaches of Scottish football, it's not been a bad thing to be away from some of the nonsense at the top end of it.

Just watch what you wear if you’re heading through next week!

My last trip to see the Fife at Ibrox was in the Scottish Cup tie in February 1997. I was flogging fanzines outside the away end and wearing the Fife’s away strip at the time – the infamous deckchairesque green and white striped number.

Ah, the abuse I got for happening to wear my team’s strip to a game, just because it was green. So much so, I had to zip my jacket up. Idiots.

Now before some reading this get all up in arms and accuse me of writing this through green tinted glasses, let’s get this straight. We’re an equal opportunities blog. We hate both sides of the Glasgow divide. Actually, we hate most teams in Scotland north, south and west of Bayview.

Frankly I care little about either of the Old Firm and if they both wanted to head down to England or some Atlantic League then I wouldn’t shed a tear and I feel it would actually benefit Scottish football, but that's for another day.

Both sides have stifled the game here and hit the smaller clubs like East Fife hard in taking away local support and buying up promising talent just to leave them rotting in their reserves, weakening their opponents in the process.

Laying all my cards on the table, I have a dirty little family secret to share. Both of my parents are Rangers supporters. Not once did I ever consider following suit. It’s always been East Fife for me.

I can excuse my mum. She was born in Shawlands and regularly went to games with my granddad. My dad on the other hand is a born and bred Fifer and that is what’s so wrong about football in this country.

For decades hordes of fans travel from all corners of Scotland to watch Celtic and Rangers and not their local side. I'll never understand, just as those fans will never understand watching a team that doesn't win all the time.

So all that said, I want to end with some praise for the Gers.

I have been amazed that Rangers have kept such a loyal and large fanbase through their fall from grace. Some have walked away. Some have finally found out the joy of following their local team. We’ve got a few ourselves in the Fife support now and they've very welcome for seeing the light.

What Rangers' journey up from the Scottish footballing basement has done is to raise the interest in the lower leagues and that can only hopefully be good in the long run. I know a lot of it is forced, as the Scottish media can’t not have their Rangers stories to fill masses of column inches and airspace.

I never thought I’d see the day where matches at lower league grounds, including hopefully Bayview, would be broadcast live around the world in glorious HD.

We can only hope that a number of Rangers fans enjoy their lower league adventure and appreciate how important clubs like East Fife and their fans are to the Scottish game.

Our other hope is that some of them enjoy it so much that they shun the eventual return to top flight action and go and watch their local team on a regular basis instead.

Just as long as they leave all that other nonsense behind them.

[This blog first appeared in Saturday's copy of "The Bayview" programme]

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The new English Premier League season may have got underway last weekend, but it's not too late to join AFTN's mini league in the official Fantasy Premier League.

We were a bit tardy getting everything set up this year so decided we'd hold back the scoring until Week 2 this season to give everyone a chance to get their teams in and any adjustments made.

Bit of a shame for some that had Villa's Benteke, but them's the breaks!

So to enter/register go to http://fantasy.premierleague.com and pick your team.

Then to join the AFTN mini league, click 'Leagues' then 'Join a league' then to join our one the code is 2246421-468409

The AFTN mini league is open to fans of all teams, no matter where in the world you reside.

So take part today and good luck everybody.

After another bit of a hiatus, we're back with the blog.

We're in the middle of a complete revamp of AFTN's main Scottish site (www.aftn.co.uk) at the moment and hope that this will be done by the end of September at the very latest.

The first public phase of this was revamping the blog here. So we've got a brand new, modern design and are updating it with some of the blog articles we've written for the East Fife programme these past couple of years.

We'd always planned to put these up here once they'd appeared in the programme, but never quite found the time to do so, but by the end of tonight all of last season's and this season's stuff will have gone up, backdated to the dates they were either written or around when they appeared.

Moving forward, we'll continue to add the programme blog stuff a few days after people have had a chance to read the hard copy at the match.

But it's not just going to be old rehashes of stuff we've had elsewhere, we want to get back to making this blog a regular blog about East Fife and about football and build on the success of our MLS/North American football blog over at www.aftn.ca. Not saying we'll ever go back to daily updates again but at least a lot more regular.

But to do that we need your help. We've put together a good team of writers over the pond and are looking to do the same here. So if you have anything you want to write about the Fife, Scottish football or the beautiful game in general then drop us an email at: aftn at Hotmail dot co dot uk.

So that's all for now, back to updating, and more coming soon....

Friday, August 16, 2013

Being a collector sometimes feels like having a borderline mental illness. The passion, the enthusiasm, the obsession. Collectors' have different mindsets for their hobby that the non-collector will never really understand. Just ask my wife!

Depending on your predilection in life, and whether that collector's switch in your brain has been flicked, the chances are that you collected some kind of football cards when you were younger. You possibly still do. Your age may also dictate what kinds of cards you collected: cigarette, bubblegum, tea, comic, panini, trading or the modern day nonsense!

Card collecting dates back to the late Victorian times and the first known cards featuring footballers were produced in 1894.

East Fife have featured in numerous collections over the years. The earliest East Fife card that I have found out about so far dates back to 1935, but I am sure that there will have been earlier ones out there. So let us know if you know of ones before that.

As we continue this series in the programme over the coming months, we'll feature several different sets and cards that have been issued over the years, along with other wonderful pieces of East Fife memorabilia from the club's 110 year history.

Today we're heading back to the early 1970's and some bubblegum cards that had kids of the time running into sweet shops and up to ice cream vans to part with their pennies.

A&BC Chewing Gum Ltd were formed in 1949. They produced numerous cards, on a variety of subjects, which were given away free in packets of bubble gum.

They produced their first set of 36 football cards in 1954, as part of the 120 card "All Sports" series set. Their first standalone football collection was a 92 card one in 1958 and their first Scottish football specific set was produced in 1962.

The company continued to publish a Scottish set each year until 1974 and but it was only once East Fife gained promotion to the First Division at the end of the 1970/71 season that our players were featured, with 21 cards of East Fife players being published in the 1971-1973 sets.

And they're wonderful items to have in your collection.

The cards were all 80mm x 55mm in size and were made of actual hard card and not cheap paper or the sticker variety. They were double sided, with player info, stats and facts on the back of them. They varied in style. Some were more classic, some hideously garish. But all fun items to have in your collection.

They were issued in various series, with all the East Fife ones featuring in the "Scottish Footballers" ones. Each series also came with a couple of checklists for you to keep track of what you had and those seem to be my most lasting memory of buying these when I was a nipper.

Deep in my recesses, I can't remember the players I had at the time but I do remember ticking the little boxes on the checklists.

You can still pick up the East Fife and other cards, including the checklists, on ebay today, as I've done myself over the last few years. They're usually pretty cheap, apart from the checklists, which seem to be quite prized.

Of course, if you were around and actually collected these cards at the time, you're left kicking yourself for never keeping hold of your own ones to start with.

If you're reading this far and thinking what is this old geezer rambling on about, or more hopefully, you're reading this and thinking that these sound great and you need to add these cards to your East Fife memorabilia collection asap, then here's some details about what East Fife cards are available and what they're all about.

There were 144 cards in the 1971 Scottish Footballer series with four East Fife players featuring - Billy McPhee (number 15), Bertie Miller (#65), John Martis (#92) and Joe Hughes (#126).

There were two checklists published in the set: number 57 for cards 1 - 73 and number 115 for cards 74 - 144.

All cards had purple backs and featured the height and weight of the player, a brief bio and a "did you know" factoid.

There were 179 cards over two Scottish Footballer series in 1972. Cards 1 - 89 had blue backs and cards 90 - 179 orange.

This time nine East Fife players were featured. Bobby Cairns (#8), John Martis (#26), Jim Hamilton (#44), Davie Gorman (#80) were the four featured in the first set; and Billy McPhee (#100), Peter McQuade (#122), Bobby Duncan (#143), Joe Hughes (#157) and Kevin Hegarty (#166) were the five featured in the second one.

The backs had a brief player bio and each had a question and you had to scratch the box beside it with a coin to get the answer. The scratching revealed such "fascinating" facts as Bobby Cairns works in a bank, Kevin Hegarty's favourite player is Dennis Law, and Billy McPhee's ambition is to keep East Fife in the first division.

There were 178 cards in the 1973 series, all of which had pink backs. Eight East Fife players featured: Jimmy Hamilton (#7), Ernie McGarr (#15), Billy McPhee (#43), Bobby Duncan (#51), Kevin Hegarty (#79), Walter Borthwick (#87), John Martis (#123) and Dave Clarke (#159).

The backs featured the usual brief player bio, along with personal stats and a cartoon fact. One of the facts gloats about how East Fife got Edinburgh lad Dave Clarke ahead of Hearts and Hibs, whilst another mentions that John Martis is the oldest player on the side, complete with a cartoon gravestone!

East Fife fell out of the First Division soon after and so with that fall went their appearances on any major card collections of any sorts since.

Maybe a nice touch in this anniversary year would be to produce a set of cards for the current squad to be given out at the turnstiles of home games over the course of the season. Start some new collectors off amongst the support.

I've always wanted us to be featured as part of a Panini sticker collection but that seems a far flung hope these days.

Never mind, there's still a lot of cards from yesteryear that we can draw on for this feature, along with many other items of East Fife memorabilia. Watch out for them in future programmes.

[You can see more of East Fife's A&BC cards, and others, on AFTN memorabilia section HERE]

Monday, August 12, 2013

When the fixtures were announced for the new season, there were a few games that every East Fife fan immediately looked for.

Who would we have in the first League game of the season? Would we have a home game for Boxing Day? And what about for New Year's Day? When would we be playing Rangers? And when were the eagerly awaited Fife derbies against Dunfermline be back on the calendar?

Bizarrely it turned out that the answer to the last question was also provided by the first one.

It's only been 83 days since both sides had their contrasting fortunes decided in their respective playoff finals, and now they meet today on League business for the first time since all of us of a black and gold persuasion would care to remember.

The answers to some of the other questions posed above were thankfully, yes, two home games around the festive period and hopefully much needed bumper gate and hospitality receipts for the Club if mother nature plays nice.

But what is with the New Year game? Why no Fife derby and we host Arbroath and not Dunfermline? It's absolutely ridiculous, as I'm sure Pars fans reading this and having a January 2nd trip to face Stenhousemuir would agree. At least we're not having to head somewhere ridiculous like Stranraer.

New Year time is all about old acquaintances after all and after years of going in opposite directions, East Fife and Dunfermline only have a handful of Cup games in recent years to have helped keep themselves reacquainted with each other.

For those of us of a certain age it never used to be that way and we have many fond memories of battles at Bayview and trips to East End Park between these Fife foes.

When I first started watching East Fife in the 1980s I loved the games with Dunfermline and I looked forward to them more than the ones against Raith. It was helped of course by having AFTN hate figure Jim Leishman in charge at the Pars those days and say what you will about him, and we did, it's actually great that he's still around and playing such an important role in the club still today.

What fun we had at his expense in the fanzine, and then one day we found ourselves chatting to him at a pre-season friendly at Rosyth when he revealed he was an avid reader!

For those with memories of the 70s and long before that, there are some many great games between the two sides in the history books.

It still doesn't feel all that long ago that we were in a division higher than the Pars, whilst they had some battles of their own, both on and off the field, with Queen of the South in the old Division 2.

When we found ourselves in the same division, pushing for promotion to the promised land of the Premier League, there were some cracking games.

The 4-2 win for the Fife at East End Park on August 30th 1986 is still one of the my favourite games I've ever attended. There were 4,448 in attendance that day, as the Fife ran rampant with two goals from Brian McNaughton and one apiece from Stuart Burgess and Hugh Hill. Those two Pars goals couldn't dampen the black and gold mood.

Neither could being soaked to the bone for the 1-1 game at East End Park on New Year's Day that season.

Ah, 1986/87. When the Scottish League fixtures makers actually had commonsense.

The 4-2 game had come just days after the Fife took a newly built, Souness-led Rangers team to penalties in the Skol Cup at Bayview.

Such happy days and a period of hope and respective glory on the pitch.

For as we mentioned in last week's blog, there is a whole section of the Fife support who don't know what it's like to play the Pars on a regular basis, and even less who remember Rangers coming on League duty.

Many couldn't have seen those days coming around any time soon, but whilst East Fife have been financially prudent all these years off the pitch, and suffered as a result on it, our big spending neighbours and the blue yins from Glasgow have had their glories but now find themselves back down to earth with a huge bump.

Meaning now we're playing Dunfermline and Rangers again. Those fixtures are back. Let's hope that the relative glory days are too.

Another 4-2 victory today would do just nicely to kick things off.

'Mon the Fife.

[This blog post originally appeared in the East Fife programme 'The Bayview' on Saturday August 10th 2013 - minus the picture!]

Monday, August 5, 2013

The feelgood factor is back at Bayview. We've missed it, replaced as it was by another set of F words altogether.

Another new season and football fans across the land are filled with hope, expectation and a joy that their Saturdays can be put to good use again.

I've written before in these blog pieces about the often misplaced excitement each new season brings. Ultimately, the vast majority of football fans in Scotland are going to finish the season disappointed. Some very much so.

We came close to that ourselves last season but despite playing some horrible football at times and the lows that went with Billy Brown's now infamous open mic night, things ended on a high. I'm still not sure how if I'm being honest.

Who would have thought that a 9th place finish in the Scottish Second Division would end up creating such jubilant scenes and an actual feeling of achievement?

Maybe I was wrong all these years and the playoffs do serve some purpose in the Scottish game. It certainly felt like we'd won something. For those in attendance at Balmoor on May 19th, it was a feeling akin to having won promotion and after a winter of discontent, it set Fife fans up for a summer of solace.

76 days have passed since that Playoff Final victory. In reality of course, it just meant we had avoided being back in the dregs of Scottish football by the skin of our teeth.

Div Muir's goal at Peterhead elevated him to folklore status and if/when he comes back from his Canadian adventure with Toronto Lynx he should never have to put his hand in his pocket for a drink in local pubs for many a year.

We may have just avoided relegation by the skin of our teeth, not something to usually celebrate, but the repercussions from that goal were huge for the future of our football club.

That 48th minute strike meant that we have found ourselves in a League with two massive sets of fixtures to look forward to against Dunfermline and Rangers. The despair of being relegated and missing out on those would have been the final straw for many.

Staying up will have a massive bearing on the finances of East Fife and our immediate future, with four bumper home gates to look forward to and money from likely television coverage added in to that too.

Most of our support will have never seen us play League games against either. And let's be honest again here. 18 months ago, we would never have thought that we would be any time soon. How the "mighty" have fallen.

How different it could have been had Div not buried that chance. We'd be looking forward to trips to and from East Stirling and Albion Rovers instead.

Seeing how long it took for us to crawl out of the basement the last time we fell down there, it wouldn't have been an easy journey back and could have sounded the death knell for our proud Club in these changing times for Scottish football.

Now, we've already moved up a division and are playing in League One!

And of course, we have new, local owners, a new management team and a brand new squad.

Lee Murray's acquisition of East Fife has brought back a feelgood factor that hasn't been around for what feels too long a time. You actually feel good about supporting the club again and giving them your money.

But we should temper that joy and the expectations that go with it and be realistic. We're not going to become world beaters overnight.

The new board have breathed fresh life into the club off the pitch, with some excellent and long overdue changes and new ideas, but it will still take some time to see the results on it.

And that's where we all come in.

It's good to have our expectations. We all should have. But we need to make sure we bring patience and are not on the backs of the players like we have been in the past. This new squad will take time to gel but the roots for growing this club once again have been planted, especially around the youth set up.

This will be an exciting season. We're going to see some great games and there will be an interest in the club not seen for many a year from everyone from the Levenmouth public to the national media.

I'm hoping for the playoffs, along with taking several points of both the Pars and Newco, but as long as we don't end up in a relegation dogfight then that's improvement.

It's also progress I didn't think I'd be seeing just three months ago. That alone is reason to feel good right now. Anything else is a bonus.

'Mon the Fife

[This blog post first appeared in the East Fife programme 'The Bayview' on Saturday August 3rd 2013]

Subscribe to RSS Feed Follow AFTN on Twitter