Friday, 4 January 2013

Ground 218: East End Park, Dunfermline

I don't know much about Dunfermline, but I do know it has a football team that plays in black and white stripes. Andrew Carnegie, once the world's richest man, was born here - and left; the writers Iain Banks and Daniel Kalder, author of Lost Cosmonaut, were born here too.  They also left.  If you're into dead kings, there's Charles I, who was born in Dunfermline Palace but left for London aged three and a half, and Robert the Bruce, buried at Dunfermline Abbey in 1329.  He, at least, is still around.

Kalder dismissed his birthplace as "a dead dump with a few historical ruins and a lot of charity shops".  While it's not exactly Scotland's answer to Kyoto, the old capital has a lot more going for it than that. Things like free parking within walking distance of the football ground and a team which won two Scottish Cups, finished third in the league and reached a European semi-final in the 1960s, losing by the odd goal in three to a Slovan Bratislava side which beat Barcelona in the final. No, really.

The first pub we try has stopped serving food "due to sport".  The second has no spare seats, the third no other customers and bean burgers which taste like "twenty coasters jammed together".  As we enter the ground, a bear in a flat cap and some kids holding chequered racing flags jog around the pitch while the tannoy plays over the visiting fans' attempts to get a chant going. "Shall we sing a song for you?" they finally manage to ask. "Ath-e-letic, best in Fife," the home fans reply. 

The first half is dire, made bearable by some blood and thunder tackling and a full forty-five minutes of world class vitriol from the row behind. Raith skipper Allan Walker is simultaneously "a wanker", "a fucking wanker", "a prick" and several other things which I can't make out but are probably not very complimentary. He's still more popular than Jason Thompson, who gets welcomed back to East End Park with a shout of "Dye your hair, you ginger cock." Every member of the Raith team is "a wanker" or "a paedo", leading Ian to speculate that the Fifers might be surreptitiously operating a less successful version of Athletic Bilbao's Basque-only policy. "Dig a hole," comes the chorus whenever a red-shirted player goes down, and when Thompson mistimes a tackle an irate fan screams "I'll drop ye in the toon, ye ginger bastard."  On the pitch, Raith's Bobby Graham heads into the goalkeeper's arms and Dougie Hill clears off the line at the other end.  There's lots of running. Mainly, though, into other players. "Not the most exciting 45 minutes of the season," Dunfermline's official match report says.

The second half is much more entertaining.  Dunfermline's Ryan Wallace shoots across the area while Shaun Byrne and Andy Kirk both narrowly clear the crossbar.  Raith have their moments, too, Paul Gallacher saving from Graham before a scramble sees a penalty appeal and the ball spinning the wrong side of the post.  "We've done everything but score," complains a home fan.  "There's nee final ball." With twenty minutes left and Dunfermline suddenly looking much the better team, Josh Falkingham crosses from the right and Andy Greggan pops up on the other side of the pitch to head in the winning goal. The home fans break out into "This kingdom is ours" and "You'll always be the wee team."  Raith hit and hope but the travelling support can only look on sullenly as the final whistle and Morton's 3-0 defeat by Dumbarton leaves the Pars two points off first place and an immediate return to the Scottish Premier League.

Kalder was wrong.  Dunfermline is not dead yet.

 Admission: £17
Date: January 2nd 2012


  1. An enjoyable read, which pretty much sums up the desperation an trip to East End Park entails these days.

  2. I can't say there is desperation more than any other stadium. Good blog though.

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    would appreciate the feedback - thanks :)