City Park

Ground No. 185
Visited - Saturday 16th May 2009
Result - Spartans 3-1 Edinburgh City
Competition - East of Scotland League, Premier Division
Attendance - 350

Whilst Glasgow generally dominates Scottish football, the nations capital of Edinburgh has just as interesting a history as its rival from the West, once having boasted 5 teams in the league just before the war. Hearts and Hibs are of course the two obvious ones, but St Bernard’s, Leith Athletic and Edinburgh City were the other three, the latter having called City Park their home. It was a long used venue, but moving there in 1935, they built it up, with steep banking around three sides and a double decker Main Stand on the near side which provided them with a 30,000 capacity. Billing themselves as the “Queens Park of the East”, they prided themselves on being a strictly amateur club, however this in itself was probably their downfall, finishing bottom of the league for 6 out of 8 seasons before finally resigning in 1949. They continued as a Junior club until 1955, when they were finally wound up, the ground resorting back to being used for youth and amateur football as it had been previously. Ferranti Thistle were the next club to move in permanently, making it their home from the 1969 season, improving some of the facilities, before moving out to Meadowbank, where they gained league status and took on their more familiar moniker prior to the controversial move to Livingston, and so it was left to Spartans to take over the grand old venue in 1975. Some 34 years on, and it was now they who were looking to move out, albeit on a more positive note, having built a new ground just round the corner, but whilst City Park had risen from the ashes before, having been sold for development then this was to be her final swansong and the final opponents, perhaps fittingly, were Edinburgh City, albeit a reincarnation of the team that had been beaten 3-1 by Falkirk on the 10th August 1935 in the grounds first senior game.

Situated in the north of the city, it wasn’t a ground I’d been particularly intending to get to. The Grandstand had been knocked down in 2004 (by all accounts before it fell down of its own accord!), and with just grass banking around the rest of it, then the 560 mile round trip wasn’t one that stood out, but then came the voice of the groundhopper….!!! I’d planned to be in Scotland on the last day anyway to visit Cowdenbeath for their play-off game against East Stirling, but going through Edinburgh, then the temptation to take the last opportunity to tick the ground was too much, and so late on Friday evening I changed my plans.

The journey northwards went well, setting off early at 6:30am, and arriving some four hours later. I was in a good mood, spending the morning looking around (having never visited before, except to change trains). After going on a tour of Mary King’s Close (highly recommended), then time eventually caught up, so I made my way to the ground, finding it without any problems, the bus driver being friendly enough to drop me right outside! Situated just off the busy Ferry Road, then the ground is tucked away at the bottom of a driveway that looks like it could have been going into the garden of the neighbouring house. This led to the near side, and where once would have stood the old Grandstand. Now there’s just a few portacabins which house the dressing rooms and refreshment huts, with the space in front being used as a car park. As mentioned, grass banking runs around the other three sides, highest at the far end and far side before sloping down to the near end. There’s little else of note, not even floodlights, but despite this it has to be said that it does have its charm.

At 2:30pm, it was eventually time for the game to start and whilst the visitors Edinburgh City had nothing to play for, it was an important match for Spartans, sitting top of the league, level on points with Dalbeattie Star with only one game to go after this (the real kicker being that it was away to Dalbeattie!). The hosts started brightest, and it wasn’t long before they took the lead, Omar Kader sliding in at the far post to scramble the ball home in the 9th minute. The rest of the half was played out at a less frantic pace, but Spartans were still dominating, threatening to increase their lead at any time, with plenty of chances to do so, including a headed goal from a corner that was disallowed for no apparent reason. During the break, the City manager must have said something to his team in the dressing room, because after coming out, they managed to equalise within five minutes, Jordan Hall scoring “an absolute cracker from the halfway line” apparently. I say apparently because I was in the toilet, the fifth goal I’ve missed this season thanks to this (there must be some conspiracy going on!). Despite the set-back, Spartans soon took control again, and in the 55th minute they had a chance to retake the lead. A long ball forward had resulted in a 50-50 where the City ‘keeper ended up colliding with the onrushing striker. The ref pointed straight to the spot and sent City’s number 1 off (rather harshly it seemed), but the visitors had the last laugh when their stand-in defender saving a weak effort to keep the scores level. Despite their makeshift goalie pulling off some great saves, the extra man advantage finally told, and with seven minutes left, David Etale scored a beauty when the ball came to him on the edge of the area, before he flicked it up and hammered it home. He made it 3-1 in injury time, with another nice effort after he chased a lost cause down the left and managed to poke it home from a tight angle to round off the scoring at the famous old venue, and virtually confirm the title thanks to Spartans’ greater goal difference and being three points ahead (Dalbeattie having played a game extra before this).

After leaving, I made my way back, stopping off at two Rugby grounds with some classic old stands (see below) before finding a hotel for the night, seeing another old classic in Cathkin Park (and Hampden) the next day, travelling home happy with the weekend.

Beforehand, with no stands or even cover, I’d been a bit dubious about coming here, but to steal a quote from the excellently produced commemorative programme:

“…Spartans’ meeting with St Mirren will surely be the last time a four-figure crowd ever watches a Scottish cup tie on grass embankments. So today marks the final severing of connections with an era of spectating which began in 1873”

in a lot of ways I’m glad I came. Of course it isn’t the last ground where you can watch from grass banks, Chorley’s Victory Park is a much more developed ground that still has this, but it is perhaps a link to the past. We all moan about the demise of old-style terraces with their classic low pitched roofs, the old style floodlight pylons, etc., but this represents a time before this, it’s like a history lesson in Football Grounds, right back to the very early days and the games beginnings, pre-Leitch, when football was still taking off and this was answer to the increasing interest of the working classes. One day all this will be gone at a reasonably senior level, so enjoy it whilst you can, even if it won’t be at this venue.

R.I.P. City Park, 1935-2009.

Welcome to City Park

Entrance to the Ground

The Near Side

The Near End

The Far Side

The Far End

Ready for Kick Off

City Park with the Grandstand still in situ

City Park Panoramic

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