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Saturday 25th July 2009 ko 15.00

Scottish Challenge Cup 1st Round

EAST FIFE 0

FORFAR ATHLETIC 2 (M Fotheringham 28 K Fotheringham 78

Att 446

Entry £13

Programme £1.50

“Do we not love her?
Do we not say we love her?
Do we have to roam the world
To prove how much it hurts?
Bathgate no more
Linwood no more
Methil no more
Irvine no more!”

“Letter from America” Reid/Reid

I do think Methil gets a bad name. The Proclaimers’ song that dovetails the Highland clearances with de-industrialisation in the 1980’s cites the Fife town as an example of deprivation. Heck, even the football club doesn’t bear the town’s name! Even Jim Kidd, the most lyrical of Scottish groundhopppers described New Bayview as thus,

“You’ll enjoy the scenic side – especially the most architecturally distinguished disused power station west of Gdansk. Car parks are located behind each goal, giving forwards something to aim at!”

Yes, Methil like swathes of Fife is former coal mining country, and the power station in the backdrop of so many of the photos here was fired by coal slurry produced as a by-product of the collieries. After that the town turned it’s collective hand to producing gantries for oil rigs but when I visited 11 years ago even that line of work had dried up.

East Fife moved to New Bayview in 1998 from, yes, Bayview and yes both grounds do or did have a view of sea! New Bayview is, perhaps behind only Arbroath in terms of SPFL clubs by proximity to the sea . The ground consists of one stand of 1,980 seats and there is no access to the other three sides. The ground was temporarily expanded in 2013 to 4,700 when Rangers were in Division One but since East Fife didn’t follow Rangers up, the temporary stands didn’t survive the close season.

 

The trouble is that East Fife’s golden era was a long time ago. They were promoted from the “B” division (now Championship) football in 1947 and played top flight football for the next eleven years. During that time they won the Scottish League cup 3 times, but after relegation in 1958 they only flirted with the top division for 3 seasons in the 70’s and have mostly played in the bottom two divisions ever since.

So why do I Methil has been misunderstood? Because from the moment we arrived at the ground we made to feel incredibly welcome; they even managed to force a smile when they realised that we’d made a beeline here in the hope that we’d see the infamous “East Fife 5 Forfar 4” scoreline. Now those in the know are aware that it has never happened (unless you count “The Two Ronnies”) but Forfar 5 East Fife 4 did – in 1963/64. And now imagine how many times that score has been mentioned by people visiting New Bayview…

Then there’s the bar at the back of the stand, which is an inspired move which leads me to the the simple truth of Bayview -it is a far better ground than it gets credit for. It is fair to say if you want a classic Leitch-style ground then this isn’t going to be for you, but as a welcoming and comfortable place to watch a game, then you could do so much worse.

A word though about the visitors. Their nickname “The Loons” is claimed to be local dialect for “Young Men” but the Methil programme had a far more interesting claim, namely that Forfar was a centre for witch-burning. So much so that in one 5 year period they managed to burn more witches than there were women in Forfar! i’ll leave you to consider which explanation is correct, or whether to let the facts get in the way of a sizzlingly good tale?

Meanwhile two microlights buzzed around before deciding that the derelict power station looked more interesting which one again seemed an unnecessary slight on friendly Methil, as my habit of jinxing a friendly club struck once again, as East Fife lost a desperately poor game.

So what happened next? Well you know about the temporary expansion of the ground, but East Fife have split the subsequent 11 years between the SPFL’s bottom two divisions and will start next season in League 1. Bayview sports a 3G pitch these days allowing more community involvement.

But what of the power station. That was demolished in 2013 – after all with no coal mines a slurry-fired station isn’t much use. But here’s the silver lining to it all, Methil has become a centre for wind power testing. Samsung have a test turbine on the sea front just south of Bayview.

You see it isn’t a case of Methil no more, it never was! The town has a happy knack of adapting to life’s challenges and yes I do still look out for East Fife’s results.