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Saturday 24th January 2009 ko 15.00

Scottish League Division One

QUEEN OF THE SOUTH 2 (Dobbie 10 Tosh 56p)

PARTICK THISTLE 2 (Doolan 17 Chaplain 77)

Att 2,811

Entry £15

Programme £2

Iain and I go back a mighty long way, back to the late 1990’s working for a high street bank with a CEO without a “Shred” of dignity, I met him once!. We didn’t meet in the most auspicious of ways, a 2 week business banking course at a golfing hotel just outside of Tewkesbury. I don’t play golf, and Iain couldn’t take his clubs on the plane down from Dumfries each week. We were bored, the hotel isolated, with an expensive bar, and the fruit machine was seeming set against us. We passed (somehow) despite another delegate having his room completely emptied by a burgler (save for a pair of underpants) on the final night, but we kept in contact.

With 275 miles between us, we’ve never been able to meet up as often as we’d like, but Iain does have one part in my personal history, he was the one person that helped me celebrate my 40th birthday. I’d had an appalling time the previous year, my marriage and career had ended, and I wasn’t in the mood to celebrate much. So I’ll always be grateful to Iain for dragging me up to Dumfries, and taking me to one of the great Scottish Junior grounds Newlandsfield Park home to Pollok. We ended up back in Dumfries went for a curry and visited several hostelries in the town, which of course is exactly what I needed! I’m not saying I’d had plenty to drink, but I’d failed to notice that his children had festooned my room with “Happy Birthday” decorations. But I digress….

There’d been something of a meeting of the groundhopping clans that morning at Percy Main Amateurs, the early kick-off due to a stag party! Afterwards the hoppers scattered to the four winds, well Prudhoe in most cases which in purely groundhopping terms would have been a better option in no small part due to them dropping out of the Northern League soon afterwards. But contrary soul that I am, I wanted to see Iain and I’d made my party more than aware of just how good Palmerston Park is. I did the maths and it all looked doable as long as we left Percy Main right on the final whistle. And in any case who wouldn’t want to complete an international double?

Okay maybe I did underestimate that journey a little. Iain was very kind, buying programmes and teamsheets for us, but even with some fairly creative driving, we only managed to walk on to the Portland Street terrace seconds before kick off. At this point it’s worth commenting that the ground’s name has nothing to do with former Prime Minister Viscount Palmerston- its a corruption of Palmer’s Toun or Town.

It’s also the club that claims to be the only team in the bible, the quote referring to the Queen of Sheba in Luke 11:31 states “The Queen of the South shall rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them…” I would observe that there must be references to words such as Reading, Bury or Arsenal, and surely someone must have been thrown to the Wolves? I suspect I may be overthinking this a little!

And for the football historians Queens are the club that gave former Scotland manager Ally MacLeod his final job from 1991-92. He may well be remembered for his somewhat over-optimistic comments prior to the 1978 World Cup. He’s often misquoted as saying Scotland would win it, but in fact the nearest he came was,

“I honestly think that if Scotland, provided that we play a reasonable form at all, we will qualify and I think a medal of some sort will come and I pray and hope that it is the gold one.”

History tells that the Scots team featuring the likes of Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness, Archie Gemmill and Joe Jordan failed to make it through the first round, losing to Peru and drawing with Iran. Even so Gemmill’s wonderful goal against the Dutch is on permanent loop at the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden. But at Queens MacLeod is a hero, even turning out for the reserves at the age of 61 and scoring a penalty!

We’d guessed where to stand, but unquestionably picked the best spot. I’ve seen nothing to suggest that Archibald Leitch had anything to so with Palmerston’s design in 1919 but the Portland Street terrace does suggest his influence. With a capacity of 3,345 it is the largest covered terrace in Scotland, and has to be one of the greatest left in the SPF; can you think of any better? Not to be missed are the two ferocious women selling Bovril and pies through a hatch at the back for the stand! Opposite is the rather dinky Terregles Street terrace, closed back then but now reopened. 

Then, to borrow a phrase from Stuart Roy Clarke there’s the main stand with its “Enchanted Paddock” in front, and if I’d have been fortunate to visit when the old “Coo Shed” stand was still in situ (the all seater East Stand was erected in 1995) I’m fairly certain I’d have placed the ground in the same exalted company as the likes of  Ayr United and Greenock Morton. But you also should gaze on the tallest free standing floodlights in Scottish football, standing at 85 feet too, although I must say they’ve never looked particularly tall to me!!

If you’ve never stood on a traditional terrace, or perchance have a hankering to revisit the experiences of your youth then this is the place to do it. But please be aware much has changed and much still might. The pitch is now artificial, so no end of teams can now use it, but Queens do not lack ambition so there are plans afoot to demolish and replace the main stand presumably to give the ground the minimum 6,000 seats for Premier League membership. That of course was a rule well known to all involved at the day’s visitors Partick Thistle!

For the record we saw an entertaining draw and as usual I hadn’t even thought about the long drive home!

Dedicated to Iain Dalling, a friend in deed and indeed.