OK, I know you all have another game in your thoughts just now, but we have league business to attend to at Cowdenbeath tomorrow night. So, here’s a preview of that to maybe, just maybe, take your mind off us facing you know who for a few minutes.
History of the place
The town of Cowdenbeath’s history over the last hundred years or so stands as a microcosm of the decline of the old, heavy industries throughout the central belt of Scotland. It was once a place so bustling that it was known, only semi-jestingly, as the “Chicago of Fife”. This was due to the incredibly busy and numerous coalmines that were the focal point of the whole community. This led to the football team having “the Miners” as one of its nicknames, alongside the rather obvious “Cowden” and “’Beath”. A more famous nickname was to follow, many years later. The pits have long gone and what is left is a ghost community comprising of sunbeds, tat and fast food outlets. Decades of high unemployment and consequent social deprivation have left their marks as they have in so many other towns that once supported, and were in turn nourished by, mining, shipbuilding and steelworks.
Below this paragraph you will find a quick, pictorial look through the story of Cowdenbeath in the twentieth century with an apt Springsteen song. It is full of references to Central Park As L.P. Hartley famously wrote: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there”, so very true when it came to clothes worn to the football.
History of the club
So, as you can see from the above, the football team has been there a good while; indeed, Cowdenbeath is the oldest football club in Fife. It has not been a club famous for success. Instead it is widely infamous for failure and for the unsettling fact that on the rare occasions they won what was then the second division (of two) the next thing that happened was that all league football was stopped. This was due to World Wars One and Two and after the latter, Cowdenbeath were controversially consigned to the second top tier again. It would be time to feel jittery, then, were they to start climbing the league but this seems unlikely as, in all honesty, they are wildly punching above their weight to be in the division at all.
Cowdenbeath FC’s natural state has seemed for many years to be in the bottom three of the bottom division. They would be alongside, say, East Stirling and Queen’s Park or Albion Rovers, competing only for the ‘prizes’ for: most games lost, most goals conceded, least scored and lowest attendances. This long-standing ineptitude coupled with their strange name has brought them a degree of good feeling from around the United Kingdom. When I mention my birthplace, I nearly always get a remark about people watching for their score or smiling and recalling seeing their name in the all important Littlewoods Pools lists for the weekend (ask your old man, younger bears.) This affection was deepened by the, (now admittedly a bit hackneyed, but at the time inspired), new nickname of “The Blue Brazil” whose self deprecation was widely admired and appreciated.
Throughout their history the Blue Brazil have had many connections with The Rangers. Too many for me to go into here but I have to note, in passing, that our legendary Alex Venters, top scorer in the top flight in the year Cowdenbeath last won what should have been promotion to it, and of whom you’ll hear more in my preview to December’s game at Ibrox, came to us from the ’Beath. More recently, Kane Hemmings, Kai Naismith and now Calum Gallagher have gone there on loan. This conveyor belt of recent loans from us to them is probably not unconnected to the presence of Jimmy Nicholl in the manager’s seat and the Cowdenbeath born Donald Findlay having been the chairman’ since the summer of 2010.
In our twenty-three meetings, Cowdenbeath have managed two wins. Unsurprisingly these both came from home games and both were long ago. They occurred in season 1926/27 when Cowdenbeath won 1-0 and three years later when the Fifers registered a 3-2 victory. Of the other nine games when The Rangers have visited there has been one draw and eight victories for the teddy bears, with our highest win being a 1-7 result in season 1931/32.
Finding online footage of Rangers playing Cowdenbeath is not difficult but it is harder to do so with Central Park as the venue. I can offer this “Boyd goal” that is exceptional in all kinds of ways:
Yes, you are right, I should apologise for that – sorry!
I would like you to indulge me in a bit of a personal sidetrack here. As a native of Cowdenbeath, though I left before starting primary school, I had family attachments there. Resultantly I twice have been to games not involving Rangers. In the early nineteen seventies I saw Cowdenbeath host Ayr United in the Scottish cup on what I recall as an un-Scottishly sunny day. My parents and I went to the game with my gran. It is remarkable that the only game I saw with her did not feature Rangers as they were, by far, the biggest topic of discussion over the years.
Then, over thirty years later, I was at a concert by the late, great, Fife-born, singer-songwriter, Jackie Leven in Perth on the evening of September 3rd in 2006. I invited friends from my past and present, from places near and far together to see a game at the home of the semi-mythical Cowdenbeath. For all bar me it was a first, and eye-opening, visit to this far from cathedral of the beautiful game. Still, we saw a good game; a six goal thriller, indeed, ending Cowdenbeath 4 v Stranraer 2. My main memory is not the game itself but going into the ground (“stadium” is way too grand a word for it). The sign said: Adults £10, Children and OAPs £5. I was 49 at the time, admittedly with grey hair and a grey to the point of being white, beard. I handed over a tenner and got a fiver back. I then made the mistake of telling Jackie Leven this at dinner and that night he introduced one of his magical songs with a long, roundabout tale (as was his wont) about me being charged the OAP rate. If Central Park caused me concern that day, it is causing us concern now. The stock car racing featured in the above video has a tendency to scatter bits of metal around the place and, rather worryingly, a stock car driver seems to have lost control there just last week:
The Game, well, after a delay
This being Rangers in the second decade of the twenty-first century, there just has to be an unsavoury aspect to report on before getting to the actual game. He reason we are playing on a Tuesday was because we asked for it to be postponed from its natural Saturday setting due to an international weekend. This “clash” affected a grand total of zero players who would have been expected to play for us that day. Indeed, Luca Gasparotto was one of the players first mooted. Luca, need I remind you, is on loan to Airdrie. Three names were eventually scraped up by Rangers; one an injured player, one suspended and one who may or may not have been in the squad. When Rangers next played the squad was as it would have been for the originally scheduled match at Central Park.
Attempting to explain his bizarre decision, McCoist said: “Why would I want to play the game now when I can play it later with a full squad? It just doesn’t make sense. If you have four or five players on international duty, logic would tell you they will be some of your better players.” Perhaps Luca Gasparotto can expect a recall and first team place, then? Ally went on to say, repeatedly, that he was only being fair on Cowdenbeath. Perhaps he should have asked them because for them the postponement was a financial calamity.
This was because it left the Blue Brazil without a home game in almost six weeks. They have not had a one since they faced Queen of the South on 27th of September. Cowden’s financial director David Allan was clear on the impact this will have: “.. we were counting on around £50,000 of gate money from the Rangers game. If you add in 100 hospitality bookings at £100 each, that’s another £10,000 ...it will definitely be less in a midweek game. It’s less convenient for fans - there will be midweek European games, some will be finishing work at 5pm and might struggle to make it in time...we had hospitality requests from groups from Germany and Northern Ireland if we’d been playing on the Saturday but now that it’s midweek they can’t make it. So it’s a big hole in the budget that we have to work around, and it’s a real blow to us.”
Form and fitness going into the game
Cowdenbeath, then, were on their travels throughout October and it started well for the ’Beath with a 0-0 draw at Dumbarton followed by a 3-2 win at Alloa. A 6-0 hammering at Falkirk on the 25th brought them crashing back to Earth and was their third league game in October. They are now at the foot of the table, sharing the same points tally as Alloa but with an inferior goal difference. However, they won 3-1 at Forfar in the Scottish Cup in their last game on November 1st. So, one way to look at it is that they only suffered one defeat in four games, though another way is that it was a sore drubbing to a team they held to a 2-2 draw at the start of the campaign and it sent them to the bottom of the table.
It is customary to list the last six league games as a form guide in match previews but that is not a useful guide to the form of Rangers at this point in time. We have played in the Scottish Cup, League Cup and Petrofac Training Cup in recent weeks meaning that, despite our heavy schedule, we have had only three league games since our last league fixture in September (which I will draw a discrete veil over). We have won 1-0 and 3-0 away at Livingston and Dumbarton respectively in the league. Our home league fixture in October saw us dish out a 6-1 hammering to Raith Rovers. Attention has recently been focussed, as ever, off the pitch. However, in cups there has been excitement too, as we despatched East Fife from the Petrofac Cup and St Johnstone from the League Cup setting up semi finals v Alloa and some mob from the East End in those respective tournaments.
We returned to Dumbarton last Saturday and won there for the second week in a row, though only by a solitary Boyd goal this time. Consequently, we are going into this game on the back of six wins containing five clean sheets. The draw for the next round of the Scottish Cup takes place is on Monday so we will know our next opponents in that competition, too, before we take the field at Central Park. The hope must be that the thought of at least one meeting with our ancient rivals will be focussing the minds of the players and not distracting them when they take to the field on Tuesday night.
Simonsen has reportedly recovered from his nasty head knock and will therefore replace Robinson in goal. Outfield, barring injuries, I would expect the same side as in the last game(s). Foster, McGregor, McCulloch and Wallace seem to be the settled choice at the back and, especially with Aird still out injured, I do not foresee changes in midfield. Miller and Boyd are our first choice strikers with Clark and Daly ready to step in if they are unavailable for any reason. Ally could, of course, decide to freshen things up a little or there may be injuries we do not know about, but it is looking like:
Simonsen, Foster, McCulloch, McGregor, Wallace; Smith, Law, Black, Macleod; Boyd, Miller
All the best to the Rangers and all Bears who go to cheer them on, ‘in my hometown’.
Please feel free to comment below or on the forum thread for SteveC's match preview here - Cowdenbeath v Rangers: An in-depth match preview