A football club was established in the former fishing port and shipyard of Greenock far earlier than in the cities of Perth, Dundee or Aberdeen.
Formed in 1874, Greenock Morton have been based since 1879 at Cappielow by the Clyde. Here, where firth and estuary meet at a sandbar anchorage known as the Tail o’the Bank, great steamships docked to take emigrants across the Atlantic to New York.
Workers arrived from across the Irish Sea and nearby Glasgow. Greenock has long been an Old Firm stronghold, adjoining Port Glasgow particularly Celtic-centric. Cappielow’s Wee Dublin End at right-angles to the nearby docks was named for a reason.
Greenock Morton, known simply as Morton until as recently as 1994, have always struggled for attention in their home town. Just as Greenock sits on the edge of Scotland’s football-focused urban central belt, so ‘The Ton’ have been on the periphery as far as football profile is concerned.
This profile was only raised at the time of each world war, when Greenock was a centre for torpedo manufacture. With some 700 workers transferred here from Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, before 1914, crowds rose, more money flowed in and Morton achieved a highest-ever league position of runners-up behind Celtic in 1916-17. Five years later, Morton won the Scottish Cup, beating Rangers 1-0.
Though no major honours have been added since, local crowds could enjoy watching Stanley Matthews and Tommy Lawton, already established England internationals, who would guest in morale-boosting games around Britain. Greenock, where the Atlantic convoys assembled, had been heavily blitzed in 1941.
The Ton pulled off further cup exploits in 1948 with a 1-0 win over Celtic in the semi-final, a 1-1 draw then late single-goal defeat to Rangers in a replayed final. All three games went to extra-time, in front of a combined crowd of more than a third of a million people.
Against the inevitable backdrop of post-war industrial decline, Greenock has seen as much second-flight football as Premiership, the derby with Paisley side St Mirren sometimes the highlight of an uninspiring campaign.
In recent years, with the swish Greenock Ocean Terminal now accommodating the world’s largest cruise ships, at nearby Cappielow, toffee tycoon and club chairman Douglas Rae has been making improvements around the venerable ground.
League One champions in 2015, Greenock Morton are still competing with Celtic and a revived Rangers in terms of attracting numbers away from the Parkhead and Ibrox.
Along the waterfront, Port Glasgow Junior Football Club moved out of Greenock to play at the £4.4 million Community Stadium at Parklea in 2012. Now back in Port Glasgow, ‘The Undertakers’ play in the Scottish Junior (ie Non-League) set-up.
The nearest airport to Greenock is Glasgow International in Paisley km (17 miles) away.
From Stance 7, McGill’s bus No.757 runs every 15-30min to Paisley Gilmour Street (15min journey time, £4 day pass, pay on board) – from there, a train goes to Greenock (every 15min, £5 single, 20-25min journey time).
Note that Greenock has two stations, Central and West, with Port Glasgow beforehand. Between the two, Cappielow is beside smaller Cartsdyke station – served every half-hour by stopping trains from Paisley or Glasgow Central (40min journey time, £6 single).
Four trains an hour take a couple of minutes to shuttle between the four Greenock stations. McGill’s operate the Nos.540 & 545 buses between Port Glasgow and Gourock.
Inverclyde Taxis (01475 734 563) is a reputable local firm, with transfers to and from Glasgow Airport.
Visit Scotland has a database of Greenock hotels.
With the development of the Greenock Ocean Terminal, chains and independent hotels surround the waterfront. The nearest one to Cappielow is the Premier Inn Greenock, just the other side of Cartsdyke station from the ground, with affordable standard rooms and attractive riverfront views. A little further along, the Holiday Inn Express Greenock operates along similar lines.
Each is a 10min walk to the ground, following the A8 East Hamilton Street.
Close to Greenock Central towards the cruise terminal, the Bay Hotel Greenock is a new contemporary opening in an old Victorian building, with an excellent restaurant attached. Even closer to the cruise ships, and Greenock West station, the equally independent Tontine Hotel is similarly upscale, its 52 rooms including a honeymoon suite with a spa bath. There’s a restaurant, too.
Further round the headland, the tidy, prosperous resort of Gourock has several lodging options, the best being the Spinnaker Hotel, ‘unrivalled views, great food and accommodation’. It’s also home to a celebrated Morton supporters’ club, the bar as popular as the hotel itself. For the ground, hop on a nearby bus No. 545 or 547 to Gourock station, five minutes by train from Cartsdyke.
On the other side of Greenock at Port Glasgow, the Clyde View B&B is a small, family-run guesthouse with the promised Clyde view across the firth from its hilltop vantage point on Alderwood Road. Follow it down to Glen Avenue – Port Glasgow station is close, the No.532 bus towards Greenock even closer, with a stop opposite the ground.
Finally, for a quality stay away from it all, the Inverkip Hotel in the picturesque village of Inverkip is ideal. Individually decorated rooms complement a restaurant and traditional whisky bar. Rates include a full Scottish breakfast. Nearby is Inverkip station is nearby, with trains every hour to Port Glasgow, two stops from Cartsdyke.
The many pubs and bars around Greenock Central are also fair game as pre- or post-match haunts, just that little further away.
At 100 Cathcart Street, the former Water Line Bar is now the excellent Lithgows, looking all the better for a six-figure overhaul in 2015 that transformed it into a community-focused sports bar and popular venue for live games. A couple of houses along, the James Watt is the main local Wetherspoon, set in a late Victorian post office and named after Greenock’s most famous son.
Nearby on East India Harbour, Tail O’The Bank is a family-friendly pub/restaurant in the Hungry Horse chain, popular for Sunday dinners and TV match nights. Round the corner, the Old Bank Bar is literally that, a pub fashioned from a former TSB, with TV sport and Belhaven beers the big draw.
Towards Greenock West, The Westburn on the street of the same name is a friendly pub busy with loyal regulars. More steakhouse than pub but with a nice bar area, the popular Morgans appeals to couples out for an evening rather than laddish groups.
A little further along on Laird Street, the smart, traditional Black Cat is another recommended pub choice with TV football and a varied clientele. Live music too.
Further along in the resort of Gourock, you’ll find varied, attractive establishments overlooking the harbour on Kempock Street. These include the renowned Kempock Bar itself, a whisky drinker’s dream and worth the trek for the jukebox alone. Across the road, the equally unmissable Cleats Bar creates a busy social agenda with DJs, quiz nights and live football.
A short walk along by the ferry terminal, the Victoria Bar, under the same umbrella as the Old Bank Bar, offers the same popular formula of Belhaven beers and TV football.
These Gourock pubs are close to the station of the same name, and an easy hop by train to Greenock or the football ground at Cartsdyke.
Finally, on the other side of Cartsdyke at Port Glasgow, the Sutherland Bar is a popular pub on Princes Street with a decent selection of ales.