LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Brechin City

Farewell Forfar, hello Inverurie and Wick Academy

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

Representing a village-sized outpost with no mainline railway station, Brechin City have somehow managed to maintain a regular presence in the Scottish League for the best part of a century, from the 1920s until 2021. Though never in the top flight, the City were in the second tier as recently as 2018.

Until that fateful drop down to the Highland League, this compares favourably with, say, Montrose, at twice the size the nearest town with a railway station and with a team that spent 20 years in the lowest rung of Scotland’s league system.

City were created, in fact, because the game in the modest (but historic) Angus town of Brechin at the turn of the 1900s had such potential. In 1906, regional authority Forfarshire tried to persuade the two main local clubs, Brechin Harp and Brechin Hearts, to abandon the Junior (ie non-League) game and submit a side strong enough to compete in the Northern League.

Glebe Park/Tony Dawber

While Harp duly folded and offered their Nursery Park ground to the newly formed Brechin City, Hearts offloaded a couple of key players but carried on until World War I.

City’s own story really starts after the Great War. Moving from Nursery Park to Glebe Park in 1919, the ground that today still sports its immaculately trimmed hedge down one sideline, the club joined the inaugural but short-lived Scottish Third Division in 1923.

Joining the 20-team Second Division in 1929, Brechin City spent a decade in its lowliest ranks before war again broke out. It would be 1954 before Brechin rejoined the Scottish League, after winning the semi-senior C Division.

Apart from a brief period of promising form in the late 1950s, Brechin consistently struggled until the arrival of local solicitor David Will as chairman. A committee member at the club since the 1950s, Will oversaw the signing of managers Charlie Dunn and, significantly, Ian Fleming. The former Brechin midfielder, once at Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen, steered City into the second flight in 1983. A season later, Brechin finished fifth, a best-ever league performance for the club in modern times.

Glebe Park/Tony Dawber

Will’s capable administration provided the stability that has stood the club in good stead until today. A later vice-president of FIFA, this lifelong Brechin fan kept close ties with Glebe Park even when battling with global mismanagement at the highest level of the game.

With goals from Chris Templeman, Brechin achieved two promotions in as many seasons under Dick Campbell in 2002 and 2003. Though his twin brother then proved less successful in the managerial spot, Ian Campbell’s replacement, successful Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill, proved an inspired hire at Glebe Park.

Having stepped out of the game entirely, but coaxed back into a part-time coaching role at Cowdenbeath, the former Northern Ireland international took on managerial responsibility at Brechin in April 2006. 

Without a win since the previous Boxing Day, Brechin rallied but were duly relegated. Making the Division Two play-offs within a year, O’Neill’s City lost out to Airdrie, then Ayr at the same stage in 2009. After a near blemish-free autumn campaign, O’Neill had left for Shamrock Rovers halfway through that season, Jim Duffy taking over.

Glebe Park/Tony Dawber

The ex-Dundee manager then took Brechin to the play-offs again in 2010. With goals from the prolific Rory McAllister and fellow striker, stalwart Charlie King, this time Brechin overcame Airdrie in the semi-final. All looked set for promotion when the City gained a draw at Cowdenbeath in the first leg of the final. With 1,600 gathered at Glebe Park, the Blue Brazil shocked Brechin with three first-half goals. Duffy duly bowed out.

Under Jim Weir, Brechin immediately bounced back, beating Dundee on penalties in the League Cup and drawing at home to St Johnstone in the Scottish Cup in front of nearly 3,500 at Glebe Park. Gaining revenge over Cowdenbeath in the play-off semi-finals that May, Brechin again seemed favourites for promotion after a Neil Janczyk free-kick in the dying minutes levelled the score at Ayr in the first leg of the final. Leading 1-0 at half-time of the home tie, the City succumbed to two late Ayr goals.

There was more play-off misery to follow in 2013, a tight 4-3 defeat on aggregate to Alloa. The Wasps held on in another decisive home leg in 2015, providing Brechin with an unenviable play-off record.

Brechin City Supporters Club Shop/Tony Dawber

Under first-time manager Darren Dods, initially also a defender for the City, Brechin recovered from a poor 2015-16 campaign to gain another play-off place in 2016-17 – and redemption at last, though by the very tightest of margins. Falling to a stoppage-time equaliser at Raith in the semi-final, the City got a late equaliser back towards the end of extra-time then snuck into the final 4-3 on penalties.

The decider with Alloa also went down to the wire after each side tried to outscore the other in a 4-3 second-leg battle that also went to spot-kicks. Edging it 5-4 in the sudden-death phase, Brechin laid the ghost of play-off disappointments past. 

Once in the second tier, the City set all kinds of records – negative ones. No win all season was a first in 126 years of Scottish League football, and their scant four points was another for the annals. Sadly, losing had become a habit, and the City finished rock bottom of League One 12 months later. 

Glebe Park/Tony Dawber

But for the pandemic, they would surely have collected three wooden spoons in a row, the City trailing ninth-placed Albion Rovers by seven points by March 2020. It was a similar sorry story in 2020-21, except that now there was a play-off to deal with. Two defeats by the odd goal to Kelty Hearts, and Brechin had become the first team to drop down to the Highland League from the Senior divisions.

Now fans had to trek way, way north, to Wick, Brora and Clachnacuddin, but those who did inevitably saw plenty of goals, the top four teams all reaching triple figures in the GF column. Brechin’s wasn’t quite enough, though – only the divisional winners makes the play-offs in the harsh world of the Highland League.

The City made sure that they finished on top in 2022-23, losing only one game all season, but play-off agony awaited in the shape of a penalty shoot-out against The Spartans. Scoring three in regular time in front of 1,900 spectators at Glebe Park, Brechin failed to convert their last two penalties and so were condemned to another year of trekking around the Highlands.

Ground Guide

The field of dreams – and the story behind it

Some grounds stand out because of their cantilevered main stand or translucent roof. Not Glebe Park. Gracefully passing its centenary year, the home of Brechin City is best known for the hedge that runs along one sideline, a charming feature but one that has created various logistical headaches over the years. 

In order to increase overall seating capacity, Brechin required a grant of £200,000-plus to build an incongruously large stand behind one goal, the Trinity Road end overshadowing the Main Stand built in the David Will era.

Home fans mainly gather in the Cemetery Road end.

Visiting supporters are usually few in number and occupy either end, unless the game is a derby or big-name cup tie, in which case Trinity Road, officially known as the David H Will Stand, comes into full use. Away fans are also allocated most of the Hedge Side.

Capacity is a shade over 4,000, with seats for 1,500 in the Main and David H Will/Trinity Road Stands.

getting here

Going to the ground – tips and timings

With Brechin having no train station, arrival by public transport is far from straightforward. Stagecoach bus 30 runs roughly every hour from the nearest mainline train station at Montrose, taking 25mins to reach Brechin and the stop at Smithbank Road close to the ground. Coming back, the Mackie Motors stop is most convenient. The last service on a Saturday is 11.30pm.

A taxi from Montrose with Lorimer Cabs (01674 672 557) should cost around £25.

The sat nav code for Glebe Park is DD9 6BJ. The club car park is for players and officials. There’s plenty of street parking in the residential areas nearby, north-west of the ground, such as on Trinity Fields Crescent (DD9 6YF).

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

Brechin sell advance tickets online through Fanbase – otherwise it’s pay on the day. Admission is £10, £7 for over-65s, 16-18s and students. Bizarrely, under-16s must apply for free tickets through the club.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

The Brechin City FC Supporters Club Shop operates beside the home Cemetery Road end on match days, a small hut-like affair with a few standard souvenirs in Brechin red behind the windows. 

Beach towels, bobble hats and scarves all carry the club crest of Brechin Cathedral and a football. Second kit is currently white with grey shorts.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

With the closure of popular pre-match haunts The Stables Lounge and Brown Horse Hotel in 2023, no-one stops off in Market Street before a home game these days.

At the ground, the only outlet is a modest hatch for drinks and snacks to the left as you come in through the main turnstiles on Trinity Road.