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 since the 1920s. Though never in the top flight, the City were in the second tier as recently as 2006.

Compare this to, say, Montrose, at twice the size the nearest town with a railway station and with a team that has spent the last 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.

Under first-time manager Darren Dods, initially also a defender for the City, Brechin have recovered from a poor 2015-16 campaign to challenge for another play-off place in 2016-17 – though more agony can only be expected.

Ground Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around 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 under 4,000, with seats for 1,500 in the Main and David H Will/Trinity Road Stands.

getting there

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 every hour from the nearest mainline train station at Montrose, taking 20mins to reach Brechin and the stop at Smithbank Road close to the ground.

Alternatively, from Dundee bus station, the hourly Stagecoach 21 (not Sun) takes 1hr 10mins to reach Smithbank Road.

A taxi from Montrose with ABK Cabs (01356 622 228) should cost around £20.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

Brechin have simple pay-on-the day policy of £13 anywhere in the ground, £7 discounts to over-65s and under-18s. There’s also a special price of £16 for a parent and child, plus £2 for each additional child. All transactions are cash-only.

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.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

The most popular pre-match haunt is The Stables Lounge on narrow Market Street, whose prosaic façade belies a well furnished and welcoming bar/eaterie. Part of the same building at No.62 is the Brown Horse Hotel, also with its own bar.

Parallel to Clerk Street, Market Street is a 7min walk from Glebe Park – at the end, turn right for the nearby roundabout, then left up Trinity Road.

On the way you pass The Ashvale, more sit-down fish eaterie than basic chippy, a family-run institution of great service and quality. All the same, staff are still happy to serve a humble bag of chips.

At the ground, the only bar is the 1893 Hospitality Lounge in the David H Will Stand, admission £7 to over-18s when in operation.