Dunfermline Athletic

Swinging Sixties a dim memory for Euro rovers of yore

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

Twice Scottish Cup winners, five times finalists, Dunfermline Athletic nearly went out of business in 2013, only to be salvaged by a supporters’ collective.

Pars United rescued the ailing club, whose collapse would have ended a century of professional league football at East End Park, Dunfermline’s home for all that time.

The story behind the club nickname has been lost in the mists of time – perhaps it is linked to the parallel black-and-white stripes on Dunfermline’s shirt, although maroon, then blue, featured on the first kit before Scottish League status was earned in 1912-13.

East End Park/Natália Jánossy

The club’s first manager, Willie Knight, was hired in 1922 – his father David had been Athletic’s first treasurer when the club were formed in 1885, his uncle Joe played as centre-forward that same year. Although an eminently suitable choice, Knight was constrained by budgetary limitations after the club bought East End Park.

Promotion would first come in 1926 with Knight’s replacement, Sandy Paterson, whose high-scoring side took advantage of the recent change in the offside law. Knight then came back in 1930, regained the top flight and performed relatively well but, again, monetary problems overshadowed any further progress.

Both Willie and Joe Knight died within days of each other in 1959.

Their deaths, breaking the link with the earliest days of the Pars, was doubly poignant in that it came only months before the arrival of Jock Stein as manager at Dunfermline – and the greatest period in the club’s history.

East End Park/Natália Jánossy

The team that Stein inherited, partly built by Bobby Ancell but mainly by Andy Dickson, included forwards Charlie Dickson, Harry Melrose and Dave Thomson, and goalkeeper Eddie Connachan. Thomson and Dickson, the club’s record scorer, claimed the two goals that beat Celtic in the Scottish Cup final of 1961, earning the Pars their first major honour. Another member of that side, Northern Ireland international defender Willie Cunningham, would replace Stein after he left in 1964.

For all the legend surrounding Stein, it was Cunningham who led what is arguably considered to be Dunfermline’s best-ever side, that of 1964-65. The Pars came within one point of a league title, lost the Scottish Cup final by the odd goal in five to Stein’s new club Celtic, and took Athletic Bilbao to a play-off in the Fairs Cup after beating VfB Stuttgart in the previous round. Dropped for the cup final but otherwise prolific at East End Park was later Champions League-winning manager Alex Ferguson.

This was the era when great European names came to Dunfermline: Újpest Dózsa, Everton and Real Zaragoza all graced East End Park. Putting aside the narrow defeats against Bilbao, Dinamo Zagreb and Valencia, the Pars still overcame Everton and Spartak Brno. Their best run, during the George Farm era in 1968-69, saw Dunfermline beat Olympiacos and Jeff Astle’s WBA at the Hawthorns, only to fall to eventual winners Slovan Bratislava in the semi-final.

East End Park/Natália Jánossy

Athletic had won the Scottish Cup thanks to a brace from Pat Gardner, who had followed manager Farm from Raith the year before. Farm, a former goalkeeper of Matthews Final fame down south, returned to Raith in 1970 and Dunfermline soon tumbled back to the second flight then, touching untold depths, the third.

Almost single-handedly, former Pars defender Jim Leishman reversed the decade of decline, managing the club through three straight promotions in the mid-1980s and raising gates nearly tenfold. He also bought Hungarian international midfielder István Kozma for more than £500,000, a club record. Leishman’s controversial departure in 1990 saw thousands march in protest.

Leishman return to coaching and managerial positions at East End Park through the 2000s and remains the club’s honorary director. He also stepped in when the club faced complete disaster in 2013. Ironically, with goals from Stevie Crawford, the Pars had all but outshone the great side of 50 years before when they finished sixth, then fifth, then fourth in the Premiership, also reaching the Scottish Cup final of 2004.

East End Park/Natália Jánossy

The subsequent departure of the managerial team of Jimmy Calderwood and Jimmy Nicholl led to a drop in form and Leishman stepping in at the last minute to ward off relegation. Dunfermline still made two cup finals in two years, and embarked on short campaigns in Europe, but were relegated in 2007.

A one-season stint in the top tier in 2011-12 did little to assuage the club’s significant debts, unpaid salary backlog and due back taxes. Dunfermline went into administration and were subsequently docked 15 points.

On the plus side, a grassroots campaign saved the club and a supporters’ trust took over the reins. The departure of so many players allowed the likes of striker Faissal El Bakhtaoui to shine, and the French-Moroccan’s hatfuls of goals in 2015-16 helped the Pars regain a Championship position.

Ground Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

It’s nearly 25 years since East End Park saw any major redevelopment, the rebuilding of the Norrie McCathie and East Stands behind each goal and conversion of the ground to an all-seater. For all that, Dunfermline’s ground still feels relatively modern – and despite the fact that the venerable main South Stand on Halbeath Road was built with the proceeds of the Scottish Cup win of 1961.

The main stadium bar, Legends, is set behind this South Stand. Depending on demand, away fans are usually accommodated in the East Stand (sectors T-Y) opposite the home end named after local legend, Norrie McCathie. The Dunfermline defender made a record number of appearances in the 1980s and 1990s before his early death at 34 in 1996.

If required, visiting supporters can also be allocated the nearest sectors of the North Stand (sectors M-S) to the away end, even sector SSEW of the South Stand.

getting there

Going to the ground – tips and timings

As its name suggest, East End Park is east of the town centre, halfway along Halbeath Road towards Halbeath Park & Ride, the transport hub that serves buses from Edinburgh airport. The Stagecoach buses that run from Halbeath P&R to Dunfermline bus station in town – the 19, X24, X27 and X55 call at East End Park. If you’re coming from Dunfermline bus station, then the 19/19A leave every 10mins from Stance 3 or 4, the less frequent X24 and X27 from Stance 3, journey time 5-6mins.

The ground is almost halfway between Dunfermline Town and Queen Margaret train stations, both with direct, half-hourly connections with Edinburgh. Queen Margaret is a short walk from The Elizabethan pub, the main pre-match bar on Halbeath Road.

Each station is about 15mins’ walk from the ground or a £4 taxi journey.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

Sales are distributed through the ticket office/club shop (Fri 10am-4pm, Sat 10am-noon, match days 10am-kick-off, final whistle-5.30pm) and over the phone (01383 745 909, £1 levy). Note that web sales through Pars Online are currently closed as Pars Online is also an Iranian internet service provider based in Tehran. If the upcoming Saturday game demands it, then the ticket office also opens Thur 10am-4pm.

There are also cash-only payments at the kiosks on match days, the home one located at the corner of the main South and Norrie McCathie Stands. Card payments are accepted at the club shop/ticket office.

Tickets are priced at £17, £11 discounted (OAPs, 12-18s) and £5 for under-12s, £19/£13/£7 in the main South Stand.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

The DAFC club shop (Fri 10am-4pm, Sat 10am-noon, match days 10am-kick-off, final whistle-5.30pm) stocks a modest supply of black-and-white souvenirs.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

The classic pre-match spot is The Elizabethan, a large pub on Halbeath Road with a pool table and decent kitchen. It also offers outdoor drinking, though the interior is substantial and generally welcomes sensible away fans. 2016 saw a £250,000 refurbishment.

The stadium itself has several options, most notably Charlie D’s, set behind the main stand and named after record Pars scorer Charlie Dickson, tastefully done out with framed iconography and open to both home and away fans from noon on match days.

The larger Legends is another option, but only for home fans who reserve online for a spot from noon on home-day Saturdays. Again, excellent framed memorabilia. The Rennie Suite is for private members and those paying for hospitality. There’s also a members-only Supporters Club.