LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

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.

The Elizabethan/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 legendary 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. 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 returned to coaching and managerial positions at East End Park through the 2000s and became 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. Leishman saved the day 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 overdue 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.

Having taken Dunfermline up to the second tier, manager Allan Johnston was rewarded with an extended contract, justified by a promising return to the Championship. A narrow Premiership play-off defeat to Dundee United in 2018 was marked by a red card for the hosts in the home leg and a comeback by the Tangerines at Tannadice, Dunfermline having taken an early lead.

East End Park/Natália Jánossy

With another play-off opportunity looking unlikely in 2018-19, a late equaliser by Alloa at East End Park persuaded the club to part with the former Scottish international and replace him with Athletic hero Stevie Crawford as manager. Faring little better, the former striker bowed out with a play-off defeat to Raith in 2021.

The Pars made the play-offs again the following year, only this time, with relegation at stake. In a seemingly strong position after a 0-0 draw away to Queen’s Park, ten-man Dunfermline fell to an 89th-minute winner at East End Park, condemning the club to League One. 

Bouncing back thanks to goals from former Scotland U-21 international Craig Wighton, Dunfermline stuck with manager James McPake through the choppy waters of a tricky season back in the Championship.

Ground Guide

The field of dreams – and the story behind it

It’s 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.

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. Capacity is 11,500, all seated.

getting here

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.

The sat nav code for East End Park is KY12 7RB. The club car park costs £2 and contains six disabled spaces. 

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

Sales are distributed through the ticket office/club shop (Wed-Fri 10am-4pm, Sat 10am-noon, match days 10am-kick-off) and online.

There are also cash-only payments at 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. For all enquiries, contact 01383 745 909, shop@dafc.co.uk.

Tickets are priced at £21 for the Norrie McCathie Stand behind the west goal, £15 discounted (seniors, students, unemployed, disabled and 12-18s) and £7 for under-12s, £23, £17, £9 for the same categories the main South Stand behind the long sideline.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

The DAFC club shop (Wed-Fri 10am-4pm, Sat 10am-noon, match days 10am-kick-off) stocks the current iteration of the home top, thin black stripes on white with white sleeves, white collar and black cuffs. 

Change strip is all red with an old-school white V-shaped collar, third choice a headache-inducing pattern of red and black concentric circles rippling out from the club badge, on a light-blue background.

The twinning of Pars fans with those of St Pauli is celebrated with coffee mugs and posters proclaiming the fact in Jamie Reid-like lettering – perhaps someone in the club’s marketing department was a punk fan back in the halcyon days of The Skids.

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 ground 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, it’s open to home fans from 11.30am on match days. Capacity is limited to 90 – come here early to secure your spot.

The larger Legends is another option, again for home fans from 11.30am on match-day Saturdays. Excellent framed memorabilia includes signed shirts and photographs. 

Named after a former chairman, the Rennie Suite is for private members and those paying for hospitality. There’s also a members-only Supporters Club.