Montrose FC

Angus derbies thin on the ground for the Gable Endies

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

In May 2015, the unthinkable nearly happened. Almost a century after joining the league, after decades of appearing on pools coupons across the UK and 19 years in Scotland’s lowest tier, Montrose FC came within 45 minutes of dropping out altogether.

Having finished bottom of League Two, ten points below perennial wooden spoonists East Stirling, Montrose faced Highland League champions Brora Rangers in the newly instigated two-leg play-off for a league place. With the Gable Endies a goal down from the away game, the second leg drew over 2,000 to the club’s long-term home of Links Park, happy to see Montrose level the aggregate by half-time.

Right after the re-start, Brora equalised, putting the Highlanders ahead over the two games. Disaster. Then, two minutes later, a red card reduced the visitors to ten men, and Montrose roared back. A goal from 100-cap Trinidad international Marvin Andrews, another a minute later from Garry Wood, and the Gable Endies had saved the day.

Montrose first joined the Scottish League in 1923. Formed in 1879, Forfarshire Cup winners in 1892, the club had been playing numerous friendlies, firing a local rivalry with Arbroath and setting up camp at Links Park by the golf course.

The initial stint in the league only lasted three years before finance and logistics led to its collapse – Montrose were sturdy enough to maintain a lowly but decade-long presence in the subsequent Second Division from 1929 onwards.

After the war, Montrose spent another decade in the C Division, comprised of regional teams and reserve sides of bigger clubs. After another structural re-jig, they were granted a permanent Scottish League spot in 1955 – a status that lasted for 60 years, until it was put in jeopardy with the Brora play-off in 2015.

During those six decades, Montrose only really shone under player-manager Alex Stuart in the early 1970s. Bringing record gates to Links Park, such as for the Scottish Cup tie with Stuart’s former club Dundee in 1973, the Gable Endies came within a point of an elusive top-flight place in 1975.

Stuart was then snapped by Ayr but months later, the side he built went on to beat Hibernian after extra-time in the League Cup before losing to Rangers in the semi.

It was a rare brush with glory – and one that has never been repeated.

Since then, the occasional promotion has kept the faithful happy, but the club’s part-time status has meant struggle and mediocrity.

On the plus side, the artificial pitch at Links Park, first laid in 2007 was replaced in 2015 by a revolutionary new 4G surface – just in time for the 2015-16 campaign, the club’s 20th straight season in the fourth tier, earned with that play-off victory over Brora.

Ground Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

The home of Montrose FC since 1887, Links Park has never broken the five-figure attendance barrier, the highest crowd being close to 9,000 for the visit of nearby Dundee in the Scottish Cup in 1973. Back then, the ground consisted of one main wooden stand, replaced with a dramatically cantilevered one in the 1990s.

The few hundred home and away fans usually sit here, happy to be under cover. Modest terracing, one roofed, one not, comprises the remaining areas of the ground.

Capacity is just under 5,000, average gates a tenth of that.

getting there

Going to the ground – tips and timings

Links Park is a 15min walk from Montrose station – head down Railway Close from the nearby roundabout, when you reach the High Street, take John Street that leads diagonally left. After the park this becomes Union Street, with the ground on your left. A taxi shouldn’t be more than £4, tops.

Note that the 52 bus that passes Links Park is coming back from Hillside to Montrose – that service that leaves the station doesn’t go near the stadium.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

The club has a simple pricing policy of £12 cash-only at the gate on match days, £6 discounts and £15 for one adult and one under-16.

Admission is reduced by 50% for friendly games – usually Montrose take on Arbroath or another local club in the pre-season.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

Impressively, Montrose oversee two outlets for merchandise, one in town that operates three days a week, one at the ground open on match days.

The Home Dugout (Thur-Sat 10am-4pm) is the town-centre store at 72 Murray Street, just about big enough to accommodate a few racks of blue (home) and red (away) shirts. Credit cards are accepted. Murray Street is the continuation of the High Street, no more than 7min walk from the station.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

Most bars in the town centre are convenient for a pre-match swiftie but some are more convenient than others.

Away fans tend to use The Picture House, just off the roundabout from the station, with nine HD screens for sport, one large one, and a decent menu. It’s also the largest pub in town.

On the High Street, opposite the turning for John Street to the ground, the historic Royal Arch (No.32) was once a coffee house used by French sailors, hence the grandiose plaque over its modest façade. A little further up on Murray Street, the Blackhorse Inn, near the club shop, is a welcoming spot that shows matches.

The classic Montrose pub is the Golf Inn, on Mill Street close to Links Park. In traditional surroundings, fans meet pre- and post-match to dissect the game and watch the scores come in. The pub runs several sports teams too – it’s nearly impossible not to get into a conversation.