LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Peterhead FC

A quarter century of SPFL football for the Blue Toon

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

A play-off from promotion to the Scottish Championship in 2016, Peterhead FC have come a long way since the days of the Highland League and Aberdeenshire Cup. Elected to the Scottish League in 2000, partly on the strength of opening a new stadium three years before, the Blue Toon have been a credit to the regional game – despite regular disappointment at the play-off stage.

Loyal fans of Stranraer, meanwhile, might baulk at the long journeys to this far tip of north-east Scotland, but Peterhead is a fine, friendly day out.

Founded in 1890, installed at Recreation Park a year later, Peterhead first played in the Aberdeenshire League, joined the Highland League in 1931, winning the regional title three times immediately after the war.

Continuing a bitter rivalry with nearby Fraserburgh, the Blue Toon won regular Aberdeenshire Cups but not the Highland League again until the late 1980s.

Balmoor/Tony Dawber

With the successful accession of Inverness Caledonian Thistle to the Scottish League in 1994, other prominent clubs in the far north began to weigh up the pros and cons of regular football with clubs in Scotland’s Central Belt.

Able to field a decent side under former Leicester and Scotland midfielder Ian Wilson, Peterhead then took the bold step of choosing to build a new ground. A new era began in 1997, a few hundred yards up a gentle slope out of town from the club’s former home of Recreation Park. 

With two neat, modern stands running along the sidelines, Balmoor stood head and shoulders above most other grounds then staging Third Division football and provided a powerful argument for Peterhead’s league accession.

Bidding farewell to Boxing Day fixtures with Fraserburgh, Ian Wilson’s men took on the likes of Hamilton and Dumbarton and finished in mid-table position. Knocking on the door of the Second for three seasons, the Blue Toon gained promotion in 2005.

Peterhead FC Social Club/Tony Dawber

Within one season, Peterhead came within a penalty shoot-out of a place in the second tier, Partick Thistle clawing back a 2-1 deficit after the first leg of the promotion play-off in Glasgow. The home tie ended in defeat by spot-kicks.

Picking up his managerial career after notorious drinking incidents while in charge of Aberdeen, it was down to Steve Paterson to lift the Peterhead side in 2006-07. Bringing the Blue Toon within a point of promotion in 2008, he handed over the reins to Neale Cooper of Aberdeen fame.

Again, Balmoor had to witness another play-off defeat, this time to Airdrie. Cooper’s stint ended with a disastrous run in the 2010-11 season, and relegation.

In stepped Jim McInally, with bags of international experience with Dundee United and Scotland, and three years of lower-league football under his belt as recent manager of East Stirlingshire.

Balmoor/Tony Dawber

A year after a bumper crowd for the visit of Celtic in the Scottish Cup, nearly 5,000 squeezed into Balmoor for a league game with Rangers, doing penance in Scotland’s lowest tier. That spring, Balmoor accommodated a near-2,000 crowd for the Second Division play-off with East Fife, pegged at 0-0 in the away leg. Yet again, Peterhead’s luck ran out when most needed, the Fifers winning by a single goal after half-time.

Everything came together in 2013-14. With goals from Balmoor favourite Rory McAllister – known for his winning strike against Rangers at Ibrox the previous season – McInally’s Peterhead topped League Two by 13 points and were promoted as champions.

With McAllister ever prolific – five goals in a 2015 Challenge Cup game at Falkirk stand out – Peterhead mounted a serious promotion challenge in the spring of 2016. With another play-off came another defeat, this time 4-1 at home to Ayr, easy winners at Balmoor.

Balmoor/Tony Dawber

McInally remained in place for 2016-17, as did McAllister – but the Blue Toon faded in the run-in, beat Montrose in the initial play-off for survival but were routed by Forfar in the decider, a 5-1 spanking at Balmoor.

Still under McInally and with McAllister claiming 20 league goals in the regular season, Peterhead narrowly missed out on immediate automatic promotion back to League One, first by one point to Montrose, then by one goal to Stenhousemuir in the play-off final. 

There were no doubts in 2018-19, the Blue Toon taking the divisional title under the same manager and team captain. Despite the change in status, coming to the end of his career, McAllister was lured away by moneyed, ambitious Cove Rangers.

Balmoor/Tony Dawber

Now a decade into the job, McInally kept Peterhead above the relegation zone in League One – but only until 2022-23, when a disastrous start to the season led to his resignation in November. Winning only three games that campaign, the Blue Toon dropped down to League Two.

Without the anchor of McInally’s stewardship, Peterhead found another in stalwart midfielder Jordon Brown. With some 250 games under his belt for the Blue Toon, and with his brother Jason as captain, the Abardeen academy graduate revelled in his new role as co-manager, even welcoming back his former teammate Rory McAllister. 

The veteran had more than a cameo role in Blue Toon’s promising campaign of 2023-24, taking care of scoring duties and encouraging young players around him, such as promising striker Kieran Shanks.

Ground Guide

The field of dreams – and the story behind it

Opened in 1997, Balmoor is a simple, modern construct of two all-seated stands, East and West, along each sideline. Segregation is not usually required – if so, away fans are allocated the left side of the East Stand. Both ends are open.

Capacity is around 4,000 but with four-figure attendances only witnessed for play-off games and big cup ties, most matches involve crowds in the high hundreds occupying the two stands. If it’s blowy, then the main West one has windshields on each side.

getting here

Going to the ground – tips and timings

Balmoor is a 10min walk up Queen Street from the Peterhead Interchange bus terminus at Windmill Street. Stagecoach services X60 and X63 from Aberdeen run every 30-40mins from Adelphi Stop G1, near Aberdeen bus station on Union Street. Journey time to Peterhead is 1hr-1hr 30mins. Coming back, there’s an evening service until 10.45pm on Saturdays.

Peterhead Taxis (01779 568 000/07446 572 000) offer transfers to Aberdeen bus and train stations for £55.

The ground does have its own bus stop on Balmoor Terrace, but it’s buses are so infrequent, it’s hardly worth the wait.

The sat nav code for the Balmoor Stadium is AB42 1EQ, The ground has 200 free parking spaces. There’s also free parking along York Street (AB42 1RS) and on more central Prince Street (AB42 1PL), each a 5-10min walk from the ground.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

The club distributes tickets online and in person, from up to 48 hours before match day, and from 1pm on the Saturday, from the ticket office (Mon-Fri 9am-4pm, match-day Sat from 11am) in the car park by the main entrance to Balmoor. There are no cash turnstiles.

If segregation is in force, then visiting supporters have their own outlet near the away turnstiles, at the bottom of the car park.

Admission to either East or West Stand is £17, £15 to stand elsewhere. Discounted rates are £10/£8, accompanied under-13s are charged £2 to sit in either stand or it’s free for them elsewhere in the ground.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

On match days, a blue-fronted club shop operates by the main entrance, stocking the current iteration of the home shirt, all royal blue with a darker, diagonal tyre-tread effect running over it. Away is all black.

A standard range of souvenirs, pin badges, pint glasses and fridge magnets, display the club badge with a fish flying Viz-like into a goalnet.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

Bars at the far end of Queen Street are suitable as pre-match venues, particularly if you’re coming in by bus.

The Station Bar, its name referring to the days when Peterhead was served by rail, is still a thriving pub, home to a keen darts team and always busy on a Saturday. Alongside, the Mayfair Bar is a bit more down to earth and also shows football.

Balmoor is some 10min walk away. With no other pubs nearby, the Peterhead FC Social Club, set in the main stand, packs out with home and away fans on match days – just as well there’s enough room for a decent selection of draught beers and a pool table.

By the main entrance, the Coffee Shop at Balmoor (Mon-Fri 10am-4pm, Sat 9am-2pm, Sun 10am-1pm) serves daily specials, snacks and hot drinks.