ADAMSLIE Park has seen better days. Its generous oval of concrete terracing is crumbling and covered in weeds; the small stand that used to dominate the southern side has gone already, its site now occupied by housing.
Everything else – the green oblong of the pitch, the deteriorating terracing, the vaguely art-deco pavilion and the covered terracing (with the corrugated iron roof that deafeningly amplifies the lightest rainfall) will soon likewise be engulfed by suburbia.
Adamslie is the home of Kirkintilloch Rob Roy FC, once one of the great names of the junior football scene. The juniors are notorious for funding a generally decent standard of football by neglecting grounds and facilities for spectators. In fact, Rob Roy are not major offenders here; during the glory days of the 1950s and 60s, that stylish pavilion went up (in 1955) and the covered terracing five years later.
As I remember the place in the early 1970s, the oval terracing, the stand and the pavilion combined to make an impressive and even imposing venue, as good as most smaller Scottish League grounds. Once a year it even hosted the Kirkintilloch Highland Games back then. But the rest of the world moved on – even football supporters expect flushing toilets, now – and the Adamslie facilities didn’t.
Adamslie Park came into Rob Roy’s possession in 1926; the club dated from 1878 and had previously played at a number of grounds around Kirkintilloch.
They took over Adamslie from another, declining, junior side, Kirkintilloch Harp FC. Rob Roy lost their opening home match there, to local rivals Petershill FC from Springburn. Eighty- eight years on, the two sides are again in the same division – the Stagecoach West Central Super Premier League – but Petershill now occupy a bright new ground with a seated stand and genuine 21st century facilities.
Adamslie has seen some mighty players. In 1939, a 17-year-old from Grangemouth called George Young signed for Rob Roy; in 1941 he won a transfer to Rangers and became the first player to amass 50 Scottish caps (as well as being the first inductee to the SFA Hall of Fame). Another Old Firm legend, Stevie Chalmers, played for Rob Roy early in his career and went on to score Celtic’s winner in the 1967 European Cup Final.
More recently, that flawed Scottish football legend Chic Charnley had a spell at Adamslie in the early 2000s, spraying around geometrically improbable passes and curling in several 30-yard strikes. In the 1970s, Andy Ritchie – arguably the Chic Charnley of his era – had spent a period at Adamslie on loan from Celtic.
Rob Roy’s last great season came in 1961-62 when they won a barrowload of trophies, including the Scottish Junior Cup itself. For the quarter-final replay against local rivals Kilsyth Rangers, 6,000 squeezed into Adamslie; I don’t know how they managed it. The Rob Roy team that season featured Martin Ferguson, who went on to play for Partick Thistle. His brother Alex also had a reasonable football career before going into management, most famously in Aberdeen and Manchester! The 1962 cup-winning side also featured Joe Fascione. The following season, he signed for Chelsea and as part of the deal, Chelsea visited Adamslie for a friendly in May 1963. A crowd of 2,000 people watched the match; the home side fought back to 2-2 from two goals down, but Chelsea – managed by Tommy Docherty and with John Hollins, Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris and Peter Houseman in the side – scored a late winner. Remarkably, there seem to be no surviving photographs of the match. Perhaps every photographer was, that night, at Hampden, where the Old Firm were playing a Scottish Cup Final replay.
As recently as 2004, a Rangers XI visited Adamslie for a friendly – current Scottish international Ross McCormack was in the Rangers side – with Rob Roy running out 1-0 winners. Back then, Rob Roy FC were beginning a slow return to the higher echelons of the junior game, but in the late 2000s came the first indications that Adamslie was not long for this world. Football supporters always fear when a housebuilding firm becomes their team’s jersey sponsor.
In 2013 it was made clear that 2013-14 would be Adamslie’s last season; word was emerging of a new community stadium in the Southbank area of the town. On 16 March, 2014, the club announced that ‘…agreement has been reached with Cumbernauld United to groundshare Guys Meadow for next season.’ Fair enough, but only three days later that the club added ‘…the planning application for our new development at Southbank has now been officially submitted by Kirkintilloch Rob Roy FC to East Dunbartonshire Council.’ In other words, the club are committed to being homeless from the end of the season, but planning permission for the successor stadium is a long way off.
The last league game ever to be played at Adamslie kicks off today at 2pm. Rob Roy supporters need only consider today’s opponents for an object lesson in the dangers of football homelessness. Clydebank were victims of unceasingly devious boardroom machinations, and once they had given up their home at Kilbowie, wandered in the wildernesses of Boghead and Cappielow with no sign of a new ground appearing. Eventually, their league place was bought up by the new Airdrie United and the club had to be reborn in the juniors – where they are still ground sharing.
The Clydebank match was finally scheduled only last weekend – another junior idiosyncrasy is an aversion to advance fixture lists – giving the club little time to make an event of it.
After today there will be at least one more match at the ground, a League Cup tie against Renfrew. However, every Rob Roy supporter who can still walk will be there today, joined by other locals, groundhoppers, photographers, journalists and hopefully some former players. A last pie, a last match, and then a future with some hope but also, perhaps, a degree of fear.