Dunfermline fan zone special

ERIC Spreng has supported Dunfermline Athletic for 47 years. He follows in the footsteps of supporters from other Scottish clubs who have shared their lifetime memories of following their club in Fanzone Specials in The Scotsman this season.

Eric looks back on the personal highs and lows of being a Pars fan, and despite this week’s lapse into administration, he will be hoping the club still has some great days ahead of it.

I MOVED to Dunfermline with my parents, sister and brother when I was four, and was brought up in Lambert Drive, in the shadow of East End Park. For as long as I can remember, Dunfermline Athletic have been part of my life.

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I feature some of the games which I attended that stick out in my memory, but there have been many, many to choose from. There have been many highs and a good few lows over the years, and a lot of miles covered. However, I have always considered it an honour and a privilege to support the Pars.

1966: Dunfermline 5 Hibs 6

My first match. The Pars were 4-0 down after an hour and clawed it back to 5-5 before losing a goal in the last minute. I could not believe how exciting it was and I remember the Hibs fans singing “We all live in a green submarine”. I was hooked on the Pars from that day on.

1968: Dunfermline 3 Hearts 1

The only major trophy I have seen the Pars win was this Scottish Cup final. There was no score in the first half, but Dunfermline ran out comfortable winners in the second half. I remember the excitement of going up to Dunfermline High Street in the evening and the team going around town in an open-top bus before being presented to the crowd from the balcony of the city chambers.

1969: Dunfermline 2 Dundee Utd 3

A sad December evening. A run of the mill league match, but deep in the second half my favourite player, Bert Paton, who had scored the team’s second goal, broke his right leg in a clash with Alan Gordon. Paton, only 27, would never be the same player again. I was gutted that Bert was going to be out for at least six months but I cheered up a bit when my mother took me through to Kirkcaldy to visit him in the Victoria Hospital!

1972: Dunfermline 0 Dundee Utd 1

Relegation to the Second Division only 27 months after seeing European football being played at East End Park – I thought that the world had come to an end. A win could have seen the Pars stay up – and umpteen chances fell to centre forward Barrie Mitchell. Mitchell was due to sign for Aberdeen and a rumour swept the ground that if Dunfermline stayed up then the deal was off.

1974: Dundee Utd 0 Dunfermline 1

Back in the top flight, Dunfermline were in danger of relegation again after only a season. Their only chance of staying up was to win at Tannadice and for Ayr Utd to beat East Fife at Bayview. At half time both games were 0-0, but Ayr were down to ten men. Graham Shaw’s goal secured victory for the Pars and I remember sitting in the Pars Travel Club bus at Tannadice after the game and seeing the bus convener come running round the corner jumping for joy having heard that Ayr had won 1-0. I also remember our bus passing the Ayr team bus on the outskirts of Dunfermline and us applauding their players.

1987: Dunfermline 3 Hibs 3

The first Premier League match that Dunfermline ever played. The sun shone and a packed East End Park was bouncing with excitement, having been given every encouragement to do so by manager [Jim] Leishman. A great match, end-to-end stuff, and plenty of goals.

1989: Motherwell 1 Dunfermline 1

The Pars only needed a point from this midweek November tussle to go top of the Premier League for the first time. A huge travelling support saw a mistake by Norrie McCathie gift the home team a first-half lead, but a second-half equaliser and a last-minute save by Ian Westwater from a Davie Cooper free kick were enough to send the Pars fans home happy.

1996: Dunfermline 4 Clydebank 3

The first game after skipper Norrie McCathie’s tragic death from carbon monoxide poisoning. There was a very quiet atmosphere before the game, and I remember the Clydebank players coming across and applauding the Pars fans on the North terracing. Dunfermline went three goals up in the first half, but as they tired Clydebank got back in the game and equalised with only a few minutes left. It looked like the Pars would have to settle for a point and suffer a blow to promotion hopes until new skipper Craig Robertson popped up in the last minute and blasted the ball home from 20 yards out. As the Pars fans filtered round the terracing to leave at the end of the game, they stopped behind the goal and started chanting McCathie’s name and what seemed like hundreds of scarves were thrown onto the pitch, creating an impromptu shrine.

1996: Dunfermline 2 Airdrie 1

After beating Dundee Utd at Tannadice in the penultimate match, Dunfermline still had to beat Airdrie at home in the final match to secure the First Division title. It was a very nervy affair, played in front of over 13,000. The score was 1-1 at half time, but Dunfermline were awarded a penalty half way through the second half and Marc Millar sent Andy Rhodes the wrong way. Contrary to the media perception, his hard-working team achieved promotion whilst playing highly attractive football.

2004: Dunfermline 3 Inverness Caley Thistle 2

After a 1-1 draw in the first game at Hampden, this Scottish Cup semi-final replay was played at Aberdeen. Dunfermline were a goal down early on, but Darren Young equalised before half time. Second-half goals from Craig Brewster and Barry Nicholson put Dunfermline in command before Inverness scored with a late penalty. As well as reaching the Scottish Cup final, this result ensured that Dunfermline were back in Europe after a 34-year absence.

2004: Hafnarfjordur 2 Dunfermline 2

My long-held ambition to watch the Pars play an away game in Europe was fulfilled with a two-day trip to Iceland. The weather was amazing (the two hottest days ever recorded in Reykjavik, apparently) and the match was good as well. The Pars were two goals down in the first half, but came back to draw 2-2. Unfortunately, the second leg was lost 2-1 and the Pars were out at the first hurdle. That match, sadly, was played at McDiarmid Park as the Icelanders exercised their right not to play on the plastic pitch at East End Park.