FOR those with long memories or for students of Scottish football history, yesterday’s encounter between Rangers and East Stirling had considerable resonance.
For it was nearly 50 years ago that East Stirling temporarily went out of existence, and a new club called East Stirlingshire Clydebank appeared in the basement of Scottish football.
That short-lived ES Clydebank came about because the Steedman brothers, Jack and Charles, owners of East Stirling, were determined to build a new Scottish League club away from East Stirling’s then home Firs Park.
The Steedmans got together with Clydebank Juniors. They set about moving East Stirling to Kilbowie Park in Clydebank and their manoeuvrings led to a real split within Scottish football.
Rangers and other top clubs backed the Steedmans against the rump of East Stirling’s shareholders who were determined to cling on at Firs Park. The Steedmans won the first round, with the approval of the Scottish League committee.
This led to ES Clydebank taking the field in season 1964-65, despite there still being an East Stirlingshire FC of sorts.
A decade earlier, Glasgow lawyer Robin Turpie had advised five clubs who were facing extinction due to league reform – Rangers somehow had been blamed for pushing through that reform.
Once again Turpie became involved and advised East Stirling shareholders to take their case to the Court of Session, where Lord Hunter found in favour of the ‘oldco’ East Stirling – just as happened when oldco Rangers took the SFA to court this year.
It should be noted that when East Stirling came back to life in season 1965-67, 3,000 supporters turned up at Firs Park for their first match. That number dropped off spectacularly – not something you can imagine happening with Rangers after yesterday’s astonishing turnout.
The old club survived and even briefly prospered in the mid-1970s when a certain Sir Alex Ferguson took over as manager.
The Steedmans went on to pilot Clydebank into an existence that only ended when Airdrie United bought the club and took their place in the SFL.
Shenanigans involving clubs going bust and down the leagues are therefore nothing new in Scottish football. What is new is that Rangers are the club involved, and there are many people who still can’t believe what has happened.