Shooting rabbits on Glebe Park: Brechin City on the brink - but will they come back stronger whatever happens?

“It’s really quite interesting, in a way it’s the opposite of the feelings stirred up by what happened with the European Super League,” says Hugh Campbell Adamson as he drains his cappuccino.

Former Brechin City chairman Hugh Campbell Adamson

He made sure to check it was before 11am when he ordered it. He is not a heathen. The former Brechin City chairman respects tradition but not to the extent that he’s prepared to see the club he loves disappear into oblivion because they refuse to evolve.

Today is D-day with their Scottish League future hinging on overcoming a one-goal deficit against Kelty Hearts. Whether they succeed in this mission or not, and many, sadly, are willing a once much-loved club to fail, another pivotal day lies just around the corner.

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Season ticket holders will gather – socially distanced, of course – in the Glebe Park main stand next Monday to vote on incorporation, which as well as providing hoped-for extra finance, means Brechin City’s days as a members’ club will come to an end. It would leave only Stranraer flying that particular flag in Scottish senior football. It is a particularly sensitive issue because Brechin City have existed in this form – quite happily, for the most part – since being founded in 1906.

Brechin City players celebrate their equaliser against Kelty Hearts on Tuesday - .they will have to score at least once today to avoid slipping out of the Scottish League (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

The current constitution means those who buy a season ticket each season become custodians of the club, which on the face of it sounds like a wonderfully collegiate scenario and provides a refreshing antidote to the big business workings of higher echelon clubs. Disgust at this system was registered from the Old Trafford turf, among other places, a few short weeks ago.

At Brechin, however, there’s a prevailing feeling that they need to ditch the ‘one man, one vote’ structure to become a more robust, corporate entity. They are even poised to appoint a part-time chief executive.

They can trade on the existence of a hedge for only so long. Supporters of incorporation are now saying: how about owning part of that hedge, or at least part of the club that owns the land where the famed feature has flourished for more than 200 years?

“We are giving everyone a capital share in the club,” explains Campbell Adamson. "The value of the shares sits predominantly with the ground and instead of having this strange situation where the club is owned during the season by the season ticket holders and then is in abeyance for two months of the year, it will now be owned by the supporters who will get free shares.”

Former Brechin City manager Michael O'Neill: motivational message

Each season ticket holder will be given 15 shares and be invited to purchase more. The current number of season ticket holders is around 170. “Not bad for a population of 6,000,” says Campbell Adamson, before noting proudly that some come from "as far away as Edzell”.

As well as running the nearby Stracathro Estates, Campbell Adamson is a former SFA board member. His footballing interest now lies purely in seeing Brechin survive and, ideally, prosper. This, he believes, hinges on next week’s vote.

An indicative vote suggests as many as 90 per cent being in favour. “It will be supported,” says Campbell Adamson, confidently. “Those against it on moral grounds say it should remain a community club. Those in favour argue it is a community club now – and it is not working!”

Brechin have become a laughing stock. More alarmingly, neutrals have turned against them after the club's ill-advised attempts, based on legal arguments, to save themselves from a Pyramid play-off that is now only too real. Bearing in mind Brechin have won only once since Christmas, a 2-1 defeat in Fife means they will have to beat Barry Ferguson's big-spending Kelty Hearts this afternoon to remain in League Two – a draw is not good enough.

Although Brechin are underdogs, they cannot rely on the backing normally associated with this status. Committee member Kevin Mackie commissioned a video that seems to address this, recruiting well-known, Brechin-friendly figures, including former manager Michael O'Neill and local brothers Harry and John Souttar, of Stoke City and Hearts respectively, to deliver rousing ‘good luck’ messages. O’Neill recalls former chairman David Birse shooting rabbits on the Glebe Park pitch. “Get on the front foot!” the Stoke City manager urges. “Especially when playing down the slope!”

Over the last few weeks, the concept of “the journey” is something we have been conditioned to associate with Rangers and their return to the Premiership. They finally reached their destination with this season’s title win to prompt a blizzard of pieces reflecting on where it all started, namely Glebe Park in the Ramsdens Cup.

But what of Brechin City and their journey in the other direction? When they hosted Rangers that July afternoon in 2012 they were a competitive third tier side – a division above the Ibrox club. They finished in the play-offs that year and eventually went up in 2017 before spending a catastrophic season in the Championship, when they failed to win a game. They have since slipped inexorably downwards.

Now, nearly nine years on from taking the Ibrox side to extra-time, and over 100 since they were admitted to the Scottish League, they face the very real prospect of dropping out of it altogether.

The Highland League will break their fall, but these are hardly welcoming arms. Some fear Nairn, Fort William and Wick, a near 500-mile round trip away, would be mere halting posts on a death spiral.

But Campbell Adamson sounds an upbeat note before he departs the Edinburgh café. “Being optimistic, nothing will change”, he says with reference to the league Brechin will play in next season. “We would just have had a lucky or perhaps skilful escape.

"I am quite convinced that if we do fail to win on Sunday, we will bounce back. It will be a temporary blip. It will be a very difficult time. But it will not be the last you see of Brechin City.”

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