CLYDEBANK FC were reportedly dead in 2002, but tomorrow they will meet Auchinleck Talbot in the Citylink Scottish Junior Cup final at Rugby Park.
Received wisdom in Scottish junior football is: If you're facing Auchinleck Talbot in the Scottish Cup final, in Ayrshire – you're wasting your time turning up. But received wisdom had Clydebank dead after Airdrie United gazumped the club's supporters to maintain senior football in their town. Clydebank's supporters didn't weep into their beer and walk away, though. They wouldn't let their club die like Third Lanark. Fan Davie Munro paid 5 to acquire the Clydebank name and badge – and the fightback had started.
Clydebank defied Luftwaffe bombers; survived the closure of the huge Singer sewing machine factory and John Brown's Shipyard – birthplace of the first three Cunard Queens, the Royal Yacht Britannia and HMS Vanguard and the place where Jimmy Reid led the UCS workers in defying the government in the 1970s.
So, another UCS, the United Clydebank Supporters Trust was formed to maintain football in the town and within a year Clydebank FC were back in business, in Division Two of the Central Junior League – determined to some day see the club back in the senior ranks.
That dream might come true, at least temporarily, next season; because if the reborn Clydebank can overcome Talbot tomorrow, they will indeed be back in the (senior) Scottish Cup next season. Given the odds they've overcome, to go from a dream to cup finalists in just six seasons, who would dare bet against the name Clydebank again being engraved on the magnificent Scottish Junior Cup, just as it was back in 1942.
There is a link between the wartime winners and tomorrow's hopefuls. It was Clydebank Juniors that Tom and Jack Steedman merged with East Stirlingshire to form ES Clydebank, which begat the senior Clydebank, back in the 1960s. Thus began a rollercoaster ride, from the Second Division to the Premier League and back. Kilbowie Park led the way in all-seater stadia; Davie Cooper wove his magic down the flanks; Andy Roxburgh cut his coaching teeth there. Jim Gallacher and Jim Fallon seemed to go on forever; the likes of Gerry McCabe, Bobby Williamson, Chic Charnley, James Grady and Alan Gow gave sparkling cameos; a shirt sponsorship from Wet Wet Wet brought rock 'n' roll into Scottish football.
Then, Kilbowie Park was sold for redevelopment, the Steedmans quit, a disastrous few nomadic seasons ensued before, under the ownership of Bahamas-based Dr John Hall, it all went belly-up, leaving the ever-loyal, dwindling band of fans to pick up the pieces.
Guys such as Billy Abraham, then secretary of UCS, today the club secretary, rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in. They recruited Billy 'Budgie' McGhie, nine years a Bankie during the glory years, to put together a squad. They struck a deal with Drumchapel Amateurs to share Glenhead Park, upgraded it to junior standard and in August 2003, Clydebank entered junior football.
Since then, it's been onward and upward and after two promotions they are in the First Division of the Stagecoach West of Scotland Superleague, one level below the junior giants such as Pollok, whom they beat on penalties in an exciting semi-final. Indeed, if they can win their unplayed league games, the Bankies will face Glenafton Athletic in the promotion/relegation play-offs to enter the Premier Division. And if promoted, they could survive there. The core support of the senior days has kept the faith; for big games they regularly pull over 1,000 fans into Holm Park, which they share with Yoker Athletic.
Football romantics everywhere will be backing them tomorrow. Their story deserves to succeed, it's just they're facing Talbot, who are seeking Scottish Cup win number eight in their Centenary Year, in Ayrshire. Winning is a big ask, but Clydebank FC, having survived bigger knocks need not fear Talbot. They'll have the backing of 37 bus-loads of fans. "Even when we were in the Premier League, I never remember us taking more than eight buses to any away game," says former match secretary Stevie Latimer, another of the original UCS Trust members. "We're nine games from Europe," Latimer quips. "The plan is: beat Talbot and qualify for next season's Scottish Cup; beat Dumbarton for local bragging rights; then beat Airdrie United and kick on from there."
Don't laugh. Given how far they've come in seven years, it could happen.