Saturday, 23 July 2011

Gretna FC - Raydale Park

31st March 2007

Gretna 2-0 Partick Thistle

I guess most folks are familiar with much of the Gretna FC story.  The club, from the Scottish Borders, had pottered along in the English non-league set-up since 1947, until being admitted to the Scottish League in 2002.  

They then attracted the attentions of Brooks Mileson, an English businessman with a reputation for philanthropy towards less fashionable football clubs: Stockport County, Carlisle United and Whitby Town to name a few.

Mileson then began ploughing not inconsiderable sums of his own cash into the club, the fruits of which were three consecutive promotions between 2005 and 2007, and a (losing) appearance in the 2006 Scottish Cup final.  Season 2007/8 saw the club enter the Scottish Premier League, but obliged to play all their home league matches at Motherwell’s Fir Park, their own Raydale Park not even coming close to meeting SPL standards.

Gretna FC made a poor start to their Premier League campaign, and it swiftly became apparent Mileson’s seemingly bottomless pockets contained more pennies than pounds.  The owner’s health deteriorated concurrently and, when he became too ill to continue any meaningful involvement with the club, his family quite sensibly withdrew all further financial support.  

Gretna FC was only able to fulfil their remaining fixtures for the season after the SPL undertook to pay the players’ wages.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the club were relegated at the end of the season, and subsequently went into liquidation.  Mileson himself, one of Scottish football’s great eccentrics died in November 2008.

So although precious few of the 1,541 individuals who attended this match with Partick Thistle could know it, this was one of the last Gretna FC matches to be played at Raydale Park.  The third from last, in fact. 

The home side, at one point holding a 12 point lead at the top of the league, were enduring a severe dose of the wobbles, and had seen their advantage over St Johnstone whittled down to just four points by the time Partick came calling.  

And, although Gretna ensured their promotion train kept a-rolling with a 2-0 win - goalscorers: Colin McMENAMIN (32 mins) and James GRADY (69 mins) – this was nervy stuff indeed, against a Thistle side woefully short of ambition.

Panorama of Raydale Park, Gretna.

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