Sunday, 8 January 2017

Somerset Park - Ayr United

5th August 2000

Ayr United 1-0 Ross County

Every so often we see a football club take a bit of a gamble and decide to throw silly amounts of (usually somebody else’s) money into the pot allocated for players’ contracts, in the hope of reaching some generally out of reach Promised Land.  The venture invariably ends in tears. 

One such punt took place at Ayr United during the summer of 2000, when the club decided to embark on a bit of a spending spree in order to attempt to end their then 22 year absence from the Scottish Premier League.  

Three ex-Hibernian players (John Hughes, Paul Lovering and Michael Renwick) were enticed to the club, as were former Dundee strikers James Grady and Eddie Annand.  Consequently, big things were expected of Ayr United during season 2000/01, especially so following a comprehensive 5-1 pre-season win over Chesterfield.

Approaching Somerset Park from Back Hawkhill Avenue - in 2000

Same view in 2017.
The rather jaunty Welcome sign has gone, and the wee corner shop no longer sells Mars Bars, apparently.

Uncovered terracing runs along one length of the pitch. The grey building which houses 
hospitality boxes actually sits outside the ground looking in over the perimeter wall.
(August 2000)
Same view in 2017

A larger than usual number of Honest Men pitched up at Somerset Park on this, the opening day of the 2000/01 season to hopefully witness Ayr dispatch anticipated lambs to the slaughter, newly promoted Ross County.  And whilst United did eventually wind up taking all three points, this certainly was no stroll in the sunshine.  

What turned out to be the only goal of the match came after 20 minutes, when visiting centre-half Brian Irvine downed James Grady in the box.  A penalty probably, but for the ref to send Irvine off did seem harsh.  But even after Eddie ANNAND converted the spot-kick, Ayr still spluttered and stuttered against the ten men.  Ross County, to be fair, never looked much of a threat, but the home fans clearly were expecting much more for their pennies than this expensively assembled side were able to muster, and there were more than a few boos amongst the cheers at time-up.

One outcome of the increased attendance, was that I could not find any programmes on sale before the match.  Consequently, I had to do that embarrassing thing after the game, of pretty much begging folks to sell me their copy.  I eventually found some little urchin willing to part with his copy, but only after I had been forced to offer £5, with all the negotiating going on under the suspicious eye of his burly Dad.  

All very humiliating.

Panorama of Somerset Park, Ayr - August 2000

By 2017, the ginger hair is now dusty grey, and he has brought along his 17-year old bobble-hatted son.
Other than that, little has changed at Somerset Park


Ayr United 0-2 Dunfermline
7th January 2017

Despite the patent photographic evidence to the contrary, I could have sworn I watched the Ayr v Ross County match in 2000 from the away end.

Clearly not - so this fact meant if I wished to attempt to update all of my 2000 pics from that match, I was going to have to watch the Pars from within the bosom of the home support.  But that was fine - I had done the same at Arbroath last season, although this occasion did give rise to a particularly odd occurrence.

I watched the first half avidly and had, I felt, with admirable restraint, maintained a poker face when Nicky CLARK scored the 26th minute goal, which gave Dunfermline a deserved 1-0 half-time lead.

Perusing the other half-time scores on my phone, I was startled to see the scoreline "Ayr United 0-2 Dunfermline Athletic", with the visitors phantom goal apparently being credited to former Ayr player Andy GEGGAN.  Stupid BBC, I thought, and gave it little more thought.

Until that is when, seconds after the restart, a home fan bellowed at Geggan: "Yir a jammy bastard Geggan.  It would have been a good goal, if you'd meant it."

Huh?  How had I failed to notice that my team had scored a second goal?  I had had no wee-wee breaks, and the refreshments hut, where I had bought a coffee, was in full view of the pitch. 

Only two scenarios seemed possible: either I had blacked out for a couple of minutes (but had remained on my feet, hence no-one noticed), or Somerset Park had briefly been subject to some eddy in the space/time continuum - and the Pars had scored during this suspension of the normal rules of physics.  I have to say I favoured the latter option, and kept a wary eye on the Ayrshire skies during the rest of the afternoon.

'Twas only really once I got back to Fife that I realised what must have happened was that Andy Geggan must have scored during the minute or so my back was turned, whilst I was wrestling with the fiddly milk cartons I had just picked up to add to my coffee.

Being in with the away support meant the goal had been met with (obviously) silence.  And by the time I had defeated the tiny milk cartons and turned around, the match had restarted.

At least that is explanation I am attempting to convince myself of, as both of the other alternatives are worryingly disconcerting. 

Ayr United v Dunfermline - January 2017

The big grey corporate hospitality hut is called the Ally McLeod Suite.
I hope no-one needs to reminded of who Ally was.

I think this is the main entrance to the ground.

The rather underwhelming facade to the Somerset Park main stand.

Panorama of Somerset Park - Ayr United - 2017

This end of the main stand is designated the family section.

Panorama of Somerset Park - Ayr United - 2017

Somerset Park main stand.

Panorama of Somerset Park - Ayr United - 2017

Ayr United v Dunfermline - January 2017

Ayr United v Dunfermline - January 2017

Ayr United v Dunfermline - January 2017

Ayr United v Dunfermline - January 2017

Panorama of Somerset Park - Ayr United - 2017

Ally McLeod Suite.

Ayr's Gary Harkins (12) & Lee Ashcroft

Panorama of Somerset Park - Ayr United - 2017

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