By Ron Ferguson
June 3, 2018 - Ever since the founding of Cowdenbeath Football Club in 1881, the links with the coal mining industry have been very strong. If you were to ask someone from Scotland which senior football club is closely associated with the mining industry, there would only be one answer. The town of Cowdenbeath itself grew out of the coal boom in the late 19th century and its famous football club did likewise. “The Miners”, as the team were known throughout Scotland, were renowned for their grit and determination, as well as for their ability to provide shock results against the big clubs in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Cowdenbeath FC also produced players who went on to become fixtures in Scotland’s international team.
The burgeoning coal industry in the first half of the 20th century not only provided prosperity for the town of Cowdenbeath; it promoted the fortunes of its football club. The team became used to competing well against the bigger clubs in Scotland. On one famous occasion in September 1949 the Cowdenbeath’s team went through to Glasgow to play the mighty Rangers in the first leg of the quarter finals of the Scottish league cup. Far from being awed by their more glamorous rivals, The Miners beat them by three goals to 2. When the final whistle went, it took some seconds before Cowdenbeath realised that they had won. Cowdenbeath’s indefatigable captain, miner Alex Menzies, danced a Highland fling in front of the Rangers supporters. The story of how lowly Cowdenbeath had gone into the lions’ den and had actually attacked the lions enthralled the football world. “RANGERS GET A THRASHING” was the front-page headline In Glasgow’s Evening News.
Cowdenbeath FC at Central Park with Cowdenbeath No. 7 Pit in the Background
Cowdenbeath No. 7 Pit
These Glory days are gone now. The fortunes of the football club mirrored the rise and fall of the coal industry in the town. When the costs of coal extraction increased and cheaper supplies of fuel from Europe became more readily available, the fortunes of the coal industry went into retreat. The writing was on the underground walls in the bowels of the earth; the days of the dominance of the coal industry were gone.
So where did that leave Cowdenbeath Football Club? In the post-war years, the club struggled to hold its own. Many miners were unemployed, and in straitened times fewer people could afford to attend soccer matches. With diminished income, the club was competing against opponents who had stronger financial resources. On several occasions, Cowdenbeath FC came close to disappearing from the Scottish football league. What saved the club was fundraising by people in the community who were determined not to allow their beloved club to die. The town was proud of its mining heritage, and even though people were less well off financially, they wanted to keep alive the connections between the town, its famous football club, and the coal industry. They wanted The Miners to survive!
It has not been all gloom and doom in recent years. For instance, in 2006, Cowdenbeath won their first league title in 67 years. Grown men and women were crying as the helicopter bearing the trophy flew overhead. The trophy was handed over to the jubilant young team by Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown. Nearly 30 members of my extended family were present.
Cowdenbeath FC Players Celebrate Their Great Win
It was almost like a mark of defiance. There we were, at a football ground that had seen days of glory and days of disappointment right next to the site of the old number seven pit, rejoicing once more in our corporate history of coalmining and football.
We know that the clock can’t be turned back to the glory days of mining and football, but we want to keep these connections alive. As in the past, people have rallied when the future of Cowdenbeath Football club looked in doubt - and we do so again today. As the only senior professional club in Scotland with deep roots in the mining industry, it’s important not just to keep the memory alive, but to keep in the current news headlines the current activities of a proud football team that doesn’t give up.
To make this possible takes money. That’s why this fundraising venture has been launched. We are appealing to people with a love for Scotland, a love for soccer and a love for the connections between coal mining and community to give generously. Club 135 was established to honor the miners who started the club 135 years ago (now 137 years) and to provide a vehicle for funding.
(Editor’s Note: This is the fifth and last article in a series about Cowdenbeath FC, the home of “The Miners”, located in Fife, Scotland, who are seeking support from the United States coal industry. Ron Ferguson is a lifelong supporter of Cowdenbeath FC and is the author of the book “Black Diamonds and the Blue Brazil”, a chronicle of Coal, Cowdenbeath and Football.)
For more information on Club 135, please click here.
To make a donation, please click here.
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