When I first saw Annfield Park in the early 1970s, I thought it was a factory. In my defence I was 6 years old and all I saw was a crowd of miserable looking people walking away from a brick building. Annfield Park was, of course, home of Stirling Albion FC, an old stadium whose record crowd was 26,400.
My first visit inside the ground was on a sunny day in September 1976 and it was brilliant. Firstly, my pals were on the pitch getting autographs before the game and secondly Stirling Albion came from 2 down to get a draw against Meadowbank. Both goals saw a mini pitch invasion of teenage fans. I was hooked !
That 76/77 season, Stirling Albion were on fire. I went to almost all home games as we, yes we, beat everyone including Stenhousemuir in front of 1700 fans. One game v Clyde was memorable, winning 3-2 with many pitch invasions from both sets of fans. We won the league at Stranraer (too far away for 9 year old me) but celebrated the title win at Annfield on the last game of the season.
The players had great names too. Big Dave Steedman,Rab Duffin, ‘Louis’ Armstrong, Matty McPhee and supersub Billy Steele.
The next season saw us off to a flyer, winning at Dundee before a 2-1 win v Kilmarnock at Annfield, when I witnessed a Killie fan next to us pull a huge knife (fuck knows what happened after that as my auld man scooped me up and away to safety). Presumably he never told my mum as we were back 2 weeks later to witness a 1-1 draw v Alloa. This time I heard a polis swearing (“what a fuckin’ strike”) as Stirling netted a sublime equaliser. You didn’t get an education like this at Dunblane Primary School I thought to myself.
One Saturday, Hearts came visiting with 6,728 fans at Annfield and we took the lead in the first minute, a freak goal from a Matty McPhee cross. In the 2nd half though, Hearts were shooting down the slope and ran riot, winning 4-2. I was at the hospital end of the ground so the goals were flying in at the wrong end for me. Each goal, the ball would hit the net, the scorer would wheel away celebrating and then this roar would hit me. I’d never seen, or heard, anything like it.
The Annfield slope was famous. When Stirling were shooting down the slope, with the home fans in ‘the shed’ behind the goal, you always fancied them to score. Even after they levelled the pitch in ’87 and laid astroturf , that mentality was still there.
In the late 80s we had sold Charlie Gibson to Dumbarton for £50,000. He returned with his new team and Dumbarton were winning 1-0 at half time, with Charlie getting pelters. He ran out in the second half to jeers and cries of “Charlie, Charlie, get tae fuck”. Unperturbed, he turned and smiled at us, holding up his fingers to signal the score.
Well , he forgot about the slope mentality. And he forgot Stirling were shooting down the ‘slope’. It ended up 4-1 for Stirling with Charlie wishing he’d never returned to Annfield.
The greatest result I saw at Annfield?Beating Celtic 1-0 in the league cup one night in 1980. Couldnae believe it. I remember Celtic fans ruffling my hair outside the ground and joking with my dad about lifting me over the turnstile. I doubt they were as cheerful 2 hours later.
Within a year of that highlight, Stirling had got relegated and gone 20 games without scoring a goal. 20 fuckin games! Oh the shame. I got slagged at school relentlessly. I remember we missed a penalty at the shed end and another time a shot hit the post and rolled along the goalline before being cleared. When we finally scored it was a penalty (at the shed end obv).
Annfield was demolished in 1993 I think and the club moved to a shiny new stadium with no atmosphere (not even a slope ffs). Its never been the same for me. And they built houses on the hallowed turf of Annfield Park.
Perhaps because of this, I like to visit old stadia, the more decrepit the better. Pittodrie was impressive with its peeling paintwork, San Paulo in Naples charmingly crumbling but the prize must go to Boness Uniteds Newtown ground it really is a dump. I love it.
PS Just discovered Boness are getting astroturf laid.