Result: Pollok 0-1 Cumnock Juniors (SJFA West Region Premiership)
Venue: Newlandsfield Park (Saturday 8th February 2020, 2pm)
Another birthday. Jesus Christ. It seems like just another year that one comes about….unless you’re the Queen, I suppose. Anyhow, as per the norm, the weekend’s trip would see something a little bit out of the ordinary, with a trip up North of the border to Glasgow. To where exactly, we weren’t sure. I say we, as I would be joined by Paul, who I’d shared a trip to Gretna with a couple of years earlier; a trip that was highlighted by a striker knocking a light off the stand, before scoring moments later. Superb stuff. Would our game of choice be able to match up to such action?!
We eventually decided upon Pollok, though this was slightly threatened by my train crawling in between Motherwell and Glasgow Central – thus meaning a later arrival and a rush over the platforms for the service to Pollokshaws East, not to be confused with Pollokshields East nearby. Luckily, the station is basically around the corner from Pollok’s Newlandsfield Park home, and so our later arrival than perfect, just before 1pm, was offset a little. Of course, pint drinking time was now at a premium though, especially with a 2pm kick off time, and so making a decision to split between grabbing a programme and getting the pints in was made. You can never be too careful! Our destination upon our rekindling was the Quaich, a smallish bar hidden away down the side of the railway, but just off the main road. A pint of Tennents £3.35~ a piece did the job in here, whilst the early kick off between Hamilton Accies and Rangers was highlighted by the commentary “head, shoulder, shoulder, head”. Classic stuff there….
Pollokshaws is an area in Glasgow’s southside which is bordered by the areas of Auldhouse, Eastwood, Hillpark, Newlands and Shawlands. The Glasgow South Western railway line and the White Cart Water run through the area, whilst Pollok Country Park lies to the west. It was originally a village whose main industry, from the 17th century, was weaving and this was then expanded and bettered by the addition of Flemish weavers, who were brought over by Maxwell’s of Pollok, on account of their skills. Pollokshaws remained a burgh of Renfrewshire through to 1912, when it was annexed to the City of Glasgow and it thereupon changed from being largely industrial, into being mooted as the second “Comprehensive Development Area”.
This duly came to fruition, with the area largely flattened and rebuilt. Tower blocks were added in the 1960’s, remaining in situ as a full group until 2008 when their destruction began – a span which would last until 2016 and the felling of the final block. The first of these demolitions were filmed for American T.V. Notable people from the area include actor Alex Norton, an early far-left Independent Labour Party leader James Maxton, footballers Bobby Collins (Glasgow Celtic, Leeds United and Pollok) and Bobby Evans (Glasgow Celtic) and the comedian Frankie Boyle. Also, the illegitimate daughter of a Globe Inn (where I visited a few months ago, prior to Queen of the South vs Queen’s Park) barmaid and poet Robert Burns, Elizabeth, is interred in a local churchyard.
As chance would have it, Pollok’s ground just so happens to be neighboured by a restaurant/bar and, having entered through the restaurant in our quest for the bar, we eventually got to it for a couple of St. Mungo’s (£4.70), a lager brewed within the city somewhere. It was pretty decent too, but we were soon approaching the gate, for kick-off time had caught up with us. Paying our £6 entry fee, we entered into Newlandsfield Park – and what a ground it is. A large covered terrace dominates the far side, flanked at each side by bits of said terrace jutting out beyond the reaches of the roof. Each end and the opposite touchline are all populated by similar sized open terraces, each numbering around five steps apiece. The dressing rooms – and all other usual rooms – were located within a block in the corner of the ground, the corridor of which also served as the tunnel. A food bar is located on the opposite side of this end, between it and the stand. All in all, it’s a real throwback. So that’s the ground in a nutshell and this is the story of Pollok Football Club….
Pollok Football Club was founded in 1908 and, for a fair time, were a solid side in the Glaswegian Junior football scene, competing in both the Scottish Junior and Glasgow Junior Leagues, winning silverware such as the North Eastern Cup, Kirkwood Shield and the (seemingly named just to rub it in) Glasgow Consolation Cup along the way, whilst playing in the Pollok Country Park, at Haggs Park. However, after being ousted in 1926-’27 and playing at Shawfield Juniors’ Roseberry Park and the brilliantly named Queen Mary Tea Gardens, the club were approached with grounds at Newlandsfield Work, that would go on to become their home for the next 90-plus years. The club competed in Intermediate Football between 1927 and 1931, winning the Intermediate Cup on a few occasions during this period.
Their return to Junior Football in ’31 saw the club struggle, with only a Kirkwood Shield to show for their efforts over the next decade until World War II, when Pollok lost their pavilion and equipment to an electrical-based blaze. Due to the war, these damages couldn’t be replaced and so the Lok were homeless for a time once more. But they did still secure the 1942 Central League Cup and Glasgow Challenge Cup to secure a season’s double. Eventually, repairs were made and the club returned home, rounding off the war years with triumph in the form of the 1945 and 1946 North Eastern Cup, the ’45 West of Scotland Cup and the 1947 Glasgow Charity Cup. The 1944-’45 season also saw Pollok reach the Scottish Cup semi-final, losing out to Burnbank Athletic, but not before winning a replay (after an appeal) in which 15,000 turned up to Newlandsfield – though many would leave due to being unable to see, and instead bought a train ticket to watch from the nearby platform. Shrewd!
1948 would see a setback both on and off the field, with Pollok losing the Central League championship final and being told to either buy or leave Newlandsfield Park by the ground owners. The former was eventually secured and so the club’s story at the ground continued on, winning the 1949 Central League Cup, 1954 Glasgow Challenge Cup and the same year’s Erskine Hospital Cup, whilst they rounded off a successful decade by adding the 1958 Glasgow Charity Cup and next year’s Pompey Cup which, I assume, didn’t force the clubs down to Portsmouth. With the Glasgow Challenge Cup and Pompey Cup won again in 1962, Pollok began to grow in prominence after the 1967 demise of their nearby neighbours, Third Lanark, with many of the supporters of Thirds becoming attached to the ‘Lok. After losing out for a second time in the Central League championship final of 1964, the club would progress to finally win the Central League title in 1979.
In 1981, Pollok lifted their first major honour in the form of the Scottish Junior Cup and the remainder of the 1980’s saw the Lok also lift the National Dryburgh Cup, all of which encompassed a total of 14 cup and title wins throughout the decade. The club have since added a further Junior Cup success in 1997 and three further Central League titles came to Newlandsfield Park during the ’90’s too, with eleven honours continuing to fill the trophy cabinet. In 2002, Junior football throughout the west of the country was restructured, with the Central and Ayrshire leagues merging to create the new SJFA West Region’s Superleague. Prior to this, Pollok had managed to lift the Central League trophy on a total of eight occasions.
The new league’s top division became Pollok’s home, with the Premier League being won by The ‘Lok in its inaugural 2002-’03 season, and a further three times in the next four seasons, with their 2007 triumph leading to the club being allowed to compete in Senior Football and the Scottish Cup for the first time, on account of receiving one of the invites given to the four major Junior honours winners. Pollok won their first tie in the competition against South of Scotland side St. Cuthbert’s Wanderers 6-2 at Wanderers’ home, before taking Third Division Montrose to a replay back at Newlandsfield Park. Unfortunately for the ‘Lok, they would go down 1-0 in the replayed game. The league title was successfully defended the following year, but the club missed out on a hat-trick on the last day of the 2009-’10 season.
By 2012, the club had a relegation fight on their hands and had to overcome Renfrew Rangers in a relegation play-off to maintain their top-flight status. However, they wouldn’t be so lucky two years later, 2014 seeing the club relegated to the Division One. Their sojourn away was only brief though, as the club returned at the first attempt, as champions, whilst also winning that year’s Evening Times Champions Cup. 2016 saw Pollok return to the Scottish Junior Cup final, but they would suffer play-off heartbreak, going down to Beith Juniors after a 1-1 draw. They have remained in the Premier Division to this day, finishing last season in 3rd place, with the ‘Lok again looking good for a strong campaign, heading into the final few months. The Lok have also won numerous other local trophies, as shown on the honours board pic below, a picture I’ve unashamedly stolen from their history page!
The game got underw….well, it may have, we weren’t overly sure. After an early stop by home ‘keeper Jordan Longmuir to deny Jamie Conn, honestly, I don’t think it’s unfair to say that all but nothing happened during the first 45 minutes, aside from one off-target shot by Pollok’s Stuart McCann and one moment of magic by Cumnock goalkeeper Kieran Hughes. Hughes channelled his inner Gordon Banks (insert Scottish alternative/Antti Niemi here) and somehow got down low to divert a near point-blank McCann volley up and over the crossbar. An incredible stop, but one that we were certain, as the afternoon wore on, would consign us to a drab goalless draw.
Having visited the food bar during the first half to sample a fine scotch pie, half-time consisted of a visit back to the clubhouse-ish place outside the ground for a pint of Tennents (£3.60), before returning back into Newlandsfield Park for the second half, which was into its early throes. Soon enough, Paul began to make the acquaintance of a local football watcher by the name of Ryan and his dog, whom were soon introduced to the wonders of nonleaguedogs. Chester would eventually join the featured ranks of four-legged legends, but only after numerous failed attempts at getting her to “play ball”, if you’ll excuse the pun! Our conversations with Ryan took up the vast majority of the second half which, by some unwanted miracle, managed to make the first half seem pretty decent.
I usually make notes about match highlights as they happen and, quite honestly, I ended up with two. You can probably guess which one made the cut to that point! The second one finally came around as Paul and I moped our way around the far-end and behind the goal the visitors were attacking and where a few Cumnock committee members had took up position. As the contest entered its final minute of normal time, Cumnock won a corner and, for whatever reason, I felt like something could be about to happen. The wind seemed favourable from the corner near the stand and I opted to not jinx fate by trying a picture. The ball was delivered, and a fine individual wearing a blue #14 shirt drilled a header home from around the penalty spot and sending those committee members, and ourselves(!) into raptures!
We’d avoided a nil-nil in late fashion for a second time at a match together; Greg Ferry was the man to join Paul Thirlwell in our hall of legends! After the game and with rain beginning to fall on our jubilant selves, we headed out along the main road and to sample a few of the remaining pubs between the ground and the station we’d use to get back into Glasgow. First up came the local Wetherspoons outlet, the John Stirling Maxwell, where I stuck with the Tennents (£2.80) in celebration of our Scottish hero from minutes earlier!
With Paul’s excitement growing as his bet neared coming in (whilst my eight-fold featured one goal between them), we headed across the way to a kind of Spoons-that-isn’t-a-Spoons, the James Tassie – named after a local 18th century gem engraver. It is as stated and another Tennents was downed prior to moving back over to our final pre-train stop of the Granary. Packed. That’s the word to explain it! With time against us and the bar packed, I was just about able to muscle (ha!) through the rugby-watching pack and reach the bar for a couple of Tennents. These were swiftly dispatched and we strode through the ever increasing rain of the encroaching Storm Ciara towards the station, where the train quickly pulled in to whisk us back into the city.
Back in Central Station, we had one task to accomplish before we’d depart on our separate ways home. That task? Birthday Jägers! With Paul’s being the following weekend, we had cause for a double celebration and these were finished off in the time honoured fashion, before Paul left for his train, leaving me to finish off a Tennents (£4.70)….and see my train get cancelled. Ah. Not to worry, as it turned out and one leaving ten minutes earlier would get me into Preston with a quick connection actually getting me home quicker than I would have done on my expected, direct service. Because, Britain’s rail system. This all went smoothly, the first hour being bypassed via the medium of sleep before the connection was made in timely fashion at Preston, soon whisking me back into Manchester, where I again made a train – my train home – with moments to spare. Quality.
So that rounds off that. Beating Storm Ciara to the punch was a bonus, the 2pm kick off helped massively there, and the ground was beautifully ramshackle, and I certainly want to do more of these now. The game….well, the last said about the first 91 minutes the better! Programme and Scotch Pie were OK and superb respectively. That’s the birthday weekend in the books, and now it’s onto beating Storm Dennis….
Value For Money: 5