No Concert In Central Park
By Alex Horsburgh
Updated Monday, 6th August 2012
Saturday sees the quintessential Fife derby and east coast grudge match. It's Cowdenbeath v Dunfermline Athletic.
It's nearly 100 years since Cowdenbeath FC were in dispute over the lease of their first home ground North End Park. A solicitor asked Cowden manager of the time, Sandy Paterson, if they were "the principal team in the Second Division and almost 'on a par ' with Dunfermline Athletic.'' Paterson's reply was: ''No, Cowdenbeath are better. ''
That 'on a par' comment grew into the Athletic's nickname 'The Pars' as far as local Fife folklore is concerned. It was ironic that Paterson would leave Cowdenbeath Football Club in 1925/6 for the 'bigger' of the two clubs 'The Pars' and become their manager after leading Cowden to their best ever Scottish League position of fifth in the top league.
If truth be told there was little to separate the two clubs in support or perceived 'size' pre- WW II.
Cowdenbeath were formed in 1881, four years before Dunfermline Athletic rose from the shadows of a local Dunfermline CRICKET club. The earliest record of Cowdenbeath playing a local derby with a Dunfermline FC, or at least a team from Dunfermline, is in 1882 when Cowden played Dunfermline at Ladysmill. In this pre-floodlight era Reid made it 3-1 for Dunfermline in the 75th minute but Cowdenbeath claimed he had handled. As darkness fell the referee gave the goal which led to the visiting Cowden side walking from the pitch in protest. Match Abandoned!
Maybe the seeds of this particular east coast grudge match were formed right there and then long before Sandy Paterson defected from The Miners to The Pars.
It was the era after 1945 that saw Dunfermline Athletic progress and become upwardly mobile while their smaller neighbours stayed still. Cowdenbeath had won promotion to the top division in Scotland in 1938/9 but were placed back in Division 2 after the war. This decision saw 'The Miners', despite their best efforts, rooted to basement division football until 1970 while The Pars started to become something of a third force in the Scottish game. The 1960's finally saw the gap between the local Fife rivals become a chasm as Athletic won two Scottish Cups ('61 and '68),losing one other in the 1965 final, and began to make regular appearances in European club competitions. Every Scottish football fan worth his salt knows Jock Stein began the golden era at East End Park but a couple of years before he became Pars boss Cowdenbeath had approached the former Albion Rovers stalwart to become THEIR manager, Stein declined.
If Cowdenbeath fans already had a chip on their shoulder formed by their old rivals rise to prominence in the Scottish game at the start of the 60's it was made worse in 1963 when Cowden's home Scottish Cup tie v Dunfermline Athletic was moved by the SFA to Starks Park (Raith Rovers). In the most severe winter of the modern era the tie originally scheduled for Jan 26th was finally played on March 11th. There wasn't a single match played at Central Park due to weather conditions between December 8th 1962 and March 16th 1963.
Season 1970/1 finally saw the first League derbies between the two clubs for years with Cowdenbeath winning both 2-1 home and away in the top league (as well as the Fife Cup in a two-legged final v Athletic ).
However, Cowden still went down to Division 2, finishing bottom of Div 1with just 17 points, after one season in the top flight while Dunfermline just managed to leapfrog St Mirren to avoid the other relegation spot.
1972/3 saw Cowden and Athletic back together as Second Division teams and despite Cowden having the beating of The Pars again in league matches the East End Park side frustrated their blue neighbours by winning promotion as Cowden imploded in the run-in losing matches they should have won.
1975/6 saw Cowden beat The Pars 4-0 in the Spring Cup after going down 1-0 at East End in a section that also included Queens Park and Hamilton Accies. Being a bit of a bogey side for their illustrious neighbours was now something of a norm for the team that would later become 'The Blue Brazil'
One of the best Fife derbies of the 70's was the October 1976 Div 2 match at East End Park. Nearly 4,000 saw Dunfermline take an early lead through Roddie Georgeson but a plucky Cowden side equalised with the last kick of the game when burly veteran sub Billy Simpson crashed home a shot from 40 yards. It was after that result Dunfermline really began to get the upper hand in modern era derbies with their neighbours, although Cowdenbeath fans will point out they exited Division 1 in 1992/3 with a defiant 1-0 win at East End Park which also later cost Athletic promotion.
The last time both clubs were in the same division (two seasons ago) The Pars won 11-1 on aggregate in the four derbies in Division 1 and most self respecting Pars fans would expect similar this season with their team arguably still able to claim SPL status after Rangers demise and Cowdenbeath punching above their weight once again as a team promoted from Division 2, albeit as Champions, in May.
This weekend's game will certainly be a must watch for many football fans in Fife. We will find out if The Blue Brazil are on 'a par' with Dunfermline Athletic in 2012 sometime around 5pm on Saturday August 11th.
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