Dunfermline Athletic: Still On a 'Par' With The Best | @Alexecky

As part of a series of Scottish football history articles written for us by radio presenter Alex Horsburgh, today he relives the glory moments of Dunfermline Athletic, and explains why the east of Scotland team have a nickname that lends itself more to golf than football, or does it? 

Dunfermline Athletic FC celebrate their 135th birthday this month and the club from the old capital of Scotland, the resting place of King Robert The Bruce at Dunfermline Abbey, are getting ready to resume their battle to get back to the top division of the Scottish League when Scottish football resumes in August.

135 years of age this month and formed from a breakaway from a cricket club by football enthusiasts in 1885 [The former Dunfermline FC had existed in a soccer sense since 1874], Dunfermline Athletic (since 1885) have always been regarded as one of Scotland's biggest sides outside its three major cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen with potential for a big support.

The club from the ancient Kingdom of Fife on Scotland's east coast joined the Scottish League in 1912 and since then they have been an important part of Scottish football history. Their halcyon days came in the period 1961 to 1970, when they played in either the Cup Winners Cup or the Fairs Cup for each of those nine years.

Everton,West Brom and Valencia were amongst the better known clubs seen off by the Fifers in Europe back then, and the East End Park side reached the Cup Winners Cup semi final in 1969 with the prize of a Battle of Britain final v Newcastle United awaiting the winners of the two legged tie between club side from Scotland and the then Czeckoslovakia.

Despite their defeat by Bratislava on aggregate, this was peak Pars [more on the club nickname in a moment], but the trophy that season did eventually end up in the UK after Newcastle won the final against Slovan to win their last major trophy in 51 years up to the present day.

Programmes for The Pars first European tie in Ireland 

The Dunfermline Euro years begun after Jock Stein, in his first major managerial position, steered Athletic to the 1961 Scottish Cup with a victory over Celtic, after a replayed final at Hampden. It wasn't long before Stein was crafting Dunfermline into a European force before leaving for the Hibs hot-seat in 1964 and then famously joining Celtic 12 months later.

Before exiting Fife, Stein laid the foundations for the Pars to become very much the third force in Scottish football behind the Old Firm in the mid to late 1960s. Despite Big Jock leading Celtic to victory in the 1965 Scottish Cup final over the Pars, a result which started the Celtic domination of Scottish football for the next 10 years, Dunfermline were back in the national cup final again in '68 under manager and former Blackpool goalie George Farm, who won the FA Cup in the famous Matthews final of 1953. With the Fifers taking on Hearts at Hampden, in a match that was bizarrely played on the same day as a Rangers v St Johnstone league fixture at Ibrox.

Dunfermline v Celtic in the league a few days after the Pars 1968 Scottish Cup win. A record attendance of nearly 30,000 including the guys on the roof!

Athletic ended up winning the only Scottish Cup final that decade not to feature one or both of the Old Firm 3-1 in 1968 to further cement their reputation north of the border although only 56,000 [around half the usual Scottish Cup final attendance in the 1960s] saw the Pars v Jambos tie due to the important league match being played at Ibrox at the same time.

An unexpected relegation from the Scottish top flight in season 1971/72 ended the glory years for the Pars, and since League reconstruction away from two divisions [1975] the club have occupied nearly every position in the Scottish League from basement division struggles in the early 1980s, to Premier League respectability in the mid-noughties, when they also appeared in both the Scottish Cup and League Cup finals echoing the cup glory years of the 1960s.

The club's nickname ''the Pars'' is thought to come from a time when the club played so badly pre WW2 that they were nicknamed the 'paralytics', although some would say it came from a banner displayed at the ground, again pre WW2, when English sailors at nearby Rosyth Dockyard adopted the Fife club as their team proclaiming themselves Plymouth Argyle [Rosyth] Supporters [PARS] with the banner a regular feature of East End Park home games for almost a decade.

A third theory as far as the 'Pars' nickname goes, is when Dunfermline Athletic changed from hooped to striped shirts they resembled a parr, which is a fish.

Alex Ferguson heads towards goal for Dunfermline v Third Lanark circa 1965 at East End Park

As if having a connection with the great Jock Stein wasn't enough of an honour, the Pars had a [pre-Sir] Alex Ferguson playing up front for them in the mid 1960s. Fergie remains a supporter of the club, he even brought his Aberdeen side to East End Park for Dunfermline's centenary match in 1985, a year before moving south to Man United, and the great man speaks fondly of his time in Fife to this day.

Dunfermline Athletic will restart 2020 in the Scottish second tier (Championship) with an aim to return to the top flight once again and a hope that they can do half as well as the great team of the 1960s fashioned by Jock Stein and steered into the 1970s by George Farm.

Relegation under manager Jim Leishman in 1988, at Champions Celtic, who were celebrating 100 years as a football club. 

This piece was kindly written and given to @TFHBs by Alex Horsburgh - you can follow him on Twitter: @Alexecky

Our book is available to buy here! https://www.amazon.co.uk/Footballs-Fifty-Most-Important-Moments/dp/178531632X

©The Football History Boys, 2020
(All pictured borrowed kindly & not owned by TFHB)


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