Not The Grand Tour, this is The Ground Tour, a trip to every club ground in the Scottish Professional Football League. I fired up the MR2 and undertook this over 6 days in the close season, summer 2022, and I added a twist to make the whole thing a little bit more personal to me, read on.
So, 42 League grounds plus - here's the personal bit - the grounds of clubs that have been in the Scottish Football League in my lifetime, so a few clubs that are fairly recently departed, one that stopped playing in the late 1960s and while I'm at it, one that are stepping into the league for the first time in season 2022/23, and, finally, one that's never been in the League but has a Grade A Listed stand!
That makes 49 grounds in total, listed here in the order in which I visited them. Please note, the playing details are correct for the 2021/22 season.
Drive to Gretna and then pick up the grounds in south west Scotland before an overnight stop in the south west outskirts of Glasgow. 100 miles to Gretna, then a further 186 miles.
Fascinating fact. Played in the English FA Cup as recently as the early 1990s (the first Scottish side since Queens Park in 1887).
Fascinating fact. Replaced Gretna in the league in 2008; 88 miles to Stranraer, 88 miles to Berwick (at one time their 2 ‘local’ rivals in League 2.
Fascinating fact. Highest free standing floodlights and terrace in Scottish football; the only team named in the bible.
Fascinating fact. They have had the longest running shirt sponsorship deal - with Stena Line - since 1988/89.
Fascinating fact. The only Scottish club to have been formed from merger of 2 existing league clubs (Ayr Parkhouse & Ayr FC in 1910).
Fascinating fact. Founder member of SFA; formed by a group of people who were originally interested in other sports - the ground name is Rugby Park - and also cricketers looking for a sporting pursuit to occupy them outside of the cricket season.
A tour of the greater Glasgow area to visit the grounds in and in the outskirts of the city, this was a 125 mile day.
Fascinating fact. Qualified for the European Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 67/68, but were beaten in first round by Chelsea; Sir Stanley Matthews played as a “guest” for them in WW2.
Fascinating fact. The first team to win a league title at all 4 league levels.
Fascinating fact. Formed as a gentleman’s club, then took to football; SFL founder member.
Fascinating fact. The only team in Scotland to have won every domestic trophy.
Fascinating fact. Not played in Partick since 1908; were a ‘feeder’ club for Chelsea between 1986 and 1989, though not many player movements.
Fascinating fact. Benefited in league division placements due to other club's misfortunes on three occasions (2008, 2009 and 2012).
Fascinating fact. Beat Stranraer 15-14 on consecutive penalties in a shootout against Stranraer in the League Cup in October 2020, a Scottish record.
Fascinating fact. The only professional club in British football to have originated from a school team; homeless so ground shared from 1994 to 2001.
Fascinating fact. Club colours changed in 1913 from blue, either to reflect Bradford City recent success or match racing colours of Lord Hamilton of Dalziel.
Fascinating fact. 1967 saw the club win every competition they entered: Scottish League, Scottish Cup, Scottish League Cup, Glasgow Cup, European Cup.
Fascinating fact. Only Scottish team to have played in the FA Cup Final (1884 and 1885).
Fascinating fact. Dissolved in 1967, despite being historically successful; founder member of SFA & SFL; originally a “military” club (Third Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers).
Pick up a club on the northeast corner of Glasgow, then up the centre of the country to Dingwall, before heading east to Peterhead. This was my longest day at 312 miles and a 7pm finish.
Fascinating fact. Moved to Cumbernauld in 1994; original ground included tennis courts and a bicycle track around the pitch; season 22-23 to be spent ground sharing with Hamilton Academical.
Fascinating fact. Take their name from the old name for Perth (St John’s Toun); only professional football club in Britain with a ‘J’ in their name.
Fascinating fact. Elected to SFL in 1994; club badge features a stag’s head, taken from the regimental badge of the (local) Seaforth Highlanders.
Fascinating fact. Formed from merger of Inv Caledonian and Inv Thistle in 1994; took part in UEFA Europa League in 2015/16 (following Scottish Cup win).
Fascinating fact. Joined the SPL in 2000 (with Peterhead); reached the quarter finals of Scottish Cup in 1968 (best performance by a Highland League team).
Fascinating fact. In 1923 the club committee agreed to switch Scottish Cup match to Pittodrie, players not happy, walked out, had to raise a scratch team.
A trip down the east coast of Scotland, generally staying pretty close to the coast, to visit a multitude of clubs across all four divisions and a couple that have slipped out of the League. A more reasonable 188 mile today.
Fascinating fact. First all seated and all covered stadium in the UK; first stadium to feature a dug-out, Everton visited and copied idea, spread worldwide.
Fascinating fact. Joined SPFL after beating Berwick Rangers in 2019; promoted to 1st Division after first season (though season ended early due to Covid).
Fascinating fact. Had 22 consecutive seasons in 4th tier until promotion in 2018; artificial pitch installed in 2007.
Fascinating fact. Ground is the closest to the sea in Britain, on stormy winter days, waves beat on the walls surrounding the ground, venue for 36-0 win.
Fascinating fact. Fans were voted toughest in the world by 4.4.2 football magazine in 1993; pitch famous for the hedge that runs alongside one side of it.
Fascinating fact. Most successful period was late 1970s and 80s, at the end of the 1985– 86 season the club were 1 point below promotion to the Premier Division.
Fascinating fact. Matches v Dundee United are the most local football derby in Britain; Dave Halliday (11/12/01 to 5/1/70) was the outright top scorer in both of the top divisions in Scotland & England.
Fascinating fact. Fans known as Arabs; ground sharing with Dundee FC long discussed, but complicated by SPL dislike of ground sharing.
Fascinating fact. First team to win the Scottish League Cup three times, first of only two sides from the second tier of the league system to win the Scottish Cup.
Fascinating fact. First football team in Fife to be elected to the Scottish League in 1902; introduced training with a ball in 1921 (first in Scotland).
Fascinating fact. Oldest surviving football club in Fife; Rab Walls' 54 League goals in 1938/39 is the second highest seasonal total in Scottish League history.
Fascinating fact. Promoted to SPFL in 2021, taking Brechin City’s place; beat Scottish Cup holders (St Johnstone) in 4th round of Scottish Cup in 2021/22.
Dunfermline to Edinburgh, along the way picking up the clubs in the Stirling / Falkirk area, a leisurely 101 mile day.
Fascinating fact. Financial problems in 2013 saw them go into administration, followed by a fan group, Pars United, assuming control of the club.
Fascinating fact. Have finished runners-up in the third tier a record nine times without ever winning; record attendance 15,467 Scottish Cup 5th round versus Celtic in 1955.
Fascinating fact. Took the place of King's Park - their future was jeopardised by a wartime bomb - 'Albion’ was chosen because it was an old word for Great Britain and held meaning for the founder, not related to founder’s coal trucks (which were initially used as stands at the ground).
Fascinating fact. Only club to have competed in the professional leagues since the 20th century but to have never won a league title.
Fascinating fact. Have won the second tier title a record seven times (shared with St Johnstone).
Fascinating fact. Ground share with Falkirk FC; were the first club to be relegated out of the league system (2016).
Fascinating fact. Started as Ferranti Amateurs in 1943; joined the league in 1974 when 3 tier format created, replacing long lost Third Lanark (1967).
Fascinating fact. First club suspended by SFA, for playing 2 professionals in 1884; won the World Championship title in 1902, beating Spurs over 2 legs.
Fascinating fact. First British side to participate in European competition, reached the semi-final of the first ever European Cup in 1955–56.
Fascinating fact. Started out as Postal United, formed in 1966 and allowed to use Edinburgh City name from 1986; promoted to SPFL in 2016 (in place of East Stirlingshire).
A trip down the southeast of Scotland, only 3 clubs to visit, I got to Gretna in 158 miles and then made the 100 mile trip home.
Fascinating fact. Beat Burntisland Shipyard 14–0 in the second round of the Scottish Cup in 2016/17.
Fascinating fact. Relegated out of SPFL in 2019, replaced by Cove Rangers; had to follow (English FA) Taylor report despite playing in Scotland.
Fascinating fact. Never been in the senior leagues, BUT, they do have a stand, built in 1964, which is a category A listed building; designed by renowned engineer Ove Arup (of Sydney Opera House fame) - In Galashiels! Unfortunately undergoing routine maintenance when I visited, as the photo clearly shows.
A wonderful trip around Scotland, visiting some great towns with small, majestic stadiums along with larger conurbations with grand clubs and facilities. It also included a bit of a geography lesson at the same time as you pick your way from ground to ground along all sorts of roads, motorways to narrow single track roads. I did come across 3 or 4 other people who were, or appeared to be, doing exactly the same thing (so I'm not mad).
The movements up and down the 1, 2 , 3 or 4 Scottish football leagues over the years …