I nicked this photo off the internet. There were no details but I can tell the details from memory. The two Rangers players on the right are Andy Penman and Colin Stein. No 6 is Doug Mitchell and the goalkeeper is Davie Stewart. The occasion is Ayr’s record crowd, of 25225, in September 1969, when they defeated Rangers 2-1. Pretty remarkable when you consider that today Somerset Park holds only 10185, with 1597 seats. Also pretty remarkable that Ayr, managed by Ally MacLeod and newly promoted to an 18 team First Division, runners-up to Motherwell, beat the ‘Gers fairly convincingly. You can’t see the boundary wall in this photo because many of the crowd are sitting on the track. As a 14 year old boy I was one of them, and it was my first visit to Somerset.
Ayr were 2 goals up in 12 minutes through Cutty Young and Jackie Ferguson ( not Sir Alex, who played for Ayr in 1973-4, and who was actually on Rangers’ books at the time of this game). Colin Stein’s injury-time goal was merely a consolation. For the record the Ayr heroes were: Stewart, Malone, Murphy, Fleming, Quinn, Mitchell, Young, Ferguson, Ingram, McCulloch, Rough. The Rangers line-up was Neef, Johansen, Mathieson, Greig, Provan, Baxter, Penman, Jardine (Smith), Stein, MacDonald, Johnston.
The normal pattern for these blogs is that I dig out some old photos, showing how the ground has developed, or perhaps even relocated to a newbuild. However this grand old stadium has hardly changed since that warm day in 1969. They didn’t have any floodlights until 1970 mind you, and in the photo above you can see the half-time scoreboard that was a feature of most grounds back then. If you didn’t have a programme you had to find somebody who did if you wanted to know which letters corresponded to which match. Also the Somerset Road End (home end) was covered in 1971, the Railway End having been covered since 1933. The large North terrace was reduced and the Ally MacLeod Hospitality suite now stands where the scoreboard was.
Ayr and Ayr Parkhouse merged in 1910 to form Ayr United, and moved into Somerset Park, which they bought 10 years later for £2500. They have won the second tier of League football 6 times, the last being in 1966. They have reached the semi-final of the Scottish Cup 3 times, most recently in 2002, when they were beaten 3-0 by Celtic. That same season they reached their only national final, the League Cup, but lost 4-0 to Rangers.
I lived in Ayr for a year around 1977-8 but don’t have any notable football memories, apart from drinking at a hotel called the Elms Court, which is now gone. Hugh Sproat, the legendary goalkeeper, used to drink there. He joined Ayr from Auchinleck in 1974 and was famous for wearing a green jersey against Rangers, and a blue one every time he faced Celtic.
However in 1999 ICT were promoted into Division 1, and after Going Ballistic in February 2000, they spent 5 years in that league and played Ayr many times. In September of that year they grabbed a 3-3 draw with 2 goals in the last 5 minutes from Sheerin and Mann.
In November of 2001 ICT suffered a double blow in the space of 5 days. On Saturday they went down 3-0 in a league match, followed by a 5-1 defeat in the quarter-final of the League Cup on the Wednesday.
In the meantime Paul Sheerin, scorer for ICT in the famous game at Parkhead, had transferred to Ayr. In only 9 minutes, well-known shrinking violet, Ross Tokely, put ICT ahead with a header from a corner, but a minute later he departed the field after the far more experienced Pat McGinlay lured him into retaliating and a red card. So the ten men went down to goals from Grady, Robertson, McGinlay, Sheerin and Annand. Ayr also had John ‘Yogi’ Hughes and Gary Teale in their ranks and went on to reach the final. It’s said that Manager Steve Paterson kept Tokely waiting outside the front door, freezing in his kit, for the rest of the game, and he thought he was going to walk home to Inverness 🙂 .
In March of 2004 the teams fought out a 1-1 draw in the most ferocious wind I have ever encountered at a match. Barry Wilson equalised from the spot after Lee Hardy had put Ayr ahead after only 35 seconds, following a wind-assisted clearance from goalkeeper Ludo Roy. This was a setback for ICT who were challenging for promotion with Clyde, but they eventually prevailed as champions in a ‘helicopter Saturday’ in Inverness.
Apart from a Scottish Cup meeting, that was it until 2009 when ICT were relegated, only to bounce back up at the first attempt, handing out two hammerings to Ayr in the process.
Ayr did manage two draws at the Caledonian Stadium, but in October of that year it was 5-1 at Somerset as ICT prevailed with a Richie Foran hat-trick added to goals from Adam Rooney and Dougie Imrie, against a single counter from Mark Roberts. Ross Tokely was booked after 2 minutes…
And so on to 24 April 2010 when ICT came back to Somerset with the First Division title virtually sewn up and almost beyond nearest challengers Dundee who had looked unassailable back in the winter. It was celebration time as the fans gathered in the taverns of Ayr, the Ship Inn in particular, a welcoming haunt over the years. Ayr, now managed by Brian Reid, applauded the champions-elect onto the park.
It was a thumping win for ICT – they were 4 goals up at half time and went on to win 7-0 with all 7 coming from different scorers: Hayes, Rooney, Foran, Odhiambo, Sanchez, Eagle, Morrison. The fans invaded the park and manager Terry Butcher addressed them from high up in the stand.
The final fixture at home to Dundee was a formality – very few Dees could face the long trip and 6031 witnessed a 1-0 win with Adam Rooney scoring. After a year’s absence ICT were back in the top flight.