Right, time to get the blog up and running after that long hibernation…

In 2015 I finally got around to visiting Peterhead’s ‘new’ stadium, which had actually opened 18 years earlier. So having ‘Completed The 42’ as they say, away back in the day, I once more slotted in the last part of the jigsaw and ticked off the missing ground. Not much of a groundhopper then. Some people would have been there the day it opened.

All of the photos below are mine, except for the first one, which I couldn’t resist using as it’s a lovely shot, pinched from the internet – sorry if the owner is reading this. Probably from a drone. A nice slope on the North Sea though, handy for water-skiers.

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ICT had played there before, but it was usually pre-season friendlies or midweek ties in the League Cup, so I hadn’t bothered trekking up, and let’s face it, it is a bit of a trek. Heaven help anybody visiting relatives in the recently closed HMP Peterhead, which is now a museum, or the new HMP Grampian. HMP Peterhead was the scene of a riot in 1987 which old Ice-Cream Cornet Heid, aka Home Secretary Douglas Hurd, ended by bringing in the SAS.

Peterhead’s old ground was Recreation Park in Queen Street, the site of which is now occupied by a Morrison’s, just down the road from the new stadium. I have one snap of the old Recreation Park which I took in October 1992 when Peterhead, then in the Highland League, played Caley in the old Qualifying Cup.

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Caley had a wonderful run to the 4th round of the Scottish Cup in 1991-2, beating Stenhousemuir and Clyde before going out to Premier Division St Johnstone after a replay. They had great hopes of doing something similar in 92-93 but it was not to be. After coming through a difficult tie at Elgin, they could be forgiven for thinking that the hard work was done. Only Peterhead stood between Caley and a place in the semi-final, and hence the Scottish Cup proper, as happened in those days.

I drove up from Edinburgh with my old mucker Dave Mackay. Back in those days we could get up to a Caley home game in Inverness for about £14 worth of diesel. It was a nice sunny autumnal day and we had a tape of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells 2 in the car. This was a recording of the previous month’s World Premier at Edinburgh Castle. Happy days.

I insisted in stopping at Charles McHardy butchers in Stonehaven on the way up. I loved their home made pork pies, and apparently they were named Britain’s best butcher in 1997. We ate them sitting in the sunshine on the harbour wall, before battering on up to The Blue Toon.

For the record, the teams were:

Peterhead: Dunbar, Watson, Burke, King, Coull, Gerrard, Campbell, Emslie, McGachie, Brown, Fraser. Subs: Madden, Watson.

Caledonian: McRitchie, Skinner, Mann, Gilmour, Sinclair, Andrew, MacDonald, Lisle, Urquhart, Christie, Robertson. Subs: McAllister, Caldwell.

The game was settled by a Bruce Campbell goal after 15 minutes. For all Caley’s second half pressure, it was The Blue Toon who deservedly progressed, gaining revenge for their 3-2 defeat in the previous year’s Final. Peterhead lost at Cove in the next round, and by one of those quirks, also lost there in the first round of the Scottish.

 

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One great thing about the old park was that it backed onto Raemoss Park where Buchanhaven Hearts played, so at half time we watched a bit of their game which I believe they won 5-1. Indeed, Recreation Park was originally part of Raemoss Park and was gifted to the club.

The old ground saw its record crowd as recently as 1987, when anything between 6500 – 8500 are reported to have witnessed a 3-3 draw against Raith Rovers in a 4th round replay. The Blue Toon had previously beaten East Stirlingshire, Rothes and Clyde, and drawn 2-2 at Starks Park, before going out 3-0 in the second replay at Gayfield. However Balmoor saw the club’s record victory, 17-0 versus Fort William in 1998, which demonstrates that, for The Fort, little changes.

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So, fast forward to 2015 and Balmoor Stadium. ICT were playing on Sunday against Celtic, so with Livingston visiting Peterhead on Scottish Cup business, it was a perfect opportunity to tick off the last ground of the SPFL. No driving for me this time – using the newly acquired Bus Pass on the Megabus Gold and the Aberdeen to Peterhead bus meant that I could have a few refreshments.

I mentioned McHardy’s the butcher, but in Peterhead you have to try the pies by Coutts & Son. I would say they are the best I’ve ever had at a game anywhere. As well as that, the club shop had what they called ‘toffee’ at £1 a bag. This turned out to be the local name for what I always knew as ‘tablet’.

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A bit about Peterhead FC. Founded in 1890, they were admitted to the Highland League in 1931, winning it 5 times, the last being 1998-99, before being admitted to the Scottish league along with Elgin City for season 2000-1. Balmoor Stadium had been opened on 28/9/97 and probably played a significant part in the application. The capacity of the new facility is quoted as 3150, although it hosted a record crowd of 4885 against Rangers in 2013, apparently by using temporary terracing. The two stands look almost identical, but the main stand is slightly larger, and total seating is reported as 998. Behind both goals are hard standing areas.

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Livi celebrate going a goal up

Peterhead spent their first 5 seasons in the bottom tier but with the arrival of ex-ICT legend Iain Stewart that was about to change. Stewart came to the club as a striker, but in his first  full season as manager, replacing ex-Scotland Internationalist Ian Wilson, he guided them to promotion on the coat-tails of Gretna in 2005. They were relegated in 2010-11 but returned as champions in 2013. Another ICT legend, Steve Paterson, managed the club from 2006-2008.

As I write, they have won through to the 2018 League 1 playoff final and will meet Stenhousemuir.

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So, back to the Scottish Cup and the Round 3 match against Livingston. Like many followers of the Cup, I travelled up hoping for an upset on the day. Livingston were in the Championship but ended up being relegated by the playoffs. Peterhead were in League 1 and just missed out on promotion in the same playoffs.

The Peterhead side included the high scoring Rory McAllister, who had a spell in the SPL with ICT, but never really cut it, despite 49 appearances. He then attained legendary status at Brechin City, before winning the hearts of the Peterhead faithful. Peterhead also had Shane Sutherland, who had a similar record at ICT, before having his best days at Elgin.

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Livi had Liam Buchanan, man of many clubs, whom I had met a couple of times as he had joined in pre-season training at Whitehill. Any thoughts of a shock were quickly washed away as Livi totally dominated, taking the lead through ex-Hearts and Ross County striker Gary Glen after quarter of an hour, and adding a further 2 goals from Jordan White to qualify comfortably for the last 32. Rory McAllister added a consolation from the penalty spot in stoppage time. Final score 1-3.

I slipped away just as the final whistle sounded and reached the bus station for the 5pm connection to Aberdeen. Due to congestion in Union Street I made the Megabus to Edinburgh with about 4 minutes to spare. Match Highlights Here.

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