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The Early Years

In the late 1870s, Cowdenbeath was a small mining village of some 2,000 inhabitants. The burgeoning development of the Cowdenbeath Coal Company was to lead to an influx of miners from all over Scotland. Among these incomers were the Pollock family who hailed from the Ayrshire town of Old Cumnock. Mrs Pollock, the mother of this large family, ran a small second- hand furniture business and on a trip to Glasgow she purchased a football for her sons who had learnt the rudiments of the game in Burns' country. Thus Mrs Margaret Pollock kick-started football in Cowdenbeath as her son Davie recalled in 1952. ‘Mither decided that we’d got tae hae a ba’ so she went tae Glesgae and brocht ane back. That ba’ was really the start o’ footba’ here’. The club was founded as Cowdenbeath Rangers in June 1880 by James and John Pollock and featured many of their playing colleagues from the Cowdenbeath Albert Cricket Club.

They secured a pitch on the south side of the village at what became Jubilee Park and erected a set of goalposts. By then there were several strong-going senior teams in the county, such as Dunfermline, Burntisland Thistle, and Kirkcaldy Wanders. Lassodie, Blairadam, and Lochgelly Athletic would soon appear as well. Another Cowdenbeath club entitled Raith Rovers was formed in 1881. It was associated with the pits of the Lochgelly Coal Company while the Rangers players were mainly Cowdenbeath Coal Company men. Cowdenbeath Rangers and Raith Rovers amalgamated to become Cowdenbeath FC in 1882 when the Fifeshire Football Association was established.

The first registered colours of the club were red, white and blue striped Jerseys, blue shorts and red or blue socks. Among the players who made up the nucleus of the first Cowdenbeath team were the 3 Geddes brothers, the Litster brothers, goalkeeper Jock Paterson, left- back Bob Law (later a hero of the Donibristle mining disaster) and John and James Pollock.

The club soon made its mark on the local soccer scene, winning the 1885 Fife Cup, beating Dunfermline who had won the cup in the first two years of its existence, 2- 0 in the Final. Buoyed by this success Cowdenbeath entered the national cup competition for the first time in 1885-86. In the first round Cowden had a walkover when Aberfeldy Breadalbane scratched but the Fifers themselves scratched in the second round allowing Vale of Teith to advance. 1886 also witnessed a record victory when the hapless Kirkcaldy Rangers were defeated 18-0 in the Fife Cup.

1886-87 saw 'The Miners’ make their playing debut in the Scottish Cup. Wins over Burntisland Thistle and Alloa saw Cowdenbeath progress to the fourth round. Cup fever gripped Cowdenbeath for the first time as Cambuslang Hibs visited and in front of a 2,000 crowd defeated the homesters 3-0. By this time, Cowdenbeath had moved to a new ground at (Crawford’s) North End Park in the Foulford district of the village. Jubilee Park continued in use as a football ground until after the Great War. Thereafter, it briefly served as the local 'coup'. In the 1920s what were to be, until recently, British Coal's Central Works and Offices were built on the site.

There was then an era of cup success and the Fife Cup was won in three consecutive seasons, 1888- 89 to 1890- 91. In 1888/89, Cowdenbeath also embarked on an exciting cup run in the Scottish. Kirkcaldy Wanderers, Lassodie and Dunblane were all dispatched on the way to a fifth round meeting with the Paisley club Abercorn (the fifth round was in effect the last 12 in the peculiarly structured tournament of that era). Raeside of Abercorn scored five goals as Cowden were crushed 8-2. In 1890, the village of Cowdenbeath acquired the status of a Burgh but in the 1890-91 Scottish cup eventual defeat was encountered in the third round against the students of Edinburgh University. Further Scottish Cup success proved elusive until season 1895/96 when in the last 32 ‘The Miners’ were drawn at Renton against the local side - famous for their 'chicken bree', past 'world champions', twice former cup winners and the previous year's finalists. Club finances were at a low ebb at the time but the kindly local stationmaster allowed the team to travel 'on tick'. In the end a thrice-taken penalty provided the only goal of the match for the home side.

Cowdenbeath won the short- lived Central League in 1896-97 after an abortive spell in the Midland League and further success was forthcoming in local cup competitions such as the King Cup and East of Scotland Qualifying and Consolation Cups but the inexorable rise of professionalism continued to deprive the club of its best players. Jock Hynd went to Newcastle and Jim ‘Pheli’ Paton to Notts County for example. Later, Willie Dryburgh played for Spurs and Sheffield Wednesday.

In 1901-02 the club was drawn against cup-holders, the mighty Heart of Midlothian, in the Scottish Cup. A 3,000 crowd witnessed a battling Cowden side hold the Edinburgh men to a goalless draw. 7,000 attended the replay at Tynecastle (the largest crowd the Fifers had played in front of at the time). The great Bobby Walker scored twice as Cowden went down by 3-0. A year later Hearts signed Cowdenbeath's young outside- left George Wilson. He was to wear the dark blue of Scotland, winning six caps in all. Two earlier ex-Cowden players had already been capped by Scotland – Harry Allan with Hearts and Pete Robertson with Dundee. George scored the winner in the 1906 Cup Final for Hearts and later won League and F.A. Cup Winners medals with Newcastle United. Cowdenbeath had joined the Northern League in 1901. ‘The Miners' were Fife League Champions and Qualifying Cup semi-finalists in 1904- 05.

 

Scottish League Football in Cowdenbeath

The club, by now a professional organisation, then decided to apply for election to the Scottish League as near neighbours Raith Rovers had done successfully three years previously. The Scottish League had decided to extend the First Division by two clubs for 1905-06 and this meant that there were two vacancies to be filled in the Second Division. Prior to applying for election the club was restructured into a Limited Liability Company with Andrew Dick of Dick's Co-operative Institutions and Hugh Kelso, a local tailor, as the principal promoters. Ten clubs chased the four available League places. St. Bernards and Abercorn topped the poll and were re- elected. Cowdenbeath with 18 votes and Vale of Leven with 17 were the other successful applicants.

On 26 August 1905, Cowdenbeath made their Scottish League debut at North End Park. A penalty goal by stalwart Willie Mercer gave Cowden a 1- 0 victory over Leith Athletic. The first two seasons of League membership saw ‘The Miners' establish themselves in the middle reaches of the Second League. Left back John Walker later went to Swindon and won 9 Scottish caps.

In 1906-07 Sandy Paterson was appointed club secretary. Sandy, who later became secretary/manager, came from local rivals Hearts of Beath. (Hearts of Beath hailed from the adjoining village Hill of Beath. Popularly known as 'The Hillmen' they played at Keir's Park -present day home of Junior side Hill of Beath Hawthorn). The next three seasons, however, saw the club's fortunes reach their nadir - twice finishing next to bottom and on the other occasion propping up the table. Gates fell as a consequence of this poor form and the club was in danger of going to the wall. In 1909, with the club £600 in debt a motion to close down was defeated. In retrospect it was the introduction of whippet racing at the ground in 1908 that was to prove the club's salvation.

Cowdenbeath leased part of North End Park from Bernard's Trustees for £20 per annum and the other part from the Fife Coal Company at £5 per annum so subletting to the greyhound racing company at £104 per annum proved a lucrative source of income. The club's fortunes rapidly improved with top five League finishes being registered in each of the next three seasons. The team’s longstanding colours of red and white striped jerseys were ditched in 1911 for the well known blue jerseys and white shorts the club sports to this day. One consequence of this renewed success was the situation which faced the club on 30 March 1912 when they were scheduled to play a home game v East Stirling whilst at the same time play a Consolation Cup semi- final at Galston. The regulars made the trip to Galston and lost 1-0 whilst a scratch eleven largely composed of eve-of-the-match signings from local neighbours Lochgelly United and Hearts of Beath won the League game 1-0.

In 1912-13 great local rivals Dunfermline Athletic gained Second League status and at the end of the season a war of words ensued between the clubs as both applied for election to the First Division. Cowdenbeath tied in the vote for election to the top flight with Dumbarton but 'The Sons' were elevated to the upper echelon on the casting vote of the Chairman, Mr. Ward of Partick Thistle, who voted for a fellow West of Scotland club. Stung by this reversal Cowdenbeath were determined to demonstrate their right to a place with the game's elite. The conclusion of season 1913-14 saw the Second Division championship flag flying at North End Park for the first time. The title was clinched, rather ignominiously, on March 7 despite a 3-0 defeat at Dundee against Dundee Hibs. The following week, however, in front of their own supporters the champions took full revenge in the return fixture winning 7- 0 with Willie Philp notching five goals. Election to Division One again being denied, Cowdenbeath emphasised their ability by winning the championship for the second successive year. 'The Miners' finished on equal pointage with St. Bernards and Leith and a three- way play-off was required to settle the issue. Cowden defeated Leith at East End Park and St. Bernards at Easter Road to take the title. The stars of the team who had achieved this double success included ex- Rangers full- back Jock McKenzie, half- backs Bob (later of Hearts) and Willie Birrell; speedy right winger Willie Lancaster and skilful inside forward Bobby Tait.

 

First and Second World War

This time, however, election to the First League was precluded by the onset of 'The Great War'. The Scottish League decided that the First League should continue but that the Second League should be disbanded for the duration. The Division Two clubs got together and decided to set up regional leagues, primarily to minimise the amount of travelling. Cowdenbeath became members of the Eastern League.

As hostilities in Europe continued the playing resources of clubs were inevitably depleted. Cowdenbeath managed to maintain a relatively high standard aided by the fact that many of their players were in reserved occupations at the local pits. In the first Eastern League season Cowden finished third and in 1916-17 were Eastern League champions with their line up featuring ex-Manchester United and England winger George Wall. Season 1917-18, opened with the club moving to its present-day ground at Central Park - the move being largely precipitated by the club's landlord's realisation that it would prove more rewarding to let North End Park direct to the greyhound racing company. North End Park is still used as a football ground and is located behind the local public library. Cowdenbeath were Joint champions of the Eastern League (along with Dundee) in 1917-18 but the continued degradations of the war meant that the League had been reduced to a membership of only seven. The regular playing staff continued to dwindle in number and the club decided at the end of season 1917-18 to close down until the end of the war. 'The Great War' ended with the Armistice of November 1918 and three months later Cowdenbeath again took the field.

The Scottish League Management Committee decided that only the First Division would be run in 1919-20 but that it would be extended from 18 to 22 clubs. Cowdenbeath confidently applied for a place in the top League - a place they felt they fully merited given their record in the recent past. The ballot took place on 3rd April 1919 and incredibly, as had happened six years before, Cowdenbeath again tied with a West of Scotland club, Albion Rovers, each having received 10 votes. Again a West of Scotland Chairman, this time Mr. Hart of St. Mirren, gave his casting vote to the West of Scotland club.

Cowdenbeath, faced with little alternative, applied to rejoin the Eastern League and season 1919-20 saw a creditable third place finish achieved. In addition, they were Scottish Qualifying Cup runners-up, being surprisingly beaten 2-0 in the final by Bathgate at Ibrox. The Scottish League AGM of 1920 had before it a proposal to reintroduce Division Two but to the anger of the excluded clubs this proposal was defeated. Cowdenbeath, along with the other excluded clubs, then realised that the establishment was hellbent on maintaining the status quo. Cowdenbeath resigned their membership of the Scottish League for election to the rebel Central League.

1920/21 saw Cowdenbeath happily ensconced in the Central League. Outwith Scottish League control 'The Miners' were able to attract First League players by offering lucrative signing-on fees without requiring to pay any transfer fee. Among the players tempted to Central Park were Celtic and Scotland full-back Joe Dodds and ex-Newcastle and Rangers winger Scott Duncan. For a large part of the season Cowden led the table but they eventually finished in third place behind Champions Bo'ness. The sale of centre-forward Willie Paterson, who had scored 33 league goals (out of 43 in total) in mid-January to Derby County for £3,000 saw Cowdenbeath's league bid falter. It did not take the Scottish League long though to realise the danger posed by the rival league. The Central League clubs were enticed back into the Scottish League fold by the re-institution of the Second Division and the long desired concession of automatic promotion and relegation on merit.

The team was strengthened for 1921/22 by the signing of goalkeeper John Falconer from St Anthonys, full back Dick Little from Hamilton and most prominently of all J.R. Smith, the Kilmarnock centre-forward who had scored the winner in the 1920 Cup Final. Two-up/two-down was the agreed system for promotion and relegation but for this one season one-up/three-down applied in order to even up the numbers in the two leagues. Cowdenbeath, much to their chagrin, finished as runners-up.

J.R. Smith was in devastating form, scoring 32 League goals as well as 7 in a Scottish Cup tie v Vale of Atholl. A disastrous end of season run of 1 win in 12 matches meant that Cowden finished 13 points behind Alloa. At the season's end Rangers stepped in to sign Smith. He later made history by scoring for Bolton Wanderers in the 'White Horse' Cup Final of 1923. 1922/23 was to be a season of transition marked by the opening of the new Central Park stand on August 19th at the game v Vale of Leven. 120 yards long, 14 tiers high and able to accommodate 3,500 spectators it was widely considered to be the best provincial club stand in Scotland. It remains partly in use to this day, albeit showing its age.

Among the players signed this season were Tewfik Abdullah, an Egyptian inside- forward, and Willie Devlin a centre-forward. Signed from Clyde, Devlin blossomed in 1923/24 when he topped the Division 2 scoring charts with 25 goals as 'The Miners' at last achieved promotion to Division 1 finishing runners-up, 1 point behind St. Johnstone.

1924/25 was to be Cowdenbeath's best ever season, finishing in 5th place in Division 1 with a 42 point tally - good enough for a UEFA Cup place nowadays. Average gates at Central Park were over 9,000. Willie Devlin was Scotland's top scorer with 33 goals and he was ably supported by men such as Willie Rankin, ex-Motherwell, a schemer who made the team tick, and Jim 'Hooky' Leonard, a mercurial talent signed from Saltcoats Vics. The regular team in this first ever season in the top flight comprised : Falconer, Murray and Hopewell; Letham, A. Rankine, Chambers; Pullar, W.Rankin, Devlin, Leonard and Wilson.

At the end of the season manager Jimmy Richardson surprisingly resigned and ex- player Scott Duncan took over the reins. Success continued in 1925/26. Devlin notched 38 League goals to end the season as top scorer in Division 1 despite his transfer to Herbert Chapman's Huddersfield for £4,200 in time to help them win a third successive Football League Championship. Leonard was second in the goalscoring stakes with 25 goals whilst Falconer produced some brilliant performances in goal, notably a League match v Hibs when he saved 3 penalties.

In 1926/27, 'The Miners' for the second consecutive season finished 7th and for the 3rd season in a row gained 42 points. Devlin's replacement Dave Wright was top goal scorer and at the end of the season he signed for Sunderland along with full back Bill Murray in a joint deal worth £8,000 to Cowdenbeath. Murray, considered by many to be the best uncapped full-back in Scotland, was later manager at Roker Park for 19 years whilst Wright later turned out in the red shirt of Liverpool. Another notable achievement in 1926/27 was the defeat of both Rangers and Celtic in consecutive League fixtures.

Duncan Lindsay replaced Wright for 1927/28 and proved an inspired choice, scoring 31 League goals as well as 6 v Johnstone in a Scottish Cup tie. The 12-0 victory in this game remains the club's record league or cup victory. 9th place was attained in the League whilst Falconer was capped in goal by the Scottish League. 1928/29 was to prove tragic for Falconer. On October 13th, his career was virtually ended when his knee was broken in a match v Hearts at Tynecastle. He never played again for the Central Parkers although he did turn out for Celtic as a stop- gap in 1931/32 after the death of John Thomson.

Lindsay thereafter continued his scoring feats but the club slipped to 13th position in the League. The industrial recession bit even harder in the Fife coalfields and attendances at Central Park suffered badly. The town was basically too small to support a top level football club but the money made by transferring their stars allowed Cowdenbeath to survive. In 1929/30, Falconer's replacement Bob Middleton became the first Cowdenbeath player to represent Scotland, in a game v Ireland. Willie Devlin made a nostalgic return after a spell with Liverpool where he had earned the nickname 'Demon' Devlin, but was never able to emulate his previous goal-scoring feats. Duncan Lindsay again top- scored with 25 goals and inevitably was transferred, this time to Newcastle United as Cowdenbeath slumped to 16th place in the table. The last game of the season at Firhill produced a 4- 3 victory. Willie Devlin and Willie Pullar scored 3 goals between them in what was to be their final game for the club. The last remaining members of the 1924 promotion winning side, Devlin was and remains Cowdenbeath's record goalscorer with a total of 120 League goals whilst Pullar at the time held the club record for League appearances.

Jim Paterson was signed from St. Johnstone to replace Lindsay and proved a resounding success. He scored 54 League goals and won 3 Scottish caps in his two seasons at Central Park until he too was transferred to Leicester City. Jim 'Hooky' Leonard also made a fleeting return to the club in 1930/31, after two years in the USA. He played 8 games, scored 6 goals, was selected to represent the Scottish League and was transferred to Sunderland before the season was 2 months old. A few weeks later goalkeeper Middleton also departed for Roker Park. 1930/31 witnessed a revival in the club's fortunes with a 7th place League finish and the Scottish Cup quarter final being reached. Cowdenbeath went down to Motherwell by 1-0 at Central Park in front of a then record crowd of 18,673. Cowdenbeath then fell to 12th place in the League in 1931/32. The season was marked by the debut of a dynamic left-wing partnership - local lad Alex Venters and elusive winger Willie Stewart.

In season 1932/33, Scott Duncan was appointed manager of Manchester United. Skipper Tom Frame and Willie Stewart soon joined their old boss at Old Trafford. Speedy left back Tom Russell was then transferred to Rangers and was replaced by Charlie Gronbach. In 1969/70 when Cowdenbeath won promotion to the First Division Gronbach was club chairman and Russell club secretary. Charlie Gronbach's butchery business was also to gain fame for its production of the Scottish Champion Haggis.

The 1932/33 team had an excellent forward line but a disastrously leaky defence. 111 goals were conceded as the club finished fourth from bottom. The chunky Venters continued to display his obvious talent and a new centre- forward, Stewart Renfrew, made an immediate impact by scoring a hat-trick in each of his first 3 appearances at Central Park. 1933/34 was a disaster with only 5 wins from 38 games, 118 goals were conceded and after 10 proud years in the top flight 'The Miners' were relegated to Division 2. Alex Venters won his first Scottish cap in September 1933 and soon after was signed by Rangers where he went on to win numerous honours with both club and country.

At the end of the 1933/34 season, the club was on its knees, managerless, with only one signed player and the princely sum of 9d in the bank. John Dougary, a local schoolmaster, applied for the vacant managerial position 'as a bit of a joke’ and to his amazement was given the job. Determined that football in the ‘Fife Mineopolis' would continue money was raised by the sale of Owen Feeney to St Mirren, Abe Robertson to Hearts and Stewart Renfrew to Queen of the South. A team was scraped together for the start of 1934/35 but only one win was forthcoming in the first 11 games of the season. A 10-1 record home defeat by St Bernards in this period saw the club firmly rooted at the foot of the table. The team eventually began to gel and 12th place was reached by the season's end. The next two seasons saw gradual improvement to 10th and 6th place respectively. Transfers were still required to balance the books. Alex Hamill was transferred to Blackburn Rovers, Jim Turnbull to Rangers and John Wilkie to Clyde. 6th place was again achieved in 1937/38. A team was beginning to take shape which could be considered serious promotion contenders. 115 League goals were scored with ex-Hibs and St Bernards centre Rab Walls notching 34 of them. The following season Walls was in irresistible form scoring 54 League goals, with 9 hat-tricks or better including 6 in a game v Stenhousemuir as Cowden reclaimed their place in the top flight. Cowden finished as champions, 12 points ahead of Alloa with a record points haul of 60, scoring 120 goals and only losing 2 matches. The team that won the championship comprised Hill, Jordan, Rougvie, Gillies, Rhodie, Hillan, Watters, Milne, Walls, Reid and Boag. Arsenal attempted to sign two of Cowden's promotion winning team -cultured full-back George Jordan and inside-forward Willie Reid. Both players refused to move South despite the large fees offered (£8,000 in Jordan's case). Other notables in the team were robust skipper Ralph Rougvie and wingers Dickie Boag and John Watters.

The town was solidly behind the club and season 1939/40 was eagerly anticipated. Sadly, after only 5 games the League closed down with the outbreak of World War 2. Cowden then joined the Eastern Regional League but after 15 games with the club sustaining heavy financial losses it was decided to close down for the duration of the conflict. Little did the directors envisage that it would be 30 years before 'The Miners' would again fulfil a Division 1 fixture. None of the promotion winning regulars ever played another Scottish League game for 'The Fifers'. Jordan was killed in Normandy on D- Day + 2 while Reid later managed St Mirren to Scottish Cup success in 1959.

Post-War

Cowdenbeath never fully recovered from the effect of this enforced close- down. In 1940 they were Fife's leading club - a position never since regained in almost 70 years of striving. In 1945, as the war in Europe drew to a close, thoughts in Cowdenbeath turned to the revival of senior football in the town. On 7th April, a public meeting was held in the Co-op Hall and the club directors revealed that Cowden's liabilities were of the order of some £2000. As a result of this meeting the Cowdenbeath Football Trust was set up and £1500 raised to revive the dormant club. Cowdenbeath were then admitted to the Southern League for the 'Victory’ Season’ 1945/46. The reborn club had no signed players and an appeal was made for volunteers. Enough applications to form 20 teams were received (strangely the first 20 applications received were all from goalkeepers). Among the players signed up were pre-war reserves Frank Harper, Bobby Moodie, Peter Playfair, and Isaac McDowell (later to be a legend in Northern Irish football and to win 5 caps from the Irish League). Old favourite Jim Turnbull, ex-Rangers, made a welcome return. Willie Fotheringham was appointed manager and "The Miners" finished in 10th place in their comeback season.

The Scottish Leagues were reinstituted in season 1946/47. Cowdenbeath had anticipated that they would regain their pre-war top flight status but under pressure from the big city clubs the Scottish League retained the previous year's Southern League set up. Cowdenbeath were allocated a place in Division B. Demoralised by this "act of betrayal", Cowden duly finished at the foot of the table and only the extension of Division B to accommodate 16 clubs averted relegation to Division C. One positive feature in a miserable season was the form of centre-forward Jackie Jones who scored 20 League goals. He was even more prolific the following season as his 25 goals helped Cowden to finish in 5th place. An offer by Hibs for Jones had been declined but by 1949 the state of the club's finances necessitated the sale of Jones to Stirling, Dave Shankland to Airdrie and Sammy Shields to Liverpool. Cowdenbeath did, however devise an alternative means of keeping their bank manager happy. They appointed George Sweet, manager of the local Royal Bank of Scotland, as Managing Secretary in 1948.

The undoubted highlight of the 1940's was "The Miners" sensational win at lbrox in the 1st leg of the 1949/50 League Cup quarter-final. Cowdenbeath won 3-2 (Armstrong 2, Dick) to become the first ever lower-league side to defeat Rangers. The 2nd leg attracted a record crowd of 25,586 (more than twice the population of the town) to Central Park. Alex Menzies put Cowden 4-2 ahead after only 6 minutes. Rangers had pulled one goal back when with only 13 seconds to play Rutherford agonisingly headed home the equaliser. In extra-time, Sammy Cox scored an inevitable winner for the Ibrox side.

Little success was forthcoming in the next 5 seasons with a highest league finish of 8th. A record 11-1 defeat was suffered at the hands of Clyde in 1951 and "The Miners" twice flirted with relegation to Division C. Transfers continued to balance the books and infuriate the fans - goalkeeper Willie Gourlay to Manchester City, left-half Bobby Buchan to Raith Rovers, and forwards John Knox to Preston, Harry Young and John Miller to Dunfermline. One highlight during this barren spell was Jimmy Inglis 30 League goals in 1953/54 which included the feat of a hat-trick of headed goals in 4 minutes v Third Lanark.

1955 heralded sweeping changes at Central Park. Bobby Baxter resigned after 4 years as manager. Bill Crooks took over as Chairman when Bill Hodge retired after 19 seasons at the helm whilst stalwart skipper Alex 'Ming' Menzies was freed after 7 seasons with the club. A suggestion by John Drummond, Provost of Lochgelly, that the club change its name to West Fife in order to widen its appeal was dismissed but Bill Crooks called a public meeting at the end of season 1955/56 and made plain the club's precarious financial position - gate revenue was £2000 per annum less than the cost of running the club hence the continual transfer of players. In response to this the Cowdenbeath Football Supporters Association was formed with great club enthusiast Jock Gilliard as Chairman. In its first year the CFSA donated over £4000 to the club's coffers. 1956/57 was Cowden's best season since the war. Frank Quinn and Martin Mulhall scored the goals while Les Murray provided the midfield prompting. Cowdenbeath appeared certs for promotion with 12 games left to play - 5 points ahead of Third Lanark with a game in hand. A run of 8 games without a win handed promotion to the "Hi-Hi" as Cowden slipped to 3rd place.

6th place was attained in 1957/58, Bob Gilfillan scoring 25 and Albert Craig 21 of Cowdenbeath's 100 League goals. 85 goals conceded amply demonstrated where the team's deficiencies lay. During the season an enclosure was erected at the west end of the ground while manager John Dougary resigned due to ill-health. Jock Stein intimated that he wished to stay with Celtic and consequently ex-Aberdeen skipper Jimmy Mitchell took over as Manager. 1958/59 was marked by the first appearance of TV cameras at Central Park. Cowden's 8-1 League Cup defeat by Celtic was featured on Scotsport. 1959/60 was the club's worst-ever season - bottom of Division 2 with only 14 points, 124 League goals conceded, 13 consecutive League defeats and a Scottish Cup exit at Eyemouth. The season did however have its high point as Cowdenbeath reached the League Cup semi-finals for the first time. Cup holders and eventual champions Hearts defeated "The Miners" 9-3 (Beveridge 2, Gilfillan) at Easter Road. At one stage early in the 2nd half the score was only 4-3 and Gilfillan twice hit the woodwork. After their League Cup exploits Cowden said goodbye to local stars John "Basher" Murphy who went to Queen of the South and striker Bob Gilfillan who signed for Newcastle.

The Swinging Sixties

"Iron-man" Harry Colville (ex Dunfermline, Raith Rovers) replaced ex-Hib Archie Buchanan as Manager for season 1960/61. Colville spent 4 years in the hotseat and made several significant signings during his spell at Central Park. In 1961/2 three Cowdenbeath greats made their debuts. Jimmy Robertson, a 16 year old winger who later played for Scotland and scored for Spurs in the 1967 FA Cup Final, Bobby Wilson and Andy Rolland who both went on to be capped by the Scottish League when with Dundee and Dundee United respectively. Other prominent signings included Denis Jack, one of many signings from nursery club Cowdenbeath Royals, who served Cowden faithfully for 10 years, Ken Allison (Dumbarton), Dave Fraser (Third Lanark), Jim Burns (Dunipace) and Roger Sugden (Haddington).

In 1963/64 striker Stan Vincent was sold to Hibs and as Cowden slumped to 17th place in the League amidst another financial crisis Harry Colville resigned. In April 1964, Chairman Bob Taylor resigned and three new directors, Charlie Gronbach, Dave Fowlis and Jock Gilliard, were co-opted onto the board. W Wilson Terris was appointed Chairman but sadly died in December to be succeeded by Charlie Gronbach.

Charlie Gronbach was one of the promoters who introduced Speedway to the ground. After this folded and an abortive experiment with pony trotting, stock car racing was tried. This was to provide a financial lifeline for the troubled club. Ex-Clyde and Scotland star Archie Robertson took the managerial role and in 3 and a half seasons proved to be an innovative and astute tactician. Andy Rolland, who had been freed in 1962, was resigned and converted into a full back by Robertson whilst another local boy Andy Kinnell established himself at centre-half. Full-backs Rolland, Bobby Wilson and Henry Mowbray were transferred to Dundee United, Dundee and Blackpool respectively, and Tom Clark (Shotts Bon Accord), versatile Billy Bostock (Jubilee Athletic) and Jim Taylor (St Johnstone) were to prove important signings. 6th place in 1966/67 showed that Robertson's team building was bearing fruit but in January 1968 Robertson left to take charge of his old club, Clyde. Jim Burns soon followed his old boss to Shawfield. Andy Matthew, who had played for all 4 Fife clubs as well as Rangers, was Robertson's successor and quietly set about building up his own squad. 2 consecutive 12th place finishes did not hold any portent of what was to come although one positive development was the Installation of a £7000 floodlighting system at Central Park in 1968.

Prior to the start of season 1969/70 "The Cowdenbeath Advertiser" reported Andy Matthew as saying : "I think it is now Cowdenbeath's turn to taste some of the fruits of success." Little did he realise how prophetic these words were to be. Cowdenbeath led the League table from start to finish and were pipped for the Championship by a single point by Falkirk. John Dickson, Billy Mullen and Billy Bostock formed an irresistible strike force notching over 60 goals between them. John Dickson was Scotland's leading goalscorer with 31 League goals. Other stars were inspirational captain Andy Kinnell and tricky winger Davy Ross. The players who won promotion comprised - Wylie, McLauchlan, Jack, Millar, Kinnell, Moore, Sugden, Dickson, Mullen, Bostock, Ross, Taylor, Sharp, and Kennedy. In addition, the newly re-introduced reserve side ran away with the East of Scotland League championship with Colin McCullie and Robin Thomson making the breakthrough into the senior side. It had taken 3 decades for "The Miners" to regain their 1st Division place but unfortunately their spell upstairs was to be of the minimum duration. The player pool was strengthened by the addition of ex-Rangers Billy Laing and Dave Cairns but despite a brave fight Cowden were destined to finish bottom of the table with only 17 points. There were various reasons for this failure, e.g. 13 games were lost by the odd goal, a naive attacking approach, a dismal home record of only 1 win (Central Park was a veritable quagmire for much of the season and Cowden's lightweight forward line were ill-suited to the heavy going) and perhaps most significantly of all a horrific catalogue of injuries, including : Billy Mullen (broken leg and cartilage op), Dave Marshall (broken leg), Alan Kennedy (cartilage op), Roger Sugden (broken leg) and goalkeeper Alan Wylie (broken wrist). On the other hand there were also some memorable moments during this sojourn in Division 1 - 6 away League wins, a League double over neighbours Dunfermline, a 2-0 defeat by Rangers at Hampden in the League Cup semi-finals, the winning of the Fife Cup for the first time in 36 years defeating "The Pars" in both legs of the final and an appearance on BBC TV's Quizball where Cowden lost 3-2 to Brain Clough’s Derby County.

1970s and 80s

In 1971/72, Cowdenbeath again almost led the Division 2 table from start to finish. A 2-0 defeat by Arbroath robbed Cowden of a return to Division 1. If the result had been reversed, Cowden would have stepped up. In the close season Mullen emigrated to Hong Kong, Kinnell signed for St Johnstone and young full back Billy McLauchlan was tragically electrocuted. After 6 games in 1972/73, "The Miners" yet again headed the table but within weeks John Dickson was transferred to St Mirren and brilliant young keeper Jim McArthur, who had made his League debut at the age of 16 in 1968, was sold to Hibs. Thereafter the club's fortunes took a downward path. Further transfers ensued - Jim Taylor to St Mirren, Davy Ross to St Johnstone and young Andy Harrow to Raith Rovers. Billy Bostock, Cowden's leading post-war League goalscorer with 72 goals (Billy Laing and Billy Steele share 2nd place with 69) was freed after 8 seasons and joined Lochgelly Albert.

Andy Matthew resigned in September 1974 and triggered a procession of 13 managers in 15 years - Bert Paton, Dan McLindon, Frank Connor Pat Wilson, Pat Stanton, Andy Rolland, Hugh Wilson, Willie McCulloch, John Clark, Joe Craig, Dick Campbell, John Blackley and then John Brownlie. Through this 15 year period Cowdenbeath remained rooted in Division 2. A useful side was built in the late 70's/early 80's which featured prolific goalscorers in Billy Steele, Jim Liddle, George Hunter, Jimmy Marshall, and Ian Harley but suffered from a lack of consistency (and a degree of indiscipline). Andy Rolland in his 3rd spell with the club as player/manager took Cowden to the brink of promotion in season 1980/81. A point was all that was required from the last game of the season at home v Queen's Park but a 2-1 defeat (including a missed penalty by Andy Rolland) meant Cowdenbeath finished in 3rd place. In 1982, Rolland hung up his boots 21 years after his debut for the club.

1984/85 was another season when promotion was a distinct possibility but again missed penalties proved crucial as Cowden finished 4th, 3 points behind runners-up Alloa. Kenny Ward and Colin McGlashan were the stars of John Clark's side. The old familiar pattern of selling players to survive continued throughout the 80's as support dwindled. Jim Liddle, Kenny Ward and Billy Blackie went to Forfar, Craig Levein to Hearts, Grant Tierney to Meadowbank, Colin McGlashan to Clyde, Jim Marshall to Raith Rovers, Derek Grant to Airdrie, Dave Shanks to Clydebank and Roddy Grant to St. Johnstone.

The only constant feature of the side throughout the period was goalkeeper Ray Allan who made his debut in 1972 and in 2 spells with his home town club amassed the club records of 422 League appearances and 491 League and Cup appearances. A boardroom upheaval in 1987 saw Tom Currie succeed George Dick as Chairman and rumours were rife that the new board were considering a move to Glenrothes, or perhaps a return to North End Park. However, these rumours were dissipated by the signing of a 14 year contract with the Stock Car Racing promoters and a commitment to ground improvements particularly to the 66 year old stand which had been ravaged by fire in 1985.

1990s to the Present Day

Stock car supremo Gordon McDougall took over the club in late 1990 after deposing the incumbent board. 1992 at last brought an upgrade to Division 1 under John Brownlie with a team featuring the likes of Buzz and Sumo Lamont, Graeme Buckley, Eric Archibald and Gus Malone. Disaster followed as Cowden endured a 38 League game barren run at Central Park and plunged to the basement of Scottish football. The stand was devastated by a second fire and although half was salvaged, a new stand ‘the Alex Menzies Stand’ was opened in 1995. Mark Yardley and Alan Combe were both sold to St Mirren in this period. New boss Craig Levein then reinvigorated the club and promotion from Division 3 was earned in 2001. This side included stalwarts such as Graeme Brown, Murray McDowell, Keith Wright, Davie White, Jimmy Boyle and John Martin.

The Club was relegated back to Division 3 at the end of season 2002/03 after two seasons in the 2nd Division. The first two season back in the bottom league saw 5th and then 3rd place achieved. Rookie Boss Mixu Paatelainen was appointed at the beginning of season 2005/06 which featured 3 memorable milestones. It marked the club’s 125th anniversary as well as 100 years since it first joined the Scottish League. In addition, the 14th League goal of the new campaign was the 5,000th goal scored by the club in the Scottish League, scored by Robert Downs away to Albion Rovers. This historic season was capped off in memorable style with the team clinching the League Championship, the first since 1939, on the last day of the season at home to Elgin City - all the more remarkable given that Cowden trailed then league leaders Stenhousemuir by eleven points in early March!

The Blue Brazil secured a very creditable sixth place in their return to 2nd Division football with a team full of flair and adventure. Fans will never forget the exploits of Markus and Mikko Paatelainen, Armand One, Liam Buchanan, Pat Clarke, Innes Ritchie, Dougie Hill, Mark Baxter, Davie Hay and Morgaro Gomis. Transfers though once again denuded the team which lost out to Arbroath in the relegation play-off in 2007/08 and returned to the 3rd division after Gordon McDougall had sold out his stake in the club to new owners Innovate (Cowdenbeath) Ltd. 2008/09 was an amazing season of highs and lows on and off the park. After missing out on the title and then promotion in an agonising manner under Danny Lennon, Cowden were belatedly elevated to 2nd Division status due to Livingston’s demotion.

The following season the fooball club achieved back-to-back promotions after defeating Brechin City in the play off final to rise to the 1st Divison. Danny Lennon was rewarded for his part in the success after being appointed as the manager of SPL side St. Mirren. Changes at boardroom level saw the strategic direction and day-to-day running of the club handed over to the supporters with Donald Findlay QC appointed as chairman. The new Board duly appointed former Manchester United full-back and Northern Irish legend Jimmy Nicholl as manager and Colin Cameron, the former Scotland internationalist, as his assistant.

The Club put up a spirited fight during the 2010/11 1st Division campaign, as one of only two part-time teams, and came within two games of leapfrogging Ross County and securing 8th place. However, despite avoiding automatic relegation, the Club suffered ultimate disappointment after losing to Brechin City in the play-off semi-final.

Jimmy Nicholl departed Central Park to take up a coaching post with SPL side Kilmarnock which has allowed Colin Cameron, assisted by former Hearts team mate Lee Makel, to step up and take his first step in management.

2011/12 proved to be a triumph for Cameron and his team as they bounced back into the 1st Division straight away.  Cowden were front runners from the outset and finished well clear of Arbroath to become 2nd Division champions.  Thus, after waiting 67 years between 1939 and 2006 to see the club win an SFL Championship, another title was secured just six years later – Cowdenbeath’s fifth SFL Championship flag.  

 

Back in the second tier, Cowden fought hard all season to maintain their status.  Their cause was boosted in the New Year with some judicious loan signings – strikers Craig Moore (Motherwell) and Kane Hemmings (Rangers) plus ex-Cowden skipper Jon Robertson (St Mirren) who had been named SPFA 2nd Division Player of the Year in Cowden’s title winning season.  One of the highlights was a 4-2 home win over local rivals, the free spending Dunfermline Athletic who had gone into administration.  Dunfermline were deducted 15 points as a punishment but were still favourites to avoid the drop as the season arrived at its last day.  Airdrie United had already been relegated but the play off place was still to be decided – Dunfermline or Cowden!

 

Dunfermline were at home to relegated Airdrie United whilst Cowden faced a daunting trip to take on high flying Hamilton.  However, Dunfermline crashed at home to lose 2-1 to the unfancied Diamonds whilst the Blue Brazil players and fans celebrated a thrilling 3-1 win at the Accies.  

 

Dunfermline were then relegated after the play offs whilst Cowdenbeath FC became founder members of the new Championship under the auspices of the SPFL.  Manager Colin Cameron though found it difficult to deliver results and eventually elected to step aside.  Jimmy Nicholl was then brought back for his second spell in the Central Park hotseat and saw form and morale improve as he tackled the challenge at hand.  Morton became detached at the bottom and once more Cowden fought hard to retain their Championship status.  

 

Agonisingly for Cowdenbeath a 96th minute equaliser for Queen of the South in the last League game consigned them to the play offs once more.  Cowden swept past Ayr United in impressive style in the play off semi finals to set up a play off final versus neighbours Dunfermline.  With the Championship for 2014/15 including Rangers, Hibs and Hearts in its line up, failure was almost unthinkable.  The Dunfermline camp were confident after a draw in the 1st leg at Central Park.  However, the Pars were blown away in the 2nd leg at East End Park as Cowden emphatically demonstrated their superiority and skill.  A 3-0 win for the Blue Brazil was acclaimed by the large travelling support on a beautiful sunny Sunday.  The class of Greg Stewart and the explosive pace of Kane Hemmings gave Cowden a devastatingly effective front pairing which claimed 40 goals during the campaign. Hemmings was named SPFA Championship player of the year whilst Cowden fans celebrated another great day and the great escape for the second year in a row.

 

Thus, the remarkable club story that began back in 1880 starts another fresh page in 2014/15.