Cowdenbeath FC: Timeline Of Decline
Written by RockSport on March 16, 2018
|The Pyramid play off now looks a certainty for Cowdenbeath FC, even with more than a few games left in League Two this season for the Blue Brazil, but if you thought their collapse was an overnight thing you may be interested to see the key bumps in the road that brought the Fifers here. A road that stretches back to the start of WW 2 and a promotion that was stopped by Adolf Hitler! Rock Sport’s Alex Horsburgh checks the fall from grace in this original article.
1939: After playing only six league games in the top flight in season 1939/40 following promotion as Second Division champions in Scotland Cowdenbeath’s season is cancelled after Hitler invades Poland. Amazingly, after hostilities cease the Scottish League declare the club’s promotion of 1939 null and void. 31 years of bottom tier football in a then two division set-up in the Scottish League follows. One wonders what might have happened had the club then nicknamed ‘The Miners’ been allowed to remain in the top division to fight for their place and perhaps find their level.
1970: Finally..promotion again to the 18 team First Division in Scotland from the second tier as runners-up to Falkirk. However, the club celebrate by building a large perimeter wall around Central Park topped with broken glass and decide to remain a part time club (the only one in the then 18 team Scottish top flight). Season 1970/1 starts well with a run to the League Cup semi final and subsequent defeat by eventual winners Rangers but despite memorable doubles over near neighbours Dunfermline Athletic and 2-1 wins at East End and Central Park in the league (and a draw at Hibs) the blues suffer at the hands of the likes of Aberdeen (losing 7-0 at Pittodrie and 4-0 at Central Park), Hearts (defeated 0-4 by the Edinburgh side at home), Hibs at Central Park (4-1 Hibees) and the aggregate score over both league games against either half of the Old Firm is 8-1 for the Glasgow giants. Remaining part time and spending the majority of the promotion cash patching up Central Park backfires and the club are relegated as bottom side in Division One with 17 points from 34 matches.
1975: The club finish second bottom in Division Two in season ’74/5 after a rapid decline following two near promotion misses in the two seasons after relegation and League reconstuction in Scotland sees Cowden placed in the bottom division in a three division set up (Premier League, 1st and 2nd Division) The final key members of the best post war Cowdenbeath team (1969/70 promotion winners) leave the club and Cowdenbeath, outside the odd memorable domestic cup win, turn decidedly average in the league.
1981: Player-Manager Andy Rolland misses a penalty in a 2-1 defeat at Central Park by 2nd Division champions Queens Park on the final day of the ’80/1 season. A draw would have secured ‘beath promotion as runners-up to the Glaswegians but QOS go up instead of the Fifers after scoring three without reply in their must win final game at home to Albion Rovers. Another 11 years go by before promotion is even likely in the final weeks of the season.
1992: Cowdenbeath are promoted as runners-up to the middle tier of Scottish League football with 2nd Division champs Dumbarton. Former Hibs defender and now Cowden manager John Brownlie asks club chairman and former Stock Car World Champion Gordon MacDougall for additional funds to boost his squad in the 1st Division matches to come in season 1992/3. Brownlie is promptly sacked and replaced by the largely untested Junior manager and former Cowden forward Andy Harrow who promptly takes the emerging ‘Blue Brazil’ on an abysmal run of 38 games without a home win and relegation back to the bottom tier.
Late 1990’s into the 21st century: Stock car supremo Gordon McDougall had taken over the club in late 1990 after deposing the incumbent board. The stand was devastated by a second fire and although half was salvaged, a new stand ‘the Alex Menzies Stand’ was opened in 1995. Key players Mark Yardley and Alan Combe were both sold to St Mirren in this period. New boss and former Cowden player 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. Cowdenbeath celebrated more promotions (managers Mixu Paatelinen, Danny Lennon and Colin Cameron getting them up after Levein and assistant Gary Kirk in a great period for the club) in the first 15 years of the 21st century than in the last 50 years of the 20th.
2014: Agonisingly for Cowdenbeath a 96th minute equaliser for Queen of the South in the last League game consigned them to the play offs for a second tier berth. 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.
2015: With the club now renting their Central Park ground from the Stock Car promoters and failing to hang onto ‘free agent’ players who had taken them to the second tier of Scottish football the Blue Brazil finally could punch above their weight no longer and a 10-0 defeat at Tynecastle v Hearts in the Fifers last Championship season was amongst the horror stories on the field of play as the club crashed to successive relegations from Championship to League 1 to League Two.
August 2016: It is rumoured that Hearts are paying Cowden manager (and former Jambo player) Liam Fox’s wages. 30 year old Fox was appointed at the start of the 2016/17 season as a replacement for the relegated Cowden manager, former Hibs striker Colin Nish, and with the Fife club now in dire straits financially it is believed a deal was cut with the Tynecastle club that means Fox must remain boss until the end of the current season at Central Park.
Early March 2017: Cowdenbeath are 7 points adrift at the bottom of Scottish League Two and with no sign of the hapless Fox being released from his managerial contract in the Kingdom the young manager finally does the decent thing and resigns as social media criticism of the man at the helm reaches fever pitch. Local supporters demand a statement from the Blue Brazil board and a clear the air meeting is organised between directors and supporters. It’s Jambo replacing Jambo as Gary Locke is appointed manager and a few days later Locke appoints ex-Hearts assistant Billy Brown and former Cowden player Neil Irvine as his assistants. The club are also embarrassed by player Dean Brett who admits to betting against his own team and using homophobic language on twitter. The youngster is sacked by the club, although they offer him help financially and with counselling, and a decent performer on the field for Cowden is now off the Central Park roster.
Late March 2017: A mini-revival following Locke’s appointment sees 4 points in two matches and Cowden’s first League Two win of 2017 but the revival is all to brief as Cowden return to 7 points adrift at the bottom of the table on March 18th 2017 with a home defeat by Montrose.
May 2017: Cowden ended up scraping past East Kilbride in the Pyramid play off final on penalties after an aggregate draw.
Season 2017/18: Billy Brown replaces Gary Locke as boss but there is no change in the team’s fortunes and even after he resigns it seems Gary Bollan can’t stop the rot. A carbon copy of last season with the Fife club falling well behind at the bottom of League 2. Will East Kilbride again face the Blue Brazil in a play off and this time win for the Lowland League demoting the Fifers to the 5th tier of Scottish football!?