Home / Dave Brockington / A Tour Through Soccer’s Hinterlands

A Tour Through Soccer’s Hinterlands


This handy guide describes the venues that Rangers FC (and their travelling support) will be descending upon over the course of the coming season in Scotland’s fourth (and final) tier of professional soccer.  Note that capacities are typically smaller than said travelling support, and average attendances last season ranged from 628 (Elgin City) down to 321 (East Sterlingshire).  The latter, incidentally, are the subject of a decent book I have, Pointless, published in 2006.  It describes a single season in the existence of East Sterling that followed three successive bottom of the table finishes, and should be required reading for travelling Rangers supporters (and hell, the squad).

As there is no automatic relegation out of the bottom division, Rangers need not worry about a dramatically bad season eliminating them from the professional game altogether.  I’d suggest this arrangement would be similar to the Yankees having to play a season in the short-season Single-A Northwest League, but I’ve been to a few of those parks, and they look better than the SFL’s Third Division.

(Above: Shielfield Park, home of Berwick Rangers FC.  Below: Links Park, home of Montrose FC)

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  • Furious Jorge

    Am I wrong, or was the SPL vote to force Rangers to start all the way at the bottom a very shortsighted thing to do? It seems to me all the SPL had going for it was the Celtic-Rangers rivalry.

    • Mike

      The SPL just voted to not have Rangers in the SPL. It was the SFL that voted to have Rangers at the lowest level of the SFL.

      Aside from all the other affected parties, the most miserable of all may be the relevant Wikipedia editors. Every article on every sports site about this topic for the last 3 or 4 months has seen its comments devolve into a war of passive-aggression between people saying “There is no earthly reason in the world for Sevco, which some people inexplicably refer to as ‘Rangers’, to be treated differently from any other brand new club with no known history or supporters”, and people saying “Oh, come off it, you twit”. Just imagine what it’s like for the people who are competing to CREATE THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM.

    • wengler

      In the short-term perhaps, but in the long term it is much better not to support unsustainable practices. As we saw with numerous English clubs(most recently Portsmouth), it is important to spend within your means and football teams need to be expected to pay taxes.

      • Furious Jorge

        Well that’s a good point, and Mike’s clarification also helps. I admit I hadn’t read much about the specifics, so please forgive me if my question was a bit dense.

        • wengler

          Some of the specifics include every opposition supporters’ group sending a very clear message to their teams’ boardroom to not let Rangers back anywhere but the bottom of the SFL.

          Celtic will dominate but destroying the duopoly could save Scottish football as an institution.

          • firefall

            I don’t see how it could save it? Destroy it would be more likely, I think.

            (not that I care, being neither a Scot nor a lover of the Dull Game, but that kinda makes it more amusing to watch from a safe distance).

            • wengler

              Saving it can include realistic expectations for the top clubs of the SPL instead of pouring resources into a team and pretending it could have the revenue levels of a Real Madrid or Manchester United. Develop your own talent instead of overpaying for second-tier international veterans(sorry Bocanegra). Create a national style of play that can carry over the long-term.

              Scotland is so invested in the sport that even with their small population they could get results if they calibrated their expectations and actually had a plan.

              • firefall

                Ah, that makes sense – thank you. I was thinking more that without the Rangers to scrap with the Celtics, it would be so one-sided as to diminish turnout and interest.

                • Furious Jorge

                  That’s exactly how I was looking at it too, but wengler’s take makes more sense, especially over the long run.

      • rea

        I’m not sure I understand this reasoning. Yes, the company that owns the club, and the people who run it, ought to face sanctions for not paying taxes. Bankruptcy, jail, sure. But throwing the team out of the league? What does that have to do with bankruptcy or taxes?

        It also seems like an odd reaction on the part of fans of other teams to push this so hard. Like any decent human, I hate the NY Yankees. But that means I want the Yankees to lose–it doesn’t mean I want the team not to exist. Hell, I want them around to get their asses kicked.

        • correct

          I’m not sure I understand

  • scott

    SPL without the Old Firm? Unthinkable.

  • To bad no Kindle edition for the book… do you have any other suggestions for books about the lower levels of soccer? Despite only really following the sport for international tournamets I have a bit of an obsession with managing low tier teams in the video game Football Manager… I’ve done Serie C in Brazil several times and just started a turn with League 2. The promotion/relegation dynamic is my favorite thing about pro soccer… it seems like the idea of the Rangers trying to climb all the way back from the bottom is so obvious and cheesy of a plot that it would never be green lighted as a movie.

    • Davis X. Machina

      From the ’94 World Cup, 22 Foreigners in Funny Shorts: An Intelligent Foreigner’s Guide to the World Cup. Interwoven chapters on the World’s Cup and a season — their ’92 promotion season, actually — for fourth division side Wrexham. (The Robins/Dragons presently are at the top of the non-League Conference…)

    • Dave Brockington

      The only other book on lower league soccer I can think of off the top is The Ultimate Drop, which is about final matches of the league season that leads to one club being relegated out of the English Football League (and into the Conference). I think it covers 10-12 seasons. I’d have more, but my library is in England, and I’m currently in Oregon. As for FM, I’ve been playing it for over ten years now, and always start with a team in the lowest possible division.

    • Mike

      Mark Hodkinson’s “Believe In The Sign” about his teenage years following Rochdale.

    • Davis X. Machina

      Also Mike Ward’s Gullhanger: Or How I Learned to Love Brighton and Hove Albion, not the absolute lowest division, though

      The fourth-division Seagulls avoided going out of the league entirely — and possibly going out of business — on the last day of the ’97 season against Hereford, following the sale of their ground to real estate developers.

      Over the next five years they climbed through League Two and League One, winning two promotions on the trot, into the Championship.

    • wjts

      Garry Nelson’s Left Foot in the Grave is about his season as player/manager for Third Division Torquay in the late 90’s.

  • JoyfulA

    That first picture looks like where the local amateur soccer teams play in Port Richmond (Philadelphia), which you can see well from the southbound lanes of I-95.

  • Romney Surges in Polls

    And Obama is going down, doooown, dooooooooooooooooown.

    Looking increasingly good for President-Elect Romney…

    • Better trolls, please.

    • And Obama is going down, doooown, dooooooooooooooooown.

      …like the Saginaw Plaza Hotel?

    • firefall

      Could we get this one punted permanently? Dull, repetitive is bad enough, but intruding on completely irrelevant threads is a bit beyond the pale.

  • Desert Rat

    Probably the best book on Lower League Soccer ever written is The Miracle of Castel di Sangro. It’s written by an American who spent a year with the team from a tiny Italian community called Castel di Sangro…which miraculously had won promotion to Serie B.

    Check it out. It’s well worth the read.


    • wengler

      Serie B. Where the match scores are known before kickoff.

      • Desert Rat

        Actually, the funny thing is the book touches on some of that.

  • harebell

    The parks you’ve been to may look nice, having flushing lavvies that do not reek of pish and beer laden puke; but you really don’t get Scottish fans do you.
    It’s all about the auld bastard in the corner’s acerbic comments, mutton pies and bovril and trekking to the arse end of Aberdeenshire on a rainy November Saturday to say, “I was there, where the fuck were you bastards.”
    Football was never meant to be easy and when the huns make it back into the SPL, and they will and will stronger for it, the other chairmen will have hell to pay.
    I’m not a hun on principle and I’m certainly not a tim either (same principle)and to be honest I don’t care about the SPL one little bit. I’m just praying the fight will be gruesome and there will be injuries.
    Oh Alloa!

    (PS East Stirlingshire is how the name is spelled, nothing to do with the money.)

  • KadeKo

    Good post. It’s nice to see some folks who make me feel like a parvenu about Scottish football. (And “Up the Pars!”).

    Plenty of new books to seek out.

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