Shotts Bon Accord: A Journey of Triumph and Controversy


HISTORY is visible in Shotts. It can be seen in the shape of a venerable clubhouse or the vast pitch – now reduced – that once was reputed to be the biggest in Scotland.

But there is a history that lies beyond Hannah Park and it involves both one of the most influential men in Scottish football and a visit to the Court of Session.

Shotts, once a town of miners and fitba’ and not much else, was the home to Jim Rodger, known as the Jolly for obvious reasons, who united both the pits and the game. He was injured in the mines and became a sports journalist. He spent all his life in Shotts (1922-97) and was the confidant of Bill Shankly, Jock Stein, Matt Busby and Alex Ferguson, among others. He was also the conduit for them. Many a transfer was smoothed by the Jolly’s intervention. His impact on the game was thus subtle but significant.

‘That is the year I came in,’ says Willie Quilter, now assistant secretary of the club, of the events of 1995-96 when a rammy over sick lines for players and a subsequent postponement proved to be the first shots in a war between Shotts and football authorities that ended up in the Court of Session.

‘It was quite the time,’ says Quilter, who mans the pie stall between answering queries about how precisely to insert a corner flag and the whereabouts of training poles. He is one of those Junior obsessives who does everything though will not say so.

 

Shotts and Darvel battle for possession at Hannah Park during the West of Scotland Cup tie

Shotts and Darvel battle for possession at Hannah Park during the West of Scotland Cup tie

 

Darvel won 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Shotts last week

Darvel won 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Shotts last week

 

Shotts' Hannah Park, which was once one of the biggest pitches in Scotland

Shotts’ Hannah Park, which was once one of the biggest pitches in Scotland

 The case between Shotts and the Central Region of Scottish Junior Football Association and, ultimately, the Scottish Football Association started with the postponement of a Bon Accord match against Thorniewood on December 31, 1994. Eight Shotts players submitted ‘sick lines’, the match was called off and a stooshie unfolded. The Central Region then instigated disciplinary action.

The case slowly increased in acrimony. It was presented to the Court of Session and then SFA was drawn into its web. Eventually, Shotts were found guilty by the football authorities of not “acting in the interests of the game”. The club was finally banned for a year, being re-admitted into the league on June 26, 1996. The national import of the case was to emphasise the inherent dangers of taking a sporting association to court and thus breaking the rule – written or unwritten – of challenging a sporting authority in another legal arena.

‘It was some time,’ says Quilter, somewhat unnecessarily. ‘We came back strongly though and quickly came back up the leagues, winning three titles in three years.’

He also points out a parochial feature of the time: ‘My dad belonged to Shotts and I was born in 1964 and started coming to games in 1968. I went to all the games. But I couldn’t get on the committee because I wasn’t from Shotts, didn’t have a Shotts postal address. I couldn’t even get a season ticket.’

He says: ‘I still have all the paperwork from the court case and I used to keep all the records and statistics from all the games.’ His immersion in the club is total.

‘I can’t get out of it,’ he says with a wry smile. He is known as the club stalwart. He helps with the washing, the pie stand, and various queries. ‘He does everything,’ says a fellow committee member.

Quilter talks of winning the Scottish Junior Cup in 2012 as the Holy Grail. He pauses to greet Tony McInally, who managed that team, and was in charge of Darvel for last week’s West of Scotland Cup semi-final. 

Quilter admits some matters may change in the future but there is one inviolable rule. ‘We will never sell up here. Never,’ he says, peering out towards the pitch. It may, though, be converted to artificial turf. ‘It costs us about 15 grand to keep it up to standard,’ he says. ‘We are joining in with the academy teams and an artificial surface makes sense. There are no other facilities in Shotts.’

A new chapter may have to be written.

THE inquiry is brisk but friendly. ‘Where did you get that?’ says Drew Wood. Your correspondent is reading a history of 50 years of Bon Accord. ‘I helped write that,’ adds Wood, a former translator and teacher, who helped compile a book that traced the club from its formation in 1950 to 2000.

‘My dad was on the committee of the 1958 Scottish Junior Cup-winning team and it became my turn about 2009,’ he says.

‘There has always been some kind of family connection with the club. My son has emigrated to New Zealand but he phones up every weekend for a match report. He misses the club.’ Grandson Atticus, at just three, already has a Bon Accord shirt.

The writing of the book was a communal effort and it remains impressive both as a document and a testimony of how much the club means to so many.

‘It means everything to me,’ says Wood, 73. ‘I live in Falkirk and I will be sad when I can’t travel as much.’

The history, though, finishes before that Scottish Cup victory in 2012 when Bon Accord beat Auchinleck Talbot. ‘I have written a further instalment and I am thinking of putting it on the website.’

 

A man and his dog take in the action at Hannah Park, Shotts

A man and his dog take in the action at Hannah Park, Shotts 

 

Shotts veterans take in refreshments in the clubhouse

Shotts veterans take in refreshments in the clubhouse

Young supporters let off flares at the side of the pitch

Young supporters let off flares at the side of the pitch

It would find an avid reader in Kenny Lawson, 48, who is visiting Hannah Park for the first time. He shrugs at the designation of “groundhopper”, saying: ‘I just like going to games.’

This is his 56th match of the season and this tally includes a trip to Portugal in January where he watched nine matches including his game of the season. ‘Barcelona women v Bayern, 4-4,’ he says. ‘A simply magnificent match.’

A Celtic supporter, he took to the road after finding tickets both expensive and scarce. ‘My English team is Aldershot Town because my dad was in the army so I go down to England for games,’ he says.

His favourite ground in Scotland – other than Celtic Park – is Cappielow. ‘A wonderful place,’ he says.

Hannah Park, though, remains a place of wonder and joy for Tony McInally. The manager who brought the Scottish Cup to the club is now at Darvel and a semi-final win is achieved on the night by dint of a penalty shoot-out.

‘This is a happy place for me,’ he agrees. ‘Shotts has a special place in my heart. I played here for four years and then I was four years here as a manager. We had some great times, fantastic people and a fantastic place to play your football.

‘If anything, I am a little bit gutted they are not going to the final. But I am pleased for my players and I am pleased for my own club because it is the first time Darvel has got to the final of the West of Scotland. We have to be pleased with all of that.’

McInally has been at Darvel for barely a year, taking over from Mick Kennedy, who was immensely successful and managed the club to a Scottish Cup defeat of Aberdeen.

However, McInally has created his own story of success.

He has taken three different sides to the final of the Scottish Junior Cup: Shotts (winners 2012), Pollok (runners-up to Beith 2018), and now Darvel who will play Arthurlie on June 2 at Broadwood Stadium. He has another chapter to write.

There is history at Hannah Park but it does not end there for McInally.



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