Cowdenbeath are on course to exit their 95 year old Central Park home on a high as a First Division side. The self-styled Blue Brazil clinched the Scottish 2nd Division title on Saturday April 21st after their match with Forfar Athletic. It has been a long hard campaign in the SFL and an ongoing saga over relocation has only made this season one of the most memorable for Cowden.
The football club, based 25 miles from Scotland's capital, have shared their home with Stock Car Racing since the 1960's and have seen a stadium which once housed five figure attendances on a regular basis deteriorate due to recessions and Cowden's failure to set the heather on fire on the field of play north of the border in the Post War era. However, that could all be about to change with a return to Scotland's second tier, plans for a new ground and a continuing UK-wide interest in a small club that has always been a curiosity in the British game simply because of their unusual name. The lapsed, the loyal and even ex-pat Cowdenbeath fans from abroad descended on Central Park for the game against Forfar as the Blue Brazil looked to become the final team in Scotland to clinch a major championship behind Celtic, Ross County and Alloa. The Fife side are one of the great survivors of the Scottish game. They were founded in 1881 by the Pollok family who settled in Cowdenbeath from Ayrshire. Scottish League status was achieved in 1905 and they opened their league life with a 1-0 win home win over Leith Athletic at North End Park. Former Hearts, Wolves and Scotland player Colin Cameron has written himself into a very short list in a certain Fife Hall of Fame.
He has now joined Bill Hodge (1938/9) and Icelander Mixu Paatelainen (2005/6) as one of only three managers to take a Scottish League title to Central Park. Paatelainen was of course a Bolton favourite in England and also played for Hibs and Aberdeen in Scotland. Jimmy Richardson (1923/24), former Cowdenbeath winger Andy Matthew (1969/70), Ex-Hibs and Scotland defender John Brownlie (1991/2), current Scotland boss Craig Levein, assisted by Gary Kirk ( 2000/1) and current St Mirren boss Danny Lennon (2009/10) have taken the Blue Brazil to promotion via a runners-up or Play-Off spot . There was also a promotion in the last decade by default due to Livingstonlosing their 1st Division place because of financial irregularities but successful 'Beath managers since the club moved to their current home in 1917 from North End Park is more a box of delights than a Hall of Fame . Moves are afoot to move the 21st Century Cowdenbeath FC to a new site in the adjoining village of Lumphinnans after much bluster in the last five years over a new ground which is now badly needed for a side that next term will be playing in Scottish football's second tier for only the third time since the inception of the Scottish Premier League in 1975. Cowden are committed to quitting Central Park by summer 2013 so after plans to move to the South End of the town and then land near Hill of Beath fell through the Lumphinnans move just simply must succeed if the club are to survive. Apathy towards the local club in recent years as Central Park has become a less desirable venue to watch football in currently sees Cowdenbeath fighting it out with perennial 3rd Division under-achievers East Stirlingshire for the tag of 'worst supported club in Scotland'. This less than flattering moniker isn't deserved given Colin Cameron's achievements since taking over from ex-Man U and Rangers defender Jimmy Nicholl as manager. However, it would seem even former local die-hards are unwilling to pay 14 quid to stand inside Central Park with terracing designed for a potential ankle break, toilet facilities that are rife for a visit from John Bishop in Sport Relief mode and of course the debris of Stock Car Racing that litters Central Park and gives the impression that the football club are unwelcome guests and not deserving of a match day experience that doesn't look like the aftermath of a Demolition Derby. The Groundhoppers from Birmingham, Bradford and Belfast think it's all quaint of course but these days the local population are less forgiving of what many see as a scrapyard masquerading as a League ground. 'The Blue Brazil' is a rather tongue in cheek nickname which caught on with the local support in the early 1990's but life is no beach for Cowdenbeath fans these days at the ramshackle Central Park which was once a Fife Maracana housing 25,000 for a League Cup tie with Rangers (played on a Tuesday afternoon in 1949). A young Kenny Dalglish was part of the Celtic team that was the first to play under Central Park floodlights when Cowden first acquired them in 1968 and played a celebratory Challenge Match against Scottish Champions to usher in a new era. When Cowdenbeath won promotion in 1938/9 their average home gate was 8,000 more than the town's population of 10,000 but Cowden only managed six games in Scotland's top division before WW II broke out. When Peace time football was re-established in 1945 the Scottish League decided to declare the '38/9 promotion null and void. This decision was declared a travesty locally and both the Scottish League and the Scottish Football Association were never really forgiven lin a small corner of Caledonia until the team managed to win promotion again in 1969/70 sadly only lasting one season in Scotland's old First Division of 18 teams. Many felt the decision to stay part-time in a league of full time clubs proved to be Cowdenbeath's downfall in 1970 when they amassed only 17 points but the team which included Miners, Paper-Mill workers and a PE teacher did reach the Scottish League Cup semi final that season, losing to eventual trophy winners Rangers 2-0 in front of a 37,000 crowd at Hampden.Cup football has sometimes been where the glory lies for Cowdenbeath. The club's record victory of 12-0 came over non-league Johnstone FC of Renfrewshire at Central Park (and not Saint Johnstone as many record books still say) in a 1922 Scottish Cup tie. Two years previously in the same competition at Central Park Cowden had put St Andrews University to the sword after the student team's goalie bragged he would buy a Fish Supper for every goal he let in. Only one member of the Cowdenbeath team had to share his meal after the game. Final score Cowdenbeath 10 St Andrews Univ 0. In 1976 a 2nd Division Cowdenbeath side managed by ex-Celtic goalie Frank Connor triumphed over First Division St Mirren in the 3rd Round of the SFA Cup by three goals to nil, the visitor's boss who was sent home to Paisley to think again was a certain Alex Ferguson who could still be heard giving an early version of the hairdryer treatment to his Saints side after their unexpected defeat long after the delighted Cowden support had left the ground. Cowdenbeath won 3-2 at Ibrox in a 1949 League Cup tie which prompted that record 25,000 plus attendance for the 2nd Leg at Central Park. Rangers were going out of the competition with the score at 1-1 until a last minute breakaway goal forced extra time. The Glasgow giants saved face by winning the tie 3-1 on the day and 5-4 on aggregate. Even this season Cowden's cup fighting spirit was in evidence when eventual Scottish Cup finalists Hibs went behind to an early goal at Central Park before scraping through to Round 5 with a 3-2 win. Current Blue Brazil boss Colin Cameron knew what he was getting into when he took over at the cash-strapped Fife club and was determined to take them back to the First Division at the first attempt this season. Cameron is maybe best known in Scottish football for scoring a penalty with his first touch while playing for Hearts when they beat Rangers to win the 1998 Scottish Cup final. Despite pressure in the league from Arbroath for most of the campaign it became clear by mid-March that the Fifers could only throw automatic promotion away but older Cowdenites have experienced that hurt so there were no real counting of chickens until the decisive match with Forfar that took Colin Cameron and his team up. See May 1981 and Cowden at home on the final day of the season to Div 2 Champions Queens Park needing only a point to pip Queen Of The South for 2nd place. Cowden Player-Manager Andy Rolland chose to blot his faultless penalty kick record that season with the score at 1-1 and then with nine minutes left Queens Park made it 2-1 and held onto win. QotS beat Albion Rovers 3-0 at home to pip the Fifers and leave a generation of Blue Brazilians heartbroken, Cowden would not win promotion for another 11 years when ex-Hibs defender John Brownlie steered them to runners-up spot in Division 2 and then was sacked just weeks later for daring to demand more cash for players the forthcoming campaign in Division 1, this in the days when it was a 10,14,14 league set up in Scotland. Cowdenbeath Chairman at the time of the Brownlie managerial reign was Gordon McDougall, now of Livingston, and he might have pointed to the fact that serious rebuilding was going on at Central Park at the time to keep the ground fit for purpose. A fire in the old wooden stand in 1990 meant the club had to build a second stand that they could ill-afford. It stood next to half of the original wooden structure which had survived the fire and gave Central Park an even more Frankenstein-like appearance. New terracing was also being assembled at the ground at the time. Player-manager 2011/12 Cameron knew his Blue Brazil history so was determined not to join the list of those who nearly changed the fortunes of Cowdenbeath FC on the field of play and as he looks like being the last boss on Central Park soil a title win would have been doubly satisfying for him. A promotion winning manager can make you as big a celebrity in Cowdenbeath as local MP and former PM Gordon Brown who has reinvented himself as a champion of all things Fife from his base in Queensferry under the shadow of the famous Forth Bridges. Whatever their league position Cowdenbeath will continue to be an exotic location for those seeking British football in the raw. The club have almost a mystical Brigadoon pull for football fans south of Hadrian's Wall. Supporters from nearly ever English region from Cumbria to Cornwall turn up in the ex-mining town throughout a season never ceasing to be stunned that the cult of the Blue Brazil is real and Cowdenbeath actually exists outside being a name on a Pools Coupon. Club officials and local traders will be happy to welcome them again next season. In an era of six figure weekly wage sums in the Premiership, foreign owners and referees having to keep an eye on what is being written about them on Twitter , Cowdenbeath will continue as an oddity of football as it used to be, played for the love of the game and supported by the local community.