My various rantings on Scottish football have probably been boring all you bar one person all week (and there’s every chance that they’re boring him too), but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give a mention to East Stirlingshire – possibly the worst team in the history of British senior football. This is a team that has amassed a grand total of 66 points in the last four seasons, has a wage cap of £10 per week, and has the only unpaid manager in the whole of British football. Clearly, there’s something going on here that deserves my further attention.
They’re so bad that the story goes that the other Scottish League teams are trying to get the League to bring in promotion and relegation just to get rid of them. But, having said all of the above, one can’t deny that there’s something inherently charming about a team that is completely wretched, week in week out, and that just doesn’t seem to really care. Also, their website (although it has one or two irritating noises on it) is humourous and good-natured (if you want to check this for yourselves, I’d suggest a quick visit to their Player Profiles section, where right-back David Harvey names “scoring two own goals against Queen’s Park” as his “Most Memorable Moment”). It’s also notable that only one of the players isn’t single. It would appear that the chat-up line of, “hey, baby, you might have heard of me – I play for East Stirlingshire” doesn’t work. Mind you, on a maximum wage of £10 per week, they’d hardly be able to keep the average gold-digging WAG in the syle to which they’ve become accustomed.
Of course, East Stirlingshire’s one big contribution to world football is that they gave Sir Alex Ferguson his first break as a manager. Ferguson was paid £40 a week when he joined them in 1974, and when he joined them they had just eight players, and no goalkeepers. Unsurprisingly, he lasted just six months at Firs Park before being tempted away to the bright lights of St Mirren (funnily enough, East Stirlingshire were above St Mirren at the time that Ferguson jumped ship, but you see what I mean).
During the 1970s and 1980s, Meadowbank Thistle earnt a cult support for their ineptness (which dried up when they got fed up with being rubbish, changed their name to Livingston and moved thirty miles from their Edinburgh base). In the 1990s, Cowdenbeath were nicknamed the “Blue Brazil” in the 1990s and the same phenomenon happened (in case you were wondering what happened to them, they won the Scottish League Third Division under the managership of the former Bolton, Wolves and Hibernian striker Mixu Paateleinen – he must occasionally wake up wondering how his career ended up with this bizarre outcome). East Stirlingshire, for whatever reason, don’t seem to inspire the same amount of affection. It’s a pity. Players who play for ten pounds a week and a ground with a sheer brick wall at one end of their ground… Such eccentricities should be nurtured and encouraged. If you lived there, wouldn’t you rather be involved with this sort of thing than the underlyingly sectarian, money-drenched nonsense that follows Rangers & Celtic around?