Saturday, May 06, 2006

Gareth Hutchison for Berwick Rangers (v Stenhousemuir), 3 May 2006

I lived in Newcastle from the ages of 6 to 11. It was during this time that I started to get interested in football. My first game was at Roker Park where I saw Sunderland hold West Brom to a 0-0 draw. As my mum and dad were both United fans, I grew up a United fan, although I wanted to adopt another side to support as well.

Our local news in those days was "Look North" with bespectacled North East legend Mike Neville...

...and they used to cover Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Newcastle United. Except for one day, when they did a feature about the most unusual club in the North East of England - indeed a club so unusual that despite it's location in the North East of England, it played in the Scottish League.

And so, from that day forward, I became a fan of Berwick Rangers FC.

For the last twenty years, Berwick have bumbled about in the bottom leagues of Scottish football. On the odd occasion, they have been promoted but are invariably relegated the following season. Their honours list reads as follows:

Second Division Champions 1978/9

Yes, that's it. Their most famous moment came in 1967 when they caused one of the greatest upsets in British football by beating the mighty Glasgow Rangers 1-0 in the Scottish Cup. 13,365 saw that game that day, whereas now their crowd tends to be somewhere between 200 and 400.

Theirs is always the second result I look for. I have a Berwick Rangers tie, and I owned a replica shirt for a spell also (they play in a hideous gold and black striped affair). I have been to Shielfield Park once also (in about 1994). The away fans that day turned up in a minibus...

The reason I mention this odd obsession today is that it has been one of the clubs most exciting seasons since they were elected to the League in 1951. They have been in the top three of the Third Division all season, and went into the last game of the regular campaign in second place on goal difference alone. Despite the whole town turning out to see them beat Queens Park 1-0 (1,015 people), the league leaders Cowdenbeath beat Elgin 2-1 to secure the Division Three title on account of their superior goal difference.

Any other season, a second place finish would have been enough to see them promoted to the Second Division. Except this one. The Scottish League have changed the promotion and relegation arrangements this season so only one club are automatically promoted and relegated. The second bottom team from Division 2 goes into a playoff with the teams that finish second, third and fourth in Division Three for the right to play in Division Two next season.

Berwick played the third placed team, Stenhousemuir, in the first leg on Wednesday night and won 1-0. Today, in front of 913 spectators at Shielfield Park, Berwick held Stenhousemuir to a 0-0 draw and therefore go into the play off two-legged final against Alloa Athletic.

This time next week we could be in the Second Division. Come on you Borderers!

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