Manchester United were Sir Alex Ferguson’s last management gig but Ayr United were his final football playing club during a football playing career that never matched the heights of management. While far greater goalscoring ratios relate to his time at Dunfermline Athletic, St Johnstone and Rangers, Scottish football’s greatest ever manager still managed to score a sack full of goals at Somerset Park in his one single season.
Ferguson moved to Ayr United and spent one season with the club playing part-time while juggling coaching qualifications. He scored nine in 24 games, before retiring in 1974, aged just 32.
Somerset Park the home of Ayr United has not changed since 1974 despite various plans over the years for the ground to become an all seater venue. A lack of success on the field of play means Ayr United remain in the shadow of its rivals and neighbours Kilmarnock with just small additions to the ground happening since 1990.
In 1996, Hospitality Suites were built behind the North Terracing and the old half-time scoreboard that had adorned the open terrace for decades was finally, and somewhat sadly, removed. Alas, there was no money to be made from an out of date scoreboard it only being a cost upkeep cost to the club.
To keep fans apart, a segregation fence was built between the Somerset Road End and the North Terrace to comply with safety regulations.
With a track record of poor results which has resulted in the club yo-yoing through the lower leagues it remains to be seen when, if ever, Ayr United move from the quaint but tight old-fashioned football ground.
Dam Park – the home of lower non league Ayr side Whittlets Victoria – has intermittantly been used for home games while the Somerset Park playing surface was being returfed. But Somerset is a football venue that has changed little from when Alex Ferguson played his last game for the club.
The Ayrshire Derby
This Ayrshire derby refers to matches between the two major professional Scottish football sides based in the Scottish region of Ayrshire – Kilmarnock and Ayr United.
The first match between the two was held on 14th September 1910, in the same year that Ayr United were formed from Ayr Parkhouse and Ayr FC. The game was the final game of the Ayrshire League during the 1909–10 season, and finished in a 4–4 draw.
Ayr United were the first of the two clubs to record a win during the following season.
Given that the two sides have been in seperate leagues for a number of years the biggest clash between the two came on 28 January 2012 when Ayr United and Kilmarnock met at Hampden in the League Cup semi-final.
Kilmarnock won 1–0 thanks to a 109th-minute goal in front of 25,057 fans.
One of the reasons the derby is so heated is that its seldom that the two sides clash. Kilmarnock, who have won two domestic trophies since 1995, have largely been an SPL side. In contrast Ayr United have spent a number of years drifting between the second and third tier after highs during the mid 1970’s.
In contrast Kilmarnock were on the decline after the huge highs of the 1950’s and 60’s.
Wind, Rain and Pies
It was a truly dreadful night in Ayr. Passing through this historic town and all its best sites on the road to the venue the rain crashed down on the fans wondering up to the traditional ground. Inside, things never got much better with those fans on the open North Terrace – both home and away – soaked to the skin as the game got underway.
After a somewhat dull 89 minutes of few incidents and very little goalmouth action, Kilmarnock moved top of the Scottish Championship. Former Ross County and Hibs striker Oli Shaw’s dramatic penalty decided the Ayrshire derby at Somerset Park.
The victory was possibly merited for Kilmarnock, who had the better of the play and looked more dangerous.
The penalty award by referee Nick Walsh came after defender Markus Fjortoft’s rash challenge on Liam Polworth. Walsh allowed play to continue to see if Killie scored negating the need for a pen award but the reality was he had no option but to point to the spot.
As so often is the case in derby matches this was a game that refused to settle into any kind of pattern under the traditional lights.
The first half ended frantically and the second half started at a fast pace as both sides threw everything at trying to find the breakthrough and appease the watching 6,000 crowd. Miscontrol, and excessive amount of throw ins and poor crossing were the status of play.
Only a moment of rashness by Fjortoft prevented this ending in a scoreless draw.
Killie fans celebrated wildly at the final whistle bursting into a rendition of unofficial anthem ‘Paper Roses’ with blue and white scarves aloft and smoke bombs thrown onto the field. Meanwhile the Ayr United fans drifted off into the rain; weather which somehow told the tale of what had been a miserable performance by the hosts.
Ayr United: McAdam, Muirhead, Baird, Fjørtoft, Reading, McAllister (Afolabiat), Murdoch, Chalmers, Maxwell (Substituted for Moffat 83), Adeloye, Bradley (Substituted for Salkeldat 83)
Kilmarnock: Hemming, Naismith, McGowan, Murray, Waters, McKenzie (Substituted for Lyonsat 83), Alston (Substituted for McGinnat 32), Polworth, Armstrong (Substituted for Murray at 76), Shaw, Hendry
Referee: Nick Walsh
See an album from the game here