Like so many other football clubs Dunfermline Athletic owes its foundation to those who pursued a different sport – in the case of the Pars the sport of cricket.
In 1874 during the reign of Queen Victoria, a selection of members from Dunfermline Cricket Club formed a football section specifically for the purpose of maintaining fitness during the winter months. The Dunfermline Club, as they were then known, became the principal amateur football club in the town at that time.
While all at first was orderly there then was a dispute among members, a fracture which caused a seperate football section to split from the Cricket Club in 1885. Following a few meetings during May and June 1885, at the Old Inn pub on the Kirkgate near Dunfermline Abbey, Dunfermline Athletic Football Club was formed. Its base was East End Park then flat grassy grounds in the vicinity of the present day stadium.
The setting up of the club was in effect, an example of what might be called at the time municipal socialism – an indication of what local people, with the help of local authorities, could accomplish for the good of the wider community. Instead of the old “natural order” of religion or politics that had underpinned leisure, the foundation of a football club saw the local state and community come together as necessary to bring about a distinct social leisure sphere – a football club.
Dunfermline Athletic`s first football match was played on 13th June 1885 at East End Park, with Edinburgh University AFC providing the playing opposition. In its early days the club wore maroon jerseys but then changed to black and red hooped jerseys.
Only in 1912 did the club start wearing the black and white stripes for which they are now known for wearing; a feature which many believe gave the club its present day knickname ‘The Pars‘ (due to the parallel vertical striped shirts).
Despite a long tradition both in domestic football and abroad Dunfermline are to this day regarded as a ‘yo-yo’ club; one which has spent many years dropping between the divisions while still attaining the heights of cup final appearances.
However, the ascension of Dunfermline Athletic to its greatest period of success has roots in the 1960’s when Jock Stein arrived at East End Park to take on his first managerial position.
From here the Pars never looked back for some years as Dunfermline broke into major UEFA competition playing 42 matches in Europe between 1961 and 1970. Their greatest success was winning the domestic Scottish Cup then reaching the last four of the 1968-69 European Cup Winners Cup where they were in such distinguished company as FC Barcelona, Slovan Bratislava and 1.FC Koln.
This period also saw another great former manager make a name for himself, a young Alex Ferguson creating a new club record by scoring 31 goals in the Scottish First Division during season 1965/66.
From success came the crisis for in 1971 the club revealled huge losses and came near to bankruptcy. The 1970’s saw the club struggle in the Scottish divisions and by the mid-1980’s they were a lower placed Second tier club.
Since then a familiar pattern has emerged despite the emergence of East Park in 1998 as an all seater stadium. The following years have seen a similar pattern to the 70’s, with a handful of promotions and relegations. Numerous domestic Cup final appearances aside newer excursions into the UEFA Cup have been unsuccessful (2004 and 2007) while financial catastrophe was witnessed yet again in 2013; a period that saw the club enter administration and drop to the third tier.
Despite the repeated disappointments and financial pain Dunfermline Athletic continue to play football at East End Park; a stadium first used in 1885 – the same year as the club was formed.
While the characteristics of the stadium have changed over the decades (wooden stands, a pavilion and ‘L’ shaped terracing banks were once the key features) the feel of the ground has not changed much over the years.
Once used for greyhound racing it is said that some of the foundations of the current ground contain the remains of wood and steel salvaged from famous passenger liners which were being broken up at nearby Rosyth Naval dockyards.
The key structures of the current day East End Park is the two-tier Main Stand which was constructed in 1962, and funded by the club winning the 1960–61 Scottish Cup. Moreover the traditional Norrie McCathie home end behind the goal (named after a former club captain who died tragically) and the North stand is where many of the clubs most loyal fans congregate come match day.
Images from East End Park here.