April 11, 2009 – New Victoria Park, Newtongrange
Today was a beautiful spring day in Midlothian, just ideal for getting out and watching a game of football.
This was my first visit to New Victoria Park and I was mightily impressed. As far as junior venues go it is certainly amongst the best. I attended the old version several times before it was sold for housing in the mid 1990s so it’s taken a while to ‘tick’ the new place off.
The original Victoria Park was a classic old arena dominated by a big barrel roofed stand which backed onto the main A7 road.
I recall seeing Meadowbank play a couple of pre-season friendlies on the ground which doubled (I think) as a stock car racing track, while I also attended a game in which Star clinched the old East Region A Division championship.
At that time, in the early 1990s, Star were the team to beat in the area. Not only did they regularly win local competitions, but they also came close to winning the Holy Grail of junior football when they reached the Scottish Junior Cup final in 1991.
They were denied by Auchinleck Talbot in an instantly forgettable final at Brockville Park by a goal to nil.
As can often be the case in junior football, Star gradually fell from prominance and as recently as two seasons ago they were be found ambling around in the East Region’s third level, the South Division.
Happily there’s been an upturn again and under the guidance of Scottish League all-time appearance record holder Graeme Armstrong they are pushing for a place in the Super League.
Armstrong is a figure I know well from my days following Meadowbank, likewise his assistant Alan Prentice.
‘Louis’ was Thistle’s regular left back for many years, including the days when Meadowbank threatened to win promotion to the Premier Division under legendary manager Terry Christie.
Something of a set-piece specialist, he took the Meadowbank penalties for a while, and his pinpoint accurate near post corners – which very often resulted in a goal – were something of a trademark.
Prentice, meanwhile, was a younger player in the Thistle side of that time; an accomplished midfielder who was snapped up by Hamilton Accies and played for them during their last brief flirtation with the top level. He was also known to model, hence the nickname ‘Dishy’.
That two of my former favourites are restoring Nitten to a level of pride is good to see, but is also long overdue given the impressive set-up at New Victoria Park.
The first thing I came across after following the private road up from the B6482 was the social club, usually a handy thing for a junior club to have from a money-making perspective.
I arrived some time before kick off so I popped in for a quick beer and to catch the tail end of the Hearts v Celtic Setanta game.
Although not the most salubrious of bars, there was a warm welcome on offer and considering the draught lager was Tennents it wasn’t a bad pint either. More interestingly, the walls were adorned with pictures of Star’s greatest teams and their many Scottish junior internationalists from down the years.
The ground is seconds from the social club, on an elevated position up a set of stairs.
It’s main feature is the large covered enclosure which straddled the halfway line. There are plenty of barriers to lean on, and unusually at this level, there have been a small number of seats installed at the front.
Two of the remaining sides consisting of well kept grass banking while the fourth, where the end where the entry gates are situated is hard standing.
The dressing rooms are also there, with a refreshment stall built in. It sells the usual fare at inexpensive prices. I found the scotch pies to be first class.
Stood in an excellent well kept ground and with the sun beating down, I had high hopes for an excellent game.
What I got, it transpired, was a stalemate in which the two sides definitely put in the effort, but ultimately cancelled each other out.
Kinnoull were probably the better side to start with, but Star enjoyed most of the territorial advantage as the afternoon went on.
In the second half especially they were virtually camped in the Kinnoull half, with the Perth side only able to make the occasional foray up field on the break.
Had Star been more clinical up front I think they would have gone on to win the game comfortably. Unfortunately for them they were not, while they found the Kinnoull keeper in pretty good form.
Kinnoull’s best chance came almost at full time and forced an excellent save from the Star goalie. Had it gone in it would have been a travesty given the home side’s previous domination of the play.
Ultimately the game was a bit of a disappointment, but having taken in another new ground and had some warm sun on my back for the first time this year, the afternoon was far from a total loss.
Scoring – none!
Attendance – 150 est
Admission – £5
Programme – £1
Ground – 8/10. Well kept and welcoming
Game – 5/10. Needed a goal that never came
Overall experience – 6/10. Enjoyable first visit