My Matchday - 256 Raydale Park

Gretna 2008 0v0 Whitby Town
(Whitby won 3-1 on penalties)
Mick Skinner Trophy
Saturday 24th July 2010

Gretna is a town on the Anglo-Scottish border in the district of Dumfries and Galloway. The nearby village of Gretna Green is historically linked to weddings, where loving couples would elope for a “quickie wedding” to take advantage of the more liberal marriage laws in Scotland.
The reason for my trip to this particular corner of Scotland wasn’t to hear wedding bells chime or chew on wedding cake. Gretna was part of my birthday day out on the lash with the lads, which of course must include football as well as beer, so a much delayed visit to Raydale Park formed part of our trip way out west.

Gretna 2008 FC was formed by The Gretna Supporters' Society on 2nd July 2008. The Trust Board originally appointed Anton Hodge as chairman, however from August 2009 the club became managed and fully owned by the members of the board. Craig Williamson became the Society’s chairman with Hodge continuing as Trust Secretary.
The new club were unable to play at Raydale Park, but were allowed to use the Everholm Stadium in nearby Annan, playing their first game against Workington on 12th July 2008.
The club soon gained acceptance into the East of Scotland First Division, winning their first competitive match with a 3-0 away win at Kelso United on 9th August and finished the season in fourth position.
The original Gretna FC were founded in 1946 playing Non-League football south of the border until elected to the Scottish Football League in 2002.
The club benefactor, the late millionaire Brooks Mileson played a prominent part in the club’s meteoric rise as they made Scottish football history by winning three successive promotions to make the SPL in 2007, as well as an appearance in the 2006 Scottish Cup Final.
Raydale Park failed to meet the correct ground criteria for the Scottish Premier League, which meant ‘home’ games had to be played 74 miles away at Motherwell’s Fir Park, their nearest top flight neighbours.
Following Mileson's illness and his withdrawal of financial support, the club were unable to financially support itself which resulted in the club going into administration before finally being declared bankrupt by the summer of 2008.
The last work on Raydale took place in 2006 and promises of further development failed the materialise. The SFL felt the ground wasn’t big enough to host matches against clubs with a large travelling support following their relegation from the SPL.
The ground issue as well as the mounting financial problems resulted in the club’s demotion to Division 3, before finally being forced to resign from the Scottish Football League altogether when failing to find a new financial guarantor.
Gretna FC officially resigned from the SFL on the 3rd June 2008.

The new owners of Raydale Park, Sawtry (IoM) Ltd allowed Gretna 2008 to move back to their spiritual home along the A75 in May 2009. The owners having purchased the land for £300,000 have not revealed their long term plans, so at the moment the ground’s future is still unknown.
After being in the hands of the administrators for almost a year the reopened Raydale Park has seen a few changes. The nearside remains the same, with the changing rooms, old club shop, main turnstile and refreshment bar and main stand. The Eward Stand having around 100 seats predominantly black with red seats at the front including a separate section for press and media.
Behind one goal is The Corrie Stand which has a capacity of approximately 1,000, decked out in green with silver frame and thin supporting pillars.
Apart from a bit of partial cover, the roof on the terrace on the far side has been removed and the Long Stand behind the nearside goal is now gone, now just a lawn area with Gretna FC painted on the back wall.
There’s a plague on the wall declaring ‘Gretna FC extends a warm Scottish welcome to all its visitors’ which the staff at the ground concur with as I found Raydale a friendly ground to visit, with a first-rate social club in the car park.

The match against Whitby Town was for the Mick Skinner Trophy, an annual pre-season event between both clubs going back to Gretna FC’s Northern Premier League days which has been revitalised this season.
If I’m honest the match was a poor affair. Whitby dominated the game possession wise, but had little threat in front of goal. At times Gretna struggled to get out of their own half, their first decent effort on goal didn’t arrive until the 71st minute followed by a first shot on target moments later.
Gretna finished the game strongly but in the end the trophy was decided by a penalty shoot out. Both teams were successful with their opening spot kicks then Whitby’s keeper saved the second before two efforts were knocked past the post, which gave the Yorkshiremen the cup 3-1 on pens.
Whistle Stops is a joint promotion between the Tyne Valley Line Rail Users Group and CAMRA. Using the Northern Rail Newcastle to Carlisle route, you purchase a Hadrian’s Wall Country Line Day Ranger so you can hop on and off the train as many times as you like, allowing you to sample the various pubs along the Tyne Valley line - an ideal scenario for an all day bender!
We, as in myself, Zippy, Jimmy Jimmy and Mr. Pack-a-mac left Newcastle on the 1124. In total we visited 12 pubs in Newcastle, Carlisle, Hexham and Wylam as well as having a few drinks in the Gretna Supporters Club.
My personal favourite and a pub I would highly recommend is The Boathouse in Wylam which is the 2009 CAMRA North East Regional Pub of the Year, which has a huge selection of ales to choose from, a really fantastic pub!
Apart from spending this Birthday Eve getting legless, rushing to catch trains and watching a bit fitba, another highlight was meeting Edward Tudor-Pole from post-punk outfit Tenpole Tudor outside Carlisle station.
Ed was sporting a large unusual hat which made him easy to spot. We had a chat and posed for a few pictures (photos on Friendface)which was truly Wunderbar, although I did have one regret, I realised that I had forgotten to ask him - Who Killed Bambi?
Overall we had a really enjoyable day and we’re already discussing another Tyne Valley rail trip and looking into other Whistle Stop tours. So a special thanks to the lads for making my birthday day on the lash a good’un and a day that'll live long in the memory.

Matchday stats
G2008 0 WTFC 0
Admission £4


Kirky said...

Interesting post - and place to visit. Keep up the good work.

I blog about groundhopping too.

Andy said...

I enjoyed this post, cheers! I visited Raydale Park on Sat 31 July for the match v Whitley Bay - great little ground to visit and a canny pint next door in the Social Club.