"THERE was a goalie we had at Cowdenbeath, John Martin, who was in his 40s and had no teeth.

"When the football was getting boring the fans would sing 'Johnny, Johnny swing on the bar'.

"And he would leap up and swing on the bar back and forward – this is during the game mind – with a wide grin and no teeth.

"What's not to like about that?

"You'd never get that amount of fun at Ibrox or Parkhead and that's what I wanted to write about."

Ron Ferguson, whose brilliant Black Diamonds and the Blue Brazil has been turned into an audio play, is telling the Times about the origins of the book that helped usher in a new era of sports writing and grew in popularity to become a cult classic.

A former church minister in Cowdenbeath and a fan of the team, his book recounted tales rich in terracing wit and banter but also about the ups and downs of the town and its people, politics, religion, journalism and the local mines, set against the team's fortunes.

He said: "I can see my grandfather sitting with a travel rug over his knees, in the freezing cold, watching the team get beaten yet again.

"And I remember I used to play the mouth organ for the players on the bus home from away games, from places like Greenock when you've sat through another defeat.

"I was reporting on the games at the time, once I produced a mouth organ and started playing and they cried out for more!

"It's bizarre when you think about it now."

Ron continued: "I loved standing on the terraces, with guys that travelled up and down the country to every wee place in Scotland, watching football.

"I enjoyed the whole experience, even though there were so many defeats, and the terracing wit was fantastic and so funny.

"Some of these people were so quick, they'd shout at the players and you'd see the players laughing during the game.

"You get used to defeats, it's character forming. I joined the Cowdenbeath Advertiser when I was 16 and going to cover those games was like resilience training, in preparation for defeats.

"I'd cover the greyhound racing too. I remember it all with great affection."

He continued: "I preferred watching football at Cowdenbeath than watching Rangers or Celtic, as the Old Firm took themselves far too seriously.

"I wanted to write about the community of Cowdenbeath, the football but also the pits and the pit disasters.

"All those experiences needed to be told and recorded, the strength of the town in living through those ups and downs.

"It was hard going for a lot of people.

"I remember going to pit heads after mining disasters. The pit wheels would stop and there'd be a lot of women in headscarves standing there.

"They feared this day all their life, wondering if their man was going to be the last out or if he'd been killed in the disaster.

"That was a very common theme.

"I was also writing for the nationals and one of the jobs that no journalist likes is going to the door to get a photo of someone who has just died.

"That was hard. You'd be standing on the doorstep but rather than being resented they would invite me in to talk about the person that was dead.

"That's partly what led me to be a minister. Wives of dead husbands would talk and ask questions I couldn't answer so what I had feared, going to the doorstep for a 'death knock', actually turned out to be an incredible learning experience."

The book was first published in 1993 and a second, updated edition followed in 2014.

At that time Ron said: "It sold well among Cowdenbeath supporters; but since those of us who follow the Blue Brazil are close to being an extinct, though distinctive, species, that did not mean that it sold widely.

"Then something strange started to happen. Black Diamonds began to flourish by word of mouth. Amidst solemn talk of a ‘new genre’ one or two heavyweight London papers picked it up.

"Black Diamonds became routinely described as a ‘cult book’ – an unusual experience for a Presbyterian minister."

The introduction for the second edition was written by his friend Sir Alex Ferguson, the foreword by former Scotland boss Craig Brown and preface by Jim Leishman.

The legendary former Aberdeen and Manchester United manager has reportedly said its his favourite book.

Ron said: "He said it at a press conference, someone had asked him, and he said it was Black Diamonds and the Blue Brazil. It was a huge accolade.

"I became very friendly with Alex, he wrote the foreword for the new edition and told some really good stories about going to Cowdenbeath.

"When we were in the relegation play-offs, and we have been a few times, I would contact Alex and he would send a message to the players.

"These were mainly young guys and they were really chuffed to get a message from him, you could tell it meant a lot and it was a great boost."

He continued: "I remember there was a young guy in the parish here in Orkney who was really struggling after a family bereavement.

"He was a Manchester United supporter and a great fan of Ryan Giggs so I got in touch with Alex to see if there was any chance he could write to him.

"At that time he was still managing, a great figure in the game.

"The young man came round to say he'd got a letter from Alex and when he opened the package there was a shirt from Ryan Giggs too.

"He took the time to write to that boy and gave him a strip, it made a huge difference to his life and his confidence.

"So the book in that way is also about humanity and connecting with people.

"Being a minister, the first day at Cowdenbeath I told the congregation that we were going for promotion.

"There were all these old ladies who had probably never seen a ball kicked in their life, but in time they'd come up to me after a service and invariably say 'I'm sorry Cowdenbeath got beat yesterday'."

Asked about the book's popularity, he said: "The main football books at that time were mostly ghost written, by and large the big-time players never wrote a word themselves.

"So for a start it was a change from the usual football book, that drew people to it.

"It was great fun to do it but for me it was also very important to have that realism.

"It's still off the wall and bizarre and it became a cult classic, which I'm really chuffed about.

"I never expected it to be some kind of hit like that."

He continued: "Fever Pitch (by Nick Hornby) came out around the same time and it was a brilliant book but it was still about a big club, Arsenal, whereas Black Diamonds was such a different kind of experience that people really liked it.

"The former chairman, Gordon McDougall, used to tell me people would travel up from the south of England, during the week when there wasn't even a game on, to just stand on the terraces of Cowdenbeath and inhale the atmosphere.

"It was astonishing."

Although he's now living around 300 miles away, Ron's heart is still with the Blue Brazil and he said: "I've got a season ticket. Living in Orkney I can't come to all the games but my son lives in Balerno, we go when I visit him, and he's set it up so I could watch the matches online.

"There's nothing like watching on the terracing though.

"It's a promising start with some of the signings, they're not going to be gold-plated players at this level but when the whistle blows these young guys will be doing their best, and that's all you can ask.

"The main thing is not to go down, to get relegated and be in that neverland. We have to remain alive and I think we'll do that.

"But I have been wrong before ..."