CENTRAL Park celebrated 100 years serving Cowdenbeath FC in 2017 and in that time it saw many great days for the Blue Brazil.

But there were also darker moments, none more so when fire swept the east end of the main stand as the club was heading for promotion to the First Division.

It meant a really difficult time for the club board of the day but the players did not let it effect them and succeeded in going up.

Club historian David Allan, in this his third article looking at the history of the stadium, touches on the fire and also some great games.

The post-War Cowdenbeath Supporters Club did plenty of good work – a new heating system, tiled plunge baths in the dressing room finished with attractive blue and white tiles, there was a .22 rifle range under the stand, they also constructed crush barriers and the terracing plus built a wall made from 7 inch bricks all the way round the park. Toilets and new turnstiles were installed.

Their other fundraising activities encompassed such ventures as mystery tours, a Doris Day Singing Competition, Beauty Queen competitions, and trips to Partick Thistle and Clyde Supporters Clubs reciprocated.

There was a drive to Lochearnhead, games at Stirling, followed by a dance at High Valleyfield. Jerry Dawson and George Young came for a football quiz night.

The greyhounds continued in the 1950s at Central Park and many will recall the eyrie that used to sit above the centre of the stand. This was the photo finish booth for the dogs.

In 1957, the new Cowdenbeath Football Supporters Association confirmed a new covered enclosure would be erected at the Chapel Street end of the ground for the start of next season. It was estimated that it would cost £700.

Voluntary labour would be used with the structure to be 75 yards long to hold 2,000 fans. The ground was opened Monday to Friday for the work to be undertaken. This of course was to be the famous ‘Cooshed’.

The enclosure was ready for use by February 1958 for the visit of Rangers in the Cup. Before the match the terracing opposite the stand was also graded by a bulldozer right back to the boundary fence and removing the old unsightly bing.

1965 saw the old greyhound racing track replaced by a speedway dirt track as the Fife Lions came to town. That venture didn’t last long and stock cars arrived next.

Steel posts were erected around the outside of the track with three steel cables stretched between them for cars to bounce off. The cars were to race on the same shale/dirt track used by the speedway. This was upgraded to asphalt in 1968. Also at this time, Cowdenbeath installed floodlights.

By the 1960’s the floodlit football match was becoming commonplace and one by one the Scottish League clubs erected floodlights at their grounds. In 1967, Cowden’s financial position was healthy enough for the board to now consider the installation of floodlights at Central Park. After studying various systems the directors decided on a system similar to that they had witnessed on a visit to the ground of Blyth Spartans. In February 1968, a contract had been signed for the erection of 8 pylons. Each was 55 feet high and carried 12 lamps. The installation cost £6,000. The club’s new floodlights were switched on for the first time during a 3-3 draw v Clydebank.

Soon after a 3,000 crowd watched a strong Celtic side officially hansel the floodlights. On that Monday evening Glenrothes majorettes and Cowdenbeath Brass band provided pre-match entertainment for the 3,000 crowd. The teams lined up: - Cowden – Wylie; McLauchlan, Jack; Thomson, Moore, J Taylor; Moran, Bostock, B Taylor, Neilson & Sugden. Celtic – Fallon; Murray, O’Neill; Dalglish, Hay, Clark; Gallagher (Murdoch), McMahon, Quinn, Macari & Auld.

The game was an entertaining affair and Roger Sugden put Cowden one-up on the stroke of half-time. In the second half, Pat McMahon equalised and the game finished level at a goal apiece. After the game, Jock Stein commented that the lights were very good and better than some top-flight installations.

When Cowden clinched promotion in 1970, the Cowdenbeath Advertiser reported that a squad of volunteers was undertaking ground improvements at Central Park. The volunteers doing the work in July 1970 included Fred Lumsden, Chris Petrovic, Ian Miller, Joe Bathgate, George Eggo, John Cameron, Jackie Derrick, Bob Oliver, George Dick (master of works), Jock Gilliard and some of the directors.

A new boundary wall was erected; there were new gates and turnstiles at the Chapel Street end, plus improvements to the away dressing room and the tea room under the stand.

In January 1970, the chairman of Cowdenbeath FC’s 200 Club, Jackie Derrick, had invited interested parties to a meeting in connection with forming a Development Club for Cowdenbeath FC. The Development Club Committee was set up with Jackie Derrick as Chairman. Other members were Mrs Robertson, Mrs Foster, Mr Cochrane, Mr Jamieson, Mr Gronbach jnr., Mr Arthur, Mr Jays, Mr Livingstone, Mr Dryburgh and Master John Cameron of the Junior Supporters Club. It was built at a cost of £38,500 and was opened by Charlie Gronbach. The club’s lounge was named the Andy Matthew Lounge.

The Development Club though eventually foundered and the premises have carried on as a bar under a variety of guises such as the Never Inn, Humphreys, Hat Tricks, the Park Bar and now the Shimla.

In the years since then the old pit bing and sleeper based terracing with wooden crush barriers has been superseded on the west and south terracing with concrete terraces and metal barriers. The old ‘Cooshed’ though fell into disrepair and was fully removed in the early 1980s.

Arsonists meantime badly damaged the stand in 1985. In 1989 though, the signing of a new 14 year contract with the Stock Car Racing promoters brought a commitment to ground improvements.

However, in 1992 just as Cowden were poised to win promotion, the arsonists struck again and the stand was ravaged by fire. Portacabins were used then for more than two years as dressing rooms but in 1995 the new Alex Menzies Stand was at last opened standing alongside the half of the old stand which had been preserved. Cowdenbeath thus to this day have these two adjacent stands – the older of which is now 96 years old.

In 2007, the sale of Cowdenbeath FC and Central Park by Gordon McDougall presaged a property development project which would have included a commercial development at Central Park and a new ground for the club.

The planners giving permission for a rival scheme at North End Park and the property crash put paid to that.

In recent years the ageing ground had difficulties in meeting SFA Licensing requirements but the current board arranged to fund an expensive upgrade to the floodlighting system which is now much enhanced plus to increase the pitch size despite the constraints imposed by the stock car track.

Now the future is not entirely certain but for now Cowdenbeath FC remain based at the 101 year old Central Park – a stadium of big city proportions and past ambitions for a small town club.