Kilmarnock Football Club 150th Anniversary

– in the Scottish Parliament on 7th February 2019.

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Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-15230, in the name of Willie Coffey, entitled, “Congratulations to Kilmarnock Football Club on its 150th anniversary”.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament congratulates Kilmarnock FC, the oldest professional football club in Scotland, on its 150th anniversary; notes that the first recorded general meeting of the club took place on 5 January 1869 in the Temperance Hotel in Kilmarnock, notified by secretary, John Wallace; recognises the many achievements of the club, which include becoming one of the first clubs to contest an official Scottish Cup match along with Renton in 1873, winning the Championship under the manager Willie Waddell in 1965 by defeating Hearts 2-0 on the last day of the season to win the league on goal average by 0.042 goals, winning the Scottish Cup in 1920 by defeating Albion Rovers 3-2 and again in 1929 by beating Rangers 2-0 and in 1997 defeating Falkirk 1-0, winning the League Cup in 2012 by beating Celtic 1-0, winning the Ayrshire Cup 42 times, recording 189 victories out of 256 meetings with local rivals, Ayr United, regularly representing Scotland in the New York International Tournament in the 1960s, qualifying for European competitions on nine occasions, notably defeating Eintracht Frankfurt 5-4 on aggregate in the club’s first European tie in 1964 after being four goals down, welcoming Real Madrid to Rugby Park as league champions in 1965, drawing 2-2, and reaching the semi-final of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup in 1966-67 against Leeds United; recognises that the club is enjoying its 26th season in a row in the top flight in Scotland; notes that the club recorded the highest points tally of 74 points in the calendar year 2018, and sends the club, staff and supporters its best wishes for the year ahead and for many years to come.

Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

I thank MSPs who have signed the motion: I think that about 29 have done so. When members make their speeches, it would be lovely to hear what club in Scotland they support. That will add to the rich colour of the debate.

It is with great pleasure and a great deal of pride that I am able to speak to a motion in the Scottish Parliament in 2019 to commemorate and celebrate the 150th anniversary of our beloved Kilmarnock Football Club.

I am fortunate to have in my possession the wonderful book, “Go, Fame... The Story of Kilmarnock Football Club”, which was written for the club’s centenary in 1969 by the leading sports author of the day, Hugh Taylor. I hope to share one or two extracts from it today. As a native of old Killie, and having lived there all my life, I am lucky enough to have also seen the club’s 100th and 125th anniversaries. The arrival of such landmark anniversaries is really special. They bring the club and the people of the town and the wider district ever closer together. That is very much in evidence already this year.

So, how did it all begin for Kilmarnock? We know that, in the mid-1860s, there were young men in the town who played cricket and were looking for a sport with which to keep themselves amused in the winter months. There was a new sport, around which a debate about whether it should be played with hands or no hands had been raging since the 1820s. Eventually, the cricketers joined boys from Kilmarnock academy and adopted the kicking game. What was actually played around the 1860s could not have passed for either football or rugby. The intention of those early pioneers seems to have been to have a good time socially: for them, that was all that mattered.

An advertisement for the first recorded general meeting of Kilmarnock Football Club, calling on interested parties who wanted to become members to attend, appeared in the

Kilmarnock Standard on Saturday 2 January 1869, and that historic meeting took place three days later, on Tuesday 5 January, in Robertson’s temperance hotel in the town. It was notified by young 19-year-old John Wallace, who became the club’s first secretary, then its president. And so, it had begun: Kilmarnock Football Club was officially born.

In those wonderful early days, because the rules were—let us say—evolving, protests about the outcome of a game were commonplace. During one game, the new Ayrshire Football Association had to remind teams that they could not pick their own referee, and nor should the referee appear as a 12th man for that team. Some might argue that little has changed since then.

As early as 1873, Kilmarnock became one of the eight founding members of the Scottish Football Association and, along with Queen’s Park Football Club, Dumbarton Football Club and another 13 clubs, it put up the money for the first Scottish cup. Killie played in what is thought to have been the first-ever Scottish cup match, but sadly lost 2-0 to Renton Football Club. Interestingly, Renton claimed to be the first world club champions when, as Scottish cup winners in 1888, they challenged and beat West Bromwich Albion Football Club, which had won the English Football Association cup.

Scottish players were much sought after by their clubs’ English counterparts, and the drive to professionalism—still illegal, but that was largely ignored in Scotland—was resisted by Queen’s Park, which was supported in that by Kilmarnock. However, eventually, in 1894, Kilmarnock became a professional club, and it joined the Scottish second division a year later.

That early support for retaining amateur status had cost Killie, and it took until 1899 for the club to be voted into the first division. Steady, if not spectacular, progress followed, and the club’s first major trophy came in 1920 with a 3-2 win over Albion Rovers Football Club in the Scottish cup final at Hampden Park in front of 95,000 fans.

Photo of Fulton MacGregor Fulton MacGregor Scottish National Party

I was looking for an appropriate time to make an intervention. The mention of Albion Rovers allows me to do that. Albion Rovers also has a rich history in the game. The club was founded in 1882, and this is its 100th year playing in the professional league. Does Willie Coffey agree that clubs like Albion Rovers, which offer so much to their local communities, play an important role in Scottish life?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Would anybody else like to chip in with something about their local team before Mr Coffey proceeds? [

Laughter

.]

Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

I congratulate Albion Rovers and all the community-based Scottish football clubs. They are usually very well run—in many cases better run than some of their bigger counterparts.

I was about to say that, on the fateful day of the 1920 final, one of the players in the Kilmarnock squad, Sandy Higgins, lost his father. Sandy senior was one of the great early players and he was the first Kilmarnock player to play for Scotland. A similar tragedy was to hit our club many years later, in 2012, which I will come to in a moment.

A second cup final victory was celebrated just a few years later, in 1929, when Kilmarnock beat the cup holders and league champions Rangers Football Club 2-0. Interestingly, one of the Kilmarnock heroes that day was the goalkeeper, Sam Clemie, who made save after save, even saving a penalty, to keep Killie in the game. At the celebrations later that night, big Sam was asked to make a speech. He told the audience that he could not make speeches but could save penalties, to a tumultuous roar from the fans. I fondly remember being lucky enough to see Sam Clemie’s medal from that day some years ago with my brother Danny and my dad.

For me as a young boy, the 1960s Kilmarnock team under manager Willie Waddell was a dream. Their first European match was against Eintracht Frankfurt EV in 1964 and, despite losing 3-0 in Germany and losing an early goal at Rugby park to make it 4-0 for the Germans, Kilmarnock went on to score five goals in what was one of the most incredible comebacks in European football. In that same season, Kilmarnock and Heart of Midlothian Football Club were fighting it out at the top of the league, and on the last day of the season, 24 April 1965, Kilmarnock won the championship. They had to beat Hearts at Tynecastle by two goals or more to win on goal average, and they did just that.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

Would Willie Coffey remind the chamber who was in third place on that occasion?

Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

It was Dunfermline Athletic Football Club, Presiding Officer. [

Laughter

.]

Kilmarnock players Davie Sneddon and Brian McIlroy scored the vital goals, and a sensational save by Bobby Ferguson in the last few minutes prevented Hearts from grabbing the title at the end, even in defeat. I remember the key moments as though they were yesterday, even though I was only six years old and my brother Danny was 10. My dad’s response to my mother, who was worried about him taking us to such a big game, was “They’re going. They might not see it again!” He has been right so far—until this season, that is.

Real Madrid Club de Fútbol breezed into Rugby park later in 1965 in the European cup and were lucky to escape with a 2-2 draw. Shortly after that, in 1967, Kilmarnock played the magnificent Leeds United Football Club in the semi-final of what is now the Europa league. It was a stunning period of achievement for the club. It is fair to say that an unspectacular period followed, but in 1997 glory returned with another Scottish cup victory at Ibrox on 24 May with a 1-0 win against an excellent Falkirk Football Club team.

To complete the trinity of Scottish trophies, Kilmarnock had to wait until 2012 to lift the league cup for the first time, beating Celtic Football Club 1-0 at Hampden. The joy and elation soon turned to despair when the news emerged that Kilmarnock player Liam Kelly’s dad had collapsed at the game and later died, echoing the very sad similar circumstances of 1920.

Presiding Officer, this famous old football club has made a huge contribution to Scottish football and is still going strong. Some famous people support Kilmarnock FC, from Marie Osmond, whose 1970s hit, “Paper Roses”, is the club anthem, to Biffy Clyro, who are regular visitors to Rugby park. We have the award-winning Kilmarnock pie—the Killie pie keeps our fans and visitors happy at Rugby park.

We also enjoy a healthy battle for supremacy with the second team in Ayrshire, Auchinleck Talbot Football Club. [

Laughter

.] We are currently enjoying an amazing period under the magnificent Stevie Clarke, with Killie ending up in 2018 with the most points it has had in the Scottish Professional Football League.

To all the talented players and managers past and present, the wonderful club officials and staff across the years and the incredible supporters of this famous old football club, I say congratulations on Killie’s 150th anniversary. May it enjoy many more successful years ahead. To Killie fans the world over, let us never forget that we are Killie till we die.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

I congratulate Willie Coffey on securing time to debate and celebrate 150 years of Kilmarnock Football Club.

I am more than delighted to contribute to the debate and I must declare an interest, because I was a coach at the club in the mid-1990s when Alex Totten was manager. There were some great names about at that time—for example Bobby Williamson, who went on to manage the club up to the great cup win in 1997; Gary Holt, who was pivotal in the 1997 cup win; and Monty—Ray Montgomerie—who was also there. It is great that he still has a prominent role at the club. There was also Paul Wright, who had recently entered the club and went on to score the only goal in that final.

Getting to do a little bit of work with the team at that time was a privilege.

We have been discussing who we support, and my support for football clubs is fairly diluted—Kilmarnock is only one of the teams that I support. I moved to Kilmarnock—and did a bit of coaching there—from Ayr. As Willie Coffey will testify, and as I discovered, the rivalry between Rangers and Celtic is not the biggest in Scottish football. I did not know that at the time but, having moved to Kilmarnock, I was told about it by several people when walking down the street in Ayr.

I recognise and welcome how fantastically well Kilmarnock is doing this season. It is intriguing to think that, in the not-too-distant future, the local rivalry with Ayr United Football Club, which is doing well in the division below, will perhaps enhance the top tier of Scottish football. I go infrequently to football matches, but an Ayr v Killie game is one that I want to be at.

Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

Brian Whittle mentioned Ayr United and Killie and the rivalry between them, but there is another football team in the south-west. Stranraer Football Club is in my home town, and I used to go to its matches when I was wee. The club celebrates its 150th anniversary next year. Will Brian Whittle comment on that?

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

Let us get in as many of our constituencies’ football clubs as possible.

I will go on to talk about the importance of football clubs in their communities.

Willie Coffey was probably also at the game that I mentioned. When Ayr and Kilmarnock play one another, Rugby park is full. Such rivalries galvanise and enhance the community.

On Emma Harper’s point, football clubs are generally at the heart of the community. I extol Kilmarnock Football Club for that; it is a model that others should follow. The club has the ability to galvanise the community and the Killie trust—the Kilmarnock Supporters Society Ltd—is doing some fantastic work to pull the community into the club.

Kilmarnock FC has an all-weather pitch. A couple of summers ago, I watched my daughter play in a netball tournament on the pitch, which had been set up with six netball courts. The ability of the football club to reach out to the community and bring people in cannot be underestimated. That applies to every other club.

I have so much more to say, but I will just say that I hope that Kilmarnock Football Club will continue to have an influence in the local community, which is a model for other clubs to follow. I congratulate Kilmarnock on reaching the milestone of 150 years. I again thank Willie Coffey for securing the debate and I wish Kilmarnock Football Club every success, on and off the pitch, in the future.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

As a fellow Ayrshire MSP, I congratulate Willie Coffey on securing the debate, which celebrates the longevity and success of Kilmarnock Football Club—Scotland’s oldest professional football club.

Ayrshire is the heartland of junior football; I have six junior football clubs in my constituency. Historically, Killie have been Ayrshire’s top team but, after Auchinleck Talbot’s performance at Beechwood park last month against Ayr United, who knows? Seeing a junior team win against professional local rivals was momentous and memorable, and it really captured the spirit of what Scottish football is about.

I am sure that Killie fans shed few tears when they watched their long-standing rivals Ayr United getting put in their place, just two weeks after Killie celebrated its 150th anniversary. That rivalry is more than 100 years old, as the first match between the two sides was held in September 1910, in the same year in which Ayr United was formed. The match finished 4-4. Of course, Willie Coffey would argue that there was a dodgy penalty decision and that a penalty should have been, but sadly was not, given in the last minute.

Kilmarnock’s story has taken the club far beyond Ayrshire—from the match against Renton in October 1873, which was the first ever match in the official Scottish cup, to winning that trophy for the first time when they beat Albion Rovers at Hampden in 1920, before their subsequent successes in 1929 and 1997. Like my club, St Mirren, Kilmarnock have won the Scottish cup on three occasions. This Saturday, Killie face Rangers on home turf in the final 16 of the cup, and I certainly wish them all the best.

Kilmarnock are enjoying a 26th consecutive season in Scotland’s top flight, and they are doing brilliantly, with modest resources, under Steve Clarke. Killie are one of the select band of clubs that have won all three domestic trophies, including the league title in 1965 and the league cup in 2012.

Killie have enjoyed success on the international stage. They first competed in Europe in the 1964-65 inter-cities fairs cup. As Willie Coffey told us with passion, they came from 4-0 down after their first tie to score five goals in the second tie in a magnificent performance to defeat Eintracht Frankfurt 5-1 on the night—5-4 on aggregate. A year later, they held the eventual winners of the European cup that season, Real Madrid, to a 2-2 draw at home, and they reached the fairs cup semi-final during the 1966-67 season. Indeed, if Hibernian had knocked out Leeds United earlier, there would have been three Scottish clubs in the quarter-finals of the competition that year. Killie have played nine seasons in Europe. Further afield, they have represented Scotland in the New York international tournament, and they were runners-up in the competition in 1960.

The club’s home stadium, Rugby park, has a history that is almost as illustrious as that of the team itself. It was first used in 1899. During the second world war, the Army installed large oil storage tanks on the pitch, and the club was never compensated for the loss of its ground. After the war, Italian prisoners of war helped to extend the north terrace. Major redevelopment took place in 1994-95, after which Rugby park became the 17,889 capacity, all-seated stadium that we know today. In addition to holding home matches, Rugby park has been the venue for two Scottish internationals and even an Elton John concert.

The success of a club is, of course, not measured just on the pitch. Kilmarnock FC’s community outreach programmes have brought enormous benefit to the local community. To name but a few of its achievements, in 2018 alone, Kilmarnock Community Sports Trust delivered 747 football hours to 719 primary children through its schools programme; supported 20 players to play walking football twice a week; hosted an eight-team central Scotland tournament at Rugby park in September; and provided 600 meals, football training and nutritional information to 60 young people, in collaboration with the Tartan Army Children’s Charity, the go fitba project and the Park hotel.

Since its inception in 2015, the trust has offered a wide variety of programmes to inspire young players to get active and involved in football. It puts community at the heart of the organisation and offers children and young people opportunities that would otherwise be closed to them. I hope that that aspect of the club’s work will prove as long lasting as the football itself, as it is making a huge difference to many lives.

I read with interest Dani Garavelli’s column, “Can Kilmarnock’s football success revitalise the town?”, in

The Scotsman last weekend. She described how manager Steve Clarke, from Saltcoats in my constituency, has transformed the team, taking them from the bottom to near the top of the Scottish Premier League. That success has breathed new life into the club. The Moffat stand, which was closed last season due to lack of ticket sales, reopened, and morale is high. The club’s upward trajectory almost runs in tandem with the fate of the town itself.

Scottish football is all about the fans and communities that support the club, and the club that bolsters the community. I am sure that, regardless of the personal allegiances of members across the chamber, they will join me in saying that Kilmarnock FC makes an invaluable contribution to the social fabric of Ayrshire and Scotland as a whole. As much as football sometimes divides us, it has the power to unite us—in victory, in defeat, in seeing the underdog win the day, and in watching heroes triumph.

I congratulate Kilmarnock FC on their success over the past 150 years and look forward to seeing them go on to reach even greater heights.

Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

It is a privilege to join other members in celebrating Kilmarnock Football Club’s 150th anniversary and I thank Willie Coffey for securing today’s debate.

We might not break into a joint chorus of “Paper Roses”, but at a time of debates on Brexit and budgets and our fair share of disagreements, it is good to be taking part in a debate with such refreshing and unanimous cross-party support.

At the weekend, I was asked by a constituent what I would be speaking on in the chamber this week, and I explained the various statements and debates, including this one. He asked why I would be talking about Kilmarnock Football Club, and I told him, “This is roughly what I’m going to say—see what you think.”

Kilmarnock FC is not just any football club; it is Scotland’s oldest professional club and is celebrating its 150th anniversary. Back 1873, Kilmarnock were one of the first teams to take part in association football’s second oldest tournament, the Scottish cup, a tournament that they won in 1920. That was followed by a second success in 1929, when they beat Rangers 2-0 in front of more than 114,000 people at Hampden park, before completing a hat trick of Scottish cup wins in 1997. In 1965, Willie Waddle led Killie to the then top-tier first division championship. Just seven years ago, the club defied the pundits by winning the League cup against Celtic. Maybe most important of all, Kilmarnock have won the Ayrshire cup 42 times.

That is not to say that there have not been lean times. In the 1980s, I remember watching Killie play in division 2, but I have a confession to make—I was there as a Doonhamer, cheering on my local team, Queen of the South, who celebrate their centenary this year.

It is 26 years since Tommy Burns led Kilmarnock back into football’s top flight, where they have stayed ever since. Now they sit proudly near the top. Under Steve Clarke’s leadership, they have even flirted with the top spot recently, despite having a budget that is a fraction of the size of old firm budgets. There really is a buzz about the club today, and crowds are growing as more and more people head to Rugby park on a Saturday.

Bill Shankly once said:

“Football without fans is nothing”.

It is the growing number of Killie fans who are at the very heart of Kilmarnock Football Club as they celebrate their 150th anniversary, not least through the establishment in 2003 of the Killie trust to bring supporters closer to the club. In 2017, it launched the trust in Killie initiative and supporters from around the world pledged a remarkable £100,000 to buy unallocated shares in Killie and put a supporter on the board of the club as a full and equal director.

In May last year, that new director was appointed, giving fans a voice at the club’s decision-making table. That director will be familiar to members of this Parliament: Cathy Jamieson, the former MSP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley and former member of Parliament for Kilmarnock and Loudoun. She is already making a huge impact, leading the way in improving communication between the club and fans and working with the other directors, Billy Bowie and Phyllis McLeish, to develop Kilmarnock as a true community club. The Killie trust is building on the success of the trust in Killie campaign, generating more funds for the club and looking at how those funds can be invested for the benefit of fans.

Kilmarnock FC is setting an example across football, with fans not just following but leading their club. That is fitting as Kilmarnock’s supporters celebrate 150 proud years.

Presiding Officer, I began my speech by saying that a constituent asked me why I would be talking about Kilmarnock FC in Parliament, and I have just told members roughly what I said to him. You are probably wondering what his reply was. Unfortunately, he said, “I still don't understand why you are debating Kilmarnock Football Club.” I made those comments to my constituent at an advice surgery in Ayr, and he confessed that he was an Ayr United fan.

I congratulate the players, directors, staff and supporters of Kilmarnock Football Club in their 150th year.

Photo of John Finnie John Finnie Green

On behalf of the Scottish Green Party, I congratulate Kilmarnock Football Club—our nation’s oldest professional club—on reaching this significant milestone and I thank Willie Coffey for bringing the motion for debate.

Willie Coffey said at the outset that he would like to hear which club members support. For the avoidance of doubt, I refer members to my entry in the register of interests and my many associations with Heart of Midlothian Football Club. That inevitably leads me to talk about something to which Willie Coffey alluded: the 1964-65 season and the goals average. I think that that system must have been devised by Stewart Stevenson, because it is quite mathematical. The figure is the number of goals scored divided by the number conceded. Kilmarnock had to win 2-0; winning 3-1 or 4-2 would not have done it. I will not go into the figures further. Some 38,000 people were there to see it, but I was not one of them.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

How upsetting is the fact that if the goal average had been used in 1986, Hearts, which lost to Dundee in the last game, would have won the title that year? If goal difference had been used in 1965, they would have won the title that year. If the systems had been switched round, Hearts would now have two more league titles than they currently have.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I am at a complete loss here—somebody will have to explain all this to me later.

Photo of John Finnie John Finnie Green

I can help: the intervention from the member was not meant to be of a therapeutic nature— let me put it that way. If I had issues before about such matters, I will certainly have to reflect on them now.

We are talking about 0.04 of a goal. People say that time is a healer, but Dens park in 1986 certainly proves that not to be case. However, there is good news from 1964-65. I am delighted that Willie Coffey took an intervention from Bruce Crawford. Dunfermline ended up third. The good news is that the gruesome twosome were nowhere to be seen as they were way down the league—I say that to win friends and influence people. I do not think that our national sport is helped by the duopoly, and there is significant camaraderie among fans outwith it, which is healthy.

I often get asked how a native of Lochaber, who was born and bred in the Highlands, comes to support the Hearts, and I get chided for not supporting my local team. I do support my local team, Lochaber Camanachd from Spean Bridge, in shinty, which is Scotland’s other national sport. Of course, I am also keen to lend support to both Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Ross County, and I hope that they do well.

My father was a Hearts fan and the generation-on-generation thing is very important—my grandson is now primarily a Barcelona fan but also a Hearts fan. The club identifying with the community and vice versa is important.

I fondly recall Kilmarnock’s win in 1997. I also fondly recall the bus-top celebrations in the wonderfully named John Finnie Street in Kilmarnock. I recall 2012 and the emotion around that. I will not dwell on the mixed emotions and the sadness associated with it.

I have enjoyed my visits to Rugby park, where there have been some good games, and certainly some good pies. As has been said, Kilmarnock have been a breath of fresh air of late.

There have been reflections on Eintracht Frankfurt—a famous name and a famous game. I am sure that many would like to see the European nights back at Rugby park.

I know that non-football fans—I am surrounded by them in this part of the chamber—have no comprehension of the issues and the nuances, but football is a wonderful game and a wonderful way of bringing people together. It is about the dark days endured—the cold, wet days—and the glory nights savoured in the hope of their being repeated. I was 42 years of age before I had a glory day in 1998.

Kilmarnock have made a proud contribution to Scottish football—a continuing contribution to our beautiful game. I want to see them enjoy a long and healthy future entertaining the rest of us. At the end of the day, what is 0.04 of a goal between friends?

Photo of George Adam George Adam Scottish National Party

I thank Willie Coffey for bringing the debate to the Parliament. I congratulate Kilmarnock FC on their 150th anniversary. I cannot believe that I wore a blue suit on the day when we are having this debate—my colours are usually black and white. I may not have mentioned this before, but I am a St Mirren supporter. In 2017, we were 140 years old, and we will probably join Killie in eight years’ time in being 150 years old.

One of the big things about the debate is the importance of football to our nation. Not only is it our national sport, but these clubs are the heart and soul of many of the communities that we live in. As politicians, we should embrace that more than we do, because football clubs could help us with much of the work that the Parliament does on that side of things. Perhaps we should engage them more fully in that.

Members might be surprised to learn that I actually do some research for my speeches. While I was doing research for this debate, I found out that, between 1887 and 1890, Kilmarnock’s strip was black and white stripes with black shorts and black socks. That sounds like a perfect colour scheme that Kilmarnock should have kept. At the same time, St Mirren had a black and white strip with blue shorts and blue socks.

There are many things that connect St Mirren and Kilmarnock, not least the fact that, when Morton and Ayr are not in the same division, St Mirren v Kilmarnock is our ne’er’s day game—our derby game—because Kilmarnock is just a quick drive down the road. At this point, I would like to apologise to Willie Coffey for various Adam family soirées in Kilmarnock on ne’er’s day, when the new year parties have continued after the match. The town’s football club might have been started in the temperance hotel but, in the past, “temperance” was a foreign word to some of my family members.

If we look at the results of games between St Mirren and Kilmarnock, we see that Killie are winning 87-84, which is roughly 50:50. Another connection between the two clubs is the fact that the current manager of Kilmarnock, Steve Clarke, started his career with St Mirren, before going on to Chelsea.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

Would Mr Adam recognise that yet another connection between Kilmarnock and St Mirren is the fact that they have both had the same sprint coach?

Photo of George Adam George Adam Scottish National Party

I was rather disappointed that Mr Whittle bragged about the time that he worked in Ayrshire, but that he did not talk about the time that he upgraded to the position of sprint coach of the mighty St Mirren.

As has been said, both clubs have won the Scottish cup three times and the league cup once. Although Kilmarnock FC is Scotland’s oldest professional club, it was not a founder member of the Scottish Football League, unlike St Mirren. When the SFL was inaugurated on 30 April 1890, it included two clubs from Paisley, one of which was Abercorn, for which my great-great-grandfather played centre half. Among the other original members of the SFL that are still in business are Dumbarton, Hearts and Celtic. There are some clubs that were in the SFL in that season that are no longer with us. Kilmarnock was a founder member of something called the Scottish Football Alliance, along with Ayr, which became Ayr United, and Morton, before they all ended up in the Scottish divisions.

The history of football is fascinating. As Willie Coffey mentioned, back then, the rules were not in place. If we looked at some of the football games that used to take place, we would think that they were rugby games. Kilmarnock and St Mirren both started as what would be recognised as rugby clubs. That is why Kilmarnock’s ground is still called Rugby park. St Mirren have been playing football since 1877, but the club was originally founded in 1876 as a rugby football club. In the year that Kilmarnock FC was formed, Ulysses S Grant was sworn in as the President of the United States and the University of Oxford won the first boat race. That shows what was happening in the world while we were just kicking a ball around a field.

We must remember the other people who have been involved in our great game. Hugh McIlvanney, who recently left us, was another Kilmarnock boy. He did his apprenticeship as a journalist at

The Kilmarnock Standard

. With typical wit, he once said of Newcastle United:

“People talk about Newcastle as a sleeping giant. They last won the championship in 1927 and the FA Cup in 1955. They already make Rip Van Winkle look like a catnapper.”

The teams of Willie Coffey and I have won competitions a lot more recently than Newcastle United. Perhaps our teams are just having a catnap and the glory days are just beyond the horizon.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

I congratulate Willie Coffey on securing the debate. His motion is one of the longest that I have ever read. It seems to provide the entire history of Kilmarnock FC; all the high points are certainly in there. We almost do not need to have the debate, although

I am glad that we are having it, because we have discovered that Brian Whittle is both a Kilmarnock and a St Mirren reject.

I am not a Killie fan, I am Celtic fan, but I have a soft spot for Kilmarnock. Mrs Simpson also has a soft spot for them, because Kilmarnock is the only away ground that she has been to in Scotland—I know how to treat her—and it was there that we discovered and fell in love with the Killie pie. It was a cold Sunday morning and the pie tasted absolutely fantastic. There is only one special one in football in my eyes, and it is not the former Chelsea and Man United manager.

In those days, it was easy for old firm fans to get tickets to go to a Kilmarnock game. You could either phone them up or just turn up and get in. Motherwell was in the same boat. Sadly, those days are gone and it is much more difficult for people such as me to go to grounds such as that of Kilmarnock. That is a shame, because it is a very open and welcoming club.

I remember that one of Killie’s many managers, Bobby Williamson, also encouraged easy access. He would take phone calls from fans and listen to them explain tactics and team selection. He was a bit of a character was Williamson. While he was the manager of Hibs, his silver Mercedes was clocked doing 107 miles per hour on the M74 near Lockerbie. He was found guilty of speeding and banned for three months. Sadly, his fame as a soccer boss did not extend to Constable Jane Monteith. She said that Williamson was invited into the back of the police car and asked to give his details after the car was flagged down. She told the court that

“he was polite initially but then said we should really appreciate who he was and could settle the matter at the side of the road. He kept saying we should know who he was ... but I didn’t know who he was.”

In 150 years, you go through a few gaffers. We have also seen Tommy Burns, who left for Celtic, Alex Totten, Jim Jefferies, Kenny Shiels and, right up to the present day, Steve Clarke. I like Steve Clarke—he impresses and amuses me at the same time. I think that there is a bit of a comedian somewhere under that dour exterior. He is doing a fantastic job and, if Kilmarnock can finish second this season, I would be delighted.

Kilmarnock collected more points over the course of 2018 than any other team in the premiership—that is great stuff.

“Steve has given the players back their self-belief,” says Sandy Armour, who is editor of the club fanzine,

The Killie Hippo

. Why is it called the “Hippo”? I have absolutely no idea, but it sounds funny. Perhaps somebody knows? No.

Killie fans have plenty to be cheerful about as they celebrate their 150th anniversary. If they can notch up a few more victories over Rangers, especially this Saturday, we can all be very happy. Like Kenny Gibson, I was reading at the weekend about how the team’s current success is giving a feel-good factor to the town. That is fantastic, because when I worked in newspapers, it seemed that all you ever read about Kilmarnock was stories about this or that “Scheme” star. Marvin’s new teeth being paid for by

The Scottish Sun stood out as a particularly ridiculous story. Onthank has never, in my view, been representative of Kilmarnock. The feel-good factor has even seen a boost for the Hard Luck Tattoo shop, which may now have to change its name.

Killie’s first 150 years have been up and down. Let us hope that the next 150 years see them continue on their current upward trajectory—just so long as they are not too successful.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Before I call the minister, I realise that, if we really wish to hear from him, we need to extend the debate for up to half an hour under rule 8.14.3. I invite Willie Coffey to move a motion without notice.

Motion moved,

That, under Rule 8.14.3, the debate be extended by up to 30 minutes.—[

Willie Coffey

]

Motion agreed to.

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

Indeed, Presiding Officer—I will not take half an hour. I congratulate Willie Coffey on securing the debate and on making a smashing speech—one of a number that we have heard.

As a supporter of a Scottish club that has been around for only 116 years, I acknowledge the achievement of Kilmarnock in reaching its 150th anniversary and for marking it by enjoying a season to remember— albeit that, as an Aberdeen fan, I hope that the season will end with the Dons finishing ahead of Killie, which they currently are.

Football is Scotland’s national game. It is in our DNA and can be a source of great banter. The fortunes of our club can have a major impact on our weekend. On and off-field activity dominates media and social media, as well as discussion in communities. It has, on occasion, been known to feature in Facebook interaction between myself and Mr Coffey.

On the friendly rivalry and banter that John Finnie referenced, it was great to hear substantial contributions from supporters of St Mirren, Hearts, Queen of the South and Celtic. However, the passing mentions secured for Albion Rovers, Dunfermline and Stranraer bordered on the shameless. I also note Brian Whittle’s diplomatic contribution, in which he described his loyalties as “diluted”, and Kenny Gibson’s getting through four minutes without showing his hand.

Scottish football has its challenges, which we are working with clubs, the football authorities and other stakeholders to address, but it remains a hugely important and generally positive influence on the day-to-day lives of Scots. Although our men’s national team may not be as successful as it once was and our club sides are no longer feared across Europe, our game remains strong. Scotland’s women reached the Euros two years ago, and this year they will contest the world cup finals, which is a remarkable achievement. Domestically, our game remains strong, with a top flight that sees just 11 points separating the top four sides and the championship being even more keenly contested. There is a competitiveness afoot that can only be good for the sport. Attendances remain high—the highest per capita in Europe—and interest is as powerful as ever. There is much to celebrate and discuss, and we have heard that reflected in members’ speeches this afternoon.

As I and others have noted, this debate to mark the 150th anniversary of Kilmarnock FC could not be better timed, given the fantastic progress that has been achieved under the leadership of Steve Clarke. Despite having relatively modest resources, the club is performing magnificently near the top of the table and is involved in an exciting tussle for the title. It has been a thrilling season so far, and I hope that Killie can continue to keep up the pace for the remainder of its campaign.

However, as a Government minister, I am required to not knowingly mislead Parliament. Therefore, let me say that my personal hope is pretty much the same as that of Graham Simpson, which is to see Killie finish runners-up in the league behind Aberdeen, however unlikely that scenario might be—especially after last night.

I recognise, as other members have, the history and standing of the Rugby Park side in the Scottish game.

It is the oldest professional football club in Scotland, one of the founding members of the SFA, and it took part in what is thought to have been the first ever Scottish cup fixture, in 1873.

I was half expecting Stewart Stevenson to be in the chamber to tell us that a relative of his took part in that game or to claim to have been there.

The club joined the Scottish League in 1895 and was elected to the top flight for the first time in 1899. As Willie Coffey said, Kilmarnock won the Scottish cup in 1920. That success was soon followed by a second success, in 1929, when Rangers were memorably beaten at Hampden in front of a 114,708-strong crowd, as Colin Smyth said. The club won the Scottish cup for a third time in 1997, and its most recent honour was the league cup in 2012, when Celtic were defeated.

However, the greatest moment in Killie’s history—I apologise to John Finnie; I do not want to intrude on his personal grief—was when the club won the top-flight title in the 1964-65 season. It was a dramatic title race, as we heard, with Hearts three points clear—those were the days of two points for a win—with two games remaining. The two clubs went head to head on the final day of the season, and Kilmarnock won 2-0 to claim the championship.

The club has also made its mark in Europe, qualifying for European competition on nine occasions. Its finest hour was when it reached the semi-finals of the 1966-67 Fairs cup only to be defeated by Leeds United. Killie is, of course, one of only a few Scottish clubs to have played in all three European competitions.

Like all SPFL clubs and many other football sides in Scotland, Kilmarnock is associated with a trust that fulfils an important community role. The Scottish Government greatly values the work that is undertaken in communities, using the power of football to inspire the delivery of wider outcomes. Such work is the main focus of our engagement with football through individual organisations as well as through representative or national bodies such as the Scottish Professional Football League Trust and the Scottish Football Association.

The Kilmarnock Community Sports Trust, which was established in 2015, is a charitable organisation that aims to support the local community. It works with local people from the age of three and offers a wide variety of programmes to develop younger players and help them to aspire to get active and involved in football.

Photo of John Finnie John Finnie Green

I concur with the minister’s comments about trusts. Does he agree that fan ownership is a way of building on that approach and bringing communities closer to clubs?

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

I absolutely agree with the member. The more that fans are involved in the running of their football clubs, the better.

I congratulate Mr Coffey again on securing the debate, and I congratulate Kilmarnock FC on its 150th anniversary and wish it—almost—every success on and off the field in this historic season.

13:36 Meeting suspended.

14:00 On resuming—