Latest News

alt description

Friday 15th October 2010

Memorabilia making The Blues a global brand

Fans are the lifeblood of the Scottish game and one such fan, Stranraer’s Shaun Niven, shows his dedication to the club in many ways.

Fans are the lifeblood of the Scottish game and one such fan, Stranraer’s Shaun Niven, shows his dedication to the club in many ways.  He used to undergo his own version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles to get to games, although it was actually Ferries, Trains and Automobiles, and he is now helping the Stair Park club get back on their feet financially and keeping the Post Office busy at the same time.Shaun Niven

It has been a long love affair with Niven saying, “I have been going to Stair Park for as long as I can remember. Certainly as early as 1973, they were my local team and that was the main reason although there was a family connection as well.”

Niven added, “My father played for the reserves and for the first team on half a dozen occasions.  He was a really good striker, a poacher, and is still involved at the club as Youth Coach.

“There was a game at Stair Park every week, the first team one week and then the reserves in the South of Scotland League the next.  My grandfather would take me and it was a family thing.”

During the late seventies, heroes emerged at Stair Park and Niven recalls, “Derek Frye was a great goalscorer,” before adding, “but the real hero was Jim McCabe.

“I have not seen anyone in a Stranraer shirt like him and to be honest, he should never have been playing with us.  However, in true Scottish style, he was a flawed genius, a gallus entertainer who was brilliant for Stranraer.”

Niven spent most of the 1980s at High School and Stranraer spent most of that time at the foot of Scottish football’s three division structure.

He said, “We finished bottom of the pile four times in eight seasons and we were dire for long times during that period.  Sandy McAnespie eventually came in and changed that but only after finishing bottom during his first season in 1987/88.”

McAnespie kick-started things and Stranraer almost secured promotion in season 1992/93 however, they came third in really cruel circumstances.  Who was at fault on a fateful last day is still subject to much debate.

Stranraer Manager, Sandy McAnespie, celebrates with the division two trophy 1993-94Niven said, “We had to win at Stenhousemuir and hope for a win by a Clyde side who were getting crowned Champions or at least a draw in their match with Brechin who were sitting second.”

“We did our bit, beating Stenhousemuir 5-2 away from home with a travelling support of over 1,000 and we were on the pitch celebrating as we had heard Clyde and Brechin had finished one each.”

Things did not turn out as planned with Niven lamenting, “In reality, Brechin got a late penalty, which I believe was conceded by Keith Knox, who of course, was a Stranraer legend and is now our Manager. They scored it to win the game 2-1 and deny us promotion.

“It was heartbreaking to think we had won promotion for the first time ever and then find out it was wrong.”

Knox however, remembers things differently saying, “I know it has gone down in history that I gave away that penalty but it was not me.  It was Jamie McCarron and I have been teased about it down here for years and I am glad to put the record straight.”

The following season success was seen for real with Niven saying, “We marched to the title that season.  We went top in October and just stayed there and it was a great day when success finally came to this club.  I would run out of superlatives talking about that win.

“We stayed for one season in the First Division and then Sandy was replaced by Campbell Money.”

Money’s first season in the Second Division got off to a great start with Niven saying, “ The 2nd November, 1996 was a great day for Stranraer as we won the Challenge Cup beating St. Johnstone 1-0 at Broadwood.

Stranraer's Tommy Sloan (7) bundles the ball into the net to score the only goal of the game“There are only 11 teams that have ever won it and for us to be amongst those teams is tremendous.

“Tommy Sloan slid in for the ball after Alan Main saved a free kick and although Tommy maintains to this day that he scored, I think that it was their defender Danny Griffin that scored the goal.

“We won the cup with only having one shot on goal by one of our team. The second half was a slow 45 minutes as we were really up against it.”

League form was not so great for The Blues however, and relegation to the Third Division was a possibility until eighth place was secured.

The 1997/98 season saw further success for Stranraer under Money as they won 12 of their last 14 League games to clinch the Second Division title.

Niven said, “Alan Lansdowne’s goal 10 minutes from time against Clyde on the final day of the season clinched it and that exorcised some of the demons from the Clyde defeat to Brechin.”

The first away League game of the following season saw Stranraer travel to Easter Road to face Alex McLeish’s Hibernian and, with a 16-year-old Allan Jenkins in their ranks, they came back from the capital with a fantastic 2-1 win.

Niven added ruefully, “That was the end of the good fortune as they went up the way and we went down!

Stranraer manager Campbell Money (right) celebrates his sides League Challenge Cup win“We were relegated to the Second Division and then lost Campbell to Ayr United but Stranraer remain grateful to him for setting up a Lottery that remains vibrant to this day bringing in vital money to the club.”

Billy McLaren came in to replace Money and for the next four seasons, Niven watched Second Division football.  However, in the early stages of season 2002/03, he was sure they would be changing divisions.

They did but not in the direction anticipated as he recalls, “It was the complete opposite of our Championship season,” said Niven before adding, “We started well but then hardly won a game after Christmas and went to the Third Division for the very first time.

“We did have the consolation of having our best ever Scottish Cup run when we got to the Quarter Finals and played really well against Motherwell for the first half hour.  We then conceded an own goal and eventually lost 4-0.”

co-operative insurance

Neil Watt and Stuart Millar came in and revolutionised Stranraer and took them back up two divisions in successive seasons and they almost kept them in the First Division as well.

Niven said, “We had made eighth place our own for 31 out of the 36 games and we were then pipped by Queen of the South.

Stranraer boss Neil Watt (left) poses with the third division trophy alongside Allan Jenkins 2003-04“We achieved our highest ever points total in the First Division and gave Partick Thistle a real fright in the Play-Offs winning at Firhill however, we went down 4-3 on aggregate.”

Watt and Millar had already advised that they would be leaving the club and Gerry Britton, assisted by Derek Ferguson, came in.  However, they could not arrest the slide and relegation to the Third Division completed a move up and then down the three divisions of the SFL in successive seasons.

Niven said, “It was a poor season where we just never got going.

“The following year Gerry left for Partick Thistle and Derek led us to second place in the table. East Fife won the League in a canter and we finished six points clear of Montrose in third and thirteen clear of Arbroath in fourth.

“Needless to say, we defeated Montrose and then lost to Arbroath in the Final of the Play-Offs before being pushed up anyway because of Gretna resigning from the SFL.”

Up until this point, travelling to games had been the biggest problem in attending Stranraer games for Niven who said, “I used to work in the Isle of Man and then North Wales and would make trips to our home games.

“It was a ferry to Liverpool from the Isle of Man at 5.30 in the morning and then the train to Stranraer.  I would get there at 2.30 but you can imagine how tight things got at times.”

Niven had settled in Glasgow before different types of problems were beginning to emerge at the club and seeing Stranraer play became more of a financial fight than a logistical problem.

A Committee member at Stair Park by this stage, Niven and others were asked to step into the breach and help save Stranraer from folding in a cash crisis.

He said, “In 2008, a lack of money coming in and a lot of money going out was causing Stranraer major challenges.  Things came to a head and we had to find a way to pay bills and had to cut costs.

“We owed tens of thousands of pounds locally and beyond and were facing a bleak future.”

Amongst many other fundraising activities, Niven decided to raise cash by selling football memorabilia on the internet auction site e-bay.

Niven stated, “We had to be imaginative and when I saw the things lying about Stair Park unused and unloved, I thought that we needed to give this a go,” before adding, “We had old strips, match programmes and other stuff so I decided to try and shift it.

“We asked around for other bits and bobs that supporters could hand over to sale, in fact basically, anything football related that people were willing to donate.

Stranraer v Fraserburgh Scottish Cup Programme“We simply had to clear a credit card bill of £600 and that was the first target.  We got lucky in that a Stranraer versus Fraserburgh Scottish Cup programme went for £72 when we had been anticipating getting £1.00.  We reckoned it was two Fraserburgh Committee members bidding against each other having lost their programme after enjoying hospitality at Stair Park!”

“I have sold other things like a football rattle for £10, an Albion Rovers and Stranraer programme for 25p and I like to think I have made Stranraer a global brand.  I regularly have to go to the Post Office and ship to Australia, Japan, America and New Zealand.”

“The chap in New Zealand is from Stranraer but the other guys seem to have just taken a shine to us.”

The items now sold by Niven are getting close in total to one thousand and over £2,250 has been raised which has been cleverly used to generate more money for the club.

Niven explained, “We used some of that money to stock up the club shop which means you raise more money and we have also used it to buy things like tea and coffee pots for our new Hospitality Lounge which saves the club money.

“We gave a donation to the club in the form of training tops and also paid for the first team to have an overnight stay as part of their pre-season last year.  All the money is donated back to the club in one way or another by paying bills or buying equipment.

“We have also expanded it this season to sell our match programmes and that is proving very popular.”

Niven had a short hiatus from the Committee before returning this term and would gladly help other clubs who may wish to embark on such a scheme by passing on his experience saying, “I know that some private individuals do something similar but that is for their benefit and not the clubs.  I have not come across another club doing it but there may well be although I have not seen it.

“Anyone taking it on should realise that it is time consuming between listing items, taking photographs and going to the Post Office.  You also have to try and maximise the income by listing only on free listing days so you tend to go a bit e-bay crazy on days like that.”Stranraer F.C. 2010/11

On and off the park, things are looking up for The Blues with Niven saying, “After getting beaten heavily by Morton in The Co-operative Insurance Cup First Round, we have done well and had been unbeaten until our recent home game against Montrose.

“We have a much reduced budget but a team we can afford and one we can keep on affording.”

You can keep up-to-date with Stranraer’s e-bay offerings at: