In our latest instalment of Talking Kit, Neil Sargent recalls Falkirk’s successful 2002/03 campaign, which also signalled the end of an era.
2002-03 was one of the most successful seasons in Falkirk’s history but also saw them wave goodbye to Brockville after 118 years at the iconic ground.
After finishing ninth in the First Division the season before, manager Ian McCall revamped his squad for the new campaign. Well-known faces including Lee Miller, Mark Kerr, Owen Coyle, John Hughes, Kevin James, Jamie McQuilken, Steve Tosh, and Collin Samuel gave the side an exciting mix of youth and experience.
Off the field, things were also changing. In July, as the new season approached, Falkirk announced they had agreed to sell Brockville to a supermarket chain for £9m. The sale would allow a new community stadium to be built in the town, but would also mean that the upcoming season would be their last at the place they had called home since 1885.
Falkirk’s traditional dark blue home kit was sponsored by Czech brewery Budweiser Budvar - probably the first time many Scottish beer fans had heard of the now-ubiquitous lager.
Manufactured by TFG, the kit came with white shorts and socks, complemented by prominent white trim on the sleeves of the shirt.
During one trip back to his native Trinidad and Tobago, striker Collin Samuel took a number of strips that kind-hearted Bairns fans had donated and presented them to underprivileged children in the country. Considering the impact that Samuel and, later, Russell Latapy had at the club, it’s poignant to think that some fans in Trinidad started their love affair with the club as a result of this particular kit and the generosity of the Bairns supporters.
On the pitch, the season became one of the best in the club’s history. Despite Ian McCall’s departure in January, to take over the reins at Dundee United, the Bairns won the First Division by nine points and achieved their highest-ever league points tally of 81.
In the Scottish Cup, they pulled off one of their most memorable cup upsets, scoring four times in the opening half an hour as they beat Premier League Hearts 4-0 at Brockville. They eventually lost to big-spending Dundee in the quarter-finals, but not before taking them to extra time in the replay.
In a fitting tribute to their old home, the team went the entire season unbeaten at Brockville until the very last match, which they lost 3-2 to Inverness CT in front of 7,300 fans. Stuart Taylor scored both goals for the hosts, but for most fans the result was secondary to the emotion of saying goodbye to their much-loved home.
Despite their success, the team was unable to take up promotion to the top flight because Ochilview, which they were to share with Stenhousemuir while the new stadium was under construction, didn’t meet the SPL’s stadium criteria of the time.
However two seasons later, with the impressive Falkirk Stadium now their home, John Hughes led the side back to the top flight for the first time in 10 years.