Soccer Magazine

FC Edinburgh 1 Queen of the South 3

By Stuartnoel @theballisround

Friday 24th March 2023 – Scottish League One – Meadowbank Stadium, Edinburgh

Identity is everything in the world today. Whether it’s a company, a brand or a football club, the name matters. It matters to fans, the players, management and the local community. So when a club decides it is going to rebrand, there must be a good story to bring all of those stakeholders along with them.

There’s not been many football clubs who have rebranded successfully over the years. Of course the origins of some of the most famous clubs in England today, such as Manchester United, Arsenal and West Ham can be traced back to entities that no longer in exist in most cases. Newton Heath, Dial Square and Thames Ironworks don’t quite have the same ring to them but that identity is important to what those clubs have become.

FC Edinburgh 1 Queen of the South 3
FC Edinburgh 1 Queen of the South 3
FC Edinburgh 1 Queen of the South 3
FC Edinburgh 1 Queen of the South 3

Changing a club name, aside from a dropping or adding of an AFC at the start is rare. Swansea replaced Town with City nearly 50 years ago when the town, well, became a city. Bournemouth lost Boscombe somewhere along the way and of course Hartlepool lost an “S”, found it then lost it again. Naturally, we can’t move on without a mention of MK Dons. Oh, OK apparently we can.

There’s been a few famous product rebrands in our lifetime. For those of a certain age (me), we can still remember Opal Fruits, Marathons and Ajax. Whilst the name on the packaging changed, what’s inside hasn’t. Brand fans may be up in arms for awhile but over time acceptance, albeit begrudging, sets in.

So here I am, sitting in the lounge at Meabowbank Stadium, on the edge of Edinburgh’s city center. The rain continues to pour down outside, whilst a few of the players limply warming up on the pitch, looking as if they want to be somewhere else on a Friday night. In fact, having spent a few wonderful, and dry hours in the Vault City taproom, so do I.

Many football fans will remember Meadowbank Thistle and the previous incumbents of the stadium built for the 1970 Commonwealth Games and redeveloped for the games again in 1986. But they were originally called Ferranti Thistle, a works team from the Ferranti engineering company. In 1974 Third Lanark resigned from the Scottish League, who asked for interested clubs to apply. Inverness Thistle and Gateshead United applied, but it was Ferranti who won the backing of the majority of the existing clubs.

But the strict rules of the Scottish Football League meant they couldn’t play under the Ferranti name so they had to find a new identity, as the logical choice was Meadowbank, where the club was to be based. As a part-time club they struggled for two decades, and faced with the prospect of ceasing to exit, coupled with plans to sell the aging Meadowbank Stadium for redevelopment, an offer was made to move the club 20 miles westwards to Livingston, which included a change of identity, not quite the Scottish equivalent of MK Dons, but traveling down the same road.

Fast forward twenty five years and Meadowbank Stadium has been rebuilt and has new tenants, Edinburgh’s third team (in terms of current league position at least). They started life as Edinburgh City back in 1986, finally winning promotion to the Scottish League in 2016. Back then Ainslie Park was home, sharing with junior league side Spartans but there was a plan to take the club to a redeveloped Meadowbank.

Last summer it all happened. They finally got the go ahead to move to the new sports complex, they beat Annan Athletic in the League One Playoff final and they changed their name to FC Edinburgh, with a new badge to reflect the city to boot.

Life is good after their change of identity you could say. Well, not quite. It’s fair to say there’s a lot of challenges playing in the stadium. “It’s a regional athletics stadium, not a football ground”, Chairman Jim Brown tells me prior to their game with Queen of the South. The club are restricted on what they can do, such as not being able to operate any bar facilities after evening matches. Brown is stepping down from his role at the end of the season after six tumultuous years at the helm of the club, citing the stress of the role, both physically and mentally, as one of the reasons for his departure.

FC Edinburgh had been pushing for a second successive season, and were in 2nd place at the turn of the year, but some indifferent results had seen them fall to 5th spot, one place outside the playoffs as Queen of the South arrived in town for a Friday night game.

A win would see FC Edinburgh move back into the top four but they were facing a side that in their 12 game history they had a perfect record against. Played 12, lost 12. Runs have to end and some point and the chatter in the hospitality lounge before the game was of a win tonight with “Robbo” to score the winner.

FC Edinburgh 1 Queen of the South 3
FC Edinburgh 1 Queen of the South 3
FC Edinburgh 1 Queen of the South 3
FC Edinburgh 1 Queen of the South 3

The move to Friday night was to avoid a clash with Scotland’s game with Cyprus on Saturday, a hope that they could also increase on their average of 591, currently the lowest in the league. Edinburgh offers a lot for the nocturnal visitors – unfortunately a trip out to Meadowbank probably doesn’t figure in the top 20. As the teams took the field, the crowd of around 500 huddled together under the single stand, trying to stay out of the swirling rain. A group of very young home fans braved the conditions and the distant view from behind the goal and were making the noise, encouraging the team.

“If Robbo scores, we are on the pitch” was perhaps a tad optimistic from the group as they would have to cover around 50 metres from where they stood and would have been easily taken down by the steeplechase pit if not the stewards.

The first half wasn’t a classic – the weather, the surroundings and the style of play from both sides. The home side were missing the experience and guile of former Bristol City and Hibs defender Liam Fontaine and it showed. Half-time mini pies were delivered and everything was right with the world again.

The game finally came to life just after the hour mark when the visitors scored on the counter attack, Ruari Paton finishing off a swift move. They doubled their lead with ten minutes to play thanks to Connor Murray, and added a third two minutes later. A last minute consolation effort James Craigen narrowed the score but it was too little too late.

The fans trickled out into the Edinburgh night, perhaps off to join their mates who stayed in the pub. Wisely they may say but unless you try to build something, people won’t come whether there’s a strong identity or not.


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