ALL Clydebank supporters had at the very end was a badge, the name of their club, some cherished memories and that was it.

This was back in 2002 when after 37 relatively successful years in the senior ranks of Scottish football, the Bankies were no more. There wasn’t even a set of strips left. The cupboard was so bare that there was no cupboard at all. Never mind a shelf.

This painful death had been both a long-time coming and a slow one for a football club which, while never a giant, had produced some serious footballers, played in the Premier League for three seasons in total and even reached a Scottish Cup semi-final.

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But as with Third Lanark before them, it was taken away from the supporters.

Their Kilbowie home was sold by the Steedman family, Clydebank’s owners, in 1996. Promises of a new ground never rang true and for the next six years they ground-shared with Dumbarton and Morton.

For a while, when a man called John Hall took control, there was bizarre talk of moving to Dublin which even for Scottish football’s madness was a strange episode, and it ended when the administrators moving in, closely followed by a consortium which bought the assets to help form Airdrie United in place of Airdrieonians who were liquidated that year.

All in all, it was a sordid affair.

There was even the indignity of the club’s name appearing in the advertising pages of a newspaper, like a second hand car, with an asking price of £250,000. There were no takers.

And that was that. Clydebank disappeared. Even celebrity fans Wet Wet Wet were unable to save their local team. Kilbowie fell into ruin and is now an Aldi. There’s your symbolism for you.

“I will say the name Airdrie just once and from now it’s them,” says Stuart Kelly, secretary of Clydebank Football Club, and such is the hatred which still exists for ‘them’ that they are ignored for the rest of our conversation.

But wait a minute. How can there be a secretary of a dead football club? An explanation is perhaps required.

In 2003, a group of Clydebank fans began a new/the same club from literally nothing and entered the junior ranks.

I spoke to those involved in the early days and was struck by their enthusiasm, dedication, and belief, which I must confess I felt was far-fetched in the extreme, that Clydebank would once again be a senior club. One day.

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However, after 15 years, Clydebank FC are quitting the junior ranks to enter either the East of Scotland League or South of Scotland League.

Both provide a pathway to the Lowland League. That is the base of the pyramid which can take this club back to senior football, as Edinburgh City did last year.

“I know this might sound a bit corny” Kelly says. “But when you drive through the town, its motto reads ‘A proud past, a dynamic future’. That’s how we see the football club.

“We don’t want to be knowns as the first and last club Davie Cooper played for.

“There is a long way to go but then we have come a long way since we fell out the league. We fans were determined that a club who were in a Scottish Cup semi-final in 1990 was not going to disappear forever.

“We have to enter into discussion with the leagues within the SFA pyramid system and, ultimately, we have to be accepted by one of them. We are not naive. Going in at the bottom of the structure will not see us immediately regains our SPFL status, but it is something for the club to aim for.”

You would have a heart of stone not to wish them well. Football has been played in the West Dunbartonshire town since 1899 when Clydebank Juniors were formed. There was a short-lived merger with SFL side East Stirling in 1964 before becoming a senior outfit the following year and taking a place in league football in 1966.

Tommy Coyne, who played for Ireland in the World Cup, Gary Teale who was capped for Scotland, as well as the legendary Cooper, are just three names that started out at the old Bankies.

Kilbowie Park was never the San Siro but it was home and that is something Clydebank have been striving for.

“Holm Park in the town is being redeveloped by the council,” said Kelly. 

“It will be a community ground, run by ourselves, Yoker Athletic and West Dunbartonshire Council. 

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“Hey, if AC Milan and Inter can run a successful ground together then so can we.”

So, the new home will be like the San Siro!

And they need a ground of their own if they are to enter the SPFL one day. Work starts in the summer.

“We’ve had good success in the juniors and a lot of fun but the plan, the dream if you will, was to see Clydebank have a football team back to where we believe we belong,” said Kelly.“We live within our means. 

“The club is run by the supporters who have in their hearts the good name of Clydebank. We are run well and know where we want to be.”
If only every club in Scotland could say the same.

“Even as a junior club they are getting around 800 fans at games which is incredible and shows the potential,” said former player and Gerry McCabe in an interview last week.

“I hope this news is the start of my old club eventually returning into senior football as they’ve been gone for far too long.”

There remains a lot of bitterness. Towards the Steedmans, the league and of course those behind Airdrie in 2002. And little wonder.

However, the future’s bright for a football club which always punched above its weight during the good years.

“I find there is a lot of goodwill towards us,” said Kelly. 

“I am sure fans of all clubs have memories of being at Kilbowie. 

“We had some good teams during that time, we played Celtic in a Scottish Cup semi-final and, yes, we did discover Davie Cooper.

“All of this was taken away from us. So many false promises were made. But we fans refused to let the name die. Maybe our best years are still to come.”