My Sporting Week: Cowdenbeath might be mocked but it has a lot to shout about

Exterior shot of Central Park, home of Cowdenbeath football club.
Exterior shot of Central Park, home of Cowdenbeath football club.
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Not so long ago, the relative anonymity of a certain Lowland country was mocked by a simple question: can you name a famous Belgian?

That was before the current generation of Belgian superstars began to appear in the team sheets of the leading European clubs and their national side became one of the finest in the world.

Instead of Belgians, let’s talk Fifers. Here’s another question: can you name a famous native of Cowdenbeath?

Possible answers include: Donald Findlay QC, former vice-chairman of Rangers and Scottish legal eagle; Dennis Canavan, chairman of the Yes campaign for independence; and the late Harry Ewing, MP for Falkirk until 1992.

You could also have gone for the Nobel Prize laureate Sir James Whyte Black, the son of a coalminer, who would extend the lives of thousands of heart patients by inventing the first effective beta-blocker.

By now, you’ll be wondering what’s inspired this column on a medium-sized former mining community and home of the infamous Central Park.

The answer is the republication of what is one of the finest books ever written on football and its place in the community.

‘Black Diamonds and the Blue Brazil’ tells the story of how Cowdenbeath grew from a small rural hamlet into a bustling industrial town as coalmining took off in the late 19th century, and then details the devastating economic and social consequences when the industry died out in the 1980s.

It’s set against the story of the town’s football club, the Blue Brazil, and their truly diabolical performance over the 1992/93 season when the club failed to win a single home league game.

It’s a book filled with humour blacker than the stuff dug out of the ground.

Put simply, the trials and tribulations of a small football club, and the community it represents, is something that fans from across Scotland can relate to.

Written by the Rev. Ron Ferguson, a Church of Scotland minister and columnist for several Scottish newspapers, it has been updated to include Cowdenbeath’s remarkable survival in the Championship last season, when, against the odds, the club thrashed its old rivals Dunfermline to remain in Scotland’s second tier.

Get digging for a copy.