Scotland's 'cathedral of football': An icon hidden in plain sight

Cathkin Park was left to decay but remains easily accessible and bursting with history.

Scotland’s first ‘cathedral of football’: An icon hidden in plain sight SNS Group

Like it or not, football is an intrinsic part of Scottish culture and one of the country’s original cathedrals of the game is hidden in plain sight.

Originally the location of the national side’s first Hampden Park and boasting a twisted and knotted history intertwined with the very building blocks of the sport which became a global obsession, Cathkin Park was left to decay on Glasgow’s southside but remains easily accessible and bursting with history 55 years on from its previous tenant’s last professional outing.

What is it?

If, like me, you have spent a lifetime travelling through to Glasgow to watch your team be ritually sacrificed in front of a national television and live stadium audience – May 2016 notwithstanding – Cathkin Park is a reminder of simpler times.

Sloping terracing and crash barriers remain at Cathkin Park decades after it hosted its last professional match. (Image: SNS Group)

In terms of a ludicrously brief history. Cathkin was initially baptised as a football stadium in 1884 and was, back then, known as Hampden. It was rented by Queen’s Park, they of all-conquering fame, hosted nine Scottish Cup finals, one of which was even won by a team from Edinburgh that play in green and white, six Scotland internationals, and the World Cup…sort of.

When Queen’s decided they fancied a shiny new Hampden, the one we know and tolerate, plucky Third Lanark moved in and quickly ascended through the ranks to claim a place in the top tier by 1957. Four years later, they gained their best ever finish, netting 100 goals to finish third and beat a team from Edinburgh who play in green and white 6-1 in the process.

Thirds imploded just a few short years later, effectively dissolving before reforming as an amateur side, but the ground stayed. Most of it is still there. In a public park. In the middle of Scotland’s largest city.

There is real terracing where real people stood and shouted real obscenities at real footballers. Real crash barriers where people really leant on. And real goals that…actually, those are new, but the structure is original.

The stadium was left to decay in the 1970's after Third Lanark dissolved. (Image: SNS Group)

It is not behind a glass screen, it is not taped off 500 yards in distance, there is no ridiculous ticket price and tacky gift shop. You can go there. Stand where fans stood. Shout and swear where they did, although maybe check there is no one around walking their dog first.

How do I get there?

If travelling by public transport, Crosshill railway station is technically closest but for true footballing geekery that you can bore your mates with in the pub later, head to Mount Florida and take the ten-minute walk past the ‘new’ Hampden – and neighbouring ‘Lesser Hampden’ – via Cathcart Road on the way.

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