Based in the North East of England, we are mainly known for one of two things – being the only English club to play in Scotland and of course our historic Scottish Cup defeat of Rangers in 1967, said to be the biggest cup shock in world football. .
Shielfield Park is situated on the south side of the River Tweed, just a mile off the A1. Industry and housing surround Shielfield which also plays host to Berwick Bandits Speedway. Berwick haven’t always played at Shielfield Park. The original ground was not too far from the seafront on the Pier fields but they haven’t played their football there for over one hundred years. A move to Bull Stob Close came about in the early 1900’s before a move to Union Park. In the 1930’s they moved again, this time to Old Shielfield Park which is adjacent to the current ground. In 1954 aided by the gate receipts from a quarter final tie at Ibrox, Berwick made their final move to Shielfield Park.
Berwick bought Bradford City’s old stand in 1954. The stand was dismantled, driven north and reassembled by supporters and officials alike. The Ducket Enclosure was improved during the 1970’s with a new roof. In 1992 the Football Trust partly funded a new stand to bring the ground up to league standards. An SFA Cup match against Ross County saw the capacity reduced to just 600 as a new roof was required on the main stand. Nowadays we have one of the best playing surfaces in the lower leagues – in fact it’s probably the best; this is thanks to ‘P’ Oliver and the ground staff.
The main stand houses 1,366 fans, not that we’ve ever had that many fans in the current stand. The Ducket can hold just over 2,500 and is partly covered by a metal roof. The rest of the terrace is open so we can enjoy the lovely Berwick sunshine! The areas to either side of The Ducket are grass banking so you can even sunbathe at half time. The distance between the pitch and the stand and terrace has been known to have a detrimental effect on the general atmosphere of the ground.
The ground is actually owned by Northumberland County Council and leased to the Supporters Club. Via the lease therefore effectively the supporters are the football club’s landlords.
Pitch Size:100×70 yards
Believed by some to have been formed in 1881, the Club was officially constituted in January 1884. Berwick Rangers are the most unique team in Scottish Football because they play in England and always have done. A local fish merchant gave the club its first ground, named Bull Stob Close and legend has it the goalposts were actually Scottish fir trees. Very few games were played in their first four years, however Berwick were undefeated until 1885 when fishermen from Seahouses won 1-0. As members of the Northumberland Soccer Association they had 21 years of Competition under its name, including games against Newcastle, Alnwick and Seahouses. Silverware first arrived when Berwick won the Northumberland Minor Cup and in 1897 the North Northumberland League. In 1898 a switch was made to the Scottish Border League. Berwick cruised to the league championship in their first season heavily beating Selkirk, Hawick and Peebles Rovers.
They returned to English football a year later before rejoining the Scottish footballing fraternity in 1905 and there they have remained ever since. Berwick dominated the East of Scotland League winning the championship numerous times. After 8 years at Shielfield Park, Berwick were forced to play at Union Park in Berwick. In 1932 they returned to Tweedmouth and built a pavilion and stand adjacent to where they play now.
After the Second World War, Berwick were desperate to enter the Scottish League as a senior club. In 1950 the ambitious John Thompson took over as manager and boldly stated that Berwick would be home to a senior club inside a year. After a campaign involving supporters, the local council and Mayor George Lamb, Berwick Rangers were elected by 21 other clubs into Scottish League “C” Division in 1951. The highlight of the opening years of League life was a Scottish Cup Quarter-Final tie at Ibrox on March 13th 1954. Four trains were laid on to take an army of supporters north. The Borderers lost 4-0 in front of a 60,000 crowd. The success of that cup run helped Berwick make their final ground move about a hundred yards. The old stand from Bradford City’s Valley Parade ground was dismantled, driven north and reassembled by supporters and officials alike.
Hard times followed in the sixties, Glasgow Rangers tried to have the league system restructured which would have meant an end to Berwick and 9 other clubs. Luckily the SFA and SFL rejected the proposal and Berwick survived. In 1963 Berwick made it to Hampden Park for League Cup semi-final against Glasgow Rangers. Berwick lost 3-1 but it was a massive achievement to get to a semi-final after only 12 years of league football.
January 28th 1967 is a date firmly stuck in the history of Berwick Rangers F.C. The defeat of the mighty ‘Gers at the hands of ‘lowly’ Berwick changed the course of Scottish football. Rangers were well and truly Tango’ed and it ended any talk of reconstruction being bandied about by Rangers.
The longest run without a win in the history of the club came in 1976 when 26 games passed without a win. Manager Dave Smith turned the tide and in 1977-78 narrowly missed promotion. Not to be denied, the next season Berwick ran out champions of Division Two, a couple of points ahead of Dunfermline Athletic. The spell in Division One was short lived as relegation knocked on the door two seasons later.
When the league was again re-structured at the end of season 1993-94 Berwick finished second behind Stranraer in the bottom division, which meant the club was promoted to the new Second Division. A mid-table finish in 1994-5 was followed up by with an excellent third-place in 1995-6 under Tom Hendrie. In 1996 Tom Hendrie left Shielfield for Alloa and he took a hatful of players with him. Bad times lay ahead in 1996 with Ian Ross and Jimmy Thompson both having unsuccessful reigns at the club, not helped by behind the scenes power struggles. Berwick now play in the Third Division after relegation in 1996-97.
After three years in Scotland’s basement division, Berwick finally won promotion to the second division in May 2000. The title race was close run but Queen’s Park pipped us to the post by three points.
Since joining the Second Division Berwick missed out on promotion on the last day of the 2000/01 season, losing at Arbroath. The following seasons have seen mid table positions. There have also been some cracking cup games, including taking both Rangers and Hearts to replays in the Scottish Cup.
In Season 2006/07 we achieved promotion from Division 3 as Champions via victory over Arbroath in our ultimate home game of the season, unfortunately our spell in Division 2 was short lived as we ended the 07/08 season bottom with a points tally of 16.
In season 2010/11 we had a memorable home tie in the Scottish Cup against Celtic in January which was televised by Sky Sports and was also Freddie Ljungberg’s bow into Scottish football although the game was taking place in England – perhaps there’s a good quiz question in that situation!
Season 2012/13 saw us face the newly constituted Rangers FC as they began their journey back up the ranks of Scottish Football. In the opening game at Shielfield in front of the TV cameras we put in a sterling performance to earn a 1-1 draw.The fourth meeting of the campaign saw Berwick playing at Ibrox on the day that they were presented with the Championship trophy in front of 50,048. Rangers won by a single goal as Berwick turned in an impressive performance. As the regular season ended we were in fourth place thus earning a play-off spot against East Fife who we held 1-1 at home but lost away in dramatic fashion as with almost the last kick in extra time the Fifers secured a 2-1 victory.
The following season with the merger of the Scottish Premier League and the Scottish Football League to form the new SPFL we were now performing in League 2 as the Championship replaced Division 1 and the previous Division’s 2 & 3 were renamed.
The club had a successful Scottish Cup run in 2014/15 to the Quarter Finals in a money spinning game at Easter Road against Hibernian. Unfortunately the Championship league team ran out comfortable 4-0 winners in front of a large travelling contingent.
Season 2016/17 was one of light and shade as we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the famous cup victory over Glasgow Rangers in the January with a reunion of almost all surviving members of the team at a gala dinner at Shielfield and much publicity in the media. However on the pitch we were struggling as following calamitous early cup knock outs we were also in the lower half of the league resulting in a d-day final match of the season against Edinburgh City in which our destiny was in our own hands to avoid finishing in last place and hence a play-off for league survival. A 2-0 lead calmed everyone’s nerves until Edinburgh brought it level and anxiety levels rose once more. A David Verlaque strike late on secured the 3 points and survival was assured.
Season 2017/18 saw the departure early on of boss John Coughlin following a couple of heavy defeats and prodigal son Robbie Horn returned to the fold as manager following his successful spell at Bonnyrigg which culminated in a Scottish Cup Quarter final appearance. Robbie was a member of the Championship winning squad of 2006/07 and also served in the management team alongside Ian Little and his successor Colin Cameron. We wish him well.