Imagine a third tier team qualifying for European competition.
You’ve played the likes of Forfar, Peterhead and Stirling Albion in your league campaign.
You reach a major cup final where you narrowly miss out, on penalties, to your top tier opponents. A dream, right? Wrong. This is exactly what happened to now defunct Gretna.
Founded in 1946, Gretna FC enjoyed a rapid rise through the Scottish leagues before sadly dissolving in 2008.
Based on the Scottish-English border, the Anvils were elected to the Scottish Football League in 2002. They replaced Airdrieonians.
Rapid rise and all the drama
After three consecutive promotions from 2004-05 through to 2006-07, they scored 297 league goals in that time. After losing the 2006 Scottish Cup final to Hearts, Gretna became the first team from the Scottish third tier to qualify for the UEFA Cup.
Hearts were looking to qualify for the UEFA Champions League, a crazy time for Scottish football indeed.
Their rags to riches story was made more dramatic by clinching top tier promotion with a last-minute winner over Highlanders Ross County, thanks to James Grady scoring the decider in a 3-2 win. Raydale Park, their 3,000 capacity stadium would be unable to host top tier football.
“Home advantage” was never a reality
Fir Park, Motherwell’s ground, had hosted their UEFA Cup matches against Derry City where the Black and Whites eventually lost 7-3 on aggregate. It would play host to their SPL matches, despite Motherwell being 75 miles north of Gretna. Again, this was due to Raydale Park not being up to scratch standards wise.
This was merely the beginning of their problems. The club couldn’t be sustained in its current format. Their ambitious owner Brooks Mileson fell ill, the club’s main financial backer therefore withdrew his funds. He passed away in November 2008, months after his Gretna project had come to an end.
The lack of money available lead to all staff, including players, not being paid. Redundancies were commonplace and the club dissolved in August 2008 after entering administration and subsequent liquidation.
You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.