Dunfermline Athletic

Club History | 1995-96 First Division Champions

The Pars ‘Helicopter’ Saturday as Paton’s Aces lift the First Division title

Dunfermline Athletic defeated Airdrie 2-1 at East End Park to win promotion to the Premier League as Scottish First Division champions.

At last Dunfermline Athletic became First Division champions in the final fixture of the 1995-96 season. After failing at the final hurdle in the previous three seasons, the Pars held off the challenge of Dundee United and Morton in a nail biting finish to the season and in doing so claimed the automatic promotion place. Dundee United would play Partick Thistle home and away in the play-off spot for the final place in next season’s top ten.

David Bingham who was injured and watched from the sidelines that day told the Dunfermline Athletic Heritage Trust in a programme being worked on to commemorate the 1995-96 season:- “It was absolutely rammed all the way around the ground. The crowds grew as the season went on and we had a phenomenal support that season.”

For that final match East End Park resembled a scene from the glory days with the old ground bulging at the seams and the terraces a sea of black and white scarf‘s. This was the crunch game and kick off was held up for thirteen minutes to allow fans in, swelling the crowd capacity to over 13,000. Dunfermline’s biggest ever First Division crowd.

Despite the turbulent ups and downs of the season Dunfermline Athletic had soared to the top due to an unshakable determination which has acted as a crutch through an emotionally crippling season.

There was a moving moment at the start of the match when Dunfermline supporters club officials presented athletic chairman of Roy Woodrow with a portrait in oils of the late Norrie McCathie who had tragically passed away just four months earlier.

Following the tremendous win at Tannadice the previous week, there were high expectations from the home crowd. Craig Robertson led out the team to Tina Turner’s Simply the Best but Allan Moore, now Assistant to Danny Lennon at Clyde recalls “this game was the most nerve wracking playing Airdrie at home because they were our bogey team.”

Bert Paton’s side needed someone to smash away the anxiety and Andy Smith clearly fired up against his old side, dived to head a Brian Rice corner but his efforts was brilliantly saved by Andy Rhodes. Just when it seemed as if they would be overcome by the edginess of it all, Dunfermline soared in front in 29 minutes.

Marc Miller provided the ammo with a curling free kick from the right and SMITH launched himself full length into the six yard box to thunder home a header and cause the stadium to erupt with joy. It was his 10th goal in 21 games for the Pars and the crowning moment for a player who has won over the Pars fans after a stint as their sworn enemy in Airdrie colours.

Andy Smith remembers “that day I had nerves that I hadn’t witnessed before. We had never seen the ground full behind that goal except when maybe Celtic and Rangers came.”

The unease grew in 55th minute when Airdrie equalised. Jimmy Boyle pumped a 60 yard ball forward to leave Den Bieman backtracking as Connelly raced clear. Big Ivo slipped and let the former Dundee United striker speed in on goal and he calmly forced the ball back to HETHERSTON who slammed a side footed shot in off the underside of the bar. 1-1

Then just 15 minutes later there was ecstasy however for the long suffering Pars support as Moore raced clear on to a Smith pass, only to be felled by former Dunfermline keeper Andy Rhodes.

Pars keeper Ian Westwater says:- Nobody had more pressure on them than Marc Millar, stepping up there to take that penalty as the coolest man in East End.”

It was a stonewall penalty and MILLAR kept his head amidst the mayhem to drive the ball low into the left hand corner with Rhodes diving to the other side.

Radios told the bench and terracing that it was all over at Greenock. Morton and Dundee United had played out a 1-1 draw. The three points were not needed anymore and because of the delayed kick off a ridiculous time still to play. The fans had started to celebrate long before referee Mike McCurry brought it to an end and it was then time to celebrate on the pitch. Oh how it was deserved - one club can only take so much grief!

At last it was party time for the Pars with Manager that Paton finally achieving his holy grail the First Division championship.

The dark clouds that had descended on East End Park since the untimely death of Norrie McCathie and the departure to Celtic of Jackie McNamara finally lifted. A helicopter carrying the league championship trophy buzzed through the blue sky line above the ground before landing at Rosyth and being whisked to East End Park.

Hopefully the team of 2021 can start their journey back through the play offs with as memorable an occasion this evening. Good luck to Stevie and the boys.

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