Stirling Albion: 30th anniversary of 20-goal Cup victory

Stirling Albion 1984-85
Stirling Albion as they looked in season 1984-85

On the internet, there is a piece of footage showing Annfield Stadium in 1980. That's Annfield, not Anfield.

The ground is empty, but corner flags blowing in the breeze is enough to convey a sense of vitality.

Sponsors on the advertising hoardings and the models of car parked outside provide rock solid proof of the era.

And the haunting bagpipe music dubbed onto this one minute and 31 seconds of Stirling Albion history adds to the feeling of nostalgia.

Partly because every football fan with a heart grieves lost grounds. But also because special moments and memories are forged in such places.

And none more so than at Annfield on 8 December 1984, when hosts Stirling Albion thrashed Selkirk 20-0 in the Scottish Cup first round.

File it under British senior football's biggest win in the 20th Century.

Neil Watt and Andy Graham on Annfield Stadium
"I remember the slope more than anything. And I remember, over the close season, a stand filled with some seats out of the local cinema. There was a big house that sat in the middle of the car park, which I understand was a coal merchant. Is that not why the club got named Albion? Because they put the Albion lorries round the outside of the football pitch for people to stand in."

"No-one expected that at the time," said Willie Irvine of his side's astonishing victory over the non-league Borderers.

Irvine, a striker who netted five of the 20 that day, began his career at the Binos and went on to play for Hibs, Alloa and others.

"Selkirk were totally unknown to us. I just remember them being really up for the game - they came out all motivated.

"It's just one of these strange things that happened, it's almost unrepeatable to be honest with you, really unrepeatable."

Manager of Stirling for the heroic winter feat was former Aberdeen and Dundee United boss Alex Smith.

And according to winger Davie Thompson, Albion were under strict instruction that there was to be no slip-up.

"The year before, the club had been knocked out by Inverness - a non-league team at the time," recalled the Glaswegian, now living in Warrington. "So the message from Smithy was very clearly 'don't let that happen again'.

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Stirling Albion 20-0 Selkirk: 30 years on

"We were up for the game but it took us 20 or 30 minutes to assess the opposition, because we only scored five in the first-half.

"The rest came in the second half when they started to play offside on the halfway line and we were running through in droves!"

Up until that point in the 1984-85 season, Albion were enduring a pretty miserable league run, with just three wins from 16 matches.

So all this must have made a nice change for their goalkeeper.

Annfield Stadium
Annfield Stadium has since been replaced by housing and a nursing home

"They can all celebrate 20 goals," said then shot-stopper Andy Graham. "But with that team I didn't get too many clean sheets!

"I do remember an incident towards the end of the game, when Selkirk got a free-kick about 20-25 yards out, and I was trying to organise a defensive wall.

"The players just turned round and waved at me. They flatly refused to go into this wall and gave the boy a free shot at goal. Fortunately it was straight at me because by this time I was shivering."

Turning up the heat at the other end was Thompson - Stirling's record signing at the time.

The outside right scored 44 goals in 168 Binos appearances, with seven of them coming in this trouncing. His favourite? His first, in the 34th minute.

"It was a header and, as I'm sure the guys would testify, that was a bit of a collectors item for me," he explained.

"I wasn't renowned for my prowess in the air. The rest were all much the same - me in a one-on-one with the goalie.

"The cameras missed the last one, and there's also one that you see the ball flying into the back of the net, but you don't know who hit it - I think that was Willie's."

Neil Watt, Andy Graham, Willie Irvine and Davie Thompson (left to right)
Neil Watt, Andy Graham, Willie Irvine and Davie Thompson (left to right)

It is debated whether the final goal is lost because the cameraman chose to change tape at the wrong time (although it would've been hard to find a right time), or whether it was due to an error in the BBC Scotland cutting room.

But there's no dispute that Selkirk, whose behaviour Graham describes as "exemplary", received their hiding in gentlemanly fashion.

"They took it in the right spirit," said Neil Watt, the former Stranraer and Ayr United manager who came on to score twice in the second half.

"When Selkirk put their two subs on - that was in the days when you had numbered boards - they held up every single board - one to 11!

"People speak about it today and they think, 30 years ago, maybe 20 goals in a game was acceptable. But 30 years ago you would never have thought anybody could've scored 10 goals.

"I watched Manchester City recently - 32 shots on goal and they scored three. Maybe we had 32 shots on goal and scored 20."

Willie Irvine on Stirling footballers
"Boys that are born in Stirling have a high representation for Scotland internationals. You got back to the late Billy Bremner, you're talking Duncan Ferguson, the Caldwell brothers - Gary and Steven. A lot of good football players come from Stirling but the Old Firm clubs always get a hold of them. If Stirling had a situation where the Stirling boys had to play for Stirling, Stirling wouldn't be where they are today."

Observing these four men reflect on such a gloriously goal-laden occasion, it's clear the day is branded in their memories as if it happened 24 hours ago.

But it's not just that special day which leads them to cherish Stirling Albion. Rather, beating Selkirk 20-0 was the icing on the cake during a time of their careers they hold dearly.

Thompson played for seven clubs, yet his Stirling stint was "definitely the time he enjoyed most". Graham, meanwhile, is adamant the "best time of footballing life" was at Annfield.

Which leads us nicely to how Watt concluded this 15-minute chinwag.

"The club gave us all that opportunity and it is about Stirling Albion, it's not about the players," he said. "It's something that the fans will talk about for years after we're long gone."

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