Muirton Park

On 26th February 1924 at the same meeting at which Mr Charles Craig had reported that the Club needed to leave the Recreation Grounds, he submitted another report on behalf of the Ground Committee on a proposed site at South Muirton, Dunkeld in the following terms:

"Having visited this ground we are quite satisfied with the situation and the opportunity it presents towards the making of an ideal football ground. Negotiations have been entered into for acquiring seven acres of ground at South Muirton, Dunkeld Road which provides for an enclosure of six acres, with a triangular piece of ground adjoining Florence Place for the parking of motor cars."

And so it was that the Club put the wheels in motion to end their association with the Recreation Grounds and on Christmas Day 1924 that Queens Park – who had participated in the first match at the previous ground – became the first team to play a the new ground and a crowd estimated at 12,000 watched the league encounter between Saints and the Glasgow team with the new hosts fittingly winning the game by two goals to one.

The Club accounts were later to show that the new home cost St Johnstone a total of £13, 194 around £8,600 of which had been paid ‘up front’ by way of debenture schemes and other money making schemes.

The new ground on (at that time) the northern edge of town was to be home for the next 65 or so years and was to witness many great games and occasions. In terms of football matches there were many memorable days: the 6-1 defeat of Bo’ness in April 1932 that saw Saints gain promotion back to the First Division; the jubilant scenes which followed the team’s 1-1 League Cup quarter-final home draw with Motherwell in September 1961, a result that saw Saints reach the last four of that competition for the first time; the final game of that same 1961/62 season when local rivals Dundee came to Muirton looking for the win that would see them crowned champions of Scotland but consign Saints to relegation – 26,500 saw the visitors win 3-0; memorable UEFA Cup nights in the autumn of 1971, not least the stunning 3-0 defeat of German side Hamburg; the John Brogan-inspired 1-0 win over Dunfermline Athletic in May 1983 that brought the First Division title to Perth and of course the emotional day when 6,728 folk turned up to see Saints play at the Grand Old Ground for the very last time in a match against Ayr United.

The site at Muirton was used for more than just football though and although various suggestions were made as to what events could be staged to bring in additional revenue (among them dog racing and athletics) most of the non-football occasions were one-offs: hockey internationals, Highland Games, cattle sales, Paeants, donkey racing and at least two re-enactments of the Battle of the Clans were just some of the uses the wide expanse of Muirton Park was put to over the years.

Tenancy of the ground was relinquished during the Second World War to allow Saints to save on rates and taxes and during the conflict the ground became a training area for the Home Guard and was used for storage of various War materials. It didn’t lose its football connections altogether though and one of the handful of matches played during the War saw a full Army international in October 1941 between Poland and Czechoslovakia.

Having been built in 1924 it was some 37 years before there would be significant development of the ground and that came last in 1961 when work was completed on the construction of a covered enclosure on the east side of the ground opposite the main stand.

Three years later floodlights were installed and officially switched on when FA Cup holders West Ham United came to Perth – along with the famous trophy – on 16th December 1964.

In terms of attendances, the biggest ever crowd to make its way into the Dunkeld Road stadium was 29,972. The occasion was a match against Dundee but not – as is often wrongly stated – for the championship/relegation decider in 1962. The occasion of the record-breaking crowd (the biggest ever crowd to watch Saints in Perth) was a Scottish Cup tie in February 1951 which Dundee won 3-1.

At the other end of the scale we have the paltry 466 brave souls who turned up to watch Saints defeat Albion Rovers in April 1986. This was St Johnstone Football Club at arguably the lowest ebb in its history as the debt-ridden club fought out a meaningless end of season fixture in Scotland’s bottom league in front of just 39 dozen people.

A year earlier, in May 1985, the dreadful fire at Bradford City’s Valley Parade ground which claimed the lives of 52 people had brought the safety of football grounds into sharp focus and claimed the lives of 52 people had brought the safety of football grounds into sharp focus and it quickly became apparent that the 61 year old stand at Muirton Park – with seating and flooring made of wood – had the same potential for disaster and indeed did not meet the requirements of the Safety at Sports Grounds Act on 1975.

A year later, and with new Chairman Geoff Brown at the helm, the Club were approached by the Asda supermarket chain who were looking for a site for a store in the Fair City. Lengthy and skilful negotiations followed and the outcome was that a deal was struck which would see Asda foot the bill of just over £4 million to build anew stadium for Saints and in return they would use Muirton Park as the site of their new store.

The final game at Muirton Park – the 1,227th competitive Saints game at the stadium – saw Ayr United as the visitors and the fact that they won the game 1-0 (former Saints player John Sludden going down in history as the last ever goal scorer at the venue) mattered little to an emotional Perth support who invaded the pitch at the end to take in the surroundings one last time, with many heading home with their own little piece of the famous old ground.

With the terracing already gone, Muirton Park's covered enclosure is dismantled