Blackburn United

Blackburn Athletic were the first club from West Lothian to become East Junior Champions in season 1933-34, but by 1937 they had folded. No other Junior team played in the village until New Blackburn Athletic were formed, playing a season in Lanarkshire Juvenile football before joining the Edinburgh & District Junior League for season 1964-65.

The club were to have many ups and downs in their 10 year history, a high point undoubtedly being the 1965-66 Brown Cup Final win over Scottish Junior Cup holders Linlithgow Rose, whom they trounced 6-1 in a replay at Bo’ness after a 1-1 draw at Tynecastle. But as so often happens this solid start was not built upon and the club went into steady decline, interspersed with the odd good season, until 1973-74 when they finished second bottom of the B Division and withdrew at the seasons end along with Peebles Rovers, initially to take a year out and then re-join but they never did.

Following their demise, a number of those involved formed a team called Blackburn United playing in the Lothian Welfare League alongside another team called Leyland United, made-up of employees of the local British Leyland factory and both called Murrayfield Park their home. There were some bruising battles between the two teams when they met, but eventually Leyland United disbanded and in July 1978 the Blackburn United Welfare side merged with Blackburn Thistle who ran U16 and U18 teams to form the present Blackburn United.

After continuing to compete for two seasons in the Welfare league, the club were accepted as members of the Scottish Junior FA and entered the B Division of the East Region for season 1980-81, playing in the Tottenham away kit of the time, yellow and blue.

The first Junior game at Murrayfield Park was a local cup-tie against Bathgate Thistle on the 16th August 1980 and in front of a large crowd the team went down narrowly by three goals to two. Despite this early popularity the club struggled in those formative years until, in 1984, it appeared that the club may have to fold due to lack of both money and committee. However the Blackburn U21 Juveniles agreed to step-in and run the club for season 1984-85, bringing with them new committee members, new finance, new club colours of black and white and new players.

Unfortunately, with the loss of the retained players list in the post, the team had to begin the following season with mostly U21 players from the previous season. However, this misfortune didn’t prevent the club from winning promotion to the A Division and knocking favourites Yoker Athletic out of the Scottish Junior Cup in front of a record 600 crowd.

Other than a two year spell in the top flight after that promotion winning season, success has been hard to come by. The first of two Cup Final appearances was in the 1988 St.Michaels Cup when Ormiston Primrose triumphed 2-0 at Albyn Park, Broxburn while in season 1999-2000 the team progressed to the final of the West Lothian Millennium Cup at Almondvale Stadium in Livingston, knocking out League Champions Linlithgow Rose at their Prestonfield home on the way, only to go down 2-0 to Fauldhouse United in front of a 700 strong crowd.

In recent years the club has become an integral part of the Blackburn United Community Sports Club which runs teams at most age levels as well as Ladies and girls sides. The new facility of New Murrayfield Park – next door to the old Junior ground –  was opened in 2013 with a large new club building housing 6 changing rooms, club rooms, and a new 3G floodlight main pitch.

In the final two seasons of Junior football, the club gained promotion for the first time in 32 years by finishing as runners-up to Dunbar United in the East Region South Division, then in the final season 2017-18 finished in an impressive fifth place in the East Region Premierleague before deciding the future lay in the East of Scotland Football League.

Several of the clubs players have moved into league football. The month before the start of the inaugural Junior season in 1980 striker Alan Irvine moved from Murrayfield Park to Hibernian for £125 and his career then took him from Scotland to England and onto Asia with appearances for Falkirk, Liverpool, Dundee United, Shrewsbury Town and Mazda of Japan. Alan finished his professional career back in Scotland with St. Mirren and finally East Fife.

Young centre half Chris Innes signed for Terry Christie’s Stenhousemuir in September 1996 after 44 appearances for The Burnie, before moving onto Premier League Kilmarnock in 1998, playing in European competition for the Ayrshire club, then heading north to Dundee United in 2003 and south to Gretna two years later. Chris captained the Black & Whites in the 2006 Scottish Cup Final against Hearts, which they narrowly lost on penalties.