Page last updated at 20:42 GMT, Tuesday, 13 May 2008 21:42 UK

Gretna bid farewell to big time

By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South of Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Gretna versus Celtic
Gretna face relegation and an uncertain financial future

Two years ago Gretna announced their arrival on the big football stage in the Scottish Cup final.

On Tuesday night they made their last appearance in the Scottish Premier League before possibly disappearing from the game for good.

Ironically, this time around a last minute goal saw them beat Hearts 1-0.

In between times they won promotion, played in the Uefa Cup, parted company with two managers and went into administration.

It has been a tempestuous affair for Scotland's most romantic town.

From the outset it was an unlikely success story.

A town with a population of less than 3,000 and a fan base which was even smaller did not seem to be the natural home of a football giant.

That was until owner Brooks Mileson came along and became the club's financial mainstay.

"To say we've bought success is ridiculous," he insisted at the time of the cup final.

"We've got a good gaffer in Rowan Alexander, who's brought in great players who play the way he wants.

"It's not because of me or my money."

Nonetheless, he showed no little largesse following that Scottish Cup defeat to Hearts.

A half-page advert in the Evening News thanked the capital club's fans for the ovation they gave to Gretna.

Both manager Alexander and his assistant Davie Irons were on five year contracts.

The club went on to win the Scottish first division in 2007 but in March that year their manager was given a "leave of absence".

Alexander tried to return to take control of the club for their opening SPL fixture but was turned away at the door.

He was officially sacked by the club in November - a decision he vowed to contest.

However, events at the Raydale Park side suggested their problems spread much wider than a disgruntled former manager.

GRETNA LANDMARKS
Gretna
August 2002 - First Scottish league match
June 2003 - Brooks Mileson becomes owner
March 2005 - Win promotion to second division
March 2006 - Win promotion to first division
May 2006 - Lose Scottish Cup final to Hearts
April 2007 - Win promotion to Scottish Premier League
March 2008 - Go into administration
March 2008 - Relegated from SPL
May 2008 - Last SPL fixture

In February this year, Brooks Mileson was admitted to hospital with a brain infection and a week later it emerged players' wages had not been paid.

Soon afterwards chief executive Graeme Muir admitted that administration was a possibility that could not be ruled out.

Although Mr Mileson got out of hospital by the end of the month, the financial situation did not improve.

By March administration became a reality and a number of players were made redundant.

Documents showed that at the time the club had run up debts of about 4m.

Administrators managed to find a way of getting the club through to the end of the season but now they face an uncertain future.

At the very best they will be relegated to the first division under a new owner.

The worst-case scenario would see the club disappear from the game completely.

"I just don't know where it's going to end," admitted Brooks Mileson a couple of years ago.

Exactly the same could be said now as Gretna's brush with football glory comes to a close.


SEE ALSO
Gretna deadline at season's end
08 May 08 |  South of Scotland
Gretna FC debt level almost 4m
23 Apr 08 |  South of Scotland
Alexander proud of beaten Gretna
13 May 06 |  Scottish Cups

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