Caledonian Braves delighted with first season at new Alliance Park base

When Caledonian Braves kicked off their first season at Alliance Park, owner Chris Ewing couldn’t have dreamed it would end the way it has.

Wednesday, 15th April 2020, 2:41 pm
Updated Wednesday, 15th April 2020, 3:25 pm
It’s been an encouraging season for Braves owner Chris Ewing (Pic: Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography)

With little likelihood of football resuming for some time due to the coronavirus lockdown, the Lowland League this week decided to call a halt to the season.

Braves were sitting in mid-table, in eighth place, when the season was suspended, so have no issues in terms of promotion or relegation.

And Chris admits there’s no easy solution over what to do with unfinished campaigns.

He said: “It’s disappointing for everybody in football, not just Caledonian Braves but everybody across the world at all levels.

“It doesn’t really affect us much, it’s more the clubs at the top and the bottom that there’s a lot to play for

“Nobody wants to see a season null and void because they have put a lot of money into this season, but at the same time it’s difficult also to justify the crowning of a champion when it’s still mathematically possible for other teams to catch them, or to save themselves from relegation.

“It’s a very difficult one. But you also have to remember that there’s literally thousands of people dying. Yes, we’re passionate about football and would like to see the league finished and that kind of thing.

“But it’s worthwhile reminding ourselves what’s going on in the world and not getting too caught up in these decisions.”

Like all clubs, it’s a challenging period for Braves. But Chris said his players and coaching staff wouldn’t lose out, with everyone either paid up to the end of the season or furloughed with their 80 per cent payments topped up.

The Academy and its senior team have had something of a nomadic existence since Chris founded Edusport in 2011 to help talented young French footballers to develop both their football and English language skills.

Initially based at the Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility in Motherwell and Hamilton Palace Sports Ground, it expanded in 2014 with the opening of a new centre at Ainslie Park in Edinburgh.

The following year the Academy HQ relocated to Glasgow, training at Lesser Hampden, while the football team joined the South of Scotland League, playing home games at Hamilton Palace and then Annan.

But a year ago, under a 10-year leasing agreement with North Lanarkshire Leisure, the team moved to the Alliance Park facility at Bothwellhaugh, changing the team name to Caledonian Braves.

And Chris is delighted with how the first year has gone.

He said: “It’s been brilliant. It’s been a long time since we’ve had anywhere we could start to call our own home.

“In the last few seasons when we were playing down in Annan you would come out of Glasgow, after 15 minutes you’re driving past Alliance Park and you still have another hour and a half to go before you get to Annan.

“The challenge now is how do we get people from Motherwell, Hamilton, Bellshill, Bothwell - our local community - to come and actually support the club.

“That’s the next challenge, but we’ll get there.”

“We’ll continue to work hard to get people to come and watch us because I do believe the Lowland League is a great standard of football now, competitive and probably the best value for money you’ll get in Scottish football.

“And we do try to play football the right way, try and pass the ball.”

“It’s a work in progress and things aren’t going to happen overnight. It’s only the first season.

“But it’s fantastic that we can use it for the academy during the day and at night for the first team. The coaches can get a cup of tea before training, the guys can get something to eat and it’s not a case of rushing in and rushing out. We can actually take our time and it makes a big difference to the players and the coaching staff.”