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As St Mirren go from strength to strength on the pitch today, it’s always worth remembering that things have not always been so rosy for the Saints.

They’ve not always enjoyed the comforts of an all-seater stadium, for starters, with Love Street – a rather ramshackle facility that could once hold 50,000 people – their home for more than a century before the switch to St Mirren Park in 2009.

Love Street also hosted speedway racing and was a key fixture on the Scottish greyhound racing circuit, hosting meetings that would set up the runners and trainers for a tilt at the Derby both north and south of the border. In 2003/04, Charlie Lister – the most decorated greyhound trainer in history – achieved the English and Scottish Derby double with Farloe Verdict.

The Scottish Greyhound Derby is yet to return following the pandemic, and the parlous state of the Shawfield Stadium in Rutherglen – as well as a general malaise about the sport in Scotland – means it may never recover. The English Greyhound Derby, meanwhile, continues each May, with top track stars like Fromposttopillar (8/1), Ballinabola Ed (16/1), Hopes Paddington (16/1) and Romeo Command (16/1) leading the way in the dog betting odds and hoping to become 2023 champion.

Sadly, the days of Love Street hosting top-tier football and greyhound racing have come to an end following the redevelopment of the site, but it’s always worth remembering one of Paisley’s premier sporting institutions.

Showing Some Love

Love Street was unique in that it was constructed as a ‘bowl’, which was uncommon in football stadia in the late 1800s. It did, however, have inadequate drainage due to being built on the land of a former building site – as many frustrated fans of St Mirren at the time would attest as their team was forced to play in boggy conditions.

St Mirren paid the princely sum of £3,900 in 1904 to buy Love Street outright, with the long-term plan to develop the ground into one of the finest in Scotland. Extensions and building works saw the capacity at the stadium increase to 60,000, although the highest-ever attendance recorded would be the 47,438 that would see the Saints take on Celtic back in 1949.

The Scottish Football Association were suitably impressed by the development work at Love Street, welcoming the venue as the hosts of an international game between Scotland and Wales in 1923 – the only time that Paisley has witnessed the Scottish national team up close and personal. Plans were made to make Love Street the home of Scottish greyhound racing too, however a ban on hosting meetings at football grounds soon after put paid to that.

Blinded by the Lights

But the improvements to Love Street did not come without a hitch. Floodlights were erected in the late 1950s but immediately caused problems for pilots trying to land at Glasgow Airport. A blackout was ordered until the airport was later moved.

A successful spell in the 1980s saw St Mirren qualify for European football, which meant that certain renovations to Love Street were required. The Caledonia Stand, plus seating in the North Bank terrace, finally saw the ground modernised.

But the football club had grand plans that the small site in Love Street could not cater for, so it was with great sadness when the Saints revealed they were building a new stadium and leaving Love Street, with the turnstiles opened for the final time in 2009.

The land was sold to supermarket chains and housing developers, with some of the streets on the new build estates named after legends of St Mirren’s past. It’s a sentimental nod to yesteryear, plus a reminder that the worlds of sport and commerce never stand still. But for those that went there, Love Street will forever be remembered as one of Scotland’s most idiosyncratic sporting venues.