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'All we need now is a team of guys to match the old Airdrieonians'

Airdrie United were formed in 2002 after Airdrieonians were liquidated and could not regain entry to the Third Division.

Battleground: Airdrie's Excelsior Stadium will host the North Lanarkshire vs South Lanarkshire football game
© Paul McIlroy

It was the news that some fans have waited 11 years for: Airdrieonians are back in Scottish football.

At the end of the 2001/02 season Airdrieonians were liquidated and tried to regain entry to the league soon after, but Gretna were chosen instead.

After Jim Ballantyne led the purchase of struggling Clydebank, and inherited their Scottish FA membership, the Diamonds returned to the Second Division in the guise of Airdrie United.

Some turned away, claiming that Airdrie United weren't the same club. But others remained to support the local team playing in the traditional diamond kit at the Shyberry Excelsior stadium.

But Willie Marshall hopes the name change will tempt some of those disenfranchised fans back to the terraces.

Marshall, the chairman of the club's Supporters Trust, has met with the Airdrie board on numerous occasions with the topic of a name (and badge) forming part of the discussions more often than not.

After getting a text from one of the directors with the news, the Airdrie man couldn't contain his delight. He hopes the fans of the past who didn't turn out to see Airdrie United will return.

"I am hoping they will come back," he says optimistically. "A lot has been said in the past that they would come back if they were called Airdrieonians.

"Airdrieonians supporters have always wanted it back; it is closure.

"We tried to buy the name off the liquidators and we had raised it with the club and had discussions at an open meeting with the chairman.

"I've not heard about the badge yet but it would be great if we could get that back as well, but it seems difficult.

"This feels like a new start even though it's not. We're looking forward to it. All we need now is a team of guys to match the old Airdrieonians."

The move comes just months after the fan board of Lanarkshire neighbours Clyde FC chose to move the club to East Kilbride and rename the club "EK Clyde".

Airdrie's Monklands rivals were also said to be considering changing their name to 'Coatbridge Albion Rovers' or some variant to give the club a more local feeling.

Former Airdrieonians striker Andy Smith, who played in Europe and both the 1992 and 1995 cup finals, reckons that any expected upsurge in the crowd will still depend on the current financial climate.

Smith

Airdrieonians' Andy Smith against Sparta Prague at Broomfield in 1992. (copyright SNS)

He said: "I don't think it will wave a magic wand and everyone will return. It may get some of them back, it may be a huge incentive but the reason crowds are down is like everywhere else.

"Hopefully changing the name will have a change in the team's fortunes on the park though."

In a statement, Airdrie chairman Jim Ballantyne confirmed: "It was raised at a fans' meeting a few months ago but we could not give too much away as there was still much work to be done.

"When the old company went into liquidation, it was in a different football environment and the use of the name was not possible at that time.

"With all the recent changes, however, and subsequent rulings, it paved the way for us to make the move and therefore we set the wheels in motion."

As the news broke, football fans from Airdrie and beyond had their say:

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