On 30th May, 1940, the Ayr United Annual General Meeting lasted for five minutes. It was reported that for the financial year ending 31st March, 1940, the loss was £2,674 : 11s :3d. Gate receipts for that period totalled £6,052 : 19s : 8d. This was less than half of the amount for the corresponding period the year before. It was quite simply down to the state of war and its consequent priority to the general public. With Ayr United now closed down for the duration Somerset Park fell into a state of neglect. Weeds grew out of control on the terracing. This was despite the two local junior clubs, Newton Rovers and S.S. and E. Athletic (Scottish Stamping and Engineering), using the ground on alternate Saturdays for their home fixtures in the Western League. The ground was also used for the occasional schools match in addition to some high profile representative matches. These were The RAF versus The Army in 1941 and Scottish Command versus Western Command in 1944, 1945 and even in 1946. All of these games took place on New Year’s Day and included such illustrious players as Tommy Lawton and Billy Wright.
In March 1945 the directors began the process of signing players with a view to the club starting up again in 1945/46. Bob Ferrier quit his post as part time manager of Airdrie to become the full time manager of Ayr United. An earlier report that Matt Busby had been appointed was somewhat premature. The Scottish League structure for 1945/46 was a shameful carve-up driven by self interest. A new set-up was put in place comprising Divisions ‘A’ and ‘B’. The completed First Division table for the last peacetime season was ignored. Ayr United got placed in ‘B’ Division despite having finished above three of the new ‘A’ Division clubs in 1938/39. There was also a phantom promotion for Morton. The set-up created a grudge which Ayr supporters of the time would harbour into old age.
Due to age there were players on the retained list who would never play for Ayr United again. Others such as Hugh McConnell, Albert Stewart and Lewis Thow had yet to be demobbed from the forces. The recruitment was rapid. Peter Smith became the club’s first post war captain when he was recalled from Pollok Juniors. When the league season got underway Airdrie won 3-0 at Somerset Park in the opening match. There was a significant development before the next fixture. Centre-half Norrie McNeil was signed from Hurlford United, his local club. Norrie had already played alongside and against some of the greatest names in British football whilst competing in representative football in the army. He would proceed to become an Ayr United great.
With only fourteen clubs in the league the programme extended to a mere twenty-six figures which concluded in January with Ayr United finishing in a creditable third place. For Malky Morrison it was a season of goalscoring abandon with twenty-nine league goals. On 5th January, 1946, he netted six in a 10-1 victory at home to Stenhousemuir. This remains a club record league win. Malky had already scored four in our 6-0 rout of Stenhousemuir in October 1945. A personal haul of ten goals in the two league games against that club!
The new League Cup tournament got underway in February. Ayr United’s first engagement in that competition saw a 1-0 win at Dumbarton. Our historic first League Cup goal was scored by Bert Harper. On progressing from the group stages Aberdeen were faced in the quarter-finals in front of a crowd of 18,128 at neutral Dens Park, Dundee. Aberdeen won 2-0 then went on to lift the trophy.
Upon his release from Rangers the great Alec Beattie was signed in the summer of 1946. He was an outside-left who was adept at scoring from tight angles and, in the present day, he holds the Ayr United record for scoring directly from corner-kicks. The post war gates boom was still thriving but the large crowds and wealth of individual talent did not count for much. Finishing eleventh in the fourteen-club ‘B’ Division was a major disappointment even allowing for the final fixture bringing a 6-1 home win over Cowdenbeath. The Scottish Cup also proved disastrous with an 8-0 defeat at Aberdeen who went on to lift the cup (echoes of the League Cup a year before). Compounding the severity of the Pittodrie defeat was the fact that goalkeeper Willie Barbour was described as “the hero of the side”. The league placing in 1946/47 was replicated in 1947/48 but this time it was eleventh out of sixteen since the league had two more clubs.
Getting back into the top tier continued to be a forlorn hope. This was probably the mindset of Bob Ferrier who quit in December 1948. The process of appointing a new manager was tortuous. Eventually, in mid-March, Archie Anderson was named as the new boss. This was three days after beating Dundee United 8-0 in a ‘B’ Division fixture. Anderson had managed Arbroath when they reached the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup in 1947. Here in 1949 it proved difficult to extricate himself from the Arbroath job. By the time he was free to start work at Ayr the league season was over with ninth place being occupied. He took charge for the post season Highland tour. Mr Anderson would bring about improvement although none would be forthcoming in his first full season in charge. Fourth bottom of the lower tier and eliminated from the Scottish Cup with a 4-0 defeat away to Dundee United!
A new decade at least brought the hope of a fresh dawn.