The cold March wind blowing the tumbleweed across the broken-down terraces carries the ghostly voices of the past eerily into the present.

Close your eyes and it’s easy to imagine a time when these stands echoed to the raucous sounds that only the magic of football can extract.

Enclosures packed with thousands of worshipping fans, pipe smoke and tobacco fumes rising from the huddled congregation. A football club teeming with life.

Just another Saturday at Cathkin Park, home to Third Lanark, one of the proud founding fathers of the Scottish game.

Names echo down through the football tunnel from another century … Jimmy Brownlie, goalkeeper supreme, Jimmy Denmark, captain courageous, Ally McLeod, fans’ favourite and future Scotland manager, Dave Hilley, a poacher almost without peer in the early Sixties.

Modern-day contemplation, though, is so easily laid aside – along with those fleeting phantoms.

Cathkin Park on Glasgow’s southern border has long been a delinquent mausoleum to a club that played its final game 50 years ago next month and perished just weeks later. Today it is a pauper’s grave, tended only by a dedicated band of brothers who refuse to let the name of Third Lanark pass inexorably into a sepia-toned history.

The last rites were officially performed in June 1967, a year enshrined in Scottish football folklore.

The year of the Lisbon Lions, the year when Rangers reached the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup and the year when Scotland beat England at Wembley to become unofficial world champions.

It was also the year when Thirds went to the wall with debts of around £40,000, a club shamefully sabotaged and consumed by one man’s greed and corruption that snuffed out 95 years of existence.

In fact, the last ever Third Lanark match at Cathkin saw 300 fans watch their team battle to a 3-3 draw against Queen of the South on 15 April 1967 – the same day Jim Baxter was playing keepie-uppie on the Wembley turf.

But the story of Third Lanark, the fabled, red-shirted Hi Hi, remains embroidered into the fabric of Scottish football’s rich tapestry.

The club was formed on December 12, 1872, an idea that first took root at a meeting of the Third Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers in Glasgow’s Howard Street.

Scotland was then surfing the first wave of the phenomenon that is football. Just two weeks earlier, Scotland and England had locked horns in national combat at Hamilton Crescent in Partick, Scotland. The match finished in a 0–0 draw and was watched by 4000 spectators. The next year, Third Lanark, Queen’s Park, Clydesdale, Vale of Leven, Dumbreck, Eastern and Granville became members of the newly-constituted Scottish Football Association.

Thirds were to win the Scottish Cup twice, in 1889 against Celtic and in 1905 against Rangers – a feat that has eluded the likes of Partick Thistle and St Mirren.

From then to the beginning of the war in 1939 Thirds won every honour available to them including the league title in 1903/04, a couple of Second Division titles, the Glasgow Cup and Charity Cup, and 34 of their players had been capped for Scotland.

And how many would know the names of three Third Lanark players who would go on to play in European finals?

One man who does know is Pat McGeady – because he’s a guy with the authority to pose the question.

“The answer is Ronnie Simpson (Celtic 1967), Evan Williams (Celtic 1970) and Hugh Curran (Wolves 1972),” says Pat, who is now the unofficial keeper of the Third Lanark flame and who once played for the amateur side that took Thirds’ name.

Pat, now 58, was just eight when the gates were padlocked for the last time. “It was like a death in the family,” he recalls. “We lived a few streets away from the ground. My dad was a Celtic supporter, but he would take us to see Third Lanark as well. It just became my club and it still is. I remember after the club had folded going in through a hole in the fence and just looking at the ground and thinking ‘oh my goodness’.

“I actually painted the crush barriers red because they were so tattered. So that anyone who went in there would see the colours and know they were at the home of Third Lanark.”

Pat’s home in Mosspark is now a shrine to his beloved Hi Hi. Neatly tucked away are programmes, ticket stubs, pictures – a legacy of one man’s lifelong commitment to a club that in many ways never really heard the full-time whistle.

“I played for the juvenile team in the 1970s and that was really the start of my love affair with Third Lanark,” says Pat.

“I started researching the history of the club and began collecting programmes and it all just grew from then. The fans could identify with the players because they were all local heroes in a sense. The majority of them stayed pretty near to the ground.

“My favourite player was Dave Hilley, who was transferred to Newcastle United for £30,000 in 1962. Can you imagine that value in today’s terms? Millions.”

Today, Pat is among a group of dedicated souls who help to run the football academy that continues to carry the good name of Third Lanark. Based on the south side, the academy is the first rung on the ladder for more than 100 kids who love the thrill of kicking a ball.

“We started the academy in 2007 and it has just got bigger and bigger,” says Pat. “We have about 100 children who are wearing the colours of Third Lanark. It starts at under six and goes right through to amateur level.

“In the academy we have kids from 32 different countries, 42 different languages and we even have a couple of Slovakian and Ukrainian coaches. There is a lot of untapped footballing ability in the south side of Glasgow.

“We hold fund-raising dinners every year and we get a fantastic response from the local community and the wider football community. It is all positive.

“When you go round the pubs with the newsletter all people talk about are their good memories of Third Lanark. They were a good football team with a good history.”

Their next fund-raising dinner takes place on Saturday, May 6, at Hampden – a long free-kick away from the ground at Cathkin that still holds so many for a fervent – yet dwindling – support network.

Those who still carry a torch for the club cling to a dream Martin Luther King would have been proud of – that one day Cathkin Park will once again be the official home to a red-shirted team called Third Lanark.

Among them is actor Simon Weir, who has Hi Hi double helixes entwined in his DNA. His great grandfather played for the club in the early days of the last century, ensuring his blood really is Third Lanark red.

A few years back he bought the name of Third Lanark Athletic Club Ltd, after it became available at Companies House. He was part of a group that held discussions with Glasgow City Council to restore Cathkin Park from a sepulcher into a field of dreams.

Simon, whose most recent film was in T2 Trainspotting, said: “As a legacy project it should have had some funding. Trees taken down and some of the terracing repaired. There is hope for it but it needs massive investment. The ground is still there. It still smells like a football ground and feels like a football ground.

“It could still have a future with a bit of TLC and investment. I did some repair work to the walls a few years back and took some of the moss off the terracing.

“When you were doing that you’d feel a chill on your back because you could almost see in your mind’s eye these teams playing.

“On other days you would see old men standing in the same place they used to stand watching their team. And you can just imagine them replaying those games in their heads or their imagination. You can see the ghost of your great grandfather playing, you can hear the crowd, you can smell the pipe smoke. It is just the history of football right there. And it is remarkably peaceful as well.”

Resurrection may be no more than wishful thinking but for those who still dream in red, hope is a powerful motivator.

The final word comes from Pat McGeady, who remains resolute that, through the academy, high times will continue for the Hi Hi. He said: “The kids love being part of Third Lanark. They want to play football and be part of something special and that is what Third Lanark is…something special.”