Aberdeen, Bon Accord, Craig Thomson, Eoin Doyle, Isaac Osbourne, Leigh Griffiths, Loirston Loch, Merkland End, New Stadium, Niall McGinn, Peter Pawlett, Pittodrie, Referee, Richard Donald stand, Scotland, Shefki Kuqi, SPL
Sunday 27th January 2013 ko 12.30
Scottish Premier League
When it rains, Aberdeen sparkles, as the water brings out the mica in the granite that so many of its buildings are built from. That doesn’t stop the built environment having a rather dour feel, the grey walls giving a sense of foreboding. Aberdeen granite is to be found in the Houses of Parliament and London Waterloo Bridge too.
The city’s motto is “Bon Accord,” French for “Good Agreement” a phrase reputedly from the password used by Robert the Bruce during the Wars of Scottish Independence, when he and his men laid siege to Aberdeen Castle before destroying it in 1308.
That motto was used by the club famously at the wrong end of the world’s biggest drubbing Arbroath 36 Bon Accord 0, but if you read my last piece you’ll know all about that! The club that the SFA meant to invite into the Scottish Cup, Orion FC, in 1903 merged with Aberdeen, and Victoria United to form Aberdeen FC.
Pittodrie had been leased 4 years earlier to the old Aberdeen team, the name is Pictish for “Dung Heap” and had been used previously as an execution ground, and more appropriately as a dumping ground for the local constabulary’s horse manure! By 1920 the lease had been purchased into a freehold. Increasing popularity of the team and rising attendances lead to continued construction on Pittodrie, and a number of football firsts throughout the years occured. The iconic main stand was built in 1920, and the stadium saw the world’s first set of dugouts, by coach Donald Coleman, who was interested in sitting lower to the pitch in order to inspect the players’ footwork during games.
In 1978, Pittodrie became the second all-seated stadium in Great Britain, after the south terracing was fitted with bench style seating. (Clydebank had done something similar two years before as a response to being promoted to the Premier Division). This improvement pre-dated the Taylor Report on British football grounds by a decade and coincided with an upturn in the fortunes of the home team, then managed by Alex Ferguson.
The south side became the South Stand in 1980, following the installation of a cantilever roof which covered most of the seats. This can be configured in three ways so as to accomodate the wildly fluctuating away followings that are a feature of the SPL. Celtic or Rangers would get roughly half, whilst Edinburgh-based Hibs support looked lost in a third of the capacity.
Taking its name from the street behind it, the Merkland Stand (also known as ‘the Paddock’ or ‘King Street End’) sits behind the goal, on the west of the ground. The Merkland is Aberdeen FC’s family stand, with reduced prices for under-twelves and families. It features a delightful facade outside, constructed of Aberdeen granite.
The most recent development of the stadium came in the 1992-93 when the Beach End stand on the east side of the ground was demolished, with the new two tier Richard Donald stand – named after the club’s long serving chairman – constructed in its place.
The ground is situated a mere 500 yards from the North Sea, there’s just the King’s Links golf course between the stadium and the beach, so sat in the Main stand I was glad of the Richard Donald stand to shelter me from the North winds! Initially I’d wondered whether paying top price was a worthwhile investment, but the extra fiver was worth it, just to explore the two tiered concourse, and fall in love with the railway style signage. That said, the seating is cramped, and the lack of leg-room would be real issue if the attendance had been anywhere near the capacity of 22,199. As it was people have learned to make use of the spare capacity and spread out a little!
It may prove to be a short-lived inconvenience, as plans to move are well advanced. The new stadium is set to be built at Loirston Loch in the south of Aberdeen, and was set to open in 2013 but the project is currently mired in planning red tape, but its clear that Pittodrie’s days are numbered.
And to be frank, the game completely failed to live up to its surroundings. On a poor pitch neither side had the whit nor the will to break each other down, and it was clear after 20 minutes that Hibs were more than happy with a point, and that Aberdeen were happy enough to grant their request.
I only remember one shot on target for Aberdeen, Niall McGinn’s penalty for Aberdeen being well saved by Ben Williams. That had been the Dons’ second shout for a penalty, the first saw Peter Pawlett booked by referee Craig Thomson for diving. From then on Hibs sole tactic was to bash the ball up to the immobile Shefki Kuqi, and then get nowhere near his knock-downs. Both sides were incapable of stringing an intelligent pass. With a minute or two left, there was a late chance for Hibs as Eoin Doyle swung over a low cross from the right which seemed destined for Leigh Griffiths until Isaac Osbourne got a vital touch to turn behind for a corner, to end the meaningful action in a dreadful game.
As the supporters left the ground I lingered for a minute or two, sneaking the panoramic shot taken from the Merkland End. As I took the pictures, it seemed as if the seagulls were taking back over their territory, almost as a protest at the lousy game that that had just taken place.
Still, you can never pick either the quality of the game or the weather, but Lee, Eddie and Peter made for great company on our Northern Scottish Adventure, thanks to them for a great weekend, even if we did spend around 14 hours sitting in my car!