Sunday 2nd June 2019 ko 16.10
Scottish Junior Cup Final
AUCHINLECK TALBOT 2 (McCracken 3 Samson 37)
LARGS THISTLE 0
Att 4,639 (1,950 Largs, 2,471 Talbot, Remainder- Hospitality)
At New Douglas Park, Hamilton Academical
Picture the scene, I’m stood at the corner of the two permanent stands at Hamilton Accies. In front of me are two lines of supporters both wearing predominantly amber and black, to my left the Largs fans and to my right the Auchinleck Talbot fans. Which team should I lend my support to for the afternoon? The problem was that I had a foot in three camps, if such a thing is possible?
On one hand, Auchinleck Talbot and their people were very kind to me back in the day. GroundhopUK’s attempts to get a hop going in the West Region Juniors were done through John Holroyd and the folks at Talbot and the fact that the idea foundered was due to one league committeeman, and not the good folks at Auckinleck. Incidentally the stand at Accies old ground Douglas Park was rebuilt at Auchinleck Talbot, and now sports red seats sourced from the redevelopment of Bristol City’s Ashton Gate.
Then there was my highly enjoyable trip to Largs a couple of years ago, in the snow! I’m sure they thought the Englishman in their midst was a lunatic, and I’m not saying they weren’t wrong. We’ve kept in contact via Twitter and I’ve greatly enjoyed following the fortunes of “Theesle” ever since.
The 3rd element was Scott Struthers, who used to be secretary at Accies, and now is a freelance administrator and is often seen at UEFA club competition fixtures as observer. He’s a good friend to Robyn and I and we were both a little embarrassed to have never visited the ground of the club he loves.
In the end I decided on the Largs end on the basis that I reckoned that since Talbot were aiming for their 14th Junior Cup win, and Theesle their second, that Largs probably needed our support a little more!
But unwittingly for me, being stood in one corner was significant. Accies moved here in 2001 after being homeless for 7 years. They’d left Douglas Park – immediately south of the new ground (and now a Sainsbury’s) and part of the reason they were away from Hamilton for so long was disagreements at board level as to the design of the new ground.
And when you look at New Douglas Park you can see why it required so much thought. On one hand Accies were never likely to need a stadium larger than the 6,018 capacity they now have. So put yourself in the position of the board, do you build something like, say Scunthorpe United’s Glanford Park? But remember you’re in Scotland and you got a realistic chance of playing regular top flight football. That means 4 games a season against Celtic and Rangers so you’ll need a large away end and Glanford Park’s away end has only 1,628 seats in it. You can see why they went for roughly the same capacity, but with just the two stands. The temporary stand on the eastern side is to get the number of seats up to 6,000, the minimum for Premier division membership.
But lets take a closer look at those two stands. The curiosity of them is the lack of concourses. The fans enter at the corners and the food and drink is served at pitch level with the seating raised above it all. The idea, borrowed from Utrecht, was to give the fans a superb view but also to free up space where the concourses would be for rental. I’ve had it described it to me as “An everybody wins,” solution, and while it clearly isn’t a panacea it certainly works for the Accies.
Certainly my view of the final was excellent, and the final’s temporary home while the artificial pitch is changed at Kilmarnock’s Rugby Park coped well with a lively crowd and a full-feeling stadium certainly added to the atmosphere. In fact the only odd part was the presentation taking place in front of the open end. I’m told the reason was to allow for BBC Alba’s cameras to get the crowds in the background, but it put the lifting of the trophy a long way from the crowds actually at the game.
The game must have come as a bitter disappointment to Largs and their fans. I’m sure part of Auchinleck’s dominance was due to them having the know-how of 13 previous wins, but much of it was due to Largs failing to take advantage of periods of dominance in possession. Time after time shots were blasted high or wide or both when a little composure might have paid dividends.
Talbot celebrated with gusto as the Largs players rather touching commiserated with their fans. Sadly for Robyn and I we couldn’t linger, there was the small matter of a 6 hour drive back to Oxford to negotiate.