Saturday 11th March 2006 ko 15.00
Scottish League Division One
ST MIRREN 1 (Adam 90)
QUEEN OF THE SOUTH 0
Att 3,436 at St Mirren Park, Love Street, Paisley
Saturday 31st January 2009 ko 12.30
Scottish Premier League
ST MIRREN 1 (Wyness 83)
KILMARNOCK 1 (Kyle 29)
Att 7,542 at New St Mirren Park, Greenhill Road, Paisley
Entry £18 Programme £4
I have a feeling I didn’t approach Paisley as some others do. I remembering seeing the place as the place where the slightly psychedelic “Paisley Pattern” comes from, and holiday visits to the likes of the “Sma’ Shot Cottages” and the Coats Observatory were greatly enjoyed. But the second Iain my regular companion to all things Scottish and I went to watch Queen of the South away at Love Street in 2006, I soon spotted a change in that viewpoint.
From the back of the huge away stand at Love Street I could hear the references to the “Metha-Drome” and junkies. I had no idea that Paisley had one of the worst drug problems in the UK. But even in the freezing cold, Love Street was special, having character by the bucketload, even down to to the Main Stand, built in truncated form in 1921 due to the Great Depression.
We watched future Liverpool, Blackpool and Stoke midfielder Charlie Adam break Doonhamer hearts with a last minute winner (he was on loan from Rangers at that point) and I completely failed to ask why a club based in Paisley were named “St Mirren?” The name is a corruption of St Mirin, a 6th century Irish missionary who established the first church in Paisley, becoming the town’s patron saint.
Iain and I travelled back to a typically beer and curry-based evening back in Dumfries before I had an eventful drive home the next day along a snow-bound and technically closed A75. It was, on reflection another one of those eventful weekends with football as its anchor. The sadness of the piece was that St Mirren were to have only 3 years left at Love Street.
There are no end of clubs who move after selling their ground to a supermarket, one of the better examples is the Cefn Druids. Here Love Street was sold to Tesco on the basis that the retailer (via Barr Construction) would build St Mirren’s new ground on Greenhill Road. That all happened, but planning permission for a store at Love Street was refused by the authorities- the site is now a development of affordable houses, and all the streets are named with a connection to St Mirren FC. From afar it looks like Tesco cut their losses on the development, and that may have had an impact on what I found at Greenhill Road. Unusually for me, I was at their first game at their new ground.
There is a tendency amongst groundhoppers to prioritise a newly opened ground. I don’t count myself in that cohort, I take the view that once opened, the facility is likely to be there for while so why rush there! In this case though I travelled up with Dave Jolly a groundhopper who specialises in opening games at stadia and his take on the hobby was interesting, and sadly I do mean was- health problems subsequent to this have greatly reduced his activities.
I was surprised at how easy it was to obtain tickets, and with the capacity being 8,023 the game clearly didn’t sell out. We arrived just in time to catch the end of the fans’ march from Love Street to Greenhill Road complete with the centre spot from the old ground being carried on a flat-bed truck.
But here is the issue, the place isn’t very imaginative. It consists of 4 stands each of similar design to its twin opposite, and chances are you’ve seen similar elsewhere. Those stands are named North, South, East and West. The formal name of the old ground was St Mirren Park, so what’s the new called? New St Mirren Park. It seemed to me at the time that the stadium was both built on a very tight budget and as a blank canvas to allow the club as much scope as possible to get everything renamed by sponsorship agreements. That, at least has happened but I spent my time there aching for Love Street, and just to emphasise that point we high-tailed afterwards to Greenock Morton , a ground you really need to do before you die.
Looking back, I probably made an error made by a few English groundhoppers in seeing “Premier” in the competition and comparing Scotland’s top flight with the English version. The fact of the matter is that , apart from Celtic and Rangers the two operate in completely different sets of economic circumstances. From what I saw here, St Mirren operated a team at a similar level to mid-table League 1 club and built a ground at a similar level of ambition. It is adequate for their needs after all and in England you can see similar at the likes of Burton Albion.
There was special guest to formally open the ground, then First Minister Alex Salmond. I did wonder what the reaction to him would be, and yes I did spot the SNP hoarding pitchside. I prepared myself to politely applaud so as to welcome an honoured guest so was rather surprised when he received a dog’s abuse from the crowd. Politics didn’t come into it, the patrons took umbrage at him being a Heart of Midlothian fan! With hindsight I wonder what reaction he get there now?
The honour of scoring the first goal at the new ground was scored by former Sunderland striker Kevin Kyle for the visitors and we watched a thoroughly workmanlike draw. I can’t say being at the opening game meant anything particularly significant for me, unless you to happen to collect stress balls- a St Mirren branded one was given to all patrons as we left, I imagine to avoid them being thrown in the pitch!
We made a sharp exit, that 3pm kick off at Cappielow necessitated it, but while I can’t ever say I’ll never go back, Robyn I’m sure would like to go, I can’t see it ever being a priority.