Friday, 14 December 2012

Berwick Rangers 1 - 1 Peterhead - 8/12/12

After almost 2 months without a game due to other commitments (stag do's, weddings, children, jobs) we found ourselves overly excited about a planned trip to Berwick. It was somewhere that I had passed on the train numerous times on the East Coast line down south and always thought it looked like a nice place. Also, and let's get this little fact out the way early, Berwick are famous for being an English club playing in Scottish League... so we felt we had to go to say we had been!  And at less than an hour journey from Edinburgh it's a trip more should take.

We met at Edinburgh Waverley for the 11:30 train (Phil heading from Glasgow around 10am) and were immediately joined by numerous fans going to games across the country. Possibly the most surprising was  the large selection of Chelsea fans heading down to Sunderland.

Berwick itself is a very nice town, quite old fashioned but on the day of our visit we were lucky to find a Christmas Market in the town centre and enjoyed a Hog Roast lunch sitting out in the freezing cold. Fortunately we were able to warm up in our new favourite bar, Barrels Ale House (above). Doing our research we had heard this was the best pub in Berwick and we weren't disappointed. It's a cosy little place but like any good pub the atmosphere & staff were both warm & friendly and the selection of local Ale's were top notch. We tried 4 different Ale's all from Tyneside and all winners. The pub has a great wall of music memorabilia that will be enjoyed by any music fans.

From here we took the 20 minute walk across the bridge (to Tweedmouth) and up the hill to Sheilfeld Park.

Arriving at the ground we were met with only one set of turnstiles open and the 'Away' turnstiles closed. The reason for this was soon revealed as when you enter Sheilfeld, fans are free to walk around to any part of the ground they wish.

The first thing you are met with in the ground is the Club Shop which sits immediately to the left as you enter. It's a great little shop with a huge selection of programmes from across the years from all sorts of clubs as well as all the Berwick 'The Dream Team' Rangers merchandise any Wee Gers fan could need.

Berwick share the ground with Speedway team (Berwick Bandits) and therefore this is not your usual Football ground. A large dirt track surrounds the pitch resulting in only two stands for the fans to watch from.   The larger of the two is the all seater main stand that runs the length of the pitch and directly across from this is 'The Ducket' which is a good old fashioned terrace.

We headed to 'The Ducket' for kick off and joined a good crowd of Berwick fans (and 1 Peterhead fan) for an entertaining first half. Peterhead had the best of the action and in particular Rory McAllister looking a step above the rest up front. It was no surprise to see the opener come from him with some unselfish play to send in Scott McLaughlin for the easy finish. The home fans were in great form with the football banter that you only really get at the lower levels. The linesman was getting abuse even when the ball was in the other half, token shouts of 'Waken Up', it was great!

Somehow the first half ended 1-0 and we headed for a good pie & bovril to warm us up before switching sides and joining the main stand.  It was great to see that the home fans in this side were giving just as much stick to officials & players. My personal favourite was 'You only gave that because we are English!!' when a foul was given against Berwick, to which a Peterhead fan replied, 'aye'. We also found more Peterhead fans here who had made the long journey to the game.

I would agree with the fans that the officials had a very poor second half and it was a very stop start affair. Berwick looked slightly stronger and that may have had a lot to do with the huge slope that Sheilfeld Park has. It was a goalkeeping error that allowed Berwick back into the game however with a howler from former Kilmarnock & Rangers keeper Graeme Smith who appeared to let a cross simply hit him which allowed  Lavery to slot home.

By the end of the game the bitter cold had gotten to us and full time whistle was met with a wry smile from the Pigeon as we knew we could head back to Barrels and try a few more ales and think back on a cracking day out.

Match Attendance - 396

Ticket Cost - £10

Train Ticket - We always try to find the best deal we can for travelling and because there's two of us coming from two different places, sometimes we need to do our homework to allow us to get the same trains and get the overall cheapest option. In this case we got two singles from Glasgow for £13 each and two singles from Edinburgh for £9 each. You can get singles from Edinburgh for around £5.50 but to get on the same train as each other, this meant we could get much cheaper tickets Glasgow to Berwick. This totaled £44 but being the savvy savers that we are, we each had a £10 voucher to spend at which took the overall price down to £24. And as we split everything straight down the middle here at the pigeon, that was £12 each which isn't too shabby considering a Glasgow to Edinburgh return is £12.10!

Pie & Bovril - £3.10 (Tasty Pie & Meaty Bovril - 4/5)

Thursday, 1 November 2012

From The Archive: Olympique Lyonnais 3 vs 1 Nancy - 15/10/11

This time last year Chris was travelling around Europe and had the joy of taking in a fantastic experience in Lyon. Since we have a break in games that we can make it to we thought you might enjoy his report. Enjoy!

My decision to visit Lyon was by chance. I was travelling around Europe for a month and after Paris wanted to head to Italy (Turin to be exact) however in doing so, would lose a day sitting on a train. Looking at my options I decided upon a weekend stopover in Lyon to break up the journey and wow was I happy I did. Not only was Lyon a great city but Olympique Lyonnais was playing at home that very weekend… bonus!

I arrived early to Stade De Gerland to soak up the atmosphere and was delighted to find La Tribune (the Lyon Programme) was free. I immediately headed for the beer & food tents and joined the locals for some street drinking and Lyonnais Sausage before heading into the stadium.

What strikes you first about Stade De Gerland is how old and dated it feels in today’s Football Stadiums world however, this is the very thing that makes it so fantastic. My seat was in the Virage Nord end and, once in the stadium grounds, the walk up to the stand felt something like that of an old Roman Theatre; aged concrete steps lead up to arches before entering into the stand and once in the stand you soon realise that it is made of nothing but steel & concrete with no frills. Once at my seat I realised this was a common theme. However, the unique and truly awe-inspiring element of this stadium will be sadly lost when Lyon move to their new, currently under-construction, 60,000 seater stadium in 2013.

Now… not speaking a word of French what happens next is what I imagine was said…
10 minutes before kick off a Large Frenchman climbs up at the front of the Virage Nord stand with a mega-phone and addresses the near full Virage Nord stand ‘OK GUYS, WE’RE GOING TO HAVE A GOOD TIME TONIGHT, WE’RE GONNA SING OUR HEARTS OUT, AND GONNA KICK SOME NANCY ASS! SEE YOU IN 10 MINS!’, the crowd cheers him and he disappears… Roughly 10 mins later he appears this time with friends ‘GET ON YOUR FEET!’, the whole stand is now on their feet and standing on their seats, 40% of the front section raise flags, ‘OOO – LIMP – PIQUE – OH – LYON – AISE!’ This does not let up for the whole 90 minutes! Fantastic, I lucked into tickets in with the Virage Nord Kop.

The Match itself was a whitewash with Lyon winning 3-1. Before the match I was extremely excited to see Yohann Goucuff as, in my opinion, he is an undeniable talent that simply needs to pull it all together. Yet in this game he proved all his haters right as he came on as a 1st half sub to have very little influence on the match. I was, however, blown away by Michel Bastos. He completely dominated the match from the left wing and was a constant set piece threat scoring the opening goal with a lovely free kick and the 3rd goal from the penalty spot. Gomis scored the 2nd Lyon goal ending a lovely team move. All of this happened in the 1st half which put the game result beyond doubt; which is a shame as it overshadowed the activity in the 2nd half which included a Nancy penalty miss & then the goal of the day… week… month… maybe year from Nancy Striker Jo-Gook Jung… PEACH!

Leaving the stadium I took one last look at Stade De Gerland, knowing it would be unlikely I would ever be back before it was demolished, and realised I had had one of my favourite football trips ever. I felt sad to think that the new Lyon stadium may not contain the atmosphere that the current one has. Only one way to find out, I’ll be back…

Ticket - €17.50

Access to Stadium – Underground straight from Centre of Lyon to Stade De Gerland - €7.50 Daily Metro Pass

Programme – Free

Attendance - 33,825

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Pollok 2 - 1 Neilston - 20/10/2012

Much of my Saturdays during my teenage years revolved around going to football matches with my Dad. We would go to all levels of the game in the North East of Scotland, from large stadium games to full blooded amateur battles at the local park. We went to see a lot of junior football as there were several teams fairly close to where we lived. Junior football 'up north' differs a bit to the junior game in the Central Belt. For one, it's a much bigger deal in the South of the country. It isn't uncommon for Junior matches in Aberdeen to get crowds of between 30-90 people, obviously there are some exceptions.

Our most local team was Hermes, and if I remember rightly, you would get a crowd of around 40 at their games. Myself and my Dad decided one Saturday to go and see them as they were playing the big guns Pollok FC in the 5th round of the Scottish Junior Cup. The local paper estimated a large crowd of about 250, what was recorded was a gate of just under 1000. I realised that day that the Junior set-up in Glasgow and it's surroundings were much more serious than what I had been used to.

So fast forward 15 years and at 4:30pm on Saturday the 20th of October, I find myself sitting in Pollok FC's social club with a pint having enjoyed my second Pollok game. Again, another Scottish Junior Cup tie.

Pollok are now the club closest to where I live, around a 10-15 minute walk, longer if I stop for a pint en route, which I did on Saturday at local Shawlands favourite, The Granary. I've walked past Pollok's ground before but until I arrived on Saturday I didn't realise quite how big it was. In fact, it can hold 5000 spectators and has a covered terraced stand down one side of the pitch, with a couple of stepped levels around the rest of the pitch. Chris' trip to the Highland League last week was slightly 'marred' by his shock at the £8 ticket price. No issues at Pollok. A straight up fiver to get in.

The game started competitively and Neilston had a couple of decent passages of play early on but were soon pegged back by a strong Pollok side. With Pollok in the ascendancy they were awarded a penalty, only for the 'keeper to make a diving save. Game on! It wasn't long however until Pollok did have the ball in the net, twice, with goals from Paul McQuilken and Steven Reilly. The latter I thought played well for the 90 and took his goal very well.

The second half started with a bang when former Pollok man Andy Essler grabbed a goal for Neilston, five minutes after the restart, but as Neilston plugged away they got more tired and Pollok started to struggle to get decent balls into the box, the game fizzled out as a contest.

I hadn't been to a junior game for a couple of years and am quite used to seeing 'professional' football so it was nice to go and see a game played with passion and guts. I lost count of the times I winced when challenges flew in and then surprised that they didn't merit a yellow card! After the game we retired to the social club attached to the ground to enjoy a few pints before the short walk home. A walk i'm sure i'll make a few more times this year.

Ticket Price: £5

No pie or hot drink consumed (I know, i'm still disappointed in myself for that)

Monday, 15 October 2012

Inverurie Loco Works 3 v 1 Fort William - 13/10/12

With it being Non League Day this past Saturday south of the border we decided on an impromptu visit to a Highland League match this weekend. The venue was Aberdeenshire town Inverurie (16 miles North West Aberdeen). The odd team name of the home side coming from being founded by the workmen of the then nearby railway company in 1903.

We arrived by car in search for a local bar and opted for Edwards Bar across the road from the Town Hall in the heart of the town which included a really nice collection of local beers and cask ales. A pre-match pint in we then made the short walk to Harlaw Park.

En route I took a quick trip down memory lane at the neighboring Colony Park (above) where a junior match was in full flow. We had 20 mins to spare, so joined a small crowd and caught the end of the first half of the match taking place. This was a park I had played at numerous times at Boys Club level over 10 years was nice to see not much had changed. The funny thing to see was that as the half time whistle blew we were not alone in leaving, as most of the crowd followed us across the road for the match at Harlaw Park.

It was here I received a shock to the system... ticket price £8.

Something that inspired this blog was our outrage at the cost of football for the quality of game in this country, and I feel that even at this level this is an issue. This said we had a fantastic time at Harlaw Park on Saturday.

I often find at the lower levels of football it is the little things that I get a kick out of and Inverurie was no different. Our entrance into the ground was immediately greeted by the half time draw stand where we joined in with the locals in hope for a halftime bonus and were able to pick up the team sheets for the day. This was great and let us pick out the players that were unknown to us as newcomers to the club.

Harlaw Park has a 2,400 capacity with one small seated stand (250 seats) up one side of the pitch and another small covered terraced stand up the other side of the pitch. It was here that we found ourselves with the main bulk of the home fans which put us right in the heart of in game banter between fans and players/officials.

The game underwent a 7am pitch inspection after heavy rainfall in the days before and early on it seemed to have an impact in the game with some heavy passes on both sides. Despite this the pace of the game was frantic with no player getting any time on the ball to create chances even if they wanted to. Once the crazy pace slowed a new pattern emerged...hit and hope! And the odd thing is that for Inverurie this tactic was all they needed. All successful moves came from punts up the wing, followed by hopeful crosses into the box. And it was no surprise to see the opening goal come from this exact move. A second soon followed for Locos and they went in at halftime unlucky not to be 4 or 5 up. The most notable chance came from stand out player Jamie Michie who despite appearing 2ft smaller than every player on the park continually impressed by winning balls he had no right in winning and on this occasion firing a bicycle kick goalwards only to be denied by a fine save from Fort William goalkeeper Iain MacLeod.

After a cold pie and bovril at halftime, that was never going to impress after last weeks award winning pies, it was back to much of the same, only this time Fort William had the benefit of attacking downhill. And it seemed to work with them creating 1 or 2 chances. It was however in controversial circumstances that Fort William clawed one back. A shot at goal was deemed to have been handled by Locos winger and a penalty was awarded. From where we were it looked a handball but we were then confused not to see a red card awarded if indeed it was. Regardless, the penalty was then slotted home to make the game 2-1.

From this point on however it was all Locos and the game was won with the move of the match. A free kick from the left was floated in to the far post, it was then headed back across goal for a simple tap in for Nicky Gordon.

A more than convincing 3-1 victory for the home side left the fans leaving happy and the away team with a frustrating 3 1/2 hour journey home.

Ticket - £8

Pie & Bovril - £3.10 (1/5 - Awful, cold pie)

Monday, 8 October 2012

Morecambe 0 v 0 Burton Albion - 6/10/12

Morecambe might seem an odd game to visit for our first trip south this season, however it was a trip we have had planned for months for the simple reason of how easy (& cheap) it is to visit from both Edinburgh & Glasgow. We left Glasgow at 9:40 from Central Station and arrived in Lancaster at about 11:40 in time to visit the bookies, scope out local bars for post match drinks and then catch the 10 minute train from Lancaster to Morecambe to visit the seaside!

When we arrived in Morecambe we headed straight to the sea front to take in all that Morecambe has to offer and that of course included fish & chips, with the above view. Morecambe has a really old-fashioned seaside resort feel to it and is sadly a bit run down and in need of a lick of paint here an there but we didn't ever really feel like we sometimes do on football trips, that we were out of towners, everyone was very welcoming and friendly.

Fish & Chips done, we went on the hunt for a pre-match pint to watch the lunchtime football on tv, after one or two attempts finding the establishments not showing any football, we stumbled upon a line of bars all showing the game a short walk south along Marine Road West and settled in the odd looking Ranch House where we enjoyed the local Ale Lancaster Red. It was a bizarre place, with an amusement arcade tacked on the side of it. Decent pint though. From here, it was a simple 20 minute walk to the ground following Regent Rd to the Globe Arena.

The Globe Arena is one of the newest stadiums in the country opening in 2010 and is a really nice compact ground. The main stand (named after chairman Peter McGuigan) is the only seated stand and on this day seated both Home & Away fans (with about 200+ travelling Burton fans). The rest of the ground comprised of two covered terraced stands behind each goal and a smaller open terrace running the length of the pitch.

We headed to to the MBW Stand with the bulk of the home fans, behind the goals to the left of the main stand. We were delighted to hear the home fans in this section singing the whole way through a variety of songs, creating a really good atmosphere throughout the match.

The match itself started off very brightly with Morecambe dominating possession and creating 1 or 2 early half chances and building up steam with numerous corners, however, it was all to no avail and the first half soon calmed down into a fairly drab affair with neither side looking likely to score. Fortunately for us this was the warm up for what would be one of the highlights of our day! Half Time!

One of the things we enjoy about a trip south for football is that you can have a half time pint. It's a shame we don't allow this in Scotland but can see how it may be abused. We don't enjoy this for binge drink reasons, there is a real social 'niceness' to fans having beer at half time debating what went right or wrong in the first half. Of course, in Morecambe, the home fans have the bonus of award winning pies! We have enjoyed a fair amount of pies in our time and we thought Killie Pies were the winner...we were wrong! Our new favourite football pies are these!

At half time the Morecambe & Burton fans also gave a fantastic reception to Lee O'Neill who was visiting his 100th ground as part of his Lewis' Flag tour. You can read more about them and the fantastic cause here. Congratulations on your 100th ground Lee.

The second half carried on much the same way with only really one chance coming from Lewis Alessandra who did fantastically to dribble free and get one on one with the keeper only to lob the ball over the bar. Talking about the game we couldn't decide if both sides lacked a bit of quality up top (Burton's Calvin Zola was missing this match) or if on this day both back 4's played outstanding. Arguably the best player on the pitch was Burton's captain & former Aberdeen defender Zander Diamond a player that we are more than familiar with!

Post match we joined the home fans in the Globe Bar for a pint to find we had both won our football coupons, so it was a quick trip back to Lancaster to collect our winnings, before spending them in the fantastic Merchant 1688 Bar in Lancaster where we were still able to enjoy some Autumn sun in a beer garden until our train arrived to take us back home. We'd highly recommend Merchants, a good selection of ales and friendly staff and it's only a couple of minutes from the train station. We're already planning a trip back to take in a Lancaster City game!

Match Attendance - 1,585

Ticket Cost - £15

Train Ticket - £23.00 return from Glasgow (Purchased as two £11.50 singles)

Pies - £2.65 (would happily have paid double!)

Stadium Pint - £3 pint of Carling

Special thanks also to Keith Fitton from the Shrimps Voices Forum who was more than helpful in suggesting where to head for a pint pre and post-match.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Ayr Utd 3 v 0 Brechin City - 29/09/2012

Nostalgia is probably a good place to start on this one. 10 years ago I moved to Ayr, 6 years ago, I left. I spent many an evening or a Saturday afternoon watching Ayr Utd and Somerset Park remains one of my favourite grounds. However, it's not all personal nostalgia. Somerset Park is a proper old school ground. There's no identikit stands and vast concrete concourses here, there's terracing, floodlight pylons and the bovril is served in old fashioned white styro-foam cups. This ground is one for the football purists.

The ground is terraced on three sides with two covered stands behind each goalmouth. One of the ends houses the away fans, of which there were 8 in the crowd of 993 yesterday. The main stand is quite old although it has been slightly extended in more recent times to accommodate a family section. The majority of the Ayr fans congregated behind the goal or as yesterday was dry, along the uncovered enclosure at the side of the pitch. I always find Somerset Park has a good atmosphere with passionate fans who shout for every decision, and there were plenty of decisions to shout for yesterday!

Both teams came into the match at the wrong end of Division 2 with Brechin having lost their last three matches, Ayr had secured their first win of the season the previous weekend away at East Fife so they were looking to put together the beginnings of a good run of results. The game had a bright start and was quite open but it didn't take long for the first controversial decision to come along with the referee judging that Ayr defender Austin McCann had handled the ball on the line after 15 minutes. The players and fans were incensed but the goalkeeper saved the resultant spot kick. To be honest, Ayr didn't look like the team with 10 men for the rest of the match. They dominated and Brechin's defence were continually caught out defending so far up the pitch. Ayr soon took the lead and plugged away and were rewarded with another two goals in the second half. The second goal, from where I was standing didn't look like it was near to going over the goal line but the linesman gave it. That said, the second goal wasn't undeserved, Ayr played some really good football and more than deserved the three points

Ayr, as a town, is much like many Scottish market towns, a bit run down and in need of a bit of freshening up however, there's some good friendly pubs and there are some parts of the town undergoing some regeneration. Our pick of the pubs was the Tam O'Shanter on the Main Street which is just 5 minutes from the train station. There aren't really any pubs next to the ground which is about a 15 minute walk from the train station. Ayr Station is served by two trains per hour from Glasgow Central and the journey takes around 50-55 minutes.

Match Attendance - 993

Ticket Cost - £15

Train Ticket - £10 return from Glasgow

Pies £1.50 (Mince Pie - edible, was falling apart, and a bit soggy 2/5)

Bovril £1

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Scottish League Cup Ponderings

That's right...we said Ponderings!

Earlier this week an argument/disagreement/debate cropped up on our twitter feed between Celtic fans criticising other Celtic fans who didn't come to the League Cup match earlier this week against Raith Rovers. These tweets set me off on a little scan of attendances and even I was shocked to see the Parkhead attendance below 15,000 mark on Tuesday. I was then immediately in contact with a close friend who is a Celtic fan that filled me in on the £15 (£12 Season Ticket holders)/ £5 kids ticket price for this game. This price comes after an SPL game above £25 range and a Champions League game that was in the £35 region all within 7 days... he had a point. At a time when people are counting every penny how can clubs expect fans to fork that out in one week.

We then contacted Dunfermline to find that they were charging £15 for their game vs Aberdeen on Wednesday night. (Attendance 3,057)

What made this alarming was that at my work we often listen to radio station XFM and over the past week or two they had been playing adverts for Arsenal vs Coventry tickets at only £10 (Arsenal had 58,000 in attendance for their cup tie).

I know people will not like us comparing the two countries as Sky coverage of English football is often cited as a reason for Scottish Football's declining attendances and Arsenal certainly don't need to rely on the cash from this weeks gate in the same way some Scottish clubs might, however, the actions of the clubs to address the lack of interest in the early stages of the 'diddy' cup surely deserves being brought to the attention.

In our opinion it is the clubs that should be getting the criticism for the low attendances seen this midweek... not the fans that didn't turn up! Surely more could have been done by all clubs or even the SFA to set a maximum price of tickets at this early stage to ensure fans came through the turnstiles and generated a bit of atmosphere into these games.

And then after all of this there was a further puzzling development of when the Quarter Final draw would actually be one knew!!?? Well, we can confirm that the draw will be made Thursday 4th October around about the time when everyone has forgotten about the cup.