Monday, 13 August 2012

Aberdeen 0 v 0 Ross County - 11/08/2012

It's been an odd summer where I don't feel that I've missed football as much as I usually do. Whether this was down to the shambles that was the SFA and SPL's handling of the 'Rangers affair', the Euro Championships or the fact that Britain has gone Olympics mad, I've just not really been counting down the days until the first day of the season, a day I usually liken to Christmas morning. However, in the last few weeks this feeling has changed. A positivity has swept across much of Scottish football and has taken us with it. Six months ago, you could count myself and Chris, more so than I, to be pretty negative about the state of Scottish football. Low on quality, high on price, controlled by two teams, it wasn't really much of a fun league for the ten other teams in the SPL. I don't need to go on about the changes that have happened but in short, fans feel like they are getting a voice, and we're optimistic that the change will lead to a more competitive and exciting league.

Last week Chris wrote about Sell Out Saturday. I decided that I'd make the journey north to Aberdeen to see how the Aberdeen and Ross County fans would turn out in support of the movement. Chris stated that a sell out was probably a bit out of reach due to the oversizing of many grounds but that anything above 14,000 should be viewed a success, well, it might be cutting it a bit fine, but 14,010 was the official figure, with an impressive 800 making the long trip from Dingwall to see their team's first competitive game against Aberdeen.

Aberdeen is one of the more 'out of the way' teams to visit in Scotland as well as today's opponents Ross County, their neighbours Inverness, Elgin and Peterhead. These are some of the harder grounds to visit for the majority of teams condensed around the central belt. In the south, Stranraer can be a bit of a trek!

The train from Glasgow to Aberdeen takes around two and a half hours with the ground an easy 25-30 minute walk from the train station. I left the southside of Glasgow around 7am to head in to Queen Street Station and was encouraged at such an early hour that my four immediate neighbours on the 07:41 to Aberdeen were all sporting Aberdeen tops or t-shirts. I thought that would bode well for a decent crowd.

Aberdeen is not bad for a pre-match drink, particularly if you are arriving by train or bus as you have to walk through the city centre on your way to the ground so you have a pretty varied choice of watering holes. I opted for a pre match pint in the Old Blackfriars which has a decent selection of ales and if you're in the market for food, good pub grub. I chose their 'ale of the week' Ossian from the Inveralmond Brewery. The pub was pretty packed with a lot of away fans filling up rather than risking a Pittodrie Pie.

The streets on the way to the ground were busy with fans and I arrived at the ground to queues at the turnstiles, not a regular occurrence at many stadiums these days! I was really interested to see just how many fans were inside the ground and although the Main Stand and always ghostly Merkland Stand were noticeably fuller than usual, the Richard Donald Stand, usually the first to sell out had large areas of unoccupied seats around it's edges and the top corner.

I sat in the South Stand which runs along the side of the pitch and also houses the away support. It is a large single tiered stand with an uncovered corner at one side. To the left is the Merkland Family Stand which is a small stand and by the looks of it, a fairly unpopular place to sit these days. The Main Stand at Pittodrie is typical of many grounds in that it looks a bit old and out of date but is kept simply because it is the heartbeat of the clubs offices, boardroom and changing rooms. To my right, the Richard Donald Stand is a two tiered modern stand which in truth is completely oversized for a ground like Pittodrie, built in the time of money. That said, it appears to be the most popular stand with a singing section and many banners. To be honest, the age of the Main Stand and Merkland Road end are most apparent due to pillars in the seating area which would give a restricted view of the match. It is of little surprise that Aberdeen are looking to move to a purpose built stadium in the next few years.

The atmosphere was good to start, with the whole stadium rising to pay tribute to 'Mr Aberdeen' Teddy Scott. The game was scrappy yet open in the first half with both teams having chances. It didn't take long for some sections of the home support to voice their unrest. A little early in the season in my opinion and it did take away from the atmosphere. Aberdeen were more in control in the second half but despite the larger than usual support, I was a bit disappointed at the atmosphere created. Aberdeen have underachieved for many years and this has largely contributed to a severe decline in their attendances. I felt that at this game that many fans had used the opportunity to come back and were quickly disappointed in what they saw, thinking it was the same old Aberdeen. In my opinion though, it was a good open game and Ross County did well to get a point against an Aberdeen side which on another day would have put away a couple of their chances and won easily. County, of course, are a team that have now gone unbeaten in a year so they are very much used to not losing!

And so to the thing that we are particularly interested in at the Preston Pigeon. Costs. The match ticket for yesterday's match was £23 which isn't the highest in the league but I think for where the SPL as a whole is, is much to expensive for the league. Across all teams, ticket prices need to fall and I'm sure attendances would rise. (St Johnstone, certainly for next weeks game are offering up to two free under 12 tickets with each adult ticket to both home and away supporters). I spoke to a season ticket holder from an SPL club who was put off attending the Partick Thistle V Falkirk game on Sell Out Saturday because he felt the ticket price, at £17 was too high for that level of football.

I sensed a little disappointment amongst the fans at Pittodrie that the attendance was only 14,000 but I think compared to their crowds last season, this is a big improvement. Of course, the crucial point here, which the clubs have been keen to make, is that whilst it's great to have an inflated attendance on one weekend, they need attendances to rise throughout the season. Ticket pricing is a big thing and it would be nice for clubs to introduce more schemes which would benefit fans. I think a big opportunity on Sell Out Saturday would have been for clubs to offer a discount to anyone with a ticket stub on the next match at home and if that wasn't taken up, a decreased discount for any game throughout the season. Ross County, who in the first week of the season paid for Motherwell fans to travel up to Dingwall, have to be commended, along with St Johnstone as mentioned previously, and any other club trying to help the fans. If the clubs try to make these changes and do anything to help, the fans will follow. Scottish Football has gone through a radical shake up in terms of power at the top table, now it needs a shake up at the clubs so that supporters can return to the terraces and back their teams because at the moment, it's just too expensive.

Attendance: 14,010

Ticket Cost - £23

Train Ticket - £19 (I had a voucher however you can get two singles for £10.90 each way if you get particular trains so the cost would be £21.80)

Stadium Catering: No Pies Were Consumed in the making of this post

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