A Pitt Stop
The thing about time is that it respects nothing and no one, not even iconic football grounds.
When I heard that Aberdeen Football Club were making plans for a new stadium, I knew I would have to go and pay homage to one of the iconic grounds of British football – Pittodrie!
This is a ground where Sir Alex Ferguson was still just plain old Alex when he made his name as a football manager to respect. Taking the team from northeast Scotland firmly out of the shadow of the two Glasgow giants and winning European glory in the process.
Famous names such as Gordon Strachan, Willie Miller, Doug Rougvie, Alex McLeish, Mark McGhee, Eric Black and Jim Leighton. All of whom were a part of the 23-man squad in 1983 when Aberdeen defied the odds to defeat a Real Madrid side managed by the legendary Alfredo Di Stéfano in the final of the European Cup Winners Cup.
Amazingly, all 23 members of that squad were from Scotland, too.
Di Stéfano was quoted after the match as saying “Aberdeen have what money can’t buy – a soul, a team spirit built in a family tradition.” The club and its fans were rightly proud of this and adopted it as a slogan that is painted on the northwest corner of the Merkland Stand (also known as the Red Shed) where the more vociferous members of the Don’s support congregate.
Another point of pride to Aberdeen fans is that they are the last club to beat Real Madrid in the final of a European competition (not counting the Super Cup, where they lost to Galatasaray in 2000 and local rivals Atlético Madrid in 2018).
Without consulting a statistics book, I would imagine this period of the early to mid-eighties, stands as one of the brightest points in Aberdeen’s history but unfortunately, it didn’t continue.
Alex Ferguson left to become a legend in the making at Old Trafford in 1986, where he joined his mercurial midfielder Gordon Strachan who had made the same move two years previously. Goalkeeper, Jim Leighton completed the painful hat-trick in 1988 when he too moved to Manchester United. Right back, Doug Rougvie joined Chelsea in 1984,
The club did manage to retain the services of the excellent centre-back pairing of Alex McCleish and Willie Miller but the void left behind by the departures never seemed to be adequately filled and the club slid back into the shadow of the Glasgow teams once more. Of course, this made the occasional victories over them all the sweeter, particularly in the case of Glasgow Rangers, where the rivalry is one of the fiercest in Scotland.
So, with this desire to see a historic ground and location burning me up, we decided to scratch the itch and ‘tick off’ Pittodrie from our ‘to-do list’.
Aberdeen – The Journey
After the recent problems with public transport, getting all the way up to Aberdeen from Newcastle was always a risky bet. I am pleased to say that on this occasion, everything went with hardly a hitch.
The first thing of note was at our town’s bus station, where some local heroes decided that lighting a fire in the waste bin was a bit of a lark.
We caught our local bus to Newcastle at 07:04 and arrived just under an hour later. We filled up on pastry delicacies from the ever wonderful Gregory and Gregory (or just plain old Greggs to the heathens) and headed on to the train station. The 08:49 train direct to Aberdeen pulled in about ten minutes early and we took our seats for the four-hour journey up the eastern coast of the UK.
With Mrs Hopper engrossed in her new hobby of crocheting cute little animals and me furiously trying to keep up with Twitter notifications, the journey went quite quickly. The ever spectacular coast is always a pleasant distraction too, especially on a lovely sunny day like it was on Saturday!
As well as the coastal views along the Northumberland coast and beyond, there are the structural masterpieces of the Forth rail bridge at Edinburgh, plus the road bridges to the other side of us and the incredible River Tay rail bridge at Dundee, which has an extraordinary span of 2.75 miles.
There are also some beautiful scenes on the East Fife coast near Kircaldy (where we hope to be travelling next week to see Raith Rovers play Inverness, all being well) and the famous St Andrews golf course is to the right as you get close to Dundee.
Beyond Dundee, the line once again hugs the coast in places and the North Sea is never out of view for too long. Past another world-renowned golf course in Carnoustie, then comes Arbroath (which comes the week after Raith Rovers, with luck on our side).
Next along the line is Montrose, which houses another, less spectacular bridge, with a huge estuary-looking mass of mud, sand and water on the inland side of the train while the town lies on the coastal side. the land actually comes around what is a huge basin at the end of the River South Esk and makes for quite a strange sight.
From here, the train moves inland and stays that way until Stonehaven, a lovely-looking coastal town where white houses dot the landscape and the town is built in a lovely arcing cove. From here, the destination is finally within sniffing distance and more of the lovely coastline all the way to Aberdeen!
Aberdeen – Pre-Game
We arrived in Aberdeen at around 13:00 and made our way to the Craibstone Suite Apartments to drop off our overnight things. During this walk, we got our first taste of why this is known as the ‘Granite City’.
Almost every edifice is made of the same grey, granite building material and at first glance, it looks dour and gloomy. After a while though, it starts to have more appeal and gains your appreciation by stealth. There are some truly lovely-looking buildings, just in the small section of the city that we managed to see in our short stay.
From the hotel, we made our way toward Pittodrie Stadium. We had wanted to stop off at the famous Pittodrie Bar for a couple of pints before the game but time was not on our side and we decided to come back after the game instead.
Aberdeen – The Stadium
The decision to skip the Pittodrie Bar, for now, meant we arrived at the ground around 14:00 which gave us plenty of time to have a good look around and admire the awesome floodlights at the Merkland Road End, the mural on the corner, the granite facade, the statue of Sir Alex Ferguson at the back of the Richard Donald Stand and the club shop. The club shop happened to be on the same side as the Main Stand, where our seats were.
We bought a programme from here, priced at £3.50 and there seemed to be no shortage of people spending their money on club merchandise. Ticket and merchandise sales are extremely important to SPL clubs who try to compete with the Glasgow giants on an unequal financial footing and while this won’t help them to catch up, as the Tesco motto states, ‘Every Little Helps’.
Having taken a look around, we presented our tickets to the automated turnstile scanners and entered Pittodrie.
Once through the concourse, we got our first view of the inside and the playing surface, which is a moment that has always stayed with me since the very first time I entered a stadium (Derby County’s Baseball Ground back in the mid-1970s). To the left of us, is the huge Richard Donald Stand, which looms over the rest of the older stands. It is a two-tier affair built back in 1993 at a cost of £4.5 million.
Opposite us, is the South Stand, which houses a mixture of home and away fans. Away fans are placed in the section closest to the Richard Donald Stand and on this particular matchday, it was only sparsely populated. Officially, there were 107 Livi fans who made the trip up from the town just west of Edinburgh. The other three-fifths of the stand is taken up by home fans. Most of this stand is covered but there is a small section at each end that is open to the elements.
To the right of us is the end where the hardcore Aberdeen supporters congregate, The Red shed, or Merkland Stand. Even before the game kicked off, the support was beginning to build. A drummer kept the beat while two or three big flags were waved and the rest clapped, bounced up and down and waved their arms about to create a pleasing visual and aural spectacle during the game. I can only imagine how this improves if the club are playing a bigger game against the two Glasgow giants!
The main stand, where we were situated, is a typical older stand that people would remember from grounds in the ’70s and ’80s, complete with the pillars that always used to get in the way of the action. While this can be frustrating when the action is taking place behind one of these pillars, for the most part, the view is still good. If this is something that you don’t find appealing, I would recommend going into a different part of the ground or choosing seats in the first seven rows of the main stand.
A row of executive boxes runs along the upper part of the main stand and I can imagine the guest’s view is probably not as good as other corporate facilities, with a combination of the low roof and the pillars getting in the way. Of course, I haven’t been in one of the boxes to confirm this, so this is merely an assumption on my part.
Overall, Pittodrie has a very old-school feel to it, a feeling broken only by the more recent Richard Donald Stand to our left. It will be a very sad day for Aberdeen fans if they lose all the heritage contained in this stadium, but football is a business these days and sentiment is rarely a consideration for those making the decisions.
Aberdeen – Stadium Gallery
Aberdeen – Pre-Game Video of Pittodrie
Aberdeen – View from the Main Stand Plus Kick-Off
Aberdeen – The Game
As ever, the game report is the thing that matters least to a groundhopper but bonus points for this game, it was good! Mrs Hopper and I have been very lucky with our match choices this season and long may it continue!
The match started with early pressure from the home side but that soon turned around and at one point, Livingston seemed to be walking through Aberdeen’s defence at will. It’s fair to say that before the pivotal moment of the match, in the 42nd minute, Livingston had probably created the best chances in the game. The home keeper, Kelle Roos, was the busier of the two stoppers on the pitch and he made an outstanding save to deny Ayo Obileye with a close-range header.
Both teams were creating chances and despite the game heading towards the end of the half, it just had the feel of a game waiting to explode into action.
Come the 42nd minute, that’s exactly what happened.
Inexplicable defending and a red card completely turned the game on its head. Jack Fitzwater received the ball from his keeper at the edge of his own area and there was little danger. The onrushing Vicente Besuijen was apparently not seen by Fitzwater until it was too late. He lost the ball with his back to the attacker and in trying to recover from his mistake, hauled down the Aberdeen forward,
The referee didn’t hesitate… penalty! The decision was compounded by the following red card being produced. Once Bojan Miovski confidently converted the spot-kick right down the centre of the goal, the Dons never looked back.
Indeed, it should have been 2-0 before the half-time whistle when Jayden Richardson found himself in space at the edge of the six-yard box after good work from the increasingly dangerous Besuijen on the left. Somehow, Richardson managed to steer the ball across the goal instead of into the net and the chance went begging.
Half-Time – Aberdeen 1 Livingston 0!
The second half was a pretty one-sided affair as the final scoreline would suggest but it shouldn’t be forgotten that Livingston was the better team before being reduced to ten men.
The second half began with another chance to score being spurned when it looked harder to miss. Again it was Besuijen providing the ammo and Bojan getting under the header instead of over it in front of an empty net. His header went sailing over the bar when it should have been his second goal of the game.
A short time late, Bojan provided a clinical finish only to be rightly judged offside but that second goal was coming, it was just a matter of time.
It came in the 58th minute after some build-up play down the right-hand side led to an attempted clearance coming to the edge of the box where Ross McCrorie eagerly put his laces through the ball and smashed it into the top corner.
Just two minutes later the game was effectively over when Phillip Cancar conceded a second penalty and earned himself a yellow card in the process for bringing down Luís Henriques de Barros Lopes (or Duk to his new Scottish friends, and me!)
This time Bojan Miovski graciously allowed Besuijen to take the penalty and I’m not sure if there was a reason for this, other than the fact that he had probably earned it, but he confidently tucked the ball into the left side of the net, even with the keeper guessing the right way. The Red Shed gave him the plaudits he deserved but Besuijen was quick to point to Bojan, to thank him for allowing him the opportunity.
The fourth goal came in the 63rd minute and was a thing of beauty! A delicious and incisive through-ball from Jonny Hayes found Bojan in on goal and the Albanian striker was ruthless and clinical with his finish. He looks to be quite the find for Aberdeen and if he carries on in this vein of form, the fans should enjoy him while they can!
A spate of substitutions combined to slow down the action but the final nail was put into Livingston’s coffin in the 86th minute. It has to be said the goal was a complete fluke because it was a cross that was missed by everyone, including the Livingston keeper. It came from 18-year-old midfielder, Ryan Duncan on the right-hand corner of the penalty area. His cross was aimed towards the two onrushing Aberdeen forwards. The ball carried on its trajectory, bounced in the six-yard area and up into the same left-hand corner that two previous goals had gone into.
The full-time whistle was blown straight after the final chance of the game when a corner kick was headed straight into the grateful hands of Livingston keeper, Shamal George, who was probably happy to hear the whistle by this stage.
Full-time – Aberdeen 5 Livingston 0!
Attendance – 13,739
Entrance Fee – £26.00
Programme – £3.50
Aberdeen – Match Highlights
Aberdeen – After the Game
After the final whistle, I waited for the crowd to disperse and went down the steps closer to the pitch to get a better video of the surroundings (video below.)
We then made our way outside and headed to the area behind the Richard Donald Stand to get a photograph of the Alex Ferguson statue that takes pride of place in the space behind the stand.
With pictures in the bag, we moved to the opposite end of the ground to get photographs of the murals and granite facade behind The Red Shed and the results were pretty stunning with the clear blue sky behind it.
No filters are used in my photographs.
Aberdeen – Extra Photos
After getting our last glimpses of the ground, we made good on our promise to ourselves to head back to the Pittodrie Bar.
Despite being pretty full, the atmosphere was friendly and happy, as you’d expect following a 5-0 victory. We soon got talking to a couple of the locals, one of whom deserves a special mention for taking us under his wing and making us feel welcome.
@Oswaldthefrisky on Twitter was happy to chat with us about Aberdeen, football, where we were from, what brought us to Aberdeen and a story about a butcher that deserves to be famous in a limerick, from what I heard! Kevin also deterred me from using a specific phrase in this report. I thought I was being clever by thinking of the phrase ‘Red Shed Redemption’ but it seems I am late to the party and it has been done before. If you haven’t heard it before either, now you have!
So, thank you for your welcome Kevin and Dave and thanks too, to Stevey and Scott who recommended the Aberdam to us. This is a takeaway in the city centre that has a minimal menu but O.M.G. they do what they do, so well! The slogan on the board outside says ‘Purveyors of absolute filth’ and the blue cheese fries and buffalo wings were scintillatingly delicious. What makes the place unique too, is that the bars surrounding it are more than happy to let you order food from Aberdam and sit at their tables to eat.
Why wouldn’t you? This is bound to attract business and all the tables were suitably full.
After a final pint with our food, we headed off back to our hotel to prepare for an early morning train back home. Happily, the journey home went just as smoothly as the journey up and we were home with our feet up by 15:00.
This was one of our favourite ground hops so far and I hope that comes across in my review of it. Thank you to the Aberdeen fans for making us welcome and I hope you carry on that good form through the season.
Keep Standing Free!
Onto the next…