Dum and Dun-ner
Dumbarton Football Club and the town of Dumbarton are located in Dunbartonshire.
Not a misspelling but a deliberate difference between the town and its surrounding county.
Also our choice of venue for this weekend’s review.
Hopefully, there will be nothing dumb in my report, despite the occasional mistakes slipping in from time to time.
After last week’s visit to the wonderful Gillford Park, home of Carlisle City, we would be looking to continue our odyssey with a little trip north.
Scotland is always a welcoming place to visit and despite the day’s long journey, we were looking forward to another foray into the land of whiskey and thistle.
Read further to see how we fared…
Our day started early, with a 06:00 alarm call.
I, of course, didn’t hear it and was dragged out of bed fifteen minutes later by the ever-patient Mrs Hopper.
We left the house and wandered to the bus station where we caught the 07:03 X1 to Newcastle.
It was a misty, murky kind of morning and as we rode into Newcastle about fifty-five minutes later, I took a photograph of the Tyne Bridge.
I’ve done this a few times before but the result of today’s effort was quite an arty picture that took me by surprise.
A combination of the mist, refraction of the bus window and a mobile phone camera produced this gothic-looking effect.
No filters were used, mostly because I haven’t got a clue how to!
We walked to Greggs for our traditional pastry-based breakfast and sat inside to eat as we had plenty of time before our train.
We sauntered towards Newcastle Central and our train arrived on Platform 2 at 08:35, departing on time at 08:49.
The train arrived at Edinburgh Waverley an hour and forty minutes later. Our connecting train was on Platform 13, heading for Helensburgh on Scotland’s western coast.
We departed Waverley at 10:41 and our journey was a quiet, pleasant one with nothing of note to report and we landed in Dumbarton at 12:30.
Located on the conjunction of the River Leven and the River Clyde, Dumbarton is a town in West Dunbartonshire.
It lies thirteen miles to the west of Glasgow and has a population of approximately 17,110.
Just five and a half miles separate Dumbarton from the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond to the north of the town.
Dumbarton was once the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Strathclyde and is now the county’s chief town.
The Rock of Dumbarton dominates the skyline on the shore of the River Clyde. Atop it, sits Dumbarton Castle, which has the oldest recorded history of any fortress in Scotland.
The town was a historical centre for shipbuilding but has also produced glass and whiskey. The great Cutty Sark (the ship they run around in dry dock on the London Marathon route) was just one of the many ships built in Dumbarton.
As I say so often on these blogs, the industries that have made Britain ‘Great’ have declined to the point where it’s hard to call our little island that anymore.
The importance of this area’s shipbuilding prowess made it subject to heavy bombardment from the Luftwaffe during World War II.
Famous natives of Dumbarton include; motor racing legend Jackie Stewart; Talking Heads singer David Byrne; actor Colin McCredie; and Sir Archibald Denny, naval architect and owner of the Clyde shipbuilding company William Denny and Brothers.
We started our walk to Dumbarton Castle and The Rock of Dumbarton by heading down some lovely old steps to the street below.
As regular readers will know, we like to stop at a watering hole or two en route to the ground.
Unfortunately, due to time constraints and chance, that wasn’t possible today. The Stag’s Head, across the road from the train station, states ‘temporarily closed’ on Google Maps and it did look closed when we walked past it.
I’m not sure why this is but that is where we would have probably gone on any other day.
As it is, we had a couple of hours at most to take in the iconic ‘Castle on the Rock’.
We turned right onto Glasgow Road, past the Stag’s Head and carried on until turning left at Victoria Street.
If you head this way, use the crossing just past the pub, unlike us. We carried on until we had to cross over to get to Victoria Street.
Mistake – Glasgow Road is a very busy place and it can (and did) take quite a while to cross.
Finally over the road, we carried on down Victoria Street and from there it is a straight road, despite changing names to Castle Road past the roundabout.
As you walk down Castle Road, you come across Dumbarton Football Stadium (AKA The Rock) on the right-hand side.
We took the opportunity of it being quiet to have a wander around before spectators started arriving.
Dumbarton – Dumbarton Stadium Exterior
There isn’t a great deal to say about the exterior of the ground but it is set in a wonderful area.
The ground consists of one main stand at the southern end, beneath the shadow of The Rock.
The rest of the ground is basically a metal fence that surrounds the pitch.
On the eastern side is the entrance to the ground, with the car park being to the south and east.
The northern side has nothing other than a road that goes around the whole stadium. To the west is the River Leven emptying into the River Clyde.
The Rock overshadows everything.
Dumbarton Castle – The Rock
After walking around the stadium, we carried on the short distance to the castle grounds.
The Rock of Dumbarton is a volcanic rock formed of two peaks – The Beak and the White Tower Crag.
From just the right angle, the edifice of nature is said to resemble an elephant, thus explaining the pachyderm on the Dumbarton FC club crest.
We paid our entry fee of £7.50 each and girded ourselves for the hefty climb ahead.
Mrs Hopper looked really excited to be making the climb…
Ignoring the dark looks I was getting, we started the ascent and I felt as fresh as a mountain goat for the first six steps.
Halfway up the second flight, I was reminded that I’m getting old!
By the time we got to the top of The Beak, we knew we wouldn’t be attempting the other side of the twin peaks.
Time was one reason, the other was that our legs were not only shouting at us but biting, scratching and clawing us, too.
We had achieved what I wanted though – a fantastic view of the River Clyde, the town of Dumbarton and more importantly for this blog, the Dumbarton Stadium.
For a brief history of Dumbarton Castle, click the link.
Having stumbled our way back down, it was time to make our way back up Castle Road to the Dumbarton Stadium.
Dumbarton – Dumbarton Stadium
The turnstiles are located at either end of the stand. Away fans’ turnstiles are near the river to the west, while home fans’ entrances are to the east.
Our tickets cost £17.00 each, which is higher than the average price for this level of football.
We had our tickets scanned by the gateman and made our way inside.
Once through the turnstile, you find yourself in the concourse behind the main stand.
Toilets, two snack bars and programmes are all available in the same area.
Did you say programme?
This is an excellent production from Dumbarton.
Thirty-six glossy pages full of info, interviews and news plus a section on the visitors.
Costing just £2.50, this is one of the better-value programmes around, in my opinion.
Normally, I would describe each of the four aspects of the stadium at this point.
With Dumbarton, everything is on the south side of the ground.
The 2,020-capacity main stand stretches the length of the pitch and is fully covered.
There is some lovely artwork on the eastern end of the stand depicting the club crest and a player.
Dumbarton Stadium has a total capacity of 2,020, all located in the main stand.
The playing surface is of natural grass and there are four floodlights, one in each corner of the ground.
Back on the inside of the south stand, an innocuous-looking yellow door with a ‘Bar ’72’ sign on it leads to a huge room with a bar.
We ordered two pints of Tennents for a very reasonable £7.00 and went to find a seat.
I asked a couple of people at a table if the spare seats were taken and left Mrs Hopper with them as I went off to check the ‘club shop’.
The club shop is actually just a counter at the far end of the room.
They had just what I was after though, a pin badge which cost £3.00.
Another thing to know about the Dumbarton Stadium is that the various facilities are a mixture of card and cash.
The snack bars, for instance, only take cash. Please be aware of this and bring both with you.
Having got my badge, I went back to find Mrs H in conversation with the two people whose table we had shared.
I joined the conversation and it was great to meet yet another pair of friendly folk in Scotland.
This country is a great place to go and watch football.
Robbie and his friend (I didn’t catch her name, sorry) were great company as we supped our pints and our thanks to them.
After finishing our drinks, we said goodbye and headed out to watch the game.
Dumbarton – Dumbarton Stadium Gallery
The Dumbarton Football Club was formed in December of 1872 and is one of the oldest clubs in Scotland.
Along with Rangers, they jointly won the very first Scottish Football League title. This was due to goal difference not yet being used as a deciding factor.
They won the second title in their own right the following season.
They also won the Scottish Cup in 1882/83, their sole success up to this point.
There was a four-year hiatus from 1901 to 1905 when the club reformed and were readmitted to the League.
Those four years seem to have played a pivotal role and the club has mostly played in the lower leagues ever since. They currently reside in League Two, the fourth tier of Scottish football.
The club recently celebrated its 150th anniversary and played in a special home kit for the season. That kit now forms part of my Scottish football shirt collection.
Dumbarton are nicknamed the Sons, which comes from the term ‘Sons of the Rock’, used to describe people born in the town.
The Dumbarton Stadium was opened in December of 2000. Prior to that, their former ground was Boghead. This had been the continuous home of the club since 1879. During the transition, The Sons briefly ground shared with Albion Rovers.
The record attendance at the current stadium was set for the visit of Rangers on the 19th of September 2015. 1,978 people attended that Championship game.
However, the club’s record attendance was set at Boghead when 18,000 people crammed in for a game against Raith Rovers in 1957.
Dumbarton – Pre-Game View of Dumbarton Stadium
Dumbarton v Forfar Athletic – The Game
Coming into today’s game, the Sons were sitting in fourth place.
Last time out, they lost 1-0 at runaway leaders Stenhousemuir.
Forfar have managed just three games in January, also gaining four points.
An almost inevitable defeat at Stenny was followed by a home win against Elgin before drawing at home to Bonnyrigg Rose.
With Stenhousemuir seemingly nailed on to win the League Two title this season, Dumbarton will look to stay involved in the playoff race.
They should manage to do so as they have a seven-point lead over fifth-placed Bonnyrigg Rose.
However, this is football, so Sons fans will stay nervous until it’s confirmed.
Forfar fans will be nervous, too but for a different reason.
They are currently second from bottom after today’s draw. While they may have a ten-point lead over bottom-placed Clyde, things can change quickly in football and again, the Loons fans will be hoping for the best.
In better news, they are only three points behind fifth-placed Bonnyrigg Rose.
All things considered, my pre-match prediction was a 2-1 home win for the Sons.
This was a tight contest throughout.
At times, Dumbarton looked like the better team but Forfar made them work for everything and their doggedness paid off in the end.
Dumbarton took the lead on thirteen minutes via Michael Ruth, who headed home a right-wing cross from close range.
Just two minutes later, the Loons replied with a goal of their own.
A corner from the right was headed home by Stuart Morrison to bring the team’s level.
The Sons retook the lead in the twenty-fifth minute.
Again, the goal came from the right-hand side with a low cross being tucked away from close range by Marc Kelly.
The rest of the half played out with Dumbarton mostly on top but failing to increase their advantage.
Half Time – Dumbarton 2 v Forfar Athletic 1
It was time for the dreaded scoreline check…
Stoke were losing – of course Stoke were losing.
3-1 down to Blackburn, a club who were struggling almost as much as us after forty-five minutes.
The anger is coming back to a previously apathetic fanbase and there could be trouble ahead if things don’t pick up soon. I have seen this before. After a 7-0 home defeat to Birmingham City in 1998, an almost full-scale riot broke out at the Bet365 stadium, with supporters trying to break into the main reception.
It feels like that again. I hope I’m wrong.
In better news, Mrs Hopper reappeared bearing gifts.
Two of the lovely scotch pies (piping hot!) from one of the snack bars below. They cost £2.50 and are quite tasty but watch your tongue.
The second half was similar to the first forty-five.
The Sons looked good at times but Forfar looked dangerous too. Part of that danger was the huge Russell McLean who seemed a head taller than most of the other players.
He led the line well for the Loons and bullied the Dumbarton defence throughout.
The equaliser came in the 77th minute via Rayan Mohammed and the game was all-square again.
As the game drew to an end, the home support was torn between restlessness and urging their team on.
Or, as I put it to Mrs Hopper, they had become the ‘Sons of Panicky’… sorry, I’ll get my coat.
Sons of Panicky
With this backdrop in the stand around us, the Sons had one more chance to win it.
I happened to be recording as the ball came across the goal mouth and I couldn’t believe what I saw.
From almost on the goal line, the ball just needed tapping home but was somehow spooned over the crossbar by goalscorer, Ruth.
With that miss in the books, the game petered out with a few derisive shouts from the home support, who were angry that the two important points had been lost.
Full-Time – Dumbarton 2 v Forfar Athletic 2
Attendance – 419
Entrance Fee – £17.00
Programme – £2.50
You can read a more detailed Match Report here, from the Daily Record website.
Dumbarton v Forfar Athletic – Match Highlights
I will place match highlights here if and when they become available.
Next up for the Sons is a midweek home game against The Spartans on the 13th. The Spartans are sitting one place and one point ahead of them in third.
An away trip to New Douglas Park against Clyde awaits them on the 17th of February.
They end February and begin March with back-to-back home fixtures against Stranraer (24th) and Peterhead (March 2nd.)
Forfar Athletic, meanwhile, will face second-placed Peterhead at Station Park on February 17th.
They then face two away matches, the first at Clyde on the 20th and then East Fife on the 24th.
The Loons begin March with yet another away fixture at Stranraer on the 2nd.
Dumbarton – Thoughts
Dumbarton Stadium and The Rock of Dumbarton all blend into one experience.
If you head here for a game, make sure to leave yourself time to climb to The Rock’s summit and take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding area.
Even on a misty day like today, it was well worth the effort.
Nestled between the Rock, the River Clyde and the River Leven, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park and the Kilpatrick Hills, the Dumbarton Stadium is surrounded by natural beauty.
I feel that the entrance fee could and should be reduced to £15.00 to bring it in line with other League Two admission fees. If the reduction brings in a few extra fans, the losses in doing so would disappear.
The ’72 Bar is an excellent and friendly place for pre-match drinks.
I understand that finance is a big issue for clubs below the SPL but I think a lick of colour on the metal fence surrounding the pitch could go a long way towards making the place brighter.
Imagine spraying the whole fence white and then adding black and gold stripes (or hoops) along it. After all, it works well on the interior of the south stand. Further, it would make the place look so much better.
On the inside of the fence, maybe encourage local schools and artists to paint murals that could be weather-proofed and hung along the perimeter. This would add another layer of collectivity between the local community and the club whilst brightening up the arena on a matchday.
Another thing I would encourage the club to change is to extend card payments to every cash point.
Many people don’t like to carry money these days and it just makes payment more seamless if every payment point is the same.
All in all, Dumbarton Stadium is a great place to visit but a couple of tweaks here and there could make it even better.
Club owners, Cognitive Capital, have recently stated that plans to move to a new stadium have been scrapped. In the same statement, they also said that the club needs to fund itself by allowing homes to be built on part of the land around the stadium.
Understandably, this is being protested by the Sons Supporters Trust and the local MSP, Jackie Baillie.
As it stands, Dumbarton Stadium is surrounded by wonderful scenery and I feel that houses sprouting up around it would be a serious detriment to that.
You can read that full Daily Record news report here.
EDIT: The club released a statement pertaining to this article after I had finished writing this. You can read the statement from the following link.
Dumbarton – After the Game
Following the game, we made our way back to Dumbarton East station.
The train came at 17:10 and was pretty full and noisy when we departed.
We pulled into Glasgow Queen Street at 17:35 and made the walk to Glasgow Central about five minutes away.
We then settled into the Costa coffee shop for a nearly one-hour wait for our train to Carlisle, sitting playing games on our phones.
I had quite a start when I checked the time and realised our train was due to leave in five minutes!
We hurriedly crossed the station to Platform 2 and were relieved to have not missed it.
The 18:40 train left on time, depositing us safely in Carlisle at 19:50.
Our final train left Carlisle at 20:09, getting a rather raucous set of passengers into Newcastle at 21:43.
Another half-hour wait later, we got on the bus for the final leg of our journey, arriving just after 23:00.
Next Up for Hoppers Guide
Next week, we will again be visiting Scotland.
This time we will be on the east coast for our second foray into the East of Scotland Football League.
Dunbar United will be the hosts and Inverkeithing Hillfield Swifts will be the visitors.
We enjoyed our last journey into this league when we visited Tynecastle FC (Hopper Tales #89) and hopefully, a similar experience awaits us at New Countess Park.
As always, I’m looking forward to it.
Onto the next!