Back to Scotland
It’s been a while now since we visited Scotland.
In fact, it was back on the 12th of November when we visited Celtic Park. With my ambition being to visit all forty-two league grounds (and a few extras), it was time to head back north again.
With train strikes announced for the following week and an uncertain time on public transport ahead, this was a good opportunity to visit Dundee to see one of the city’s two big clubs, Dundee FC.
It also meant a long day ahead…
Dundee – Journey and Pre-Game
The day started early at 06:10. Apparently, it had started ten minutes earlier when Mrs Hopper woke me the first time. At least, that’s according to her. I don’t remember it…
Bleary-eyed and stumbling my way from the bathroom to clothes, to coffee, our day was officially underway.
We walked to the bus station on a dark, drizzly morning and caught the bus to Newcastle at 07:05, arriving around fifty minutes later. From there it was the usual decision, Greggs or McDonald’s? This time it was McD’s that won out and we were soon tucking into bacon and egg breakfast rolls with the obligatory hash brown.
With a bit of time to kill before our 08:49 train, we sat inside the restaurant rather than heading straight to the station, as it was obviously warmer than sitting on a chilly platform.
When we got to the station, the train pulled in on time and we were off on our way on a direct train to Dundee. Two hours and fifty-five minutes later, we crossed the magnificent Tay Rail Bridge and pulled up into the city where marmalade was invented in the 1700s.
Thank you for that Dundee!
The air was chilly but the sun was shining and it made for a pleasant winter’s day by the River Tay.
After leaving the train station, the first thing that catches your eye is the V&A Museum and the ‘Discovery’ ship which is moored alongside it. The Discovery is the ship that took Captain Robert Scott on his first journey to the Antarctic from 1901–1904, before his second, ill-fated journey between 1910 and 1913.
We didn’t have time to go in or have a look around but we were impressed with the overall look of the building. Despite being made of concrete blocks, from a distance, you can’t help but get the impression that it looks like a couple of boat hulls.
The area along the River Tay looks like it would be well worth further exploration and next time we are in the city, we will hopefully have the time to give it the attention it deserves.
Dundee – Pub Recommendations
During the week, I asked around on social media where the best place to get a nice pub meal would be. Usually, we get a couple of recommendations but it would seem that Dundee is full of great pubs.
Some establishments that deserve a mention due to multiple recommendations are; The Phoenix Bar, The Barrels, Market Bar and Old Bank Bar. If you prefer Indian food, the Taza buffet restaurant came highly recommended, or Rancho Pancho’s if you prefer Mexican.
Whatever you decide on, food and drink are not going to be a problem in Dundee.
We eventually settled on the Trades House on Nethergate, mainly because it was close to where we could catch a bus up the steep hill to cut out some of the nearly two-mile walk from the station to Dens Park (or the Kilmac Stadium, if you prefer sponsorship names… I don’t!)
Apart from the proximity to the bus stop, the other thing that drew me to choose this one, was the interesting interior. There is a lot of fabulous-looking woodwork inside the pub, some of which you can see in the photograph below.
Although we didn’t have a reservation, we managed to find a table and sat with a couple of pints of Madri as we scanned the menu. I eventually plumped for a Philly steak toastie on sourdough bread with a side of seasoned fries, while Mrs Hopper went with a steak skewer.
The lady who took our order was efficient and friendly and seemed to genuinely enjoy her job. The food was with us in good time and very nice it was too.
Once lunch had settled, we made our way to the bus stop and caught a number 22 bus that dropped us off not far from Tannadice Stadium.
Although we were here to see Dens Park, it’s pretty much impossible to visit one of these clubs and not notice the other stadium up/down the road. As we came past Tannadice, I took a few photos from the Jim McClean Fair Play Stand side of the stadium as we continued on to the Kilmac.
To give you some idea of the proximity of the two stadiums, our first photo of Dens Park was taken from the far edge of Tannadice Stadium on the opposite side of the road.
Dundee – Dens Park/Kilmac Stadium Exterior
To a football stadium connoisseur like myself, the first thing you notice about Dens Park are the wonderful floodlights towering above the stands. I’ve said it before that these old-fashioned stadium floodlights are so superior to the modern stadia that have lights built into the stadium roof. It just isn’t the same and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way.
A walk around the exterior of the stadium soon gives you the impression that this isn’t the most photogenic of grounds from the outside and in places it looks downright rundown. Having said that, I love these places. They remind me of football past and I much prefer it to football future if I’m honest. Towering floodlights, terracing and a steak pie with your mates is far better than a luxury seat, lights in the roof and a prawn sandwich.
We bought a programme priced at £2.00 from a seller that you may just be able to make out in the first picture below. The programme was a strange one that opens up into a poster.
Better than a digital effort at least!
Fans Supporting Foodbanks Dundee
I owe the guys at FSFD an apology! Despite saying I’d try to find them and have a chat with them about their work, it completely slipped my mind.
This charity is a combined effort by fans of both Dundee and Dundee United. their aim is to collect as much food and support from the local community as possible to help ensure that people who are struggling to keep themselves and their children fed, will always have a meal.
A very worthwhile cause for anyone who can afford to contribute in the area of Dundee.
Before heading off to enter the ground, we went to the club shop to pick up our match tickets.
Our tickets were bought from the Dundee FC website a few days before the game at a cost of £24.00 per ticket plus a 50p admin charge. These are the most expensive tickets I’ve bought for a Championship game in Scotland.
In fact, St. Mirren and Kilmarnock are both cheaper in the Premier League.
There was a young man standing outside the club shop distributing pre-booked tickets in envelopes and we got ours from him before heading into the shop. Disappointingly, they didn’t have any club crest pin badges, so I will have to go to eBay to find myself one for the collection.
Derelict and Decaying
We were located in the South Stand, which was around the other side of the stadium and this was where the ‘rundown’ part I mentioned came into full effect.
Adjacent to the South Stand are the remnants of a now disused terrace and through the gates, you can see the levels of dereliction that have sadly taken root on this side of the ground.
The south side of Dens Park is built on top of a hill and the steps leading up to it are pretty steep. There are bricks and rubble strewn all over the grassy bank. The turnstiles have also seen better days and a bit of TLC would be much appreciated by some of the brickwork, I’m sure.
In its pomp, this side of the stadium would have been magnificent!
We showed our tickets to the turnstile operator (remember those?) and received our ripped tickets back and headed into the stadium. A steep flight of steps led us up to the South Stand.
The first part of the South Stand has a mural on the outer wall, declaring it ‘The South East Section’. This is where the more vocal of Dundee’s fanbase congregate. We were at the other end of the stand, close to the halfway line.
Before heading that way, I couldn’t resist getting a photo that showed both a Dens Park floodlight and two from Tannadice in the background.
Dundee – Dens Park/Kilmac Stadium Interior
Once inside the ground, our section looked like it used to be a terraced area that has since been converted to seating. Plastic seats have been placed onto rails and I’m probably not the only person who wishes it had been left as terracing.
Off to our left, was the old terracing that those crumbling steps outside had led up to.
Bobby Cox Stand
To the left of us is the Bobby Cox Stand. A more modern-looking all-seater affair that houses home fans.
The stand is named after Robert Cox, who played for the club between 1955 and 1969. He was the captain when Dundee won their only Scottish League title in 1962.
North Stand/Main Stand
Opposite us was the very unique-looking North Stand.
This is the main stand at Dens Park and houses all the offices, administrative areas, players’ tunnel, dug-outs and dressing rooms etc. The players’ tunnel is located at one end of the stand, nearest to the Bob Shankly Stand.
Also at that end of the stand, the two-hundred-plus Queen’s Park fans were housed in the upper tier.
What makes this stand so unique, is its shape. Like a shallow chevron, the stand is closer to the pitch at each end than it is in the middle. This may be due to it hugging the roads outside, where Sandeman Street and Tannadice Street converge.
The lower tier only has seating on the right-hand side.
Bob Shankly Stand
Mirroring its opposite number at the other end, the Bob Shankly Stand is named after the elder brother of Bill, famous as one of Liverpool’s most successful managers. Being a successful manager obviously ran in the Shankly blood and Bob was Dundee’s manager when they won that 1962 league title. He is remembered as possibly the club’s greatest-ever manager.
This stand is used for away fans when there are larger numbers visiting.
Overall, it’s a classic old-school ground, with a real grass surface, four towering floodlights and a unique main stand. It clearly needs a lot of work to keep it serviceable if Dundee were to get promoted back to the SPL and it’s therefore, not hard to understand why Dundee FC has been looking into constructing a new stadium.
Dens Park will be their home for at least one more season, however, and it remains to be seen whether that potential swansong will be in the SPL or the Championship.
Dundee – Stadium Gallery
Dundee – Pre-Game Video of Dens Park
Dundee v Queen’s Park – The Game
Coming into this game, Dundee were placed third in the Championship and had won two of their last four games, although, a loss and a draw in their last two.
Visitors Queen’s Park, meanwhile, were sitting on top of the pile and had three wins and a draw in their last four league fixtures.
This was going to be a very meaningful three points in the title race and my pre-game prediction was a 2-2 draw.
The hosts got a largely unforgettable first half underway and the main topic of conversation at halftime, was the missed penalty by the eventual man-of-the-match, Paul McMullan.
As early as the sixth minute, Dundee were given a glorious chance to take the lead after the referee awarded a penalty against Tommy Robson. The defender made a rash challenge on McMullan as he took the ball into the area, for a stonewall penalty.
McMullan got up and took the spot kick himself, immediately wishing he hadn’t as his soft kick went straight into the arms of Calum Ferrie in the Spiders’ goal.
A few choice words may have been picked up on my video because the home fans certainly weren’t happy with the penalty effort.
To be fair to McMullan though, he never let his head drop and probably deserved his MOTM award from the match sponsors.
The rest of the half played out with a series of half-chances with Dundee having slightly the better of things without ever dominating.
Ryan Sweeney – who was at my team, Stoke City, between 2016 and 2019 without ever playing a league game for the first team – is now the club captain at Dundee. He had a decent shout for a penalty as the half wore on and he had a solid game throughout. I always enjoy seeing ex-Stoke City players, especially the youngsters who never progressed to the first team, to see how they are faring.
He has scored five goals in fifty-one games for the Dark Blues since joining in 2021.
It’s good to see Ryan prospering in Dundee!
Half-time – Dundee 0 Queen’s Park 0
Although we didn’t make use of the snack bar at the rear of the South Stand, the food did seem reasonably priced, with a hot dog or a burger setting you back £3.40 or a scotch pie at £2.00.
As to the quality of said food, I cannot say but feel free to leave a comment if you have made use of the snack bar.
The Second Half
The second period started with a Dundee attack that could easily have started the half with a bang.
Queen’s Park failed to clear a long free kick from the Dundee half and it fell to Jordan McGhee on the edge of the area. He put in a weak shot that landed at the feet of teammate Kwame Blair Thomas. At the edge of the six-yard area, Thomas should probably have scored but his shot was well saved by Ferrie, who also saved the follow-up shot by Lyall Cameron. The relieved keeper finished the job by clutching the loose ball gratefully.
After that opening salvo of excitement, the game lapsed back into a cagey affair with little of note other than another penalty appeal for Dundee. Malachi Boateng and Thomas tangled legs as the ball was played into the box, with the latter convinced it was a penalty.
The referee was having none of it and waved play on. He also waved play on when Queen’s Park felt they should have had a penalty at the other end. Referee Euan Anderson is definitely a ‘no more than one penalty per game man’.
Then, Dundee took the lead in the 69th minute and never looked back.
Deadlock Finally Broken
In the 63rd minute, Lyall Cameron and Luke McCowan were replaced by Alex Jakubiak and Ben Williamson. Six minutes later, the two substitutes repaid their manager’s judgement call with the opening goal of the game.
Jakubiak cut in from the left and got past his marker to the byline, moved inside to create an angle and unleashed a shot that was well saved by Ferrie. Ferrie could do nothing to prevent fellow substitute Williamson from lashing in the rebound though.
Once in the lead, Dundee were never going to let the Spiders back into the game and looked far more dominant for the rest of the game.
In fact, it took just five minutes for them to get their second of the day and again, it was Jakubiak involved.
After Dundee won back the ball near the halfway line, it was played to McMullan who took it down the right flank before planting a lovely cross low between the goalkeeper and the onrushing defence. It evaded them all and Jakubiak was sliding in at the back post where he used his chest to guide the ball into the back of the net.
A curious method but it’s hard to knock it when it works.
Jakubiak celebrated by grabbing a flag from behind the goal, which you can see pictured on his Twitter post below.
The coup de grace was applied in the 83rd minute when captain Sweeney got on the scoresheet, which I was pleased to see. Six goals in fifty-two games now for Ryan.
Another substitute, this time Ryan Clampin, did superbly well running the ball past two markers down the left side before firing his cross into the mixer. It seemed to hit Sweeney’s leg, although I’m going to be generous and say he finished it with aplomb… and it nestled in the far corner of the net to put this game beyond any further doubt.
Time for the ‘Dee faithful to relax and enjoy the last few minutes in comfort, knowing that these three points put them right back in the hunt for the title.
You can read a full Match Report here taken from the Dundee Courier website.
Full-time – Dundee 3 Queen’s Park 0
Attendance – 5,004
Entrance Fee – £24.00
Programme – £2.00
Next up for Dundee is a winnable away trip to Hamilton Academical, who currently occupy bottom position in the Championship. That game will take place at New Douglas Park on Saturday, February 4th.
Meanwhile, Queen’s Park will try to get their promotion charge back on track when they face second-placed Ayr United at home on Friday, February 3rd.
Dundee – Match Highlights
Dens Park will be sadly missed when they finally close the doors for the last time. It is a venerable old Scottish ground and will no doubt be replaced by a soulless metal construction that is no different to its many counterparts throughout the UK.
We should really cherish these grounds while we still have them and get as many memories of them as we can because once they are gone, it never feels the same again.
Take it from me. As a Stoke fan, I know.
Despite a tepid first 65 minutes or so, the game eventually livened up not just this particular match but blew the whole title race wide open again and Dundee, Queen’s Park and Ayr United will all be licking their lips at the thought of playing in next seasons SPL.
What price Dens Park’s final season being played out in the Premiership?
The next time Dundee faces off against Queen’s Park will be on the last day of the season at Hampden Park. What an important game that could turn out to be if the title isn’t already decided by then.
Queen’s Park will probably be hoping Hoppers Guide doesn’t see any more of their matches this season. In two matches, they have shipped eight goals, scored none and lost two important games against their nearest rivals.
Sorry about that!
Dundee – After the Game
Following the final whistle, we made our way out of Dens Park slowly. Mainly due to wanting yet more photographs, particularly of the South Stand but also because we had quite a wait ahead of us for the 18:47 train to Edinburgh.
It worked out well because ironically, that was when I got the photo I eventually decided to use for my header photo.
We were one of the last to leave the stadium and the stewards politely thanked us and wished us a good evening as we left. I’m sure what they really meant was “hurry up and get out!” but I thank them for their politeness.
Take the Bus
With it being downhill on the return journey to the station, we decided to walk.
While the walk in itself wasn’t a problem, some of the areas we walked through seemed a little sketchy at times and at one point we had a confrontation with a man who seemed clearly the worse for wear. I’m not sure if it was alcohol or drugs that were affecting his demeanour but he aggressively got in our faces with his fist raised. I wish I could tell you what he was growling at us but I honestly have no idea.
Just as I thought I was going to have to refresh my pretty non-existent pugilistic skills, the man got out of our way and continued to growl as we walked past him. The rest of the walk went without further incident but we were glad to get back to the bright lights of the main shopping area of the city, nonetheless.
One thing you should watch out for when visiting Dundee is the comic book statues.
We walked past a fabulous statue of Desperate Dan walking his bulldog, while Minnie the Minx is situated just behind him with a catapult poised to strike. Unfortunately, the lighting wasn’t great and there were people around them, so I didn’t manage to get any photographs.
Our train pulled into the station well in time and we were on our way back to the Scottish capital city.
We pulled into Waverley station at 20:20, bought a coffee and boarded the 20:56 train to Newcastle. Another smooth journey was completed when we arrived in Newcastle at 22:20, although we did have a thirty-five-minute wait for the bus home.
We arrived home around 23:35 pm, meaning our day out had lasted sixteen and a half hours from setting foot on the bus to getting back off it again.
That’s a long day!
With train strikes next week on the 1st and 3rd of February, we are playing it safe and staying local. A trip to Seaham Red Star has been on the cards for a while now and we are finally getting around to it next Saturday, weather permitting!
Onto the next!