Take Me Back Home
Our third trip of the new season saw us once again crossing the border into Scotland.
This time, our destination was Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh.
This is our favourite city we have visited in the UK so far, so when I read that FC Edinburgh were returning back to their home of Meadowbank after five years in exile at Ainslie Park, it was the only place to be.
FC Edinburgh were promoted at the end of the 2021/22 season from SPFL League Two.
At the time, of course, they were known as Edinburgh City and for some inexplicable reason that has alienated some of their fanbases, the club decided to change their name to FC Edinburgh.
This has not gone down well with some and has angered them to the point of refusing to go to games anymore. It is quite a surprising move, given that the club’s nickname is the Citizens and is also the name emblazoned on the matchday programme.
Still, I’m sure they know what they are doing…
The opposition on the day would be Arbroath, who were unlucky to miss out on promotion themselves. They finished second in last season’s Championship, behind champions, Kilmarnock. In the playoff games, Arbroath were beaten in the playoff semi-final by Inverness Caledonian Thistle, in a penalty shootout.
That was the background to our visit to the new Meadowbank Stadium, so let’s get on with the visit itself.
Edinburgh – Pre-Game
Scotland’s capital city and also our favourite city in the UK to visit.
There are so many places to go, so much to see and do. Friendly locals mixing with tourists from all over the world and inevitably a busking bagpiper playing on a street somewhere. It all adds to the bustling, vibrant atmosphere.
Usually, Edinburgh is just a place where we change trains after arriving from Newcastle, so it’s always a pleasure to get to watch a game here and sample the local hospitality.
We took our usual bus and caught the usual 08:49 train and pulled into Waverley around 10:25.
With so much time to kill before the game, we took the decision to try and climb Arthur’s Seat, the extinct volcano that rises above the Edinburgh skyline and on which the city is built.
Silly boy! Silly, silly boy!
Not only am I in my mid-fifties, but I am also out of condition and suffer from joint problems. Sigh!
With this in mind, it was no surprise that I called it quits about two-thirds of the way up. Mrs Hopper wasn’t feeling too much better and happily accepted the decision to quit, but not before we took some lovely pictures of the view out over Leith, where we could see the Easter Road Stadium of Hibernian.
With our attempt at assaulting Arthur’s Seat summit thwarted, we made our way back down, vowing to try again another day when it wasn’t so warm.
Sweaty, aching and irritated at my body’s failings, we set off for our next destination, the Bellfield Brewery Taproom & Beergarden.
This sounded like a much more achievable goal and about 15 minutes later we arrived, passing the lovely little St Margaret’s Loch at the bottom of Arthur’s Seat on the way.
The helpful bartender at the Taproom let us sample a couple of tasters of their craft beer choices and we headed out into the beer garden where they have some wonderfully shaded alcoves with tables. This way we could still enjoy the lovely day without getting burnt by the sun. There are even plugs to give your phones a quick charge up.
Having filled up at Greggs for that morning’s breakfast, I didn’t need food but Mrs Hopper chose some chicken strips and fries to go with our Lawless Village IPA (4.5%) and Pictish cider (5%).
The food looked like it came from a takeaway, served in little cardboard boxes. It was very tasty though and in decent portions. The IPA and Cider were also excellent. My cider had a very sour-apple taste and was really refreshing.
I would definitely recommend this place to anyone visiting the Meadowbank Stadium this season, although Edinburgh is blessed with many other superb bars and places to grab food.
FC Edinburgh – The Stadium
After a couple of drinks, it was time to make our way to the stadium and get our first glimpse of how Meadowbank Stadium’s new set-up would look.
The first glimpse was quite disappointing.
I had seen pictures on FC Edinburgh social media and elsewhere of the facade of the sports complex and it looked very nice. However, it was all fenced off and very difficult to get a good look at or photograph.
To anyone looking at that from the outside, it would look rather large and impressive. It does somewhat belie what lies beyond, however.
First up, we presented our digital tickets, bought in advance using the Fanbase app, for £12.00 per ticket.
While the turnstile operator was scanning our QR codes, I asked if the club shop was inside or outside, because I always like to take a look around for interesting or unique items.
A look of distaste and the comment “Huh! There isn’t even a club shop open yet!”
“Oh, ok. Well, can I get a programme anywhere then?”
“Aye, they are on sale just behind me here, if there are any left.”
Luckily, after getting inside, there were indeed programmes available still, although I believe they did sell out, and I grabbed a couple of copies.
I have a soft spot for the printed programme and really hate the idea that clubs are slowly ditching them in favour of digital alternatives. They are a great memento of each game attended and something to look back on fondly, years later… long after the digital version has disappeared.
Anyway, small rant over…
To the left of us was a snack truck selling the usual overpriced football food and to the right was the single stand in use and the only place to watch the game from.
The stand consists of three rows of seats which were nice and comfortable and a passage running behind it that connects to the building with the impressive-looking facade. This passage contains the player’s entrance and the toilets for spectators.
It was a little irritating, therefore, to be told that the clearly visible toilets could only be accessed from the far end of the stand because “This end is only for players, sorry.”
The lady steward was obviously flustered and seemed to have been asked about this a few times and complained about the lack of signage due to it being new.
My ageing bladder wasn’t impressed. Nor was it impressed when I had to join a long queue to get into the said toilets. The grumbling coming up from the queue suggested I wasn’t alone in feeling this way about it and I was hearing the word “shitehole” on a frequent basis.
Duties completed, I went back and we found a spot to sit in.
I immediately saw that the front row of seats was not going to present a great view of the game and I spotted two adjacent seats still available on the back row near the halfway line. Perfect!
We climbed the few steps and started asking if we could “just squeeze by, please?”
Everyone, as usual in Scotland, was very obliging and friendly but the concrete step on which the row of seats perch is very narrow. This meant that walking along to get to those two seats was more challenging than it should’ve been and got us a lot closer to strangers than we had any desire to do, and I’m sure they felt the same way!
There was also quite a long way between access points for each row, which meant disturbing a lot of people to get in and out. At least, that’s true of the area we chose, maybe it was different for other sections.
A safety rail ran the length of the stand, between the athletics track and the walkway. I’m not entirely sure this is even necessary? Not only does it obstruct the view of children and smaller adults but it hardly prevents anyone from getting onto the pitch as they can just duck under it.
The pitch in front of us was another 3g artificial turf one and whilst watching the game, I couldn’t help but notice a lot of surface dust spraying up. I Googled this once I got home to see what the black powder was spraying up off the surface and found an article that gave me quite a shock.
You can read that article here.
To summarise, it suggests that recycled black rubber tyres are used to scatter the playing surface. This substance can damage players’ health and cause cancer. If these claims are true, then it is very worrying, because quite a lot of the Scottish grounds have this type of surface.
I am not a scientist and can neither say these claims are true or false but it does surely merit further investigation?
Back to the stadium… that was it, really.
One three-tiered stand attached to a sports complex and a 3g pitch with a running track around it.
The stand does have a small split towards the far end, to allow access to the sports complex, the first aid room and a disabled toilet, as well as the aforementioned regular toilets to the right.
Presumably, the smaller section of the stand will be used for away fans when segregation is required, although, based on today, it may be used for home fans on some occasions this season when the larger visiting supports descend on Meadowbank?
Arbroath supporters seemed to be present in far larger numbers than the home support for the third week running on our travels.
The team dugouts were on the opposite side and a black fence ran around the venue, which was backed off by some lovely trees and greenery.
The floodlights were simple lamp post structures with four small bulbs on each one.
FC Edinburgh – Stadium Gallery
FC Edinburgh – Pre-Game Video of Meadowbank Stadium
FC Edinburgh – The Game
This is the least important section of this article for me and I will just skim over it.
Edinburgh matched Arbroath in the first half and it wasn’t a complete surprise when they took the lead in the 24th minute via Callum Crane, with a nice slotted through ball from Ryan Shanley.
In a match that produced four yellow cards, the first two were shown to Thomas O’Brien and Ryan Shanley following a challenge that resulted in a potential flare-up as players from both teams rushed in to push and shove each other around. (video of the aftermath below)
As the half wore on, Arbroath started to become more dominant and deservedly got their equaliser in the 39th minute via the penalty spot. Just three minutes earlier, Nicky Low came on as a substitute to replace the injured Ricky Little and it could be argued that he went on to become the man of the match.
His first contribution was to slot the penalty home to send the sides in level at the break.
The second half began with FC Edinburgh kicking off for the first time in their new home.
It wasn’t to be a happy day for the home side though, because Arbroath continued to dominate and a series of corners and superior possession eventually wore down the Citizens.
At the hour mark, Nicky Low brought an excellent save from the home keeper as a hard shot from outside the area was tipped over the bar. It was Low again making the difference in the 75th minute when he set up another Arbroath substitute, Bobby Linn.
Linn’s fine finish put the away side deservedly in the lead and they completed the job just six minutes later. Once again, it was Boby Linn with a superb strike from outside the box that went into the top corner.
The two teams slogged out the final minutes in the Edinburgh heat and when the final whistle went, I think it suited everyone on the ground.
Attendance – 500
Entrance Fee – £12.00
Programme – £3.00
A couple of Extra Thoughts
A decent game of football made the occasion better but be in no doubt, this stadium needs a lot of work before I would recommend anyone visit.
I hope the club listen to feedback and works with the facilities owners to help make things better for the fans who visit. One little tip I would suggest is to not only take down the safety railing but also to open up the areas behind each goal and allow fans to stand on the track behind a railing.
To be fair to the club, they did describe this as a ‘test event’, so I am hopeful that they realise not everything was going to run smoothly and one can only hope that measures are taken for future matches in the coming seasons.
Off-the-field success is just as important as on-the-pitch success in my opinion.
Edinburgh – After the Game
At the end of the game, we departed the stadium via the gates which were opened up next to the turnstile area and headed back towards Waverley.
It was interesting to listen to other fans as they departed. Both Edinburgh and Arbroath fans alike, the topic seemed to be the facilities and how poor they were. I reiterate the importance of sorting them out because fans won’t come to regularly watch matches in conditions that aren’t conducive to enjoyment.
Arriving at Waverley, we grabbed a coffee and made our way to platform 10 where our return train was wonderfully on time again. So far, amidst all the cancellations and delays for differing reasons, our biggest problem has been to wait at Gretna station for an hour for the next train.
Can’t grumble at that!
The train got into Newcastle around 19:20 and we hot-footed it to our bus stop and got there at the same time as our bus home. Wonderful!
Home before 20:30 is a rare luxury while we are travelling around the Scottish grounds.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this and much appreciate any sharing of it you can do on social media to spread the word!
Until next time!
As a postscript to this experience, I am happy to say that the club are beginning to tackle some of these issues encountered during our visit. The club have today (26th October 2022) released a statement about how they intend to address them going forward. You can read the statement here.