A Glasgow Ham Double
Hamilton and Hampden – what a weekend we had lined up!
First up, a Saturday trip just to the southeast of Glasgow to see Hamilton Academical for the first time. They would be facing table-topping Queen’s Park. We have previously seen The Spiders twice this season, losing 5-0 at Ayr United and 3-0 at Dundee.
Doubtless, they wouldn’t be keen to know we were coming again…
On Sunday, we would head off to Hampden Park for the big showdown between Glasgow’s giants, Rangers and Celtic in the Scottish League Cup Final.
Whatever way you look at it, that is some weekend for a football fan and we were excited.
Hamilton – Journey and Pre-Game
Our weekend started with a bus to Newcastle at 07:50. We had a little extra baggage than normal due to stopping in Glasgow for the weekend.
I also had a recurrence of an old football injury plaguing me with terrible timing. The last thing I needed for a weekend like this, was to be walking around like Herr Flick of the Gestapo, yet that’s exactly what I was facing.
Years ago, I injured my knee and I’m pretty sure I ruptured one of the tendons under the kneecap. My doctor was next to useless and his ‘treatment’ was to keep writing sicknotes for my workplace (seven weeks off in total) and telling me to keep it rested. I’m pretty sure I needed more help than that but I’m not a medical expert, so I went along with his advice.
Eventually, it was ‘healed’ enough to resume work but I have had several recurrences of the pain in the intervening years and ‘oh, joy!’ (heavy sarcasm noted) this week proved to be one of them.
We set off for the bus with my leg trailing stiffly behind us and I painfully took a seat. We arrived in Newcastle at 08:45 and the Toon was already coming alive. This was cup final weekend not only in Scotland but also in England.
While Celtic and Rangers were getting ready to square off at Hampden, Manchester United and Newcastle United were ready to face off in the English League Cup Final at Wembley Stadium.
After arming ourselves with enough Greggs’ pastry delights to keep us going until that evening, we headed off to the train station. As we got closer, we started to see black and white shirts, scarves and flags draped around people of all ages clutching travel cases.
Inside the station, the throng was growing and on the platform opposite us, a wall of the Toon Army’s finest were waiting for their trains south.
The train south pulled in around the same time as our 09:33 train north and we went our separate ways.
After the familiar journey along the Northumbrian and East Scotland coastline, we arrived in Edinburgh at 11:03. This gave us twelve minutes to find the platform for our connecting train to Glasgow Queen Street. Successfully located, we boarded our train, already on the platform and a few moments later we started the third leg of our journey.
At 12:06 we pulled into Queen Street and proceeded through George Square, down Queen Street itself. As we walked past the Gallery of Modern Art, I noticed a late attempt to win one of those awful Turner Prizes. You know, the ones that involve things like dirty underwear thrown on a floor and cows being cut in half and displayed as ‘art’…
We followed Queen street to its end and then right into Argyle Street, under the railway lines and out the other side. Our hotel was just on the other side of the street, or should I say our ‘Yotel‘, very conveniently located right next to Glasgow Central train station.
We checked in and were given our key card. We then quickly dropped our things off in our room before going back downstairs and crossing the road to head for the final leg of our journey.
The 12:57 train to Hamilton West was on time and, at 13:22, we completed an extremely smooth but tiring journey to our destination.
Why is travelling so tiring by the way?
With no time for lunch (hence the extra pastries) we headed for a pint at the Academical Vaults opposite the train station.
If I had a criticism of this particular bar, it would be the occupied stools that surround the bar, making it difficult to get served. Once we got our drinks, however, there were plenty of seats around the pub and we plonked ourselves down near the street window.
The pub had a pool table and TV screens dotted around the walls, which were showing horse racing while we were in there.
Queen’s Park and Hamilton fans happily stood and sat alongside one another in stark contrast to what we could expect the following day.
It’s one of the things I have enjoyed most about our sojourn around Scotland’s stadia, the lack of animosity between the majority of fans.
Sure, there are rivalries and the occasional flare-ups of trouble but for the most part, Scottish football is free of some of the problems that have blighted it in the past.
As an Englishman and an American woman, we have been made very welcome wherever we have gone.
Long may it continue!
The Walk to the Stadium
The walk from the Academical Vaults to New Douglas Park is a straightforward one.
We could have gone back to the train station and followed the path to the ground, but we chose to do that on the return walk.
From the pub, we took the main road down the A724 before turning right on Dalziel Street. Dalziel Street leads straight into the car park outside the stadium via a small tunnel under the rail tracks.
This arch afforded us our first glimpse of NDP.
Douglas’ Old and New
Prior to New Douglas Park, the Accies had played just down the road at Douglas Park.
Douglas Park was home to the Accies from 1888 to 1994, although reserve games were played there until January 1995. It once held a club record crowd of 28,690 for a game against Hearts in 1937.
Sadly, the historic old ground is now a Sainsbury’s car park with nothing to signify where it once stood.
Hamilton Academical – New Douglas Park Exterior
I have heard some very uncomplimentary comments about this particular stadium and my first impressions were mixed…
There are the traditional four floodlights, one in each corner, that I love and there are a magnificent set of wrought iron gates with a turnstile situated to either side. On the left of the gates is entry to the North Stand for the away fans and to the right, the West Stand for the home fans.
We walked around the back of the North Stand but disappointingly, access beyond that point is blocked off with a fence. Beyond the fence is a children’s art garden with murals and play areas that can be partially seen once inside the stadium.
Disappointingly, this prevents you from doing a circumference of the stadium, leaving just the west and north sides of the ground… and they aren’t very photogenic from the outside.
And the Ugly
The two viewable areas of the stadium’s exterior look somewhat like the outside of a warehouse with office buildings embedded. I’m not sure if the advertising on the corrugated metal facade adds to this feeling or not.
I certainly wouldn’t have been surprised to see a door into a Pets at Home store, or a B&M.
This mix of the good, the bad and the ugly were a theme throughout, really. That isn’t a criticism, because overall, a visit to New Douglas Park (or the ZLX Stadium if you prefer sponsored names) was a positive and pleasant one.
It is more a list of things that the club can maybe improve upon.
The Club Shop
The club shop also serves as the ticket office and it is a very small space for housing both things.
This leaves little room for merchandise and it’s fair to say this could be detrimental to the club as I can’t help feeling they are potentially missing out on sales.
First I asked if there were any replica shirts available… there weren’t. Then I asked if there was a programme… there wasn’t. Though we were told a digital version could be found online, I couldn’t find it.
They did at least have a club crest pin badge available, priced (I think) at £3.50.
With the badge for my collection purchased, we headed off to the West Stand turnstiles.
Hamilton Academical – New Douglas Park Interior
Our tickets had been purchased via Fanbase and were priced at £20.00 per person.
Interestingly, at Accies’ next home game against Arbroath, tickets are available for all at just £5.00. An absolute bargain if you’ve never been before.
This crucial bottom-of-the-table clash is also available on BBC Scotland and iPlayer if you can’t make it to the stadium itself.
We had our tickets scanned straight from my phone and walked inside.
This is where my view of NDP differs from some of the dissenting voices I have heard.
I liked it.
It’s different, yes, but not in a bad way.
The North Stand is an all-seated affair and is covered with a roof. It is this stand that is usually allocated to away fans, as it was today.
It is built above pitch level and supporters will need to climb steps to access it. The stand runs the full width of the pitch.
Disabled away supporters are allocated spaces behind the goal at pitch level. If you look closely at the photo below, you will see the small covered section under the main seating area.
Sometimes, in front of the temporary East Stand is also used for disabled away fans to view the game.
The West Stand, like the smaller North Stand, is built above pitch level with stairs access. Again it is all seated, covered with a roof and runs the full length of the pitch.
The players’ tunnel is in the middle of the stand and the dugouts sit on either side of this.
Disabled home and neutral supporters can gain access via a lift to the first floor, then enter the main stand where designated seats are on the front left side of the stand. Alternatively, pitchside viewing is also available.
Another feature of the stand I liked was that all the season ticket holders are allocated a plush padded seat instead of the usual plastic.
It’s good to show appreciation for your regular fans.
The East Stand is a temporary stand which brings New Douglas Park’s total capacity to 6,018.
It was installed in 2008 to bring the club in line with the minimum requirements for participating in the SPL.
It runs about half the length of the pitch and straddles the halfway line. It is opened up for matches with larger away followings. A TV gantry stands behind and above the East Stand.
The south end of the ground consists of a metal fence covered in advertising boards. There is a stretch of artificial turf behind the fence that looks like it may be another part of the play area for kids, or maybe a small training area.
New Douglas Park opened in 2001 and has had various playing surfaces installed.
It started its existence with normal grass but in 2004 the club installed FieldTurf. This was a tough, artificial playing surface that could take the beating the Scottish weather dished out but it didn’t meet the requirements of the Scottish Premier League.
This meant that when the Accies got promoted in 2008 it had to be removed and replaced with natural grass again. Following subsequent relegation from the top flight, the club decided to go back to artificial turf for the 2013/14 season.
This time, it was Tigerturf, another artificial surface that does meet the Premier League’s requirements. So, if the club gets promoted again in the future, they will be allowed to keep their all-weather playing surface.
Hamilton Academical – Stadium Gallery
Hamilton Academical – Pre-Game View of New Douglas Park
Hamilton Academical v Queen’s Park – The Game
Stoke City Connection
As ever, I am always happy to find a connection with my own club and it just so happens that a Stoke player is currently on loan with the Accies.
Tom Sparrow is a youngster who has shown quite a bit of promise and can play either in midfield or as a right-back.
Disappointingly, following a recent injury, he would be starting the game on the bench but a first-half injury to Dylan McGowan, saw him enter the fray earlier than anticipated. A relatively quiet game against a team that was superior on the day, made it a forgettable day for both Tom and his Accies teammates.
Coming into this game, Hamilton was actually the form side in the Championship, despite their lowly position in the league. In the past four games, Accies had won at Partick Thistle, drawn at Dundee and then completed a back-to-back double home and away against Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Impressive stuff for a team clawing their way off bottom place.
Their opponents, ironically from Hampden Park – the scene of tomorrow’s big game – were top of the table prior to this game. Indifferent and inconsistent form seems to be affecting all the teams at the top in recent weeks and the Spiders are no different with a 3-0 loss at Inverness followed up by a 2-0 win against fellow promotion hopefuls, Ayr United.
Then followed a 3-2 loss against Morton who have rejoined the promotion race and a 1-1 draw at home to Raith Rovers. They will be looking to add a little more consistency to their season’s run-in, starting with today’s game.
It was the home team who got the match underway and it was also the hosts who missed the first big chance of the game.
Eight minutes in, they won a free-kick about forty yards from the goal, on the left.
Connor Smith floated the ball into the danger area only to see a Queen’s Park head get there first. However, Stephen Eze couldn’t get anything of note on his header and it fell straight to the feet of Dylan McGowan. He got under the ball and skied it over the bar from the penalty spot.
He should have done better and it could have changed the course of this game.
At the other end, some good work by Thomas Robson saw him eventually work the ball out to the right where Aaron Healy gave it back to Robson. He fired the ball across the box but it had a little too much pace on it and Connor Shields could only flick the ball wide of the right post.
A promising chance for both teams early on but the game got bogged down a little until the half-hour mark.
That was when the deadlock was broken and guess what, Spiders fans…
The Hoppers Guide Curse is Finally Lifted
Charlie Fox played the ball to Dom Thomas and he found Marcel Oakley marauding up the line from right-back. Oakley cut inside the box and tried to get a shot away but he was blocked by Scott Martin throwing himself in front of the ball.
The loose ball fell to Jack Thomson, whose shot was again blocked. He was there for the follow up though and made no mistake the second time. With two Accies defender’s feet in a tangle, Thomson stole the ball and curled it into the left side of the net, beyond the despairing Ryan Fulton in the Hamilton goal.
0-1 Queen’s Park!
On the third time of asking, we had finally seen the Spiders score a goal and this was to be the first of four for the visitors.
Owen Coyle had been shouting himself hoarse on the touchline and he took this moment to turn and raise his arms aloft in front of the Accies crowd. Seemed a little unnecessary but he was certainly fired up for this game.
Queen’s nearly made it two moments later after a marauding run down the right ended with a shot from the increasingly influential Connor Shields. Credit to Fulton for getting down and blocking Shields’ low shot wide for a corner at his near post.
From the resulting corner, Eze was unlucky not to score after his header was well saved again by Fulton. His save resulted in a collision between McGowan and Shields as they vied for the ball. The ball bounced off the pair and Fulton collected the loose ball.
McGowan suffered an injury and was replaced by Tom Sparrow in the 37th minute.
A good move down Hamilton’s left gave the home side a chance to go in level at the break.
Matthew Shiels made a good run before passing the ball outside him to Connor Smith. Smith took the ball in stride and put in a powerful left-footed strike that was finely tipped over the bar for a corner by Calum Ferie in the Spiders’ goal.
Smith had another, weaker shot tipped wide by Ferie just before the whistle.
Half-time – Hamilton Academical 0 v Queen’s Park 1
Only one goal in the half but the signs were there that more could follow and it was nice to break our sequence of one goal in three games and two successive 0-0 draws.
The Second Half
Spiders Take Control
The second forty-five started brightly, with Oakley putting a shot into the hands of Fulton when he could, maybe, have done better from the edge of the six-yard box.
In the 48th minute, the Spiders’ Malachi Boateng couldn’t quite leap high enough to head a decent cross from the right into the net. The ball skimmed off of his impressive pile of hair and went wide of the left post to leave Accies still in the game.
Not for long though.
In the 57th minute, a long ball was punted from deep by Thomas to find Shields on the right. He muscled his way past Fergus Owens on the second attempt and put a cross into the box. Dan O’Reilly’s attempted headed clearance just skimmed off the top of his head and fell to the feet of Aaron Healy.
Healy gleefully tucked his shot into the far corner evading two lunging defenders and a diving Fulton in the process.
Slide rule precision!
0-2 Queen’s Park!
From this point on, you felt there was only ever going to be one winner and so it proved.
Queen’s went on to score a third goal six minutes later. This time Shields himself put the ball in the back of the Accies’ net. A never give up attitude was in evidence as the Spiders tried and tried again to break down a stubborn Accies defence.
First Oakly burst to the byline and set up Shields, whose shot was blocked. Then it was Thomas’ turn to have a cross headed clear but he didn’t give up and after getting the ball back, he played a cheeky back-pass to Shields and this time, the Motherwell loanee made no mistake.
He fired the ball with his right foot into the bottom left corner to give the visitors an unassailable lead.
0-3 Queen’s Park!
Five minutes later, Accies gave themselves a lifeline by pulling a goal back.
A series of blocked shots and half chances finally ended with Dario Zanatta putting the ball into the Queen’s Park net. Not the prettiest of goals but it gave Hamilton fans and players alike a slim glimmer of hope.
1-3 Hamilton Goal!
The hope didn’t last long though and after Grant Savoury had a shot tipped wide, Queen’s made it four soon after.
Spiders’ substitute Euan Henderson won the ball on the left flank and played the ball to Thomson on the edge of the area. The ball found its way to Thomas on the right of the box and he again assisted Shields. This time he fired the ball into the edge of the six-yard area and Shields pulled off a finish worthy of a Premier League star striker.
He allowed the ball to pass his front foot before dragging his rear foot backwards and flicking the ball into the net.
1-4 Queen’s Park!
It was a fitting way to end the day’s scoring and it was also the last meaningful action of the game apart from some corners for both teams that ended in nothing.
All in all, a good team display from the Spiders against an Accies team that had been on a good run and certainly didn’t make things easy for their visitors.
You can read a full Match Report here. The link is from the Queen’s Park website.
Full-time – Hamilton Academical 1 v Queen’s Park 4
Attendance – 1,310
Entrance Fee – £20.00 (Digital ticket)
Programme – N/A (Digital edition somewhere online)
Hamilton Academical – Match Highlights
Next up for Hamilton, is the aforementioned home fixture with Arbroath. A Friday night game with a 19:45 kick-off time. Tickets are available for home and away fans for just £5.00 and hopefully, the club get the response such an offer deserves and a bumper attendance.
The Spiders, meanwhile, are at home too. They face fellow promotion hopefuls Greenock Morton at Hampden Park and will be hoping to put a little daylight between them and their opponents.
Despite the bad reports I had heard, we enjoyed our visit to New Douglas Park. Hamilton has never, and probably, will never be a glamorous club but that doesn’t mean a trip here isn’t worth your time.
I’m not a fan of artificial turf in general but I do understand why some clubs find it more beneficial financially and we shouldn’t knock them for making this choice. It also helps defeat some of the inclement Scottish weather, which again, helps the club financially.
It was an easy ground to get to via rail and foot, with decent pubs in the vicinity.
My criticisms are minor ones and involve things like a bigger offering in the club shop and maybe a separate ticket office. As a collector, I would also love to see printed programmes brought back to games.
One way clubs could avoid having leftover copies, is to have the option to buy a programme with their tickets and thus eliminate wasted printing costs.
Hamilton – After the Game
Following the game, we made our way out of the stadium via the southwest corner. Strangely, there is a McGill bus parked on this corner with fences around it. I have no idea of its purpose or why it’s there… it just was.
We followed the stream of people and walked up the path behind the West Stand. This is the other route I mentioned we could have taken when walking to the ground. It runs parallel to the train line and leads straight back to Hamilton West station.
A piece of cake.
We got to the station in plenty of time to catch the 17:15 back to Glasgow Central. Platform one is needed for trains back to Glasgow, which is on the opposite side of the path along the tracks.
Again, there were fans of both clubs mingling at the station without any signs of problems. Just how it should be.
Back in Glasgow
The train was on time and by 17:40, we were back at Glasgow Central. On a previous visit to Glasgow, we had called into the Bavarian Brauhaus and enjoyed it. We headed there again now to get some dinner but it was packed and there were no tables available and a crowd of people at the bar hoping to get one.
We decided not to wait around and instead we went across the road and ordered burritos and a Corona each.
This would be the first and last time I will go to Barburrito, Hope Street.
Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with the food itself, not even the service. The problem was the price! £32.50 for two burritos and two small bottles of beer is the same as we were paying in the ultra-expensive Oslo city centre last summer!
Having eaten every last expensive crumb and shaken the last drop of beer onto my tongue, we headed back to the hotel. I should probably point out that at some point during the day, my knee had somehow decided to stop hurting me after a few days of excruciating pain.
That made me feel a little bit better about those burritos, at least.
Next Up For Hoppers Guide
As alluded to, this is a no-brainer after the introduction to this review.
Tomorrow we get our very first taste of what the big Glasgow derby game is all about and not just any normal meeting either.
The Scottish League Cup Final at Hampden Park…
Onto the next!
2 thoughts on “Hamilton Academical, New Douglas Park – Hopper Tales #59”
Never been to New Douglas Park so enjoyed the review and game report, especially as the game was of interest to us Raith fans.
You must cover huge amount of miles in a year – fair play to you and Mrs Hopper for keeping up your hopping.
Thanks, Iain! I think you may find next week’s blog of even more interest…