Hoppers Guide Travel Nightmares
Gordon Ramsay may have his kitchen problems but they are nothing compared to our train tribulations!
Every week we seem to have problems of one kind or another, with delayed, cancelled or plain not-running trains. Now, with further strikes announced for the 3rd, 5th and 7th of November, this doesn’t look like getting better anytime soon.
We were heading up to Motherwell, just to the southeast of Glasgow, for their Premier League fixture against Aberdeen. The last time we saw these sides, Motherwell lost 2-0 at Tynecastle (Hoppers Tale #4) and Aberdeen beat Livingston 5-0 at Pittodrie (Hoppers Tale #31).
Would we get there? Would we get back? Read on to find out…
Oh! and there was a game of football in between.
Motherwell – The Journey
The day began as it meant to go on, with the bus to Newcastle not showing up. Luckily, the next scheduled one still got us there in time for our train to Carlisle and we still just about had time to run into Greggs and grab our football breakfast of pastry-filled goodness.
The next problem soon showed up. The Carlisle train was actually only going as far as Haltwhistle. This was due to a freight train derailment near Carlisle that had caused substantial damage to the rail infrastructure. The rest of the journey would have to be completed via a rail replacement bus. With no other choice available to us, we climbed aboard and hoped for the best, regarding our connection train to Motherwell.
During the trip to Haltwhistle, I almost got into a fight with two blokes who were muttering at me for using the toilet before them. I haven’t got the willpower to go into that discussion. Suffice it to say, there was no fight and they sat down quietly.
After arriving in Haltwhistle, lots of confused passengers got off the train with no directions or guidance on where to pick up the bus to Carlisle. We started heading on down the ramp out of the station when the passengers behind us started shouting the leading pack back. “It’s on the other side”, apparently. So we all dutifully trooped off to the other side.
Still there was nobody to tell us if this was the right place or not but it did look right even though there was no bus waiting for us. Then rumours started to spread that the buses come forty minutes after the train arrives. If that was true, there was absolutely no way we would catch our connecting train at 11:18.
It was true!
The bus eventually arrived and we got into Carlisle around 11:45. The next available train to Motherwell was at 13:15. This meant sitting around in Carlisle train station for the better part of two hours. It also meant letting down our friend from Aberdeen, who we had arranged to meet up with for a drink before the match.
The train was delayed by a few short minutes and when it did arrive, the platform was changed at the last minute from three to one (no Ted Rodgers jokes, please!) Surely they must have known this prior to the train actually pulling in? With a twenty-minute walk ahead of us upon arriving in Motherwell, Mrs Hopper made a quick call to a Motherwell taxi company and arranged a cab to Fir Park.
As we got off the train, I noticed a gentleman wearing a checked amber and burgundy scarf and I asked him if he was a Motherwell fan. He was, and we got talking. It turned out that he was not only a fan of Motherwell but also the matchday announcer at Annan Athletic (Hoppers Tale #5). He asked if he could share our taxi and of course, we said he could.
We arrived at Fir Park with little time to get our bearings or do the usual walk around the stadium etc. We quickly went into the Motherwell club shop for the customary purchase of a programme and a pin badge before heading back to our entrance into the stadium.
Motherwell – The Stadium
Without the usual luxury of time to look around, I can only describe to you the bits we saw. Luckily, the club shop was near the entrance we would be using to get in. The shop is located at the rear of the Davie Cooper Stand and the turnstiles for entry into the East Stand were at the corner of these two stands.
There was a healthy number of people outside the ground, including some in Aberdeen shirts. Problems with supporters seem to be very rare and isolated up here in Scotland and long may it remain so as we journey around the stadiums.
Our tickets for this game were bought in advance by the Motherwell online ticketing system. They cost £22.00 each plus £1.00 postage. These tickets were scanned by the turnstile operative and we entered Fir Park for the first time.
There was immediate gratification, as we looked at the floodlight towering above us. A real beauty!
On the wall near the steps leading into the East Stand, was a montage of photographs of Motherwell supporters. It was a nice touch that personalised a small section of Fir Park for everyone contained in it. It would be so easy for clubs around the leagues to do things like this and involve their fan bases in the structure of the stadium itself.
Personalised bricks are another method some clubs use to do this and I noticed Motherwell has some of those too – on the walls on either side of the club shop. Small things like these have to help fans feel more involved with the club and the stadium itself.
At the top of the steps, we entered the stand itself, where a concourse runs behind the seating. It has a low roof, which helps to make the atmosphere feel more enclosed and intimate. Along the concourse, were a number of snack bars which we made use of at half-time.
The low roof also means you can’t see the whole of the stand on the other side of the ground until you make your way down to your seat and it reminds me of the old ‘away end’ at Filbert Street, the old home of Leicester City. When standing on that old terrace you lost sight of the ball when it got kicked up in the air.
Another little foible of this stand was the way the blocks are marked out for the seating. Along the concourse, lettering designates each block. Sounds ok so far, but they aren’t in any kind of order that I could work out. It went something along the lines of A, B J, F, M and then our section, C. This may not be entirely accurate but it is along those lines.
Once we found our seats, I walked down to the front of the stand to take a few photos and a video of Fir Park. I did this because the East Stand is another one of those structures that have pillars holding up the roof and blocking parts of the view. If this is a worry for you, I would recommend buying tickets in another part of the ground.
To our right, was the aforementioned Davie Cooper stand. A single-tiered stand with those lovely floodlights on either side of it. A large advert running along the rim of the roof seems disproportionately large. At the same time, it gives it a uniqueness that is all too rare in modern stadia.
Opposite us, is the Phil O’Donnell stand. This is the main stand in the ground and houses the players’ tunnel, dressing rooms etc. It is another pretty unique-looking stand that is technically a double-tiered stand. The lower tier, however, is mainly used for the placement of substitutes, coaching staff, stewards and emergency medical staff. There are sets of stairs leading up into the upper seating areas, but they are blocked off by gates. High up behind the seating, is a TV gantry.
This stand still has a steel structure at one end of it. This is due to the stand never being fully completed. When the stand was being redeveloped in the 1960s, a resident in the houses behind the stand had successfully prevented the club from building to the full extent of the pitch length due to it impeding the light to their home and reducing its sell-on value.
This home-owner owner must have been a much-loved character in the Motherwell FC community!
Revenge, of sorts, was had by the club, however, when the house was put up for sale, they bought it and turned it into the clubs’ offices. Meanwhile, the stand remains as it finished in the ’60s.
Off to our left, is the double-tiered South Stand, which houses the visiting supporters. This stand is much larger than the other three and looms above the rest of the ground. In fact, it looks very similar in appearance to the Beach End opposite the Red Shed at Pittodrie. Only the lower tier was needed today, despite a healthy following from Aberdeen, numbering 1,586 in a crowd of 5,486.
Both of the end stands were built in the 1990s, despite the difference in aesthetics. Overall, the missing part of the main stand, coupled with the different size ends, makes Fir Park feel a little disjointed. Nevertheless, it is a stadium with plenty of character and uniqueness at a time when football grounds have a shortage of individuality.
I like it!
The capacity at Fir Park is now set at 13,677.
Motherwell – Floodlight Porn
With the game approaching, a word of praise for the fans of both clubs. Off to my left in the same stand as us, is a section where the more vocal Motherwell fans gather and they and their Aberdeen counterparts hardly stopped singing throughout the game. Some people dislike drums at football matches but I have become a fan of it when it’s done properly and Motherwell is one of the clubs that do it properly. I first heard them on our visit to Tynecastle last season and commented on it there too.
My Aberdeen friend and I were swapping messages and I sent him a picture of the Aberdeen end to see if he could spot himself. He returned the photo with his area circled and I managed to zoom in on him and get a closer photo. With horror, I saw Mrs Hopper’s arm go up, about to wave for Kevin’s attention and I quickly told her that it’s probably best not to wave to people in the away end… 😲
This one’s for you, Kevin!
Coming into this game, Aberdeen were in good form, with a 2-0 victory over Hearts last Sunday and a 4-1 midweek win over Partick Thistle in the quarter-finals of the League Cup, taking them into the semis at Hampden Park. Pre-game, they were in sixth place in the table.
Motherwell, meanwhile, were suffering from a double dose of misery from Glasgow’s big two. A 1-2 defeat at home to Rangers last weekend was followed by a 0-4 defeat by Celtic in another League Cup quarter-final. At the start of play, they sat two places below Aberdeen, in eighth place.
Motherwell – The Game
With the teams on the pitch and the incessant beat coming from our left, the first league game for either team under the watchful eye of VAR was about to begin.
It didn’t take long for the VAR era to be called into action at Fir Park. With just four minutes on the clock, Bojan Miovski was played through by Connor Barron. He coolly chipped the onrushing Motherwell keeper Liam Kelly, who could only flap helplessly as the ball sailed over his head.
The Aberdeen end erupted in noise before the realisation set in that the flag was up and offside had been given. This was greeted by cheers from the Motherwell fans before they realised VAR was checking it. Both sets of fans settled in for the nervous/tedious two-minute wait as officials checked every hair on Bojan’s knee to see if he was onside or not.
There were more joyous scenes in the Aberdeen end as the goal was confirmed.
In the thirteenth minute, we had another Aberdeen goal and another VAR check. This time the ball was sent into the penalty area from deep on the left flank by Liam Scales. Waiting for the ball in the box was Luis Lopes, better known to his fans as Duk, and his header was saved in the middle of the goal by Kelly. However, it bounced straight back to the feet of Duk and he made no mistake with the second attempt, tucking it past the keeper and wheeling away to celebrate.
Whoah! Hold on! Flag up again and a VAR check is needed.
No goal! This time the decision went with Motherwell and a collective sigh of relief went up around me.
Just two minutes later and Motherwell could have drawn level. A seemingly hopeful ball was played down the flank, curling into the area as Aberdeen’s Dutch keeper, Kelle Roos came out to smother the ball, as Anthony Stewart shepherded it towards him.
Somehow, Roos managed to fluff his lines and the ball bounced off his arms as he slid in to gather. It fell right to the feet of Kevin van Veen, the Dutch Motherwell striker who has punished Aberdeen in the past. He took the ball wide of Roos but his shot from a tight angle went across the face of the goal and past the far post for a goal kick.
A couple of lesser chances followed. First for Motherwell in the 17th minute, as Callum Slattery had his header saved in the centre of the goal. Jayden Richardson then saw his 23rd minute shot blocked at the other end. In the 30th minute, I thought Motherwell had a decent shout for a penalty but there were no VAR checks and I haven’t seen any mention of it in the match report, so maybe I imagined it?
The nearest Motherwell came to scoring after van Veen’s miss came in the 32nd minute when Blair Spittal put his header just wide of the left post and into the side netting after Stewart failed to clear the ball effectively. Another chance each as Matt Penney had his shot blocked and Aberdeen had a shot from Duk saved as the half came to a close.
One booking for each team in the first half with Duk for Aberdeen and Ricki Lamie of Motherwell going into the referee’s notebook.
Half-time – Motherwell 0 Aberdeen 1
As the players left the pitch, Mrs Hopper decided it was time to try the snack bars out and who am I to disagree? She came back armed with a hot dog and Twix for herself and a steak pie and a Yorkie for me. Good choices!
The steak pie wasn’t on the same level as the ones I recently had at Kilmarnock (Hoppers Tale #39) or Arbroath (Hoppers Tale #41) but it was still tasty. Maybe a little more filling would raise the rating guys?
Sitting in front of us, was a very passionate Motherwell fan who couldn’t sit still, or stop shouting at his team, the referee and anyone else who moved on the pitch. On the back of his shirt was the Motherwell nickname, The Steelmen, and it was a reminder that Motherwell used to be home to one of the biggest steel plants in Europe.
Ravenscraig was closed back in 1992 but the memory will live on with the club and the community.
The Second Half
In the first minute of the second forty-five, Motherwell had a Paul McGinn shot blocked but it was Aberdeen who went closer in the 48th minute. A long goal kick was only partially headed clear and the ball fell to Miovski who cleverly back-heeled it out wide to Jayden Richardson. His cross was met by the head of Duk but the effort flashed wide of the right-hand post. Close!
In the 55th minute, Motherwell were back level. A throw-in level with the eighteen-yard box was thrown towards Connor Shields near the byline. Shields put a looping ball into the box, where Stuart McKinstry out-muscled his marker, turned and shot the ball across the goal, under the outstretched hand of Roos.
1-1 Motherwell equaliser!
Our passionate friend in front of us came back to his seat after running down to the front of the stand to celebrate. He seemed a little happier now but continued yelling at everything that moved.
In the 62nd minute, Kevin van Veen was presented with another chance to add to his four goals in four games against Aberdeen. The ball was crossed in from the left to Shields in the centre of the area. He controlled the ball and laid it off to van Veen on the left side of the six-yard box. His effort was pretty tame though and Roos saved quite comfortably down low in the middle of his goal.
Sixty-four minutes in, Jack MacKenzie’s right-footed shot from the left side of the box wide of the left post and a minute late, van Veen had a shot blocked.
In the 68th minute came the decisive moment of the game. A flowing move from defence to the back of the net began when Ylber Ramadani, in the centre of his own half found Clarkson in the centre circle. He sprayed the ball out wide to Jack MacKenzie on the left flank. MacKenzie ghosted past his marker and delivered a waist-high cross into the box.
Duk stooped and conquered.
He met the fizzing cross with a glancing header that sped into the bottom left corner of the net causing chaotic scenes in the Aberdeen end. One fan jumped the barrier and tried to reach Duk as he celebrated. He was then at the centre of a tug-of-war between the stewards, police and his fellow fans who tried to rescue him from arrest. Aberdeen won that battle too.
Following this goal, chances were at a minimum. Motherwell did have a couple of half chances to equalise but nothing worth mentioning. They did finish the game claiming a penalty, however, but I’m assuming VAR didn’t agree that Stewart had fouled McKinstry. Watching the highlights back, I can’t help wondering if they even checked it, because he ploughs right through the back of him.
Aberdeen fans won’t care about that though. They had come to Fir Park, a traditional bogey ground and taken the three points!
There were second-half bookings for Bojan Miovski of Aberdeen and Blair Spittal and Sean Goss of Motherwell.
The three points see Aberdeen move up the league to third place on goal difference over St. Mirren, while Motherwell remain in eighth place.
You can read a full Match Report here, courtesy of the Aberdeen website.
Motherwell – Match Highlights
Full-time – Motherwell 1 Aberdeen 2
Attendance – 5,486
Entrance Fee – £22.00
Programme – £3.50
Motherwell – More Photos
Motherwell – After the Game
Following the game, we were back to Hoppers Guide Travel Nightmares (Part II). Our 17:25 train from Motherwell to Carlisle had been cancelled, as were further trains to Carlisle. This meant we had to travel up to Glasgow Central from Airbles train station.
We walked to the station, which is about a fifteen-minute walk from Fir Park. Motherwell and Aberdeen fans were happily mingling together on the platform and the train dutifully arrived a few minutes later. We arrived in Glasgow Central and then had to walk to Glasgow Queen Street for a train to Edinburgh.
From Queen Street, we caught the 18:16 Edinburgh train and arrived at 19:05. We explained the situation to a guard at the ticket barrier and he let us through and then said, “You will have to catch the 20:00 bus to Newcastle to get home”. All trains were cancelled to Newcastle due to engineering work on the lines.
So, with Newcastle and Carlisle both not accepting trains from Scotland, we were left with no alternative but to go and find Jeffrey Street and the rail replacement bus service for the second time today. Once again, there was no help provided. We found Jeffrey Street and headed up it towards where a crowd of people were gathered. We felt sure they must be, like us, waiting for the bus service.
It was actually a ghost tour crowd!
Another lady came hauling a bag up the street looking confused and she was also wondering where to catch the bus. We told her we had no idea either and then a coach stopped down the road from us. I went and asked the driver if he knew where the bus to Newcastle could be caught and he said “All the buses stop here”.
I waved to Mrs Hopper and our new companion and they came down just as another bus pulled in. Yay! The Newcastle bus! We asked how long it would take to get to Newcastle and we were told it would be about four and a half hours! This would have us arrive around 12:35 a.m. and would be way too late for us to catch our last bus home and a taxi from Newcastle would cost us about £50!
Luckily, as we sat fuming, a lady came onto the bus and asked if there were any passengers going directly to Newcastle. We said yes and were told that another bus across the road was going straight there without having to stop at other stations along the route. This would cut quite a bit of time off the journey and we would have a chance to catch the last bus home.
We were the only two people on that bus and we sat back and went to sleep for a lot of the journey, dreaming of a comfortable bed while in reality, we had sore backsides and even sorer temperaments.
To cut a long journey short, we got back just in time to catch the last bus home, arriving just before Mrs Hopper turned back into a pumpkin as the clock struck midnight.
It really is terrible how bad public transport is right now and I hate having to keep mentioning it in my reports. Having said that, these reports are meant to give you a realistic feel of what you are likely to experience if you travel to the grounds we visit and that means warts and all.
Hopefully, things will improve again someday but it doesn’t look like it’s going to be any day soon.
Anyway, onto the next!