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Scottish Smash & Grab

Edina! Scotia’s darling seat!
All hail thy palaces and tow’rs,
Where once, beneath a Monarch’s feet,
Sat Legislation’s sov’reign pow’rs:
From marking wildly scatt’red flow’rs,
As on the banks of Ayr I stray’d,
And singing, lone, the lingering hours,
I shelter in they honour’d shade.

(Robbie Burns 1759 – 1796)




Before the trip ‘oop north’, I took in a match at another ground I hadn’t visited and it wasn’t too far from Crewe Alexandra’s home ground at Gresty Road. It was a fairly balmy evening, which took a nip in the air as it wore on, but it was as nothing compared to Glasgow, which appeared to have non-stop rain!

Monday 27th October 2014 Staffordshire County Senior League   k.o.:- 7.30pm

Premier Division

Manchester Metropolitan University               1

Luke Taylor 37,

Audley                                                                     1

Lyndon Hughes 88,

Referee:- Ross Crawford                        Attendance:- 56


The Victoria Community Centre and Cumberland Arena sits adjacent to the railway track in Crewe and is a multi sports centre. Manchester Metropolitan University hire the stadium on a match by match basis for their Staffordshire County Senior League matches , Football Conference Youth Alliance and British Universities league matches. You could actually watch the match from the comfort of this indoor viewing area (see below) with hot drinks available!


Below is a view of the indoor viewing area from the near goal.


As usual, the traffic on the way up was pretty heavy, but having left early, I was able to get there with plenty of time for a coffee and a chat with several other likeminded ‘hoppers’ who had made the journey for this match! I didn’t really know what to expect, but the welcome from the players and staff was very warm and they made sure I had all the team and refreshment information that I needed prior to the match!


I was surprised at the number of people at this match. There were many student supporters and some of these were embroiled in an unseemly fracas with the away players at half-time as they were going off the pitch. After half-time, the referee insisted that all spectators stood outside the running track with circumvented the pitch.


The game itself was a fairly close affair between two well matched sides. The young students against the wily villagers from just across the other side of The M6. The students scored first and looked to have won the match with a single strike, until their opponents clawed themselves back into the match right at the death. A draw was probably a fair reflection on the encounter!

On the way home, a major ‘incident’ had closed the M6 between junctions 12 and 13 and having heard this, I took the A50 to Derby, only to find that this road, too, was closed for extensive repairs. For nearly forty-five minutes I found myself part of an extended convoy of cars and lorries touring the back lanes of Staffordshire before were were eventually and thankfully allowed back onto the A50. It was after midnight when I got home!


Tuesday 28th October 2014   Scottish League Cup   k.o.:- 7.15pm


Rangers                                                    1

Lewis MacLeod 86,

St Johnstone                                           0

Referee:- Steven McLean               Attendance:-  13,023

Despite the previous night’s exertions and my late arrival home, I had to be up, bright and early, to catch the 9.00am train to Stansted Airport from Stamford. Jack joined me at Cambridge and then we were soon both bound up in the melee at the departure gates for our midday flight to Glasgow International Airport. Nothing ever goes right, does it. The flight we were booked on was still in Glasgow when we reached the departure gate and our flight was delayed by  over an hour1 But we got there in the end!


Jack, outside our hotel, The Victoria House, just off Sauchiehall Street. It was a good hotel, nothing fancy but absolutely ideal – wooden floors, single bed, en-suite, breakfast included. We’d go back there again!


Jack got on famously with the receptionist at the hotel and she suggested a couple of likely eateries, but we eventually found an ‘eat all you want’ Chinese restaurant on Sauchiehall Street and enjoyed a pretty substantial repast before before walking down to the nearest stop on the underground which was Carscadden. It was also just about the furthest stop away from Ibrox, so that we could have chosen a train going either way to get us there, as ‘The Clockwork Orange”, (an affectionate nomenclature for the Glasgow underground), is just one big circle with about twenty stations on it. It was opened in 1896, but was never developed any further than the original circle line.


Ibrox Stadium is a pretty imposing place, but not very welcoming. Jack enquired after a badge in the club shop and they couldn’t find any and suggested that we try one of the street vendors outside! There were plenty of badges there! We had tickets in The Sandy Jardine Stand. Sandy Jardine was a famous former stalwart of Rangers, who died, recently, from cancer. However, neither of the two stewards we asked could direct us to The Sandy Jardine Stand!!!


This was the quarter final of The Scottish League Cup and Rangers, of The Scottish Championship, were playing a team, St Johnstone, from The Scottish Premiership. The general consensus seemed to be that many Rangers fans are not happy with the style of play adopted by manager Ally McQuiost, are not interested in The Scottish League Cup and are less than happy with the boardroom wranglings which seem to be tearing the club apart!


In any event, the attendance was paltry and the atmosphere was funereal and maybe because of that, the standard of football and the entertainment value was very poor.


Behind the goal above are the 470 or so fans who made the trip from St Johnstone. The upper tier was closed, just as it was at the opposite end (see below).


Rangers squeezed through with a goal four minutes from time. They were no better than St Johnstone, who, indeed, had the better chances. Both sides were serving up fare you could see any weekend in League One or League Two in England. We were pleased, however, to avoid extra time. A match so looked forward to, had turned out to be a damp squib!


The following morning, after our trip to view proceedings at Benburb, we went back to Ibrox to capture a few more shots of the stadium.


Above, The Sandy Jardine Stand


The New Benburb

A New Benburb FC rises next door to the old, impressive bastion of Scottish Lowland football. Below, the old ground is already covered with the foundations of a housing estate. Long gone is the huge old stand as the houses begin to arise and obliterate the site.


Meanwhile, behind the old ground, the new stadium takes shape. Whilst we were there, this floodlight pylon had been winched down to allow the bulbs to be inserted and behind, in the background, you can see the new club house taking shape.


From the far end, looking back towards the old ground, this is the view of the new stadium (below). To the right of the picture (but not in camera) there will be a covered seating area which is still under construction.


A closer view (below) of the new club house and changing rooms taking shape at the Benburb Stadium.


Wednesday 29th October 2014   Scottish League Cup      k.o.:- 7.45pm


Hibernian                                            3

Dominique Malonga 17, Jason Cummings 57, Matthew Kennedy 78, 

Dundee United                                  3

Chris Erskine 12, Aidan Connolly 19, Ryan Dow 61,

Referee:-  John Beaton            Attendance:-  8,689

Dundee United won by 7-6 on penalties.


It is 51.1 miles from Ibrox Stadium to Easter Road in Edinburgh and our little, rented, VW Polo gobbled up the miles in a little under an hour. The difference in welcome was amazing. We arrived around 11.30am and had hardly entered the club shop before Jack had located the stadium manager and we had a free tour of the ground!


He took us through from the shop and into the ground. He was a relative newcomer himself, having only been in the job for around eight months. He came from Southampton and he was still coming to terms with the history and tradition surrounding the club. The present stadium holds 20,600 seated spectators and for the derby with Hearts the previous Sunday, there had been an attendance of 14,562.


Our tour completed, we adjourned to Edinburgh city centre where car parking is horrendously expensive. apparently, the new tram service is not universally approved as it serves only those on a corridor between Edinburgh Airport and city, but it looked impressive.



Jack went up The Scott Monument (the last time I went up I got severe vertigo and claustrophobia, so, this time, I declined!). It was a lovely sunny and warm day and I sat outside in Princes Park, just off Princes Street, with my book and an apple whilst the intrepid Jack scaled the dizzy heights of the monument – from the inside!


Up on the Royal Mile, a lone piper was entertaining the crowds and we went into The Camera Obscura for a couple of very entertaining and interesting hours! It has been quite sometime since I went into The Camera Obscura and it was impressive to see just how much the idea has been developed. All sorts of optical tricks and illusions were available and I was particularly impressed with the bridge which you crossed and it didn’t move, but you came out feeling dizzy as if you had been spun from side to side in a wildly gyrating cylinder!

DSCN4632From the roof of The Camera Obscura, you could almost reach out and touch Edinburgh Castle! 


Back at Easter Road, Jack and I had treated ourselves to a small degree of hospitality in The Edinburgh Suite. Last night, at Ibrox, Rangers were offering hospitality packages for their match at £150+ VAT. This evening, at Easter Road, the offer was considerably less than a third of that!

DSCN4633Hospitality menu

As for the game, well, it was fast, furious and exciting. Once again, a team from The Scottish Championship (Hibernian) were playing one of the big boys from The Scottish Premiership, but unlike last night’s clash, this game commenced with an earthquake and built up to a gripping climax.


There were three goals within the first twenty minutes, with Dundee United taking a 2-1 advantage, only to find themselves having to substitute influential midfielder Gary Mackay-Steven who went off after what appeared to be an innocuous challenge. The play continued to flow fast and furious with Dundee United seemingly having the edge, taking the lead three times only for Hibernian to claw it back on each occasion!

Inevitably, extra time saw no further goals as each team fought to a standstill – and as Jack’s headache grew stronger, not helped by the intensity of the vocal support for both sides! The first six penalties to each side were unerringly despatched and we began to wonder if a shoot-out on the epic scale of The Liverpool/Middlesbrough league cup-tie of a few weeks ago was on the cards (Liverpool won that one 14-13). However, both sides missed their seventh penalties and when Dundee United scored with the next one, Hibernian had to score to stay in the competition. Sadly, David Gray, the Hibernian right-back, couldn’t hold his nerve and Dundee United, after a titanic struggle, marched into the semi-finals.


Despite the extra time and penalties, we were back at Victoria House in Glasgow by midnight and Jack was able to down several paracetamol to assuage his aching pate.

The following morning we were up, bright and early, and off to the airport to drop off the hire car and catch the 10.40 Ryannair flight back to Stansted. Yes, you’ve guessed. The flight was late and we were left at the boarding gate twiddling our thumbs for an hour or so, Jack, fully recovered, practising his charm on a Glaswegian lass who was off to Bratislava on business!

It had been a cracking three days and if I ever see another set of matches in Glasgow and/or Edinburgh, I think I would be very tempted …….. Partick Thistle, Greenock Morton, St Mirren, Kilmarnock, Clydebank, Livingston! They all need crossing off my list!

Make no mistake ………..I’ll be back soon.

Matches this season:- 85              New grounds this season:- 58

Total matches:- 3,058                   Total new grounds:-  1,012

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