When we went on our last Gibbons road trip to Bristol and Southampton, we decided that our next trip should be to somewhere completely different. Where is the furthest place from Southampton? Scotland. Many places were branded about, until we settled on going to either Inverness or Aberdeen. A year later, and we were on our way to Aberdeen v Inverness. Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?
Dad and Grandad picked me up from college in Wigan on the Friday afternoon, and we headed up to Scotland. A brief stop at Carlisle United’s Brunton Park was added. From there, we headed up to Motherwell before arriving in Glasgow where we stayed for the evening. It would have been rude to visit Glasgow and not take a few photos at Celtic, Rangers and of course the national stadium; Hampden Park. Hampden was preparing itself for next year’s Commonwealth Games.
Our station for the night was a Travelodge in Cumbernauld where we enjoyed a nice meal and a couple of pints in the Red Deer pub next door. We were all set for the next leg of the journey to Aberdeen.
I had noticed when flicking through the weekends fixtures that Dundee United were playing at home on Sunday. That was when we had scheduled to visit the two grounds that lie within close proximity to each other. It seemed like such a shame to travel all the way to Dundee, not to catch another game. So, we set off from Cumbernauld with the next mission to purchase some tickets from Dundee United.
Tickets purchased, we punched Aberdeen into the GPS and pressed on. Two Door Cinema Club came on the radio courtesy of Radio One, which put me in a very happy and giddy mood. I could tell the day was going to be a good one.
There was quite a bit of traffic when we arrived in Aberdeen, but nothing too bad meaning we got to the ground with plenty of time to spare. We hadn’t really researched parking, so went to the ground to see what we could find. Much to our surprise there was space available in the car park outside the Main Stand, and it was free because of Grandad’s disabled badge. Fantastic stuff, good on you Aberdeen!
Dad and I went for a walk around the ground taking some photographs. The travelling Inverness fans were in fine voice singing the usual generic away songs such as we walked up the neighbouring hill. It was hard work getting up there (then again, I am very unfit) but it was worth it. Amusingly, at the top of the hill is a sign which reads “Shout ‘Hello Uncle Jimmy’ and see if he shouts back”. I decided it wouldn’t sound quite right in my Bolton/Wigan/Manchester accent.
Back down the hill we went, and into the ground – meeting Grandad on the way. We were in the Merkland Stand, otherwise known as the Family Enclosure. It was a bit crowded at the back, due to people queuing to purchase pies and drinks. The steps were uneven and wonky, but I didn’t care one bit. It just shows that the ground has character and has been adapted to stage modern day football.
Pittodrie was named after the Pictish (an old Scottish language) for “place of manure”. When the club took possession of the land in 1891, it had been used to stable police horses and neighboured a rubbish dump. The ground was the first all seater covered stadium in Britain when renovation occurred in 1978.
To our right was the South Stand. Split into two sections to house both home and away support, it has a strange look to it due to a peculiar arrangement of seat colours. This stand has a mixture of red and yellow seats. Were Aberdeen going for that continental look of multi coloured seats to make it look like a bigger crowd?
In front of us was the Richard Donald Stand, which backs on to the neighbouring golf course and beach. Built in 1993, it replaced the Beach End. The two tiers make this stand the tallest at Pittodrie, but only the bottom tier was open on this occasion.
To our left was the Main Stand; the iconic old stand which you can see on the TV. The oldest stand in the ground, which has remained standing since 1925. Supporting pillars run down the length of it which may obscure some views if sat at the back.
Any club that plays the Stone Roses or The Smiths pre match always go up in my estimations, and Aberdeen did just that. I don’t know what it is, but whenever I go to grounds up and down the country they always play music from back home.
Going into the match, Inverness were top of the table, leading current champions Celtic by three points. Aberdeen were in fourth place, six points behind Inverness. Terry Butcher had picked his seventh unchanged squad in a row after a fantastic start to the season.
The home side looked far better than Thistle in the first half and could have been a couple of goals in front early on if it wasn’t for a fantastic display from Dean Brill in the Inverness goal. Brill – on loan from Skrill Premier side Luton Town – impressed in goal and reaffirmed why Terry Butcher wants to make his short term loan move something more permanent.
The first clear opportunity of the match fell to the home side on 7 minutes. Jonny Hayes swung the ball in from the right and Joe Shaughnessy rose well to head towards goal. It looked to be going in, but his own teammate and former Crewe player Calvin Zola managed to clear the ball off the line with his backside.
Peter Pawlett was next to go close, when he fired wide from outside the box. You sensed it was only a matter of time before we were treated to a goal.
Dean Brill pulled off a magnificent save on 18 minutes to deny Cammy Smith. Smith took a touch on the edge of the area and struck the ball sweetly towards the bottom right hand corner. Brill somehow got down and tipped the ball past the post for a corner.
Yet again, Brill was equal to everything that Aberdeen threw at him. Reading loanee Michael Hector headed towards goal after great build up play down the wing from Gregg Wylde, but he saw his effort tipped over the bar after an acrobatic save from Brill.
Half time arrived. There wasn’t a concourse of such to go and have a wander around, so I opted to stay in my seat. We were treated by a mascot race, in which the Pittodrie groundsman decided to turn the sprinklers on. Si the Seagull didn’t seem too happy. Not because he was getting wet, but because my Grandad kept referring to him as a duck.
The opening half of the second period was slow paced and scrappy. The referee – who tried his best to play advantage at times – unfortunately allowed the game to become a stop-start affair. Both teams were flying into challenges with full commitment, and the home crowd were appealing for everything. I hoped the game would die down a bit so we could enjoy some football again.
With about half an hour to go, that happened. It was the away side though who put a sustained period of pressure on The Dons defence. Inverness nearly got a breakthrough when yet another header was cleared off the line. The loose ball fell to Billy McKay who fired over.
Tensions eventually boiled over, resulting in Aberdeen’s Michael Hector and Inverness’ Graeme Shinnie being booked after a spout of handbags. I don’t even know why Shinnie was carrying it on. It was blatantly obvious who would win if it was to turn into a real fight!
9 minutes remaining, Aberdeen got the goal that they probably just about deserved. A free kick was floated into the box from Jonny Hayes, the ball was cleared and Inverness dashed out of the area. Nicky Low fired the ball into the air, more out of hope than anything, and it caused Inverness problems. Peter Pawlett rose above everybody else and flicked the ball on to Scott Vernon. Vernon took a touch and swivelled at the same time, instantly hitting the ball into the bottom right hand corner. Brill stood no chance. Pittodrie erupted. The Aberdeen players ran away in celebration. It was a great atmosphere.
Inverness then piled forward in search of an equaliser, leaving them stretched at the back. The Dons could have doubled their lead a couple of minutes later when they broke, but Jonny Haynes couldn’t finish despite being one-on-one with Brill.
The final whistle went, and the home fans celebrated. It was a good three points for Aberdeen, and on reflection they probably just about deserved them. Inverness went home having suffered their first defeat of the season. Something Terry Butcher didn’t know what to do about as he later explained in his post match interview “That’s our unbeaten run gone and we haven’t scored today. It’s disappointing but we’ll regroup. It’s a different feeling – we’ve not lost this season and I don’t quite know what to do now. The dog will get walked tomorrow and I’ll reflect on it”.
Nobody was in a rush to leave the ground at the end. We made our way to the car park and caught up on the latest scores from back home. Atherton Collieries had come from a goal behind to beat promotion contenders Irlam 3-1 away from home, a great afternoon had just got better. Bolton of course however tried to ruin the afternoon as usual when they lost 3-1 away at Brighton to leave them bottom of the Championship.
Talking of Bolton, Gregg Wylde soon came out of the ground and walked past the car. A few months ago he was playing for Bury after falling out of favour at The Reebok, and now he was playing quite well in the SPL. Yet another example of players regaining confidence upon leaving the Wanderers. After reading Wylde’s interview in the matchday programme about his time at Bolton, I do now feel quite sorry for him and wish him all the best. He did say some silly things when he left us, but I don’t mind. I’d choose Pittodrie over The Reebok any day of the week.
After the match we headed to our hotel for the evening which was near Aberdeen Airport. A few pints in a strange pub and a Football League Show later, we were fast asleep, eagerly anticipating the following day’s adventure to Dundee United. We could not wait.
Overall, I really liked Pittodrie. The ground is nice and very traditional. No more so than the granite entrance to the Merkland Road Stand. Admission is reasonable, and the fans were nice and well behaved. Foul language doesn’t bother me at all, but I think it’s the first match I have been to for years where I didn’t hear one swear word. It’s a club that strikes me as keen to develop and support the children of the community. There were plenty of them around, all in big groups cheering on their side. Well done Aberdeen!
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 338 miles
- ADMISSION: £10 as a student
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £3
- PIE: Too small, didn’t bother