Saturday, 22 August 2009

Strathlclyde Homes Stadium (Dumbarton v Clyde)

Today it was off to Dumbarton, home of Dumbarton FC, who were Scottish Champions, in 1891 and 1892, although the 1891 title was shared with Rangers. Of course Dumbarton have not been as successful as that for quite a while although the Sons won the Scottish Third Division last year. The 'Sons' is a bit of a peculiar nickname but then again most nicknames are when you think of it. Apparently it is derived from the phrase 'Sons of the Rock' a term used for those born in the town of Dumbarton. The 'Rock' obviously refers to Dumbarton Rock, which is hard to miss when you are in Dumbarton. It is a 25-minute train journey from Glasgow Queen Street to Dumbarton East and from there it is only a five-minute walk.

Approaching the 'Strathclyde Homes Stadium' turnstiles with Dumbarton Rock in the background.

Dumbarton play their home games in the 'Strathclyde Homes Stadium', which is probably the worst name in Scottish League football at the moment. The stadium opened its doors in 2000 and replaced Dumbarton's traditional home, Boghead Park. There is only one stand with a capacity of 2,025, but the spectacular location still makes this an attractive destination for groundhoppers, even though it is a bit tricky to photograph the complete stand with Dumbarton Rock in the background.

The main entrance.

Today's opponents were Clyde, who were relegated from the First Division last season. Alan Lithgow scored the first two goals to give the Bully Wee a 2-0 lead after 24 minutes. However from the moment Clyde goalie Calum Reidford was sent off (for an attempted head-butt on Roddy Hunter) the Cumbernauld team started to struggle and Mick Dunlop pulled one back for the Sons just before the half-time whistle. Roddy Hunter scored the equaliser in the second half but it did not take long for Clyde to restore their lead as trialist Willie McLachlan scored from a beautifully taken free kick. Iain Chisholm scored the 3-3 only minutes before the final whistle and Dumbarton had a great chance to win it as well however this thriller did not deserve a losing team and 3-3 was the final score.

I have said it before, a stadium with a bar can never be a bad ground. There were loads of memorabilia on display as well.

A healthy crowd of 975 turned up for this Second Division game.

'Pellie' was happy to pose for a picture.

The Clyde goalie was sent off after 35 minutes.

Only one stand but some great views.

The single stand holds just over 2,000.

Another view from outside, I could not get enough of it!

Saturday 22nd August 2009
Scottish Football League Second Division
Dumbarton 3 Clyde 3
Dumbarton: Dunlop 45, Hunter 63, Chisholm 86.
Clyde: Lithgow 15, 24, A Trialist 65.
Att: 975

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Almondvale Stadium (Livingston v Montrose)

Today it was off to Livingston, to pay my first visit to Almondvale Stadium. This time I did not take the train because both Livingston North and Livingston South railway stations are quite far away from the ground. Instead I took the X15 First bus from Buchanan Bus Station in Glasgow which takes about an hour to take you to the Almondvale Shopping Centre which is very close to the ground. A return ticket is £8.60 but make sure you have the exact fare on you as you do not get any change.

Approaching Almondvale Stadium.

Only days before the Livi Lions were supposed to play their first game at Ross County in the First Division the Scottish Football League decided the West Lothian club were to be demoted to the Third Division because they had gone into administration at the end of June. Livingston had lost their appeal against the SFL's decision last Thursday and initially it was reported the club would not play the game against Montrose, just as they had not turned up at Ogilview Park last week to play East Stirlingshire as Livingstone believed playing this game would prejudice their case against the relegation to the fourth tier in Scottish football. However, the SFA gave assurances that playing today's game would not prejudice their case so Livingstone decided to go ahead with the game after all.

A view of the ground from the nearby multi-storey car park.

Meadowbank Thistle were a relatively unpopular league team from Edinburgh, founded in 1943 as Ferranti Thistle and renamed Meadowbank Thistle when they entered the SFL. They were moved to the 'new town' of Livingston in 1995 to play in the newly-built Almondvale Stadium in an NFL-esque way, very similar to what happened when Wimbledon became MK Dons. It is remarkable however that Livi still count the 1986 Second Division league title and the 1974 'Scottish Qualifying Cup (South)' when they list their honours. In 2001 Livingston were promoted to the SPL. I was at their first ever SPL game when they drew 1-1 at Ibrox. Livi ended the season in third place and qualified for the UEFA Cup. In 2004 they won the League Cup after beating Hibs 2-0 in the final at Hampden. By then the bubble had started to burst. They went into administration for the first time in February 2004. In 2006 they were relegated to the First Division.

Turnstiles leading to the West Stand, the only stand open today.

The ground is compact, just over 10,000 seats which was just enough to enter the SPL under the old requirements. A lot of Scottish football fans criticize the ground for being too 'plastic' but as new grounds go this is not a bad effort at all. Even though there were only just over 600 supportes in the ground according to the official attendance figure they were able to create quite some noise at times. It was clear that the Livi fans were dying to see their team play again, no matter what division they were playing in. Andrew Halliday scored the opening goal for the home team. Montrose then had Sean Crighton sent off after 35 minutes. From this moment it did not look like Livingston could ever lose this game even though after Halliday's second goal in the 54th minute the West Lothian team were not able to find the net for a third time despite a few decent chances. After the final whistle the team were given a rapturous applause by the clearly relieved home contingent. I hope for them the SFL will not come down too harshly on the club for not playing the game against East Stirlingshire. There has been talk of a 15-point deduction which would make it difficult to either avoid relegation from the First Division or win promotion from the Third to the Second Division.

The Carling Bar. A stadium with a bar can never be a bad ground although they were not serving any pints of lager today, only bottled beers. Both lagers on draught, Carling (obviously) and Peroni Nastro Azzuro (presumably introduced by former owner Angelo Massone?) were off unfortunately.

The South Stand.

The North Stand.

The East Stand.

The West Stand, the only stand in use today. The Montrose fans were seated in the far left corner.

Saturday 15th August 2009
Scottish Football League Third Division
Livingston 2 Montrose 0
Goals: Halliday 18, 54.
Att: 632

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Groundhopping in Valencia

On Thursday 30th July, during the second week of our honeymoon, Gail and I visited the city of Valencia, the third city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona. We went for an excursion combined with tickets for the Bus Turistic, one of these open-top doubledecker buses you will find in many popular cities across the world. A very 'touristy' thing to do but great if you want to see as much of a city as possible in only a few hours.

Before going on holiday I had done a bit of research and decided I wanted to see three grounds in Valencia. First of all the Estadi Ciutat de València, home of Levante UD, Valencia's 'other' club. Then there was of course the Mestalla, home of Valencia CF, one of Spain's biggest clubs outside the Big Two, if not the biggest. Finally I planned to see the Nou Mestalla, Valencia CF's new state of the art 75,000 capacity ground which is still under construction.

A lot of construction work is currently done outside the Estadi Ciutat.

Unfortunately the Estadi Ciutat was not anywhere near any of the stops of the Bus Turistic. So first there was a walk of about 2 miles to the home of Levante UD. The Estadi Ciutat de València (which is the official name in Valencian, the Spanish name is Estadio Ciudad de Valencia) is an all-seater ground with a capacity of 25,354 according to the Spanish Wikipedia entry. Levante Unión Deportiva (or Llevant Unió Esportiva in Valencian) was founded in 1909, ten years before local rivals Valencia CF. Although they played in the Primera Division for three seasons in this century they have played in one of the lower divisions for most of their existence, always playing second fiddle to their big brothers, much more so than Espanyol or Atletico Madrid. Levante's only major trophy was the 1937 Copa del Rey.

The main entrance.

Unfortunately no open gates to be found this time. I could not even get a glimpse of the pitch.

The club shop however was open. We arrived at the ground just before siesta started at 2pm. Apparently 'Tenda Granota' means 'Frog Shop', as Levante UD are known as the 'Frogs' (see reader comment below).

I had already seen there was a lot of construction work going on when I 'visited' the ground on Google Street View but I had hoped it would all be finished by now.

This is what it is supposed to look like after all the work is finished.

After the Estadi Ciutat it was off to the Mestalla, another two-mile walk in the afternoon heat. There was no scale indication on the map I was using and I did not think it was as far as that so I told the missus it would be a 15-minute walk, which was an honest estimate if not a very good one. After a prolonged '15 minutes' we arrived at the Estadio Mestalla, home of Valencia Club de Fútbol.

Built in 1923, the ground was one of the venues for the 1982 World Cup and the host nation played all of their three group games in Valencia. The Spanish Wikipedia entry gives a current capacity of 52,600.

Approaching the Estadio Mestalla.

Unfortunately, again no open gates. In fact the ground looked totally deserted with no sign of life. This was as close as I got to a pitch view.

Outside the gates.

An impressive ground from the outside. A shame I could not get inside!

At the main entrance.

After this slightly disappointing visit it was off to the Nou Mestalla. To see this ground, which is still very much under construction, we jumped on the Bus Turistic again, about a mile away from the Mestalla. Luckily the bus would not only drive past the new Valencia ground, it would even stop nearby. Unfortunately there was not enough time for us to get off so I had to take my pictures from the bus.

Expectations were not very high as the pictures I had seen on the internet showed that the construction work had been delayed. Valencia CF are in deep financial trouble and all construction work on the stadium has been halted. It turned out there was still a lot of work to be done before its opening, which is now scheduled for February 2011. I am not sure what this estimate is based on as the pictures show there is absolutely nothing being done at the moment, no cranes, nothing. However you can really imagine this being a word-class ground if it ever gets finished. See this site for more pictures and concept art.

The Nou Mestalla.

A closer look at the new ground.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Estadio José Rico Pérez (Hércules CF and Alicante CF)

On Monday 27th July, whilst still on our honeymoon, Gail and I took the F.G.V. train to Alicante. This takes about an hour and 10 minutes from Benidorm and a return ticket costs less than six euros. As this is not a 'normal' railway but a narrow gauge railway it is quite slow but some of the views are stunning.

The Estadio José Rico Pérez is about a half-hour walk from the station. Well, it is about three kilometres, and to be honest it took us probably a bit longer than half an hour, what with the Spanish sun on a July afternoon.

The stadium was built in 1974 and is home to both Hércules CF and Alicante CF. During the 2008/2009 season both clubs played in the Segunda División, the second tier in Spanish professional football. Hércules only just missed out on promotion to the Primera División and ended the season in fourth place. Alicante ended up in 20th place and were relegated to Segunda División B.

The ground was also a World Cup venue in 1982 and hosted three games. Argentina beat Hungary 4-1 and El Salvador 2-0 in Alicante. In the match for third place Poland beat France 3-2.

With its current capacity of about 30,000 the ground would not be able to host any World Cup games nowadays but it is still quite impressive for a second division club (or clubs). The ground is mainly uncovered, like most grounds in Spain, with only a few roofed seats in the lower tier of the main stand. The most impressive stand is the two-tier stand opposite the main stand.

The Hercules CF crest.

The Hercules CF Social Club outside the ground.

The Alicante offices looked a bit depressing. It is clear that Hércules are the bigger and more successful club.

The ticket offices.

Luckily one of the gates was open and I managed to take a few pics (and having a few taken of myself as well) inside the ground.

The ground did not disappoint with its large stands and big floodlights!

Surely the most impressive stand of the four.

The main stand is not looking bad either.

The smallest of the four stands has what looks like a fairly modern scoreboard.

Estadio Municipal de Foietes (Benidorm CD)

On 18th July I married my beautiful Gail and we headed for Benidorm on Tuesday 21st July for our honeymoon. Although groundhopping was obviously not my priority during our holiday I still managed to get a few shots of some grounds in Benidorm, Alicante, and Valencia.

On Wednesday 22nd July Gail and I walked to the ground which is on the edge of the town, in an area where you do not find many tourists, which is of course quite unusual in Benidorm. Benidorm Club Deportivo play in Segunda Division B, the third tier in Spanish football. According to Wikipedia the ground has a capacity of either 6,000 or 9,000 (both numbers are given) of which 500 are seats. As with most grounds in these parts all stands are uncovered and the stadium is not much to look at from the outside. I have no idea what the atmosphere on match days is like and what kind of attendance figures Benidorm CD have.

When we arrived at the ground the groundsmen were watering the pitch and a gate was open so I could take a few pictures. The pictures on the official website of Benidorm CD give a good impression as well, unfortunately again no match day photographs. Bruce Springsteen gave a concert here when we were in Benidorm, surely this must be one of the smaller venues of his current tour.

Edit: In July 2009 Benidorm Club Deportivo was renamed Benidorm Club de Fútbol.

The Main Stand (or at least that is what I call it).

The terrace opposite the main stand.

I was happy I was able to get inside the ground.

The ground is not much to look at from the outside although the palm tree is a nice touch.
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