Sunday, 28 February 2010

Ibrox Stadium (Rangers v Celtic)

For more pictures of Ibrox see this post and this one.

Yesterday, after having lived in Scotland for over nine years, I finally visited my first Old Firm derby. Tickets for the meetings between Glasgow giants Rangers and Celtic are never on general sale and it is typically only season ticket holders from both clubs that attend these fixtures, apart from some sponsor and hospitality seats.

I am not a supporter of either of the clubs but I was able to borrow my friend Martijn's season ticket so I took my seat in the Copland Stand amongst the Rangers support. Before this game Rangers were seven points ahead of their bitter rivals in the league and it was a must-win match for Celtic. Earlier this week Celtic also appeared to have increased pressure on referee Dougie McDonald when an 'anonymous source' at Celtic revealed that the Parkhead club had complained to the SFA about various dubious decisions made by referees this season that all went against Celtic.

Before kick-off there was supposed to be a minute's silence as well for Gerhardt 'Gerrie' Neef, who was Rangers' goalkeeper when they won their first, and only, European trophy, the 1972 European Cup Winners' Cup. Unfortunately this silence was not observed by an admittedly small minority of the Celtic support which provoked booing from the home support. Embarrassing for both sets of supporters if you ask me and disrespectful to Neef's family who apparently had asked for a minute's silence instead of the cringe worthy minute of applause.

Of course this kind of controversy is all to be expected on derby day in Glasgow. Like it or not this is the biggest fixture on the Scottish football calendar. The Glasgow derby is followed with interest by the majority of the people in the West of Scotland and I think all these incidents are just a reflection of what is going on in society in this part of the world. This is not typical of Scotland I think, I know it is the same when Ajax and Feyenoord are playing each other in Holland. I was very impressed with the policing of the match and the crowd segregation before and after the game however.

The game itself was fast and tense with chances on both sides with both goalkeepers, Artur Boruc for Celtic and Allan McGregor for Rangers, in excellent form. It looked like Maurice Edu opened the score for Rangers but referee McDonald rightly disallowed the 'goal' because Kenny Miller had handled the ball.

In the second half Rangers looked the dominant side and they knew that a draw would suit them much better than Celtic. After 66 minutes Scott Brown was controversially sent off after he and Kyle Laffery clashed but it seemed a harsh decision. Rangers tried frantically to capitalise on the advantage but only in the third minute of injury time did Edu score the winning goal after a goalmouth scramble.

Approaching Ibrox from Paisley Road West.

Celtic fans queueing up outside the Broomloan Stand.

The Main Stand.

Again the Main Stand.

Flag waving before kick-off.

Both sets of players are entering the pitch. The Broomloan Stand, the opposite end, housed the Celtic fans.

Celtic are getting ready to take a free kick.

Banners on display during half time.

The players are getting ready for the second half.

Celtic ended up playing with ten men after Scott Brown was sent off.

Maurice Edu scores the only goal of the match three minutes in injury time.

The Main Stand after the game.

The Govan Stand.

The Broomloan Stand.

Sunday 28th February 2010
Scottish Premier League
Rangers 1 Celtic 0
Goal: Edu 90+3.
Att: 50,320

Sunday, 21 February 2010

St James' Park (Newcastle United v Preston North End)

Yesterday Martijn and I took the train to Newcastle to pay our first ever visit to St James' Park, home of Newcastle United. We took the 9 o'clock CrossCountry from Glasgow Central and arrived in Newcastle just after 11:30. This gave us time to have our lunch and some pre-match refreshments in the Toon. The ground is very close to the station, I would say a ten-minute walk, which made this an easy journey. We first went to The Union Rooms, a JD Wetherspoon pub on Westgate Road, where we had our lunch as well. We then strolled along Westgate Road and bumped into The Mile Castle. According to the JD Wetherspoon website this pub opened only two months ago. After a quick pint we embarked on the short walk to the stadium.

The first Newcastle goal by Peter Lovenkrands was scored before we had even taken our seats in the West Corner Balcony. The stadium is certainly very impressive and the over 45,000 in attendance created a magnificent atmosphere. I was not as impressed by the match with Newcastle the dominating team that never looked like dropping any points today. Top scorer Kevin Nolan scored the second one for the Geordies just before the hour-mark. Substitute Ryan Taylor than made it three in injury time. The Magpies are still top of the table, five points ahead of Forest and six ahead of West Brom who have played one game less than Newcastle.

After taking some pictures of the empty ground we stopped at an off-licence to ensure we would not be thirsty on the way back to Scotland. We took the 17:36 train and arrived safely at Glasgow Central at around 20:20. Next weekend will be a busy one with a daunting trip to the Highlands on Saturday to see Elgin City take on Queen's Park. Hopefully the game will go ahead, nine SFL games were postponed in Scotland yesterday due to frozen pitches. Then on Sunday I will visit Ibrox for what will be my first ever Old Firm derby.

First a couple of pre-match pints in The Union Rooms.

Then one more in another Wetherspoon's pub, The Mile Castle.

Approaching St. James' Park.

The view from our seats: the East Stand and the Newcastle Brown (Gallowgate) End.

Again a picture taken from my seat: the Leazes (Sir John Hall) Stand. Many supporters were standing and stewards and police did not seem to mind. This suited me fine.

The East Stand.

The impressive Milburn Stand.

The Leazes (Sir John Hall) Stand after the final whistle.

An empty Newcastle Brown (Gallowgate) End.

The East Stand after the game.

Panorama shot taken after today's game.

Saturday 20th February 2010
Football League Championship
Newcastle United 3 Preston North End 0
Goals: Lovenkrands 3, Nolan 55, Taylor 90+1.
Att: 45,525

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Ibrox Stadium (Rangers v St Mirren)

The main facade of Ibrox Stadium.

Yesterday I went to Ibrox Stadium where Rangers and St Mirren met for a Scottish Cup fifth round replay. The first game at St Mirren Park had ended goalless but St Mirren had the better chances on the night and I suppose they were a bit unlucky not to have scored. I think most people felt St Mirren had their chance and Rangers would have an easy job at home.

Rangers did win however it was probably not as easy as they had expected unfortunately also not as difficult as I had hoped. It did not take penalties or even extra time, all it took was a late Kris Boyd goal. Rangers were deserved winners so I could live with it but this habit of losing late goals that the Saints have adopted has started to become very annoying.

At least it did not take me long to get back home. Ibrox is by far the easiest away game to travel to for me, only 15 minutes on the bus.

For more pictures of Ibrox see this post and this one.

Approaching Ibrox.

The Copland Stand. The game was no sell-out but still a respectable crowd of over 30,000.

The Main Stand.

My seat was next to the Rangers supporters in the Govan Stand.

The Broomloan Stand.

The St Mirren supporters in the Govan West Corner.

Wednesday 17th February 2010
The Active Nation Scottish Cup Round Five (Replay)
Rangers 1 St Mirren 0
Goal: Boyd 86.
Att: 31,086

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Love Street (or what's left of it...)

No football games this Valentine's weekend (I have got my priorities...) however I walked down to Love Street after I bought my ticket for this Wednesday's Scottish Cup replay at Ibrox. Although I live only about a 15-20 minute walk away I only pass the old St Mirren ground when I go to or travel from Glasgow Airport so I was curious to see what was left of the ground the Saints had called their home for about 115 years.

For pictures of the last home game at Love Street see this post. For pictures taken in March 2010 see this post, for photos taken in July 2010 see this post.

Still one pylon left however without its lights.

The North Bank is missing its roof now.

The West Stand looks still rather intact from the side.

The North Bank roof structure.

The old turnstiles at the Love Street end.

The ticket office.

Not much left of the East Stand either.

And this is the saddest picture of them all. The beautiful Main Stand has disappeared. You can see that the West Stand is being dismantled as well.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Fir Park (Hearts v St Mirren)

For pictures of a Motherwell home game at Fir Park click here.

On Tuesday I went to Motherwell where the first semi-final of the 2010 Co-operative Insurance Cup (the Scottish league cup) was staged. Fir Park was the venue chosen by the Scottish Football League to host the first semi between St Mirren and Hearts. I know many St Mirren fans had preferred Hampden but I always thought the atmosphere at Fir Park would be much better. The last time the Saints played in a semi-final in this competition (and lost 3-0 to Kilmarnock) only 9,213 attended. A similar number were in attendance today however I had expected a bigger crowd as Hearts are a bigger club than Kilmarnock.

All fixtures in this competition, apart from the final, are played in midweek which does not add to the appeal for many fans. I managed to leave work a couple of hours earlier than usual and we were in Motherwell at around five o'clock. After my first visit to a Wimpy restaurant in over 25 years we headed for the New Century Bar in Windmillhill Street. Most punters in here were Hearts fans but the atmosphere was good.

We then headed for Fir Park and took our seats in the Davie Cooper Stand. St Mirren had been allocated the Phil O'Donnell Stand as well. The game was not a sell-out but there was a great atmosphere. The Buddies dominated the match and after missing a few chances Billy Mehmet scored his cracking goal early in the second half. It was no more than the Saints deserved. The men from Paisley continued to dominate and, despite a few nervy moments at the end, managed to reach their first national cup final since 1987 and their first league cup final since 1955.

St Mirren fans on the Davie Cooper Stand.

Again the Davie Cooper Stand, which was sold out.

The Phil O'Donnell Stand was also allocated to fans from Paisley but it was not filled to capacity.

The South Stand before kick-off, one of the two stands allocated to the Hearts fans.

Again the South Stand. This stand was also sold out.

The East Stand also housed some of the Hearts fans.

The final whistle. St Mirren have reached their first League Cup final since 1955.

Tuesday 2nd February 2010
Co-operative Insurance Cup Semi-Final
Hearts 0 St Mirren 1
Goal: Mehmet 51.
Att: 9,170
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