Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Dens Park (Dundee v Raith Rovers)

Last Saturday my wife and I took a Citylink bus to Dundee. Gail does not usually accompany me on my groundhopping trips but she had decided she wanted to come along with me to see some shops in the City of Discovery. My main purpose of this trip was my first game at Dens Park, home of Dundee FC. Dens Park has a capacity of about 12,000 and despite the modern stands behind both goals still has a traditional feel to it, more so than Tannadice. The Bobby Cox and Bob Shankly stands were built ten years ago to comply with the 10,000 seated capacity required by the SPL at the time. Both stands hold 3,000. The Main (North) Stand is unusaul in that it is chevron-shaped, the middle bit is further from the pitch than both ends of the stand. The South Stand is an old terrace converted to seating.

Dundee is of course famous for having two professional football clubs, Dundee and Dundee United, with stadiums only 150 yards apart from each other. I had visited Tannadice Park, home of United, two seasons ago but I only managed to take a few pictures of Dens Park at the time and still had to return for a Dundee home game. Dundee United have been the stronger team for a while now, regularly competing for third place in the SPL and 'best of the rest' is as good as it gets nowadays if you are neither Rangers nor Celtic. A few decades ago the Dark Blues were the more illustrious side however, having won the Scottish league in 1962 and reaching the semi-final of the European Cup the following season, having beaten 1. FC Köln, Sporting Portugal and Anderlecht before losing to AC Milan.

The last of the major domestic trophies to be won by the Dee was the 1973 Scottish League Cup, even though they were losing finalists in the 1980 League Cup Final, which was staged at Dens (the biggest of the Dundee grounds at the time) and won 3-0 by Dundee United. The Dens Park side were relegated from the top flight in 2005 after a few years of financial turmoil and have been desperate to return to the SPL ever since. Despite a higher budget than the other First Division clubs they have been unsuccessful so far and their start to the new season has not been promising either.

The previous weekend I had seen Dundee lose comprehensively to Dunfermline at East End Park and last Saturday they were playing host to league leaders Raith Rovers. The game ended goalless despite a first-half penalty, which was awarded to the men from Kirkcaldy after Milan Misun had fouled Gregory Tade in the box. John Baird's spot-kick was saved by former Celtic goalie Rab Douglas. After the interval Dundee looked the stronger side but they could not find the net. The result meant Dunfermline are now top of the First Division, seven points above Dundee.

Approaching Dens Park.

The Main (North) Stand. Tannadice can be seen in the background.

Taken from Google Maps: only about 150 yards between both grounds. You can also see the odd shape of the Main Stand at Dens Park.

The South Stand.

The Bob Shankly Stand housed the Raith Rovers fans.

The Main (North) Stand.

Rab Douglas saved John Bairds's penalty.

Dundee were not able to find the net either.

Tannadice floodlights in the background.

The Bobby Cox Stand after the game.

The Dundee club shop.

Saturday 18th September 2010
Scottish Football League First Division
Dundee 0 Raith Rovers 0
Att: 4,532

Saturday, 11 September 2010

East End Park (Dunfermline Athletic v Dundee)

Today I went to Fife to see Dunfermline take on Dundee at East End Park. I had planned to take the 1:10pm X26 Stagecoach bus from Glasgow Buchanan bus station to Dunfermline bus station but the bus never showed up so I took the X24, which was also late and it left Glasgow at 1:40pm. I knew I was going to struggle to make kick-off now and the bus arrived in Dunfermline at 2:45pm. Had I not been looking for a programme seller outside East End Park I would have been inside the stadium by 3pm however as it happens I was two minutes late and unfortunately still without a programme!

This was my first game at East End Park. I had taken some pictures outside the ground last season (when the Pars were also playing Dundee) but I had to come back in my quest to visit a home game at all 42 Scottish league grounds. Dunfermline were relegated to the First Division in 2007 and with its 12,500 capacity East End Park was fully compliant with the old SPL requirements. The ground has a modern look to it with fairly new 3,000-capacity one-tier stands behind the goals but the 1960s Main Stand gives it a bit of character as well. A drawback of the two-tier Main Stand is the large pillar in the centre of the stand which can obstruct your view quite a bit.

The Pars moved to within a point of First Division leaders Raith Rovers today with a convincing victory over Dundee. The home side were awarded a penalty when Nicholas Riley fouled Joe Cardle. Willie Gibson converted and the Fifers were 1-0 up. Steven Bell then made it 2-0 only minutes before the half-time whistle. After the interval Dundee pulled one back when Gary Harkins headed home but Pat Clarke made sure the three points stayed in the Kingdom when he scored 3-1.

For the pictures I took around East End Park last season see this post.

Approaching East End Park.

The Norrie McCathie Stand.

The North Stand.

The Main Stand.

The Dundee fans were housed in the East Stand.

Willie Gibson's penalty meant Dunfermline were 1-0 up. Note the large pillar, which restricts the view of almost everyone seated in the Main Stand.

Saturday 11th September 2010
Scottish Football League First Division
Dunfermline Athletic 3 Dundee 1
Dunfermline: Gibson 20 pen, Bell 42, Clarke 78.
Dundee: Harkins 51.
Att: 4,037

Friday, 10 September 2010

Estadio La Rosaleda (Málaga CF v Valencia CF)

I have just returned from a two-week holiday in Benalmádena on the Costa del Sol during which I was lucky enough to see Málaga CF play their first league game of the season at La Rosaleda. Although my wife and I had booked our holidays in January of this year I was not sure if Málaga were actually playing a home game during the 14 days we were in Spain (or even still playing in La Liga for that matter), also because I knew that the first weekend of September, as always, was reserved for international matches. La Liga were probably the last of the major leagues in Europe to release the fixture schedule for 2010/2011 and I was happy to find out that the first Málaga game of the season was a home match, against Valencia of all clubs. I was in Valencia last summer but unfortunately I was unable to see any games (a friendly against Arsenal taking place days after we had returned to Scotland) and I had only been able to take pictures of the beautiful Mestalla from outside the stadium.

Tickets for the Valencia game went on sale a few days before the game (when I was still in Scotland) and I had already heard that the cheaper tickets behind the goals (at €35) were usually the first to be gone. I had been in touch via email with Reggie who organises a coach from Inchy's Sports Pub in Benalmádena to all Málaga home games. He advised me to get my tickets as soon as possible because a near sell-out was expected and as soon as my wife and I had unpacked our suitcases on Friday 27th August we took the train to Málaga to purchase our briefs. After a 30-minute journey we arrived at María Zambrano train station. It was only a short walk to the Málaga CF shop in the Larios shopping mall but my heart sank when the lady in the shop shook her head when I asked if any tickets were left for the Valencia game. Fortunately it turned out she only meant that she did not speak English and plenty of tickets were left so we bought the cheapest ones still available at €40 each.

The next day we went to Inchy's bar in Benalmádena at around 5pm. It was packed with tourists, watching various football and rugby league games, and many ex-pats in Málaga CF replica shirts. I spoke to one of the guys having a pint outside the bar who told me the atmosphere at the Rosaleda was always brilliant, like being at a game 'back home 20 years ago.' I asked him if he knew Reggie but he did not although his pal knew he was the guy who made the new English-language fanzine (Los Blanquiazules, a good read by the way). After we got off the coach in Málaga I finally met Reggie and his wife (edit: no she is not...) Val, who turned out to be from Glasgow, and they showed us the bar where the Guiri Army meet up on matchdays, the Bodego Hermanos Madrid near the stadium. There were a lot of ex-pats and Spanish Málaga fans drinking on the street outside the bar, a tremendous pre-match atmosphere without a hint of trouble and no police presence. I have to say a much more enjoyable and authentic atmosphere than outside Camp Nou.

After a few beers my wife and I walked to the stadium and had some trouble finding our seats. The only steward in our section was not a very helpful chap but a Spanish supporter pointed us in the right direction. The match was virtually sold out and there was a lot of expectation in the air tonight despite the fact that the Boquerones only narrowly avoided relegation last season. The reason for this optimism is the recent takeover of the club by Qatari businessman Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Al Thani. He has pledged to invest millions in the club over the next few years and he has already brought in a good number of new players for this season. The takeover also meant the club's sponsorshop deal with bookmakers William Hill was cancelled because gambling does not sit well with muslims (as it happens a bookmaker as shirt sponsor would not even be legal in the Netherlands).

However despite all the buzz, Valencia had a reasonably easy night at La Rosaleda. Málaga's new boys have potential but the team probably need a bit more time to gel. The home team were lucky to be level at half time (1-1) but after the interval Los Che made sure they would take all three points back to the Mestalla with two stunning Joaquín goals. The stadium was impressive and I went back last Monday for a tour of the ground which comes with a visit to the Málaga CF museum, pictures will follow soon! Despite the defeat the mood on the coach back to Benalmádena was still upbeat. I had a great time at La Rosaleda, definitely recommended if you are on holiday on the Costa del Sol!

For pictures of the stadium tour at La Rosaleda see this post.

A few pre-match drinks outside the Bodego Hermanos Madrid...

...where many ex-pat and Spanish supporters meet up before the game...

...with loads to drink but no trouble and no police.

Approaching La Rosaleda.

Spaniards love their nuts...

The Preferencia stand.

The Gol end.

The Fondo end.

The Tribuna, which is the main stand.

Málaga are about to take a free kick.

A rare picture of myself which my wife took at half time.

The more vocal element of the Málaga supporters can be found in one of the corners. You can also see the 'Guiri Army' flag.

The Preferencia after the final whistle.

The Gol stand after the game.

The Fondo end.

The Tribuna.

Saturday 28th August 2010
La Liga
Málaga CF 1 Valencia CF 3
Málaga: Sebastián Fernández 45.
Valencia: Aritz Aduriz 9, Joaquín 70, 74.
Att: 26,000
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