29th February 2012
Irn Bru League Division 2
Arbroath 2-2 Airdrie United
Gayfield Park, Arbroath
If you ask any serious football geek which club holds the biggest victory in World senior football, the majority will answer “Arbroath” – it was a 36-0 win over Bon Accord in 1885.
That match didn’t take place at Gayfield Park, the current stadium wasn’t built until the early 1920s. However, Gayfield Park does have a claim to fame – there is no other football stadium in Europe which is as close to the sea as Gayfield. In fact, it is as close as 5 metres away from the high tide line making it….well….bloody freezing pretty much all year round!
Saying that, it wasn’t too bad on this occasion which was quite surprising for a Wednesday evening in February!
The Stadium (quirkiness and comfort) - 9/10
Entering the ground, I was immediately struck by how incredibly quirky the place is. Fans can walk round three-quarters of the ground, allowing for half time swapsies between ends…which is fantastic to see. To reach your seat in the Main Stand, you have to go up a flight of stairs. No signpost to tell you so, of course. To find a good place to stand elsewhere you can either take a left….or take a right….and although I’d already committed to sitting in the Main Stand….I did find myself intrigued by a shining glow over on the right hand side of the stadium. I explored further and was met with a tremendous sight and, without question, one of the most random things I’ve seen at the end of a football ground in Scotland – a fun park or pleasureland style set of neon lights! That’s right ladies and gents….a Funfair right behind the goal! Truly brilliant stuff – although disappointingly closed and not actually inside the ground itself.
Funhouse...a whole lotta fun....prizes to be won!
The Main Stand was extremely comfortable. About 10 rows deep and with plenty leg room, it’s nice and snug. There is a pole bang smack in the middle of the stand, which can be a bit of a pest, but overall it was a nice wee piece of kit to sit in.
I also really enjoyed the fact that Arbroath is an equal opportunities club when it comes to advertising at Stadiums. Whether you are a joiner or an electrician, a taxi firm or a Bear that runs a hot-tub company….the Lichties will allow you to highlight your offering!
"Grizzly Bear Hot Tubs" it reads...
Catering (quality and price) 6/10
Food-wise, Arbroath did not too badly. I had the standard Scotch Pie which, unfortunately, was a bit greasy. Tasty though. The wife, who joined me on this occasion, had the steak pie which appeared to be the better option for someone going along for the first time. All in all, pie and a tea for £2.70 wasn’t too shabby at all.
I should also say that Abrorath do something I haven’t seen served inside a footie ground since I was a kid – Red Kola. Absolutely fantastic stuff. I had to treat myself to a half time cup.
I haven’t slept since….
Fans (scored on both atmosphere & conduct – sporting behaviour, welcoming nature etc) - 19/25
The Arbroath fans, as well as turning out in very good numbers for a cold Wednesday night, were good types. The more vocal fans don’t sit in the Main Stand – this was filled with a bunch of pretty old men. All of the old fellas did have some excellent banter, were in great spirits and certainly made me laugh at times. One particularly old dude kept telling John Boyle (Airdrie boss) to “Sit doon and shut up”. My particular favourite line was “I bet you’re a pleasure when you’re asleep Boyle!!”.
The “hardcore” and those making the most noise will stand at the end into which Arbroath are shooting. They seem like a banter-filled lot as well making the Arbroath fans good to be in and around.
Regardless of whether you’re an old man or one of the hardcore, there seems to be a common trait that Arbroath fans posses – the love of a queue!!
Queueing for entry...
Queueing for the Main Stand...
Queueing for merchandise....
Queueing for Pies...
Entertainment on the pitch (quite self explanatory) - 20/25
The Lichties have been responsible for some of the most entertaining football I’ve seen in Scottish leagues since I’ve been doing this blog. From the brilliant game they put on against Dumbarton in September to the spanking of Clyde at the tail end of last season, Arbroath has me waiting with baited breath – I wanted to see if they could do it again when under the Ode to the Wee Red Book spotlight.
And they did…for a half!
The first half performance from the team was superb. Solid at the back, dynamic and creative in midfield and looking lethal up front, Sheerin’s men were fantastic. The movement of Gavin Swankie and Steven Doris, in particularly, impressed me with both men often pulling out onto the full backs and allowing space in behind for midfield runners to exploit. In truth, Arbroath should have been more than 2-0 up at the break, although Gibson’s goals were well-deserved after an excellent first half performance from him as well.
Unfortunately for Arbroath in the second half, John Boyle had obviously sent a rocket up the backside of all his players at half-time with Airdrie coming out and more or less bullying their way back into the game. Plain and simply, the visitors stepped up the physical side of the game and at times, over-powered the home team. They didn’t give them a minute’s peace and forced the Lichties into mistakes across the park. In the end, the 2-2 was probably fair. Although, I should say that Airdrie’s second goal was a bit questionable as I suspect a foul on Steven Doris should’ve been in the build up to John Boyle Jnr’s equaliser.
Some home players worth a mention:
Brian Kerr: This guy is clearly a former Scottish international. His use of the ball is excellent and his game intelligence is there for all to see. Worked well with Gibson and, I believe, has been superb alongside the exceptionally talented Josh Falkingham for most of the season. Good player for the home team.
Gavin Swankie: I like this boy. I know some SFL fans aren’t convinced but he really impresses me with his movement and technique. I think at times he’s maybe got a bit of the inconsistent about him but he certainly ran Airdrie a bit ragged at times in the first half and during the second period I don’t think he could’ve been accused of not working hard, it’s just that he wasn’t able to get any ball into feet as he was being eaten alive by the visitors defensive line! Guy has “hunners of goals in him” though, to quote another old man on the night.
Liam Caddis: On-loan from St Johnstone and an impressive second half sub, this boy is a talent and a half. He still needs to work on some of his game – defensively he could be better, but as he grows into his body (he’s only a teenager still) he’ll be a fine player for St Johnstone or for whoever else he plays.
Value for money (what you get for your buck) 25/30
For £12 entry, Arbroath is really good value. A poor second half display was a let down but as an all round package you’d spend each week sitting in a brilliantly quirky stadium watching a good brand of football on the park and in among a set of fans that are a credit to their team in their behaviour and banter.
Well done to Arbroath for scoring highly. Not quite the best supporter experience I’ve had but certainly one of the better ones. For anyone looking for a game to go to when their team isn’t playing…or if you’re not based in Scotland and fancy taking in a match somewhere….try Gayfield out. You’ll not be disappointed.
Overall score for Arbroath – 79/100