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Groundhopping or bucket-listing?

Updated: Dec 18, 2022

I can’t say I have ever been tempted to become a dedicated ground-hopper, although from 1967 onwards, my nine years as a near ever-present Clyde supporter ensured that I visited most of Scotland’s then thirty-eight senior grounds. There was no pyramid system then, so supporters of those clubs who regularly flipped between the old First and Second Divisions could tick off the thirty-eight grounds almost as a matter of course. I missed just three: Queen of the South’s Palmerston Park, Stranraer’s Stair Park and Berwick Rangers’ Shielfield Park. Deleted from my original list of grounds attended, due to each of them having been replaced, are Bayview (East Fife), Boghead (Dumbarton), Brockville (Falkirk), Broomfield (Airdrieonians), Douglas Park (Hamilton Academical) and St. Mirren Park, aka Love Street. Clyde's Shawfield Stadium, Clydebank's Kilbowie Park and the Shire's Firs Park fall into a 'forced to move' category. Cathkin, like most things to do with Third Lanark, is under a heading of its own. Stadium relocations and new clubs (to the SPFL at least) plus the loss of glorious Glebe Park due to Brechin City’s 2021 relegation to the Highland League, means that, until today there were thirteen senior Scottish stadiums I had not set foot in to watch football. New Broomfield/Excelsior Stadium (Airdrieonians) Galabank (Annan Athletic) Balmoral Stadium (Cove Rangers) Dumbarton Football Stadium (Dumbarton) Bayview Stadium (East Fife) Meadowbank Stadium (Meadowbank Thistle and Edinburgh City) Borough Briggs (Elgin City) Falkirk Stadium (Falkirk) New Douglas Park (Hamilton Academical) New Central Park (Kelty Hearts) Balmoor (Peterhead) Palmerston Park (Queen of the South) Stair Park (Stranraer) It would be inaccurate to state that I had not visited any of the above thirteen. In fact, there are only three grounds I’ve not been inside, or at least seen from the outside: Balmoral, Balmoor and Galabank. This trio really should be my priority but their distance from Dundee precludes that approach, as does my growing unease that, on the eve of my 74th birthday, I may be unintentionally evolving into a groundhopper, albeit one without an anorak. I can think of only two occasions when I have deliberately attended a match where events on the field were almost a sideshow; the landmark opening of McDiarmid Park in Perth and Clyde's first-ever match at Broadwood in Cumbernauld. So the identification of the thirteen unvisited grounds may be less of a gravitation towards ground-hopping, more likely an aging football fan's unambitious bucket list. Due to an international break, there were no Premiership matches today (13 November 2021) so what better time to again savour what else the SPFL has to offer? The most convenient ground of my unvisited thirteen is East Fife's Bayview, so just after mid-day today I drove across the Tay Bridge and on to Methil to watch East Fife v Airdrieonians, League One's bottom v top. I had been to the old Bayvew a few times as a Clyde fan but had never been inside the new stadium, if indeed you can be "inside" a ground with one grandstand and a breeze block wall on the other three sides. In truth, the 1,980 capacity single stand is probably sufficient for the Fifers' needs at the moment.

I got to Bayview just as the gates were opening, overcame the slightly disconcerting experience that some seats have no numbers - and others for some reason have the same number as the adjacent seat. My only other negative comment concerns the tannoy system, which was almost inaudible. A pre-match minute's silence was held for the dual purpose of honouring three East Fife supporters who had recently died and also to acknowledge the sacrifice of those who had lost their lives in either of the two World Wars or in other conflicts. It was impeccably observed by both sets of supporters in a crowd on 651. The home team did well to limit Airdrieonians to a one-goal half-time lead, and in that regard were indebited to goalkeeper Jude Smith but the Diamonds faced an improved and much more competitive Fife side in the second period. The 79th minute sending off of the homesters' Kieran Millar ended their period of ascendancy and Airdrie then saw out the remainder of the game without too much trouble. I was very impressed by the East Fife supporters' fair-minded and realistic comments and the loyal support they showed throughout the ninety minutes. At the end of the match I was pleased to reflect that my presence had edged the attendance over the 650 mark. A really enjoyable day, I will be more than happy to return to Methil.

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