Upon hearing the news of Aberdeen’s plans for their new stadium I openly confess I had mixed emotions. Don’t get me wrong I am all for the club moving to a brand new state-of-the-art facility which will not just house the stadium but also the Club’s Youth Academy and training ground, but I could not help but feel a tad emotional about the whole affair, given the inevitable move away from Pittodrie.
That old stadium has played such a huge role in my life that I can hardly bear the thought of being apart from her. It’s a place where a varied range of emotions have been shaped, received, given and expressed. It’s a place that filled my childhood, shaped my understanding of the game and offered me my first real life heroes. It’s a place where a taste in song was first born and put to so much good use years later – he says with tongue placed firmly in one’s cheek!
And much to the horror of my poor mum a breaking ground for the use of bad language!
Whenever I take a trip home Pittodrie is the first port of call. I like nothing more than taking a seat in the empty stands after meeting friends and reminiscing about days and experiences gone by. As odd as this may sound I find it almost spiritual, I can sense the ghost of my late father sitting next to me looking at the park with a big grin on his face.
Last April I took my son Lennox for a tour while sitting on my knee looking out he turned to me, sensed my emotion and gently kissed me on the cheek, the wee bugger made me cry as I held him tight. Pittodrie has that effect on me. I will miss her terribly.
But with that all said and done, the club must move forward. For Derek McInnes to attract the caliber of player the Dons deserve proper training facilities and a modern stadia will surely enhance decision making.
The new £40 million facility near Westhill, to the west of the city should be ready for season 2019/20. If the site turns out as impressive as the drawings all connected with the club are in for a treat. After the debacle which was the former site at Loirston the new stadium will become easily accessible via the proposed new bypass. I appreciate that for some they prefer city centre stadiums, some suggest facilities out with the city are soulless and not easy to access but surely this has all already been thought out by the club.
To make it work for the doubters I personally believe the match-day experience must be enhanced greatly. My friend and fellow broadcaster Derek Rae nailed the head when he recently tweeted “more than just pubs and cheap food” Derek is absolutely spot on.
Personally I believe representatives of Aberdeen should take a trip to the Red Bull Arena in Salzburg, Austria and take in a game. Everything is in place for the fans to have an unforgettable day out. The stadium is situated 20 minutes from the city centre, near the airport and shopping complexes. Parking is simple and effective. Buses are on hand to ferry fans back and forward from the city. It’s all so easy!
Outside the stadium, on the main concourse you will find the “kids-zone” for obvious reasons this is self-explanatory but how brilliant. In the “zone” you will find mini-pitches with coaches taking kids through various drills and target-practice walls for kids to aim balls through holes specially carved out a wooden goal. Prizes are on offer for those that show their skills and accuracy. Red Bull’s mascot is always on hand to have his photograph taken with the kids and join in the fun. Every kid I saw that day had a smile on their face. For the adults mini-bars are on offer all-round the stadium. Fans of both clubs mix quite happily enjoying a cold beer pre-kick-off. Inside the stadium, vendors walk around selling beer, soft drinks, large pretzels and chocolate doughnuts. The food on offer at the various stalls is freshly made and simply delicious.
Very much like Celtic I would openly encourage the board of Aberdeen to consider a safe standing area. The Red Bull arena has one behind a goal which houses about 1,000 fans and it works brilliantly. Flag bearers work tirelessly for 90 minutes which help this pocket of fans sing and move throughout. It was fantastic to watch and helped lift the atmosphere. We have seen some magnificent displays at Pittodrie in recent times; a whole area could be dedicated to those fans who wish nothing more but to help lift the roof.
I have read that some fans believe moving away from the city will diminish the club’s identity but surely that very same identity will be the same given the players on the park and the fans in the stand?
I believe the identity can actually be enhanced.
From the moment you park your car or get off a bus the club logo should be visible everywhere. Whatever shape that comes in is up to those with more experience than me but simple things like large flags or red paving stones which lead you up the stadium should dominate any panoramic view.
How about big screens showing memorable games from years gone with the added bonus of players past and present welcoming the fans to the stadium via video message?
I appreciate this is all very “Hollywood” but why the hell not, give the fans an experience. Put them in the mood outside the ground hopefully, that very same enthusiasm will be brought into the stadium and help the lads on the pitch get over the line.
Finally to finish off, I have two humble requests – the first being that somewhere outside the stadium a statue is erected, who that statue is of is open for debate. If you want my opinion I would champion a cause for Willie Miller given the accolade of being Aberdeen’s greatest ever player. The other is for the club to consider naming the new Academy after the late great Teddy Scott who did so much for the club in an association that lasted nearly 50 years.
Folk say we should not live in the past but I say encourage it, show the world what Aberdeen FC and its history means to us the fans and allow those who visit from Scotland or further afield to see what has been achieved over the years, if that’s not identity I don’t know what is!
Ally Begg’s column is sponsored by Dolly Digital, a freelance Graphic and New Media Design Studio based in Aberdeen. Check out their Aberdeen FC-related products now.