It took us just short of 20 minutes to reach Hampden Park from Albion Rovers. Our quest to watch two matches in a day was looking good as we jogged up the steps at the national stadium. Bag searches were in operation and there was an abundance of activity in the vast car park, a far cry away from Cliftonhill which we had already gained an attachment to.
I still have no idea why BBC Alba selected the match between Queen’s Park and Berwick Rangers for a live broadcast, but it suited us as it meant we could tick off the largest and arguably most impressive stadium in Scotland. It is cheap to watch Queen’s Park but it was even cheaper this evening as the club had slashed prices even further. This meant that a tax dodging student such as myself could attend a match here for just £1. We went all out, we even sat in the executive seats for the second half simply because we could.
As I strolled through the concourse pondering where I should sit and whether I could purchase any national produce at the refreshment areas I bumped into a familiar face. It was NWCFL media man himself Ian Templeman. The Hamilton fan is a regular at Atherton Collieries matches and had even been at Irlam v Cheadle Town with me a couple of weeks ago. I had tweeted him earlier in the day informing him that I was in Scotland but we had no idea that we’d be going to the same match.
I ditched my three companions and asked Ian to guide me through the match with his expert views on Scottish football. The seating availability was quite restricted for this match, as you could probably imagine. Not much point in opening the whole stadium for a rather small and innocuous match. As it went, the attendance of 966 was above average, but it still made for a stale atmosphere much like a reserve match. Of course, I didn’t go to Hampden Park wanting to sample the finest atmosphere in Scotland, I went so I could visit the magnificent arena which had just hosted the Commonwealth Games.
Queen’s Park have played at a venue called Hampden Park since October 1873. The first Hampden Park was overlooked by a nearby terrace named after John Hampden, an Englishman who fought for the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War. Queen’s played at this venue for ten years before moving 150 yards away to the second Hampden Park. The reason for the move was the planned construction of the Cathcart District Railway line through the ground’s western terrace.
The second Hampden opened in 1884 and it became a regular home to the Scottish Cup Final and matches against England. In the late 1890’s, Queen’s Park requested more land to develop the second Hampden, but this was refused by landlords leading the club to look for yet another site. When the third Hampden opened in 1903, it became the biggest stadium in the world, only to be surpassed by the Maracana in Brazil in 1950.
Interestingly, the second Hampden, which went on to be named Cathkin Park is now a public park and much of the original terracing can still be seen.
Founded in 1867, Queen’s Park are the only fully amateur team in Scottish professional football due to their motto “Ludere Causa Ludendi” which means “to play for the sake of playing” which I quite like. Queen’s dominated Scottish football before the emergence of neighbours Celtic and Glasgow. They even reached the English FA Cup final on two occasions, losing to Blackburn Rovers both times.
The club were instrumental in developing the passing game which we know today and were the main driving force behind setting up the Scottish FA. They even organised the first ever match between Scotland and England and as the entire Scottish side were from Queen’s Park, they used their navy and white kit which was adopted by the national side. Queen’s Park opted to change their kit to black and white hoops in the 1890’s, while of course, the national side still wear navy and white.
Still priding themselves on their historical background, Queen’s Park draw their fan base from the more affluent areas of Glasgow. Lots of families, children and students on show for this match staged in a less volatile atmosphere than those found at Ibrox and Parkhead. Old men trudge up and down the stairs at Hampden in their long black coats, leather gloves and cashmere bar scarves as they have been for decades. Tradition seeps through every detail. On the pitch, I have been told that it is tradition for the Queen’s Park players to play with their shirts untucked. Sadly the long-established aura ground to a halt there as the players paraded around the pitch in multi-coloured boots.
No sooner had Ian and I taken our seats on the left hand side of the tunnel the two sides emerged on to the pitch. Going into the match, Queen’s Park sat in third place, a point behind both Albion Rovers and Arbroath who had both failed to win earlier in the day. It was simple, a win for the Spiders would send them to the top of the table. Berwick Rangers on the other hand sat in fifth place, six points off Annan Athletic who occupied the final play-off spot.
Berwick had lots of confidence coming into this, their third match of the week. Last Saturday they beat league leaders Arbroath before then booking their place in the last eight of the Scottish Cup as they beat Lowland League side Spartans. It was indeed the Borderers who started the brighter out of the two sides with Colin Cameron firing just wide of William Muir’s goal after two minutes.
The home side found it hard to keep possession of the ball and kept gifting it to Rangers. Six minutes in and the Spiders did manage to string a few passes together but again they squandered possession far too easily allowing Berwick to shoot once again.
On 18 minutes, the visitors should have taken the lead when player manager Colin Cameron crossed into an unmarked Andrew Russell but he nodded the ball just wide.
The best opportunity of the half fell to Berwick on the half hour mark when Spiders goalkeeper Muir did well to a hand to Russell’s shot. However, the ball fell into the box and David McGregor hacked it off the line before Scott Maxwell powered the ball centimetres wide from close range.
As the interval approached a slick through ball to Jordan Moore saw him race through one-on-one with Berwick stopper Billy Bald. From a tight angle Moore dinked the ball over the oncoming opponent but his effort dropped slightly wide of the right hand post, with most of Hampden on their feet willing the ball to go in. That was the final meaningful action of the first half and I headed back to the concourse to find my three companions who I had ditched before the game.
I searched high and low but couldn’t find them so I opted to head back outside on my own. I wasn’t aware that there seemed to be some sort of segregation in place and unknowingly found myself in what appeared to be the Berwick Rangers end. It was at this stage that I bumped into the Queen’s Park mascot and I asked for a selfie. Of course, he obliged and then it struck me, what on earth was he dressed up as?
It definitely wasn’t a spider as it didn’t have eight arms. It wasn’t a haggis because as we all know they’re only found wandering around the Highlands and I could safely rule out the possibility of it being a shrimp like in Southend the other week. Messaging the photograph to my Dad, he told me it looked like a cow. Now, those of you who know me well will know that I have a phobia of cows so I wasn’t best pleased when this suggestion was bandied around. Extensive internet research has revealed that the mascot is a Hippo, named Harry the Hoopo. Although, I am siding with my Dad and maintaining that this creature is a cow… look at it’s eyes!
After all that excitement and confusion I needed to sit back down and having linked back up with Ben we headed to the back of the stand where the executive seats were. It really was a free for all at this match. The four blokes who were sat next to us had had one too many to drink and noted that we were English, so spent the entire second half shouting complete nonsense at the players to try and make us laugh. Amusingly, we couldn’t understand a word that came out of their mouths so we just smiled and laughed along with them.
Back home, my Dad had turned the match over on the television as my Mum wanted to watch the news. I don’t blame her really as it was a poor match so far. Thankfully the second half offered far more entertainment and three goals.
Vinnie Berry played an instrumental part in driving the Spiders on in the opening minutes of the second period, setting up Shaun Fraser who flashed his shot across the face of goal. On the hour mark another chance went begging when Sean Burns crossed in for Jordan Moore who headed agonisingly wide.
Ross McPherson had been on the pitch a matter on minutes when he opened the scoring on 74 minutes. Darren Miller swung a corner in and it was met by the head of Shaun Fraser who flicked towards goal where McPherson applied the finishing touch.
Two minutes later and Berwick were back on level terms. Ross Drummond played a nice one-two down the left hand side, swinging a high ball in when he received it back. A poor defensive header allowed the ball to drop to Andrew Russell who chested to control before volleying into the bottom right hand corner. The game had come to life in a matter of minutes.
A fantastic team goal five minutes from the end won it for the Spider. An overlapping run from the right back Gavin Mitchell saw yet another cross, this time along the floor. Ross McPherson got in front of the Berwick defender and flicked the ball towards goal where Bald was unable to keep hold of it. Quickest to react was Paul Woods who slid the ball past the goalkeeper. The Queen’s players all celebrated together in front of the crowd and the Hippo even joined in by running on to the pitch.
This crucial win for Queen’s Park saw them reach the top of the table. Ground 150 and what a great one to tick off.
We waved goodbye to Hampden Park and I caught up on a bit of sleep in the back seats after what had been an extremely long day. I had only done two matches in a day on a couple of occasions before, but not much planning or travelling went into those as they all involved teams in Atherton. It has certainly whet my appetite for Scottish football and I look forward to my next visit which will be over Easter when Matt and I travel to Heston Rovers who play at Queen of the South… to cut a long story short, there is bugger all else on and that is the nearest match to Carlisle where we are staying overnight!
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 209 miles
- ADMISSION: £1
- PROGRAMME PRICE: N/A (Digital version available, but it’s 8p a sheet at University!)