42 Grounds: Ground 2: McDiarmid Park

Fresh from yesterdays enjoyable but long trip to Paisley, the opportunity to tick off ground number two with a game fairly nearby was hard to resist.

The early kickoff meant that my train departed at half past nine.

Walking to the station, I expected the train to be busy. After all, I was going to St Johnstone v Aberdeen from Aberdeen.

As I walked past the two reserved carriages I thought I might be lucky to get a seat. However, the third carriage was quiet so I nipped on and found a seat to myself.

The carriage did get busier in the ten minutes or so before departure, and the seats around me filled up nicely with fans in red.

An announcement came over the public address system reminding those of us onboard that the alcohol ban meant that alcohol could not be consumed on board.

Of course we all knew, including the ticket inspector, what the colourful ‘soft drinks’ all around us were laced with.

Time to settle down with my book again.

There is something about Perth that I can’t handle. Some kind of magnetic current that interferes with my sense of direction perhaps?

I have been to McDiarmid Park on more than one occasion previously and every time, without exception I leave the train station and get lost.

My usual tactic of following those in scarves heading to the game didn’t work, none of us knew.

Luckily we live in an age of maps on phones and I set off on my way.

As I wandered I began to fear that I was heading in the wrong direction. There was not a scarf in sight and the roads were quiet.

This is both a positive and a negative of McDiarmid Park. It is in a peaceful part of the city, surrounded by forest. It is a fine place to enjoy a game of football, free from the distractions of the outside world.

However, it is isolated. It is a fairly long walk and it feels distant from the city centre.

Regardless, I finally arrived at the stadium.

The impressive backdrop of the forest served the four large stands well.

They look good from a distance. Behind the main stand there is a glimpse in to the importance of community to the Perth club. An AstroTurf pitch plays host to youth team games and training at weekends and through the week.

This is an opportunity for the stars of tomorrow to play directly opposite the stadium they long to play in. The prize for hard work is in sight for the next Murray Davidson.

I walk round to the pitchside stand opposite the main stand.

Travelling to the game I convinced myself that I would take the healthy option and avoid a pie.

Just have a look at the menu, out of curiosity of course…

Then I saw it. A steak and chorizo pie. A finer combination does not exist. There was no way I wasn’t having one!

How glad I am that I did. A puff pastry lid and big chunks of steak and chorizo made this one of the best pies that I have eaten at a game of football.

This seemed to be the guest pie of the day and curiosity over other varieties of pies that they offer in future almost makes me want to visit again. A bit of variety was a nice touch.

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The steak and chorizo pie.

 

Walking to my seat I struggled to find one that wasn’t reserved. I did the awkward ‘dance along the row’ dance with one too many people to turn back so I kept going until I found one without a reserved sign plastered on it.

I was struck by the variety of ages in the stand. From very young children to slightly older people. There was a good mix of males and females as well.

It is clear that St Johnstone have earned their tag as a family club.

The Fair City has a population of 50,000 and the attendance today seemed healthy.

Back in 2014 St Johnstone lifted the Scottish Cup at Celtic Park in front of over 15000 fans. This was a fantastic day for the club and they still rightly remember it. Pictures are plastered on adverts at the entrance and the programme features an article on the day.

There is no doubt that an occasion like that would have been enough to cement the support of the younger fans in attendance today, as well as to reward those fans that may have followed the club in darker days.

The stands around me filled nicely, with a substantial Aberdeen support occupying both stands behind the goals and a row in the main stand.

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The Main Stand housing mostly St Johnstone supporters.

 

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One stand of Aberdeen supporters.

 

As the game kicked off the decibels increased as the Reds found their voice.

The Saints fans created their own noise with a small group of ultras chanting and waving flags for the full 90 minutes. This group may divide opinion (the drum was a source of much consternation around me) but they add colour and noise to what could potentially be an eerily quiet stadium against lesser opposition.

The game started fairly evenly with neither side looking particularly keen to hold on to the ball.

Aberdeen didn’t look at their best, perhaps jaded from their European exploits and the fans in blue around me saw an opportunity.

Indeed the first half passed with only a few chances for either side.

The incredibly skilled, if somewhat frustrating Danny Swanson stung the palms of Joe Lewis in the Aberdeen goal in what proved to be the best chance of the match for either side.

The second half continued in a similar style. An open contest with both sides sensing the potential for three points but neither side having the quality required to win them.

The St Johnstone fans around me seemed satisfied with a point against an Aberdeen side tipped to do well this season.

As I arrived back at the station I had another look at the match programme. St Johnstone do a remarkable amount of work in their community. From kids classes through to walking football, they offer a lot.

Their facilities are top notch and it is no surprise that their ground is often called upon as a neutral venue for the Challenge Cup final.

Another good experience and yet again proof of a Scottish club getting things right.

St Johnstone 0 Aberdeen 0

Attendance: 5728

BBC Match Report

 

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