Friday, 26 February 2010

Wigan Athletic vs Tottenham Hotspur (21/02/10)

Match 71

Ground #: 42

Ground: DW Stadium

Competition: English Premiership

Kick Off: 4:15pm

Cost: £20

Programme: £3

Attendance: 16,165

Wigan Athletic 0

Tottenham Hotspur 3

Defoe 27’, Pavlyuchenko 84’,90’


Within my hardy band of friends at uni, there’s me, the Jambo. A Wimbledon fan, a Spurs fan and a Rochdale fan. (He’s the loudest currently). As I had been to a Wombles game earlier in the season it was time to tag along with another friend to watch his team and it was the turn of Premiership team Spurs for their game in the North-west against Wigan. It was part of a big day for the Premiership as Sky were hyping it up as the “RACE FOR FORTH”, with all 4 contenders for the position (Man City, Liverpool, Aston Villa and Spurs) in action on the Sunday so a big day was ahead for them. Spurs had earlier in the season beaten Wigan in a tight game 9-1 and so the focus was not only on Spurs chance to take 4th place back today, but on Wigan’s chance to avenge the drubbing they received in North London in November. It was also going to be my first Premiership game in 4 years with a trip to Villa Park the last time I saw the “top flight” live. I was expecting to be fleeced for the experience, but its nice to mix the games up that I go to see!


As Wigan isn’t that far from Lancaster we set off fairly late in the afternoon (for a 4:15 KO!? What is that about?) and stumbled across a radio station that just has to be mentioned! Normally I don’t mix my football and music together, go to The 66 POW if you want obscure tunes from the 60’s. ( ;) ) However a big shout out to Smooth FM, who I found after being fed up of some show tunes on Radio 2 and Radio 1, which is just an abortion of a radio station now.

smooth_fm_1964 So cruising into Wigan with a bit of Smooth was an experience especially with two males in the car! Wigan is a town in Greater Manchester that was officially part of Lancashire until 1974. Famous for its coal mining, Wigan was a major town in the industrial revolution with its coal mining and also its mills. Since then Wigan has been mentioned by George Orwell in his book The Road to Wigan Pier which highlighted that the town was a craphole basically. Today, there is a strong rugby league presence in the town with Wigan Warriors also sharing the DW Stadium with the football team. The DW Stadium was formally known as the JJB until this summer when egotist Dave Whelan who had sold JJB, renamed the ground after himself basically. (He claims that its named after his sports chain, but as his money built the ground, its safe to say its named after him!) Pulling up at around 3pm, we parked easily in the away supporters car park for the reasonable price of £4 and met up with Newman Snr to take the really short walk to the ground. If you’re interested in imaging how we looked cruising into Wigan on Smooth Radio, then listen to the song below that was playing when we arrived. (If you are reading this on facebook, then click “view original post” and actually see what my blog looks like and you’ll be able to read along to the sound of Irene Cara)

The DW Stadium is only 11 years old after opening in 1999 so still looks reasonably shiny and new. The away fans were housed in the North Stand behind the goal and with Spurs having a decent away following (they brought about 3500 – I can’t find an official figure), this Stand was basically full. However Wigan do not currently have the best following in the World and so the other 3 stands (South, Boston and Springfield) were fairly empty with the other 13,000 or so fans spread across them. It still looked a fairly impressive ground and would probably be rocking if they got nearer the 25,138 capacity for games. I had also been warned about the away concourse, however even with rowdy Spurs fans in good voice and the Stand fairly full, it was still easy to buy my Pie (which was sadly, for Wigan, disappointing), listen to a cockney complain that his hot dog was too dry and make my way up to the seats which had a fairly good view.


Wigan Athletic had been a Division 3 team that nobody particularly cared about until Dave Whelan bought the club in 1995 and promised Premiership football in 10 years. To be fair to them, they delivered achieving promotion to the top flight in 2005 and I still remember clearly watching Sky Sports 1 on their debut game when they outplayed Chelsea, who were champions at the time, only to lose to a last minute Hernan Crespo goal. Since then, they’ve found the Premiership a struggle and were involved in another relegation battle it seemed this season with new boss Roberto Martinez being stubborn enough to try and play attractive football with flair players on an awful pitch that would now only get worse with the rugby league season starting. Still, they went into the game in 14th position, 2 points off the relegation zone. Spurs on the otherhand were enjoying their now usual place near the top section of the league and with Liverpool having an awful season, they found themselves right in the mix for 4th place and could finish the day off in 4th place if they won here and Man City vs Liverpool ended in a draw. Spurs though have a history of bottling it when it really matters like in 2005 when they were a lasagne away from snatching 4th place from Arsenal. It remained to be seen whether they could finish this season in the Top 4, especially with pressure coming from 3 other clubs.


The game kicked off with Spurs fans making the most noise as it was clear quite quickly that Wigan fans were not the loudest. Even the annoying drummer who started around 10 minutes in couldn’t save what was a fairly low key atmosphere. The game wasn’t the best either as with both sides wanting to pass the ball about on the deck, an awful pitch and poor weather meant a lot more long balls were being played than either side would have wanted. However with both sides slightly out of form, this was never likely to be a classic. We did get a goal however in the 1st half when David Bentley was fouled in the centre of the pitch, referee Alan Wiley allowed an advantage which saw Niko Kranjcar and Peter Crouch combine well before Crouch fed Gareth Bale on the left who had bombed forward from the left back position. His cross found Jermaine Defoe who was apparently 2 yards offside (I was stood on the other side so I had no chance to see) and he tapped home to make it 1-0. Wigan did keep plugging away however and their best chance came late on in the half when Hugo Rodallega made Gomes in the Spurs goal produce an acrobatic save to deny his half volley. It came to half-time with Spurs deserving their 1 goal lead, but as a neutral I could only hope that the game got better.


The second half also started fairly slowly but it was Defoe again who was making Wigan goalie Chris Kirkland work as he brought two good saves from the England goalkeeper. Wigan though did have their best chance of the game when sub Victor Moses brought an easy save from Gomes, who still managed to spill the ball before grabbing it back up, however that was really as good as it got for Wigan. Even the later arrival of Scott Sinclair (who could surely rival Theo Walcott for fastest player) could not galvanise a team who are clearly dreadful. Spurs were then looking the most likely to score and Crouch should have made the game safe when he was put through one on one but shot straight at Kirkland and the shot deflected off his face to safety. Sub Luka Modric then cracked a great effort of the post after some brilliant build up play from Spurs right hand side as it looked like there would only be one goal in this game. Yet another sub, Roman Pavlyuchenko finished the game off on 84 minutes when a superb through ball from Modric found was smashed home from Pav as he got ahead of Figueroa to make it 2-0. A 3rd was added in stoppage time as Pav had a header well saved from Kirkland, but as the Wigan defence just stood looking at the ball when it looked to be going out, he took the opportunity to tap in for his 2nd. It finished 3-0 and with Man City – Liverpool drawing 0-0, it meant Spurs were up to 4th! For now.


So another big ground near Lancaster that I’ve finally got to visit, that was made a more enjoyable experience by being with the Spurs fans as Wigan would not of enjoyed watching that. I was surprised after the game to hear Wigan boss Martinez blame the referee for the defeat as Wigan were absolutely dire. So much so, that I’d be confident of Hearts even beating them. It was also good to shout abuse at two ex SPL players that I despise. Gary Caldwell and James McCarthy have both ended up here and was good to see both on the losing team, and Caldwell in particular looking out of his depth, already. Premiership games are normally quite pricey and with tickets normally costing £20, I have a massive thanks to Mark Newman for refusing to accept my money, so I will make it up to him by one day taking him and Newman Jnr to Tynecastle to watch some proper football. A few final things on note, firstly what the hell is a 4:15pm kick off about!? Sky Sports have done a lot of good things for football, but silly kick off times on a Sunday afternoon is not one of them. Also, I was looking forward to tucking into a Wigan pie, but sadly the pie fell apart and so disappointment ensued. Finally, Wigan fans are awful.

Photos from Wigan Athletic vs Spurs


Match Ratings:

- Match: 5/10 (bearable)

- Value for money: 5/10 (£20 is a tad pricey to watch Wigan)

- Ground: 7.5/10 (decent modern ground)

- Atmosphere: 6/10 (Spurs fans were in good voice)

- Food: 4/10 (poor pie and I refuse to eat a hot dog at a football match)

- Programme: 6.5/10 (glossy number, but a lot of crap inside)

- Referee: Alan Wiley – 6/10 (did ok without really being tested)

Wigan vs Spurs prog

Wigan vs Spurs ticket

Friday, 19 February 2010

Preston Athletic vs Edinburgh University (13/02/10)

Match 70

Ground #: 41

Ground: Pennypit Park

Competition: King Cup 1st Round

Kick Off: 2:30pm

Cost: £4

Programme: 50p

Attendance: 44 (h/c)

Preston Athletic 1

Haynes 98’

Edinburgh University 0

(After Extra Time)


Yet another weekend (the Friday and Saturday at least) spent in Edinburgh on more job interview work (which I sadly didn’t get) meant that I wanted to get another cheeky Edinburgh based game in before coming back down to Lancaster. I was also determined not to have to suffer the pain of Hearts vs Falkirk, although the return of Stephen “Mr Hearts, even though I kissed the Celtic badge on a return to Tynecastle” Pressley did tempt me, I decided to e-mail 4 East of Scotland Edinburgh based clubs and asked about their programme (or lack of one) and the first club to reply with a positive response saw me go there. So well done Preston Athletic’s John Snedden, his e-mail confirming a programme meant I would take the trip across Edinburgh to the outskirts and the seaside town of Prestonpans. However, before I could get my pictures of the game on (I took lots), my phone ended up having a wee swim and is (at writing) not turning on, nevermind allowing me to bluetooth my pictures across! Therefore I’ve trawled through the internet to use some Preston Athletic pictures and we’ll make this a shorter blog report.


Prestonpans is a small town in East Lothian, just to the East of Edinburgh, although it will soon be sucked up into the greater city no doubt, although it does have Portobello and Musselburgh to protect it from that first. Prestonpans is named “Scotland’s mural town” with a selection of them throughout the town and a few can be seen on the main road when coming into the place. Like most Scottish towns also, there was an industry here, this one being salt panning, however that closed by the 16th Century and breweries became the main source of industry until the last one closed in the 1960’s. Today the town is becoming a commuter town serving the bigger places of Musselburgh and Edinburgh. However there still remains a community spirit with nearby towns of Cockenzie and the great Port Seton (where I want to retire to) so Prestonpans is a fairly nice place to be. The ground was really easy to find (mainly because I had done a rekky (reconnaissance ;) ) the day before on the bus. (If you are travelling by bus, get the Lothian #26 and if you get off at Prestonpans High Street – you can’t go wrong) and also had a fairly sizeable parking space. Pennypit Park is part of a leisure centre, with a football ground and rugby ground attached. Both the sports grounds look exactly the same, with a stand (see the picture above) being the only seating area at the ground. The rest is grass standing which is railed off, with also some grass banks which are good fun to try to stand on in the rain. The ground has also recently added a clubhouse which is a spacious building which also includes the tea bar inside. I arrived fairly early at the Pennypit so popped in for an Irn Bru and watched the lads on Soccer Saturday describe Celtic’s 4-4 balls up at Aberdeen.


Preston Athletic are an East of Scotland Premier team who have stayed in that division since their promotion from Division 1 in 2002, and have floated about in mid-table since. They, along with Spartans who I visited a couple of weeks back, (as well as Cove Rangers and Edinburgh City) applied to join the SFL after Gretna crashed and burned in 2008. However they lost out to Annan Athletic, but Preston still believe they will one day be playing Division 3 football in the SFL. Preston had made an average start to their season thus far and went into this cup game in 7th (out of 11) with 15 points. Their visitors for this game was the mighty Edinburgh University, who despite playing in the BUCS Universities League, also put forward a team to play in the EoS, along with Heriot-Watt and Stirling University. They had finished 4th last season, and 2nd the season before, and were in 5th place going into this game, 4 points ahead of Preston Athletic, but had also played 4 games more. However, league points weren’t at stake in this match, as the distraction of the King Cup which thankfully was detailed in Preston’s programme. The Cup was named after Percival King who had been noted for his sponsorship of local football and the first sports shop in the capital. The current holders were Heriot-Watt with Edinburgh Uni having last won this in 2007, with Preston Athletic having never won it. The winners were at home to Hawick Royal Albert, so the closest thing you could have to a bye, without actually getting one. A big game then.


(Again, not my photo – it was raining when I went!) The game itself was a struggle to watch at times, with lots of effort and shouting, but little in the way of quality or goalmouth action. The highlight of the 1st half was handbags after 20 mins, when a few tasty tackles boiled over and players had to be separated. The 2nd half was better, with Preston having a shot cleared off the line after a great counter attack at the start of the half, but students came right back into it and should have scored on 78 minutes, when a Uni player was put through one on one but a last ditch tackle was made before he could get his shot away. After this chance went begging I knew I would be in store for another 30 mins of extra time. 8 minutes into this, we finally had a goal as big (wide and tall) striker Kevin Haynes got on the end of a great cross from the right wing and easily scored from about 4 yards out as Preston took the lead. The students did add some pressure in the 2nd half of ET, as another last ditch block needed to be made, before the Edinburgh Uni #10 saw his great free kick brilliantly saved by Jamie Thomson. The Uni team couldn’t get another clear chance and it was Preston who booked their place in Round 2.

So a decent day out at another EoS team, a league I am beginning to really enjoy seeing. I am also livid at myself for losing (my phone isn’t turning on, at all) the Preston photos, which means one day I’ll pop back and get a decent report done with some pictures that I haven’t randomly selected from Google Images. The club itself is a great wee club and hopefully will one day fulfil their dream of playing in the SFL. No idea when I’ll be back up in Scotland – but hopefully it won’t be too long before I see another EoS game. Less stress and considerably less expensive than watching Hearts!


Match Ratings:

- Match: 5/10 (never really got going)

- Value for money: 8/10 (can’t moan at £4)

- Ground: 7/10 (good stand and grass banks are always a win)

- Atmosphere: 7/10 (decent noise from the 44 fans and players)

- Food: 6/10 (Mince Pie and Irn Bru (*sigh*) for only £1.60)

- Programme: 8/10 (cannot moan for 50p and was well detailed too)

- Referee: Andrew Rooney – 4/10 (lost control really, wasn’t helped by the worst linesmen ever though)

PA vs Ed Uni prog

Thursday, 11 February 2010

A wee test…


After another surprise weekend (well till Saturday evening) confirmed in Edinburgh, and no way on earth will I be going to watch Hearts vs Falkirk – I’ve decided to try and watch an East of Scotland League game again as its always a good laugh.

This weekend sees Kings Cup action and so I’ve decided to e-mail 4 Edinburgh based clubs, who might issue a programme for their games. The first to reply with a positive answer, sees me go there. Simples.

So its a choice of:

Leith Athletic vs Civil Service Strollers (Civil Service Sports Ground)

Preston Athletic vs Edinburgh University (Pennypitt Park)

Lothian Thistle vs Craigroyston (Saughton Enclosure)

Tynecastle vs Spartans (Fernieside Recreation Park)

If none of them reply then I spent Saturday afternoon either driving home early of getting cosy with my old pal Jeff Stelling. We’ll see…… I’ll be checking my e-mail a lot tomorrow.


Monday, 8 February 2010

Heart of Midlothian vs St Mirren (02/02/10)

Match 69

Ground #: 16 (2nd visit)

Ground: Fir Park (normally used by Motherwell FC)

Competition: Scottish League Cup Semi-Final

Kick Off: 7:45pm

Cost: £18

Programme: £3

Attendance: 9,170

Hearts 0

St Mirren 1

Mehmet 51’


After the painful experience of the previous Saturday with Hearts’ away defeat at St Johnstone, a lot of Jambos went into this game feeling that it was Jim Jefferies PROPER first game in charge after he had been with his new side for 3 days to look over what they needed. A surprising deadline day transfer was also made with “Ayr United’s best player” in Ryan Stevenson joining the club, however without trying to cast doubt on the poor lads skills, Ayr United are currently 2nd bottom in Division 1, with only 12 points from 18 games played. So while I hope he’s the new Messi, Maradona, etc he may well be the next Kęstutis Ivaškevičius though. We shall wait and see. After dispatching of Dunfermline Athletic in Round 4 and a stunning 1-0 win at Celtic Park in the Quarter Final, Hearts had managed to get to the League Cup Semi for the 2nd season in 3, and this time looked to have a far easier game than their last appearance when Rangers easily beat them 2-0. The neutral ground of Fir Park and its awful pitch was chosen and despite after my last visit to this ground I promised it would be my last, I bit the bullet and bought a ticket for this game in the normal away end – the South Stand.


Motherwell is a large town in North Lanarkshire famous for its old steel works that even earnt the town the nickname, “Steelopolis” as its skyline was dominated by the old steel works in the toon and some of it is still in operation today. Apart from that, like most Scottish working towns there isn’t much else to talk about in terms of highlights and attractions. To put it bluntly, Motherwell is a shit-hole. And I’ve only ever seen it at night (thankfully). Despite being such a dump, parking is normally fine around the ground, especially as both my visits now have been midweek evening kickoffs. However only getting onto the M6 at Lancaster at 5:30 and with KO at 7:45, it looked like I would miss the majority of the 1st half with the journey according to Google Maps taking 2h 39mins. Therefore averaging around the 80-90mph mark, I ripped into the M6 and then M74 and arrived and parked up at Motherwell amazingly at 7:35. A mad dash to the ground, firstly taking some (piss poor) pictures, its dark is my excuse! Fir Park is home of Motherwell FC and as the Steelmen weren’t involved in this game at all, I won’t mention them – the ground however is not one of my favourites as its 4 very different stands cobbled together in a laughably awful looking ground with one of the worst pitches ever seen. Hearts fans who bought the £18 tickets were housed in the South Stand – the normal away end which is the only 2 tiered stand in the ground and dominates the rest of Fir Park. The other 3 stands which are different sizes and shapes (the Main Stand doesn’t even fill the length of the pitch ffs) were taken up by St Mirren fans I presume as I couldn’t actually see where the £22 Hearts tickets actually were. It was also clear that Hearts had managed to fill nearly, if not all of their 7000 allocation, where St Mirren barely took 2000-3000. So backed by a large travelling support, Hearts had the backing and hopefully the desire to go on and qualify for the national cup final.


I missed the KO, but so did the majority of Hearts fans judging by the numbers trying to get into the ground when I arrived, I also sadly missed the minutes silence for Hearts legend Bobby Kirk who played for the Jambos between 1955-62. I finally got in 5 minutes after KO and found my seat right at the back of the lower tier right in front of the police watch post which had a fairly decent view of the pitch unlike my last visit here when only the top tier was open and I couldn’t actually see the goal closest to it. If I thought the 1st 45 minutes at St Johnstone were awful on the Saturday, then this was so much worse. I actually cannot think of any chances of note for either side except for the occasional corners won or long range efforts that should barely get a mention. The main event for Hearts in the 1st half was the loss of key defender Izmael Bouzid to a hamstring tear and so potential Master of Disaster Dawid Kucharski came on to replace him. Apart from that, nothing, nip, nada. I didn’t even have The 66 POW blogger Rob with me tonight as he and his Hibee supporting friend ( ;) ) were in the top tier so it was the worst 45 minutes of football I had witnessed for quite some time.


I left just before half-time (not the game – although in hindsight that would have been a great choice) to get a pie (lesson learned from McDiarmid Park!), only for 5 minutes into the half-time break a distraught fat Scotsman yelled out, “THERE’S NAE PIES!?” – cue mass hysteria as the Fir Park catering staff quickly learnt that denying Scots people something deep fried and/or crispy when they are hungry was a bad idea. Not wanting to wait 20 minutes for a packet of crisps I decided to quickly pop up and see Rob Waite to discuss how bad that half of football had been and general other chat. You know how bad a game is when you are sat there thinking, “I may struggle to write a blog report on this…”. Hearts came out extremely early for the start of the 2nd half which the Jambos responded with by a rousing rendition of the “Hearts song” to try and get the players going – a good moment as 6000 odd belted this out.


The effect this had on the players was clearly evident when the 2nd half kicked off, none. As St Mirren came out and attacked Hearts while we again struggled to put passes together showing no passion whatsoever. The opening goal was coming and on 51 minutes (exactly the same time that Kenny Deuchar had scored against us in the previous game), Andy Driver lost the ball on the left wing and he and left-back Lee Wallace showed no desire to retrieve the ball back as Jack Ross found Billy Mehmet who hit a first time shot brilliantly up and over Marian Kello in the Hearts goal to give the Buddies the lead. A quite superb finish especially considering the ball had rolled to him on the awful pitch. It was clear to me that as our strike force is so poor and a 16 year old virgin could penetrate better than our woeful strikers that it looked like a defeat was on the cards already and St Mirren should have made that safe 5 minutes later when Jack Ross ran clean through and only a great Kello save stopped it being 0-2. Had that gone in, I would have 100% left there and then as I had a job assessment centre the next day and could have done without the long wait in traffic that I would face at the end of the game. Hearts did exert some pressure for their suffering fans as Suso came on and caused some problems for the St Mirren defence but the best chance fell to Christian Nade who smashed a low cross that Driver put in wide despite it looking easier to get the ball on target. As 3 minutes of injury time were called, I decided to leave early for the 2nd time at Fir Park as St Mirren ran out deserved winners to qualify for the League Cup Final, where they will play Rangers. I had a comforting cheeseburger from a van outside and thought about what could have been……


To make the evening even more depressing I accidentally parked my car on the same street as the St Mirren supporters coaches who clearly noticed my maroon scarf and celebrated rather well around me. I was back in Edinburgh by midnight as post-mortem on the horrific performance began. While I would have been sad had we lost but put up a performance that we could have been proud in, then I would have accepted that rather than the awful, soulless, passionless shite that I had to watch and pay £18 for the ‘privilege’ to do so. You know your team is in dire straights when your most creative attacking player is 6ft odd Marius Zaliukas. A centre-back. There are too many players who don’t give a toss about the club and it was clear to see tonight. Michael Stewart, club captain and Ian Black both claim to be “Jambos” and yet showed little passion on the night as the St Mirren midfield easily overran us. Upfront, we are also useless and its clear that while the youngsters (Smith, Robinson, Glen) have potential, they need someone upfront with them with experience to help them – Nade isn’t that man. I could go on about how bad we are at the moment as I’ve decided to not go watch us for a while, mainly for money and I would rather not pay double figures for a 90 minute depressant. I’ll write some thoughts on it during the week as its 2 weeks before I go to another game – one I might enjoy being a neutral at it.


Rob Waite’s thoughts on this game (and they are as negative as mine) can be found at:


Match Ratings:

- Match: 4/10 (awful for a semi-final)

- Value for money: 5/10 (£18 for a semi-final is ok I suppose)

- Ground: 4/10 (I don’t like Fir Park)

- Atmosphere: 7/10 (good noise from Hearts fans, St Mirren responded in 2nd half)

- Food: N/A (ran out of pies!)

- Programme: 8/10 (good SFL effort)

- Referee: Charlie Richmond – 4/10 (fussy and inconsistent)

Co-Op Semi Prog

Co-Op Semi ticket

Friday, 5 February 2010

St Johnstone vs Heart of Midlothian (30/01/09)

Match 68

Ground #: 40

Ground: McDiarmid Park

Competition: Scottish Premier League

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £20

Programme: £2.50

Attendance: 4,752

St Johnstone 1

Deuchar 51’

Hearts 0


This game was actually chosen as my blog was coming up to its 1st birthday (how time flies!) and a year ago, for The Travelling Fan’s first game I went to Hamilton to watch a Hearts away defeat. The same weekend this season had Hearts given another away game at a ground I hadn’t been to, so against my better judgement this game was part of a Hearts double in a week, with the big League Cup Semi-Final in mid-week, Hearts had a tough away game at St Johnstone to deal with first. So on Friday night, I was travelling up to Edinburgh when even by Hearts FC standards, a surreal and bizarre 2 hours broke. I received a text saying, “are you gutted about Csaba?”, (Csaba being Hearts boss Csaba Laszlo), uhoh, whats happened now!? Upon further investigation Laszlo had been sacked/left by mutual consent and I sat thinking on the train, whats the point going tomorrow? Even though I had already paid my £8 for the official supporters bus, I was tempted to pick another EoS game as Civil Service Strollers and Edinburgh University were both at home and would have probably have got far more enjoyment visiting them until news broke out that made the evening even more surreal….


Texting the author of fellow groundhopper blog – The 66 POW about the events, he informed me that ex Hearts legend Jim Jefferies had decided to return as Hearts boss. When I later found that out to be true, I was stunned by the lightning reaction of the Hearts’ board to bring in someone, and especially someone so important and well liked within the club already. When arriving in Edinburgh and reading the Edinburgh Evening News the next morning I was also surprised by the amount of fans who were delighted with the decision to get rid of Csaba – maybe a knee-jerk reaction after the 0-3 home defeat to Aberdeen, but a lot of fans would now come back and support the team and Jefferies. So a masterstroke of great timing as I had decided to go to the first game back under JJ and with a feeling that this could be Vlad’s last chance otherwise Division 1 was looking a likely destination for the team, such headlines as “IF JIM CANNY FIX, NAEBODY CAN” meant a good start was necessary, or at least a positive performance. As there as no way on earth I would drive to Perth, I got a seat on the Hearts supporters coach from Tynecastle that only cost £8 (the train was £9.60) and had a nice relaxing drive to Perth as I was well up for JJ’s first game in charge. (How fickle are football fans! ;) )


Perth is the county town in Perthshire and sits on the banks of the River Tay surrounded by picturesque countryside. Perth was a City and was known as the ‘The Fair City’ until the late 1990’s when the UK Government re-examined the definition of a city and Perth was one of 3 (the other two also in Scotland) to be declassified as a city. Major landmarks and highlights in Perth include some bridges and St John’s Kirk, a church that has had a colourful history since its settlement in the 12th Century. Perth was also well known for its whisky distilleries until they all up-sticks and left. (I’m struggling here on Perth!) The town’s football team, St Johnstone was named after the original name of Perth, St John (the Baptist)’s toon. Sounds the same! The club have floated about the SPL and Division 1 recently and were enjoying their 1st season back in the top flight of Scottish football after winning the SFL 1st Division last season. Only with one trophy to their name, the Scottish Challenge Cup in 2007 (the SFL equivalent of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy if you will) means a very limited amount of success had fallen to the Tayside club. They were having a decent season back in the SPL, however under manager Derek McInnes as they went into this game in 8th position, 6 points ahead of bottom place Falkirk.


The team play at McDiarmid Park on the outskirts of Perth and have played there since 1989 (so the ground is the same age is me!) as their old ground Muirton Park was bought by Asda who then got the team to move to a brand new stadium on the Western edge of the city at no cost to them. The land the ground sits on was donated by local farmer Bruce McDiarmid who insisted that no money was paid to him for the land and the club should take it as a “gift to Perth”. The ground therefore is one of the first “out of town” grounds that now so many teams have moved to. Upon first arrival into the large carpark at the ground it was an impressive looking ground, especially considering my last SPL game had been at the laughably shit New Douglas Park in Hamilton. Hearts had been told that due to the expected large amount of away fans to descend upon Perth, both the North Stand and Ormond Stand, which both are behind either goal. In the end, only the North Stand was open for Jambos which provided a decent view of the pitch and the scoreboard as I got used to seeing “HEARTS 0” for the duration of the game. Home fans were in the two stands which ran down the sides of the pitch being the Main Stand and East Stand as there wasn’t a particularly big attendance in the 10k plus ground.


JJ had picked a fairly decent side going with a 4-4-2 formation much to the delight of the travelling Hearts fans with Christian Nade and Gary Glen starting up front. However after a decent 15 minutes where Hearts didn’t create much but still had the majority of the play, that all disappeared rather quickly when St Johnstone began to take control of the play, dominated by ex Hibs man Filipe Morais who’s forward runs and crosses were causing our defence all sorts of problems. It didn’t help that youngster Jason Thomson who is a natural right-back was getting caught out playing left-back time and time again as he was covering for the injured Lee Wallace. Despite all this pressure that the Saints exerted I can only remember one clear chance which fell to Steven Milne who skied his header well over the bar. For the neutral (and all the other 4,752 mugs in the ground), that half of football was awful as I really cannot add much more detail to what happened. I was delighted therefore to be in the company of Rob Waite, the writer of The 66 POW as we both kept each other company from wanting to gauge our eyes out after watching that crap. It had to improve in the 2nd half, surely.


As the 2nd half kicked off, I wasn’t in my seat as I had made the foolish mistake of coming to the game only on a Greggs Sausage Roll (and a little one at that) so as I stood in the pie queue, the game re-kicked off as Hearts (I was told) made a decent effort as Gary Glen just fired over the bar and Christian Nade missed a good header. As I got to the front of the queue I was feeling quite relieved that I hadn’t missed much action until the silence and then loud cheers from the home end confirmed that St Johnstone had gone 1-0 up. As I didn’t see it and refuse to watch the ‘highlights’ of this game, I’ll have to quote the BBC Sport match report to detail the goal:

The decisive goal arrived on 51 minutes when Danny Grainger's low left-wing cross was turned in by Deuchar, the striker's first SPL goal for almost two years.”

When I sat down in my seat with a luke-warm Steak Pie and wondered if the piece of pastry was worth getting after missing the goal, Hearts still continued to stumble around the pitch as JJ brought on Andrew Driver back from injury to try and bring some creativity, or the very least some effort into the awful performance so far. St Johnstone though had a good penalty claim turned down and should have gone 2-0 up when Cillian Sheridan hit the post after a good breakaway move from the Saints. Hearts did create something resembling chances late on though, firstly Driver whipped in a great cross that Danny Grainger did well to turn behind with Gordon Smith lurking about. Before in the very last move of the game, Christian Nade was fed (no pun intended) the ball and he darted past the Saints left back (honestly) and his low cross was waiting to be turned in by Smith but a last ditch block from Gary Irvine before some frantic defending got the ball cleared and before Hearts could take the throw-in, the final whistle blew. A deserved defeat and JJ must be wondering why on earth he’s taken this job on.


Another away game and another away Hearts defeat for me then as although I was fairly happy to get to ground #40, another Hearts defeat left me wondering if this was really all worth it. I felt for Rob as he had travelled all the way from Lincolnshire (I think) for this game! Although it was good to hear someone with a more English accent than myself ;). Hearts had a Semi-Final in the week to deal with and as JJ himself said “he didn’t know what certain players could do and had to ask staff if they could play in certain positions”, we’ll just have to accept this game as a write-off and look forward to JJ actually getting a chance to work with the team and get his ideas across. Hearts’ Top 6 place looks unlikely this season, but there is still time, and more importantly games to save it.

Photos from St Johnstone vs Hearts

(If you want to read Rob Waite’s thoughts on this game and generally bookmark his very good blog then the link to this game is: Its a good blog, but needs more Lady Gaga in his music sections. ;) )


Match Ratings:

- Match: 3/10 (poor for neutrals, woeful for Jambos)

- Value for money: 4/10 (£20!? erm, no)

- Ground: 6/10 (fairly decent ground by SPL standards)

- Atmosphere: 5/10 (quiet in general)

- Food: 4/10 (the Steak Pie was ok, but loses marks for taking so long to serve)

- Programme: 6/10 (decent, albeit thin)

- Referee: Euan Norris – 7/10 (did well)

St J vs Hearts prog

St J bus ticket