Football in Arbroath, Scotland
Richard Rutherford’s tour of Scottish clubs takes him to Arbroath in the cup.
This season’s reorganisation of the Betfred Scottish League Cup, has given me the opportunity to visit some new grounds, as the matches have been spread out with some covered by television. The opening weekend gave me the opportunity to visit Arbroath and Montrose, two coastal towns close to each other and great rivals on the football field.
My base for the visit was to be a lovely hotel in Montrose. The town is one station up the line from Arbroath, on the main line from Edinburgh to Aberdeen, via Dundee. The railway journey is superb, traversing both the iconic Forth and Tay bridges.
After a long partly delayed journey, I didn’t arrive at my Montrose base until about 5.30 pm. I had to do a quick turnaround to get back to the station to catch a train back to Arbroath. The station at Arbroath is about a 20 minute walk to the ground, most of it being downhill. I was a little pushed for time, so decided to hop into a taxi. The driver agreed to pick me up after the game by a pub opposite the away end to the ground, of which more about later.
Arbroath v Dundee United
The match in question was Arbroath versus Dundee United, in Group C of the Betfred League Cup. The attendance proved to be an amazing 3,124, with some 2,500 from Dundee.
The ground is situated on the sea front adjacent to the pebbly beach. On a balmy July evening it was most pleasant, but would be much different in January. The ground itself was lovely, taking me back to what many football league grounds were like in my younger days. There is a main seated stand and covered standing areas on the other three sides. Most of the visiting supporters were behind one of the goals, with some in the corner of one of the sides.
Arbroath’s 36-0 victory
The pitch was in superb condition, no excuse for any misplaced passes on such an excellent playing surface. There is also a very good club shop, run by volunteers and selling many interesting items. Memorabilia included some commemorating Arbroath’s 36-0 win over Bon Accord in the Scottish Cup in 1885. I was able to purchase my customary club mug.
Arbroath FC are a very old club, being founded in 1878 and have played at their Gayfield home since 1882. The highest ever attendance at Gayfield was for a Scottish Cup game against Rangers, when somehow 13,570 managed to squeeze in.
Arbroath are known as the “Lichties”. Everyone born in the town is known as a Red Lichtie. This is because back in the olden days, ships were guided into the harbour by red lights in some people’s houses, before the building of a lighthouse. These days, being attracted to red lights in windows in a harbour area conjures up a rather different meaning!
The match was being covered by BT Sport who were carrying out their pre-match discussions on the pitch near to where I was standing. The town’s pipe band were also marching and playing during this period. There were huge queues for refreshments, and after finally reaching the front of the queue, I could see why. I purchased a steak pie, which had to be the best pie I have ever eaten at any football ground I have been to. In my opinion, it even bettered the famous ‘Killie’ pie at Kilmarnock.
Excellent cup tie
The game itself was a good one. Dundee United, having just been relegated from the Premier League, were expected to win comfortably against their League Two opponents. It didn’t work out like that. Both goals came towards the end of the games with the Arabs taking the lead on 85 minutes through substitute Henri Anier. The Lichties were not to be undone, equalising in time added on through Colin Hamilton.
Due to a change in the competition’s rules, we now went into a penalty shoot-out, Dundee United winning 5-3, to claim an extra point. Many fans started to leave on the final whistle, not realising the shoot-out was going to take place.
Overall, there was a great atmosphere in the ground, and the home supporters were very welcoming. On leaving the ground I waited by the pub for my taxi to take me back up to the station to catch the 10.15pm train back to Montrose. There were hundreds of Arab fans milling around, probably causing my taxi not to turn up. The doorman of the pub asked me who I was waiting for and quickly flagged down a police van. They very kindly gave me a lift back to the station, having a good chat about football on our way.
Prior to the game, I didn’t have time to have a look around the town, so I decided to catch the train down again the next morning to investigate further. This I duly did, this time walking into town, ending up on a gorgeous morning in the very pleasant harbour area, which has seen some recent developments. The town still has a fishing base although much reduced from the past. It is famous for its smoked herring, known as smokies, which are very much an acquired taste. Not surprisingly there are a number of fish restaurants, including one that is situated in the lovely Marina area.
Basing yourself in this part of Scotland allows you to visit a number of other grounds, such as both Dundee clubs, Forfar, Brechin City, East Fife and Raith Rovers to name a few. Aberdeen and St Johnstone are not too far away, by rail.
This feature first appeared in Football Weekends magazine, a UK-based magazine for football fans who enjoy travelling throughout Europe. Magazines are posted worldwide: for details visit www.footballweekends.co.uk