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Standing Up For Hampden

Date: 11th January 2018

By Scott Johnston, Editor of The Footy Blog & DP for Full Time Films.

Let me start off by stating I’m a traditionalist and that I enjoy the fact that I can go to Hampden to enjoy the football as my grandfather did before me.

The stadium is iconic, not just in our own country but in world football. No one who witnessed Real Madrid’s 7-3 victory in the European Cup final in 1960 will have forgotten it, and the same can be said for Zinedine Zidane’s world class strike in the Champions League final of 2002.

Now I know things have changed during the generations and I also know that some supporters seriously dislike Hampden and for various reasons.

Quite a few of them have made their feelings on the international stadium public. One being former Scotland manager Gordon Strachan who said this:

“No. It’s done, it’s beat. It’s Sophia Loren.”
“We used to think she was the best looking woman we had ever seen but would I like to go out with her just now?”

We are used to Gordon’s flippant remarks but this sexist rubbish about Hampden really annoyed me.

it’s a ridiculous comparison. If you loved Sophia Loren in the 1950s then you’ll probably still love her now. The Italian has aged not just beautifully but gracefully. Strachan should be shamed by joking about a lady like that, plus if Hampden is the stadia equivalent to Sophia Loren then I see that as a credit to Hampden!

Strachan then goes on to say that the atmosphere generated at the National Stadium isn’t as good as it was at Ibrox or Celtic Park.

I’m not sure that’s necessarily true.

Firstly, since the 1998 World Cup, the Tartan Army fans have had very little to shout about when it comes to our team. We haven’t qualified for a major tournament in twenty years and the football on offer hasn’t been a joy to behold.

People scoff at me, when I suggest part of the problem when it comes to atmosphere is down to the results on the pitch but I’ve been to Hampden on famous days against France, Itlay and the Netherlands and the atmosphere was superb. Fans didn’t sit all game, they cheered and sang their hearts out and everyone was hugging and celebrating historic results.

Not once during or after such heroics did I hear so much as a mutter that the stadium was poor or that the seats were terrible or that the atmosphere was lacking.

The views from the seats thing surprises me. I’ve seen Scotland various times against all kinds of opposition and I have been for big club encounters and not once has my experience been hampered by a dodgy view. Now I might have just been lucky, I can admit that but I can also only go by my own experiences.

Ticket prices keep going up, even though the standards on the park keep failing to justify the extortionate fees our supporters pay. Plus do the SFA really offer a great match day experience? I don’t think so. They should try and fix the easier problems first.

I don’t mind people disagreeing with me on this topic, I’d just urge caution when it comes to making decisions based on a survey that failed to get more than 3,000 people or or a disgruntled former manager.

We also need to think of the bigger picture.

The SFA have committed to Hampden as our base since 1906. The work done in renovating it in the 1990s was through their backing, not because it was the will of key-holders Queens Park. It would be extremely disappointing if our governing body just walked away from what would be a 50,000 all seated empty shell and left a cherished amateur club with all the difficulties of dealing with such a problem.

If the renovation works were careless and hurried, then that was the SFA’s fault to give up on it would be the equivalent of moving into a pal’s house trashing it and leaving them with the mess and heavy bills. That to me would be terrible governance.

There seems to be a myth that it’s a hard place to get to, which is frankly mystifying to me. Many a bus passes it and there are a few train stations nearby that are within a walkable distance.

You also have to factor in the economic benefits that Glasgow’s south side gets from having Hampden in Mount Florida. Pubs, restaurants and shops in local areas like King’s Park, Shawlands, Battlefield, Mount Florida and Queen’s Park get healthy trade during match days. It would be irresponsible for us just to dismiss these livelihoods on a whim or a small survey.

One reason for my love of the game, is it’s working class roots and the social responsibilities it helps to magnify. We have to keep to that way of thinking.

Plus where would we go? Where would we have our Cup Finals?

We could alternate between Celtic Park and Ibrox. Make the rich richer and keep the status quo in -tact.

We could build a new purpose built arena in say Stirling, who lack the infrastructure to cope with the demands that would bring. Plus would we trust The SFA not to mess up the project? If you want to leave Hampden, then you have to admit they were at fault in the first place. If we have the cash to burn then let’s just get it right at our current home.

Murrayfield is getting mentioned a lot.

But Scottish football was started in Glasgow, our history is intertwined with the city! Murrayfield is a rugby venue, a nice one but a rugby venue nevertheless. I’ve been to football games there and it just felt odd and it certainly didn’t feel like home.

Plus is is really feasible to have huge Old Firm matches held in the country’s capital? Would Police Scotland, Scotrail and the council in Edinburgh want 50,000 plus Rangers and Celtic fans travelling to Old Reekie?

The trains would be chaotic and the tourists would have to put up with a lot of choice songs and fruity language. I don’t think it would work in the long term.

I don’t mind the idea of travelling for certain smaller games, but it doesn’t necessarily mean sell-outs. We played the Netherlands last November and it didn’t sell-out. It was close but still only 17, 883 people turned up. When we faced the Dutch in a meaningful match in 2003 Hampden had over 50,000 spectators through the gates.

As I said previously, by all means debate where we should play our football but don’t be blinded by others and don’t forget those we’ll leave behind. Think longterm, about the bigger picture and let every single supporter have their say too.

I for one will always back Hampden!


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