I Would Rather Not Go Back To The Old House
By The Way - Weekly Columns
I read a well-written, interesting but ultimately totally flawed article on one of the other Celtic blog sites last week on the future of Hampden Park. It made me think again about my own stated objection to the ongoing use of the crumbling wreck of a football stadium for anything that might involve Celtic, and having thought fully about the options, I'm still 100% convinced that nothing short of full demolition is appropriate for the dump. My history with Hampden goes back nearly 40 years, when my uncle dragged me along to see Ally MacLeod's impending World Cup winners going round the place on an open-top bus as a send-off before the ill-fated Argentina '78 campaign. With hindsight, it was a prophetic moment for me. The place even then was falling to bits, vast in scale but demonstrating a paucity of comfort unsurpassed by any stadium I'd seen before or since. I hated the place. I remember coming back for a couple of Scotland games the following year with the same sadistic uncle and being thoroughly miserable standing in the pishing rain with piss running down the steps and a carpet of crushed cans of McEwan's Lager underfoot. It was a thoroughly depressing introduction to the National Stadium. My first forays to Hampden with Celtic were both successful: the 1980 Cup Final (I wasn't on the pitch, honest!) and the monsoon-conditions 1982 League Cup Final, both narrow but immensely satisfying wins over The Artisans Formerly Known as Rangers. From then on in it was fairly mixed: for every '85 McGarvey winner, there was an '84 Strachan dive; for every '88 McAvennie miracle, there was a '86 Syme red card farce. I came to regard visits to Hampden as a hit-and-miss thing, the good thing about supporting the Celtic is obviously that the sheer volume of visits you make there almost guarantees there will be highs as well as lows, and that continues to be the case even now, but despite the joy you'd take from those great times, it was always a feeling of it being despite the venue, not because of it. The downsides of Hampden are plentiful and well-documented: the sightlines, the pricing, the catering, the toilets, the bolted-on seats on old terracing, the lack of imagination in architecture, the obvious investment in one part of the stadium to the detriment to the rest of it, the location, the transport links, the parking...I really could go on and on. Anyone who looks at the comparative merits of Murrayfield and Hampden and can seriously come up with a supportable rationale for the latter over the former that isn't simply "Aye, but, you can't go to football in Edinburgh..." needs medical help. There really is zero comparison between the two. I genuinely can't see how anyone who's been to both could pick Hampden ahead of Murrayfield. From a Celtic perspective, and for sheer devilment purposes, I'd love to see us really get it up the SFA by advocating Murrayfield ahead of Hampden, particularly if the rumours of a £2m purchase ring true. In those circumstances I'd rather we bought it ourselves, evicted the SFA and ground-shared our Development & Women's teams there with Queens Park than let those self-interested clownshoe committee halfwits continue on their gravy train in any way shape or form. If not, as a minimum we should be looking to get the SPFL to move the League Cup showpiece games elsewhere and get out of the clutches of that Southside shitehole. If the SFA gave a monkeys about Scottish football they'd be looking to share Internationals and Cup Semi-Finals amongst their member clubs (note: not Rangers & Celtic: play the games involving each at Murrayfield, play the rest in Edinburgh or Dundee at appropriately sized venues or at Murrayfield if thats what the clubs involved want). They don't though: they continue to hide behind 'tradition' and 'the way it's always been' rather than embrace a future where a country Scotland's size and demographic dispersal doesn't require a two-tier quality of National Stadia at opposite ends of the M8. Deep down, nobody likes going to Hampden: it has that slightly pish-stained aura of former grandeur, the new stand has nice escalators and that, but ultimately it's a decrepit cesspit of a stadium about 30-40 years past it's effective lifespan. Get us out of there as soon as we can, share the financial benefits of Scottish football (and yes, they are considerable) across the country, and let Edinburgh have a go at the showpiece Finals for a while. Leave the car behind, take advantage of the integrated transport links into Murrayfield, get rocking up to the Roseburn Bar (tell them you're with your family- worked for me last time I didn't get in!) and enjoy us pumping whatever team fancies their chances against us. You know it makes sense.
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