An American Tale: Experiencing the Scottish Premier League In Person

What a trip! My family’s second visit to the UK — and everything went perfectly. Live football in a stadium with thousands of vocal fans. A thrilling come-from-behind draw after going down 3-1. Satisfaction and smiling faces walking out of the stadium and down crowded streets with the locals on their way to the pubs. Problem being it was an Scottish Premier League match—not the English Premier League, but stick with me here. I have a tale to tell and perhaps a lesson to share.

We love Scotland. What can I say? For our second trip we invited our son and daughter-in-law to go with us (no, we did not pick up the tab). My son, who works for Eurosport, is soccer-centric to say the least. He suggested right away that we try to catch a match on a travel day from the Western Highlands to the Borders. Being already familiar with the Edinburgh area and their Park & Ride system a Hearts or Hibs match seemed a good idea. Turns out Hibs were home to Dundee Utd, so that was the pick. Great planning.

Hibs were dead and buried in the relegation zone and Dundee weren’t too far above them. I get the bright idea that Newcastle isn’t too far away from the Borders and check their schedule. Blackburn visiting. Yes! Toon Army!! Umm. Time for a reality check. No knowledge of the Newcastle area. A long, long drive from the Western Highlands to Newcastle and then back up to the Borders and no wish to inflict my first time on the left side of the road driving skills on the poor unsuspecting pedestrians and motorists of Newcastle. Back to Plan A. We get tix to the Hibs v Dundee Utd match—*sigh*.

I needn’t have worried. It was a fantastic experience. Over 9,600 people (in a stadium that holds 15,000). The commentary from those around us and the reaction of the fans in general as the match wore on are unforgettable. The support for the goalie was particularly heartwarming, “Catch the fookin’ ball ‘ya shite!” No place for girls with delicate ears, but that would not include our wives.

What a mind-boggling atmosphere. Cheering, booing, cursing, clapping for almost every single movement of the ball. You never hear that over the TV here in the States. It is completely lost and absolutely amazing, which brings me back to the EPL. If that is what I experienced at a low level SPL match I can’t imagine what it would have been like had we made it to St. James Park. I wish.

However, my moral, if you will, is that if you are travelling overseas anywhere and have any chance at all of catching a match at whatever level—do it. Don’t let the opportunity pass just because it might not be the EPL. The resounding thump of the ball off a defender, the chants and songs, the passion of the fans are simply electric in a country where football is all that really matters when it comes to sports. In my particular case, the appreciation and happiness of the fans after coming back to snatch a draw after being down 3-1 was palpable. You could feel it as we filed out of Easter Road. I will have that total experience with me every time I watch a match on TV for the rest of my life. Not a bad return for £12 (senior concession prices, boys).

So, yes. Have that EPL dream and plan as previous writers have so well described, but don’t turn your nose up at something “less” if it’s available. You will have a memory that can never be erased or replaced that will only add to your lifetime pleasure as a football fan. Just think. I’m now a Hibee and get to follow their plight through the rest of the season hoping that sieve they call a defense can somehow hold up enough to help them avoid relegation. Another cross to bear. What a life.

Cheers—and sláinte.

8 thoughts on “An American Tale: Experiencing the Scottish Premier League In Person”

  1. And that’s what I’ve been telling everyone on here for ages but most seem to arrogant or ignorant to see life outside the top 6 in the EPL, Barcalona, or Real Madrid.

    1. Does seem a shame. There is so much more on offer. I really enjoyed the intimacy of Easter Road and the passion of the fans for a team in the dumps at the time. Held Rangers to just a goal on Sat. so maybe they have found something on defense….or the goalie has actually learned to catch the fookin’ ball. 😀

      1. Hey Guy, didn’t realise it was you! Glad you buzzed off it. Edinburgh’s a great city too. Keep advocating attendance in the flesh and hopefully it’ll sink in. Whatever level it’s considered to be at the experience is far more fulfilling in the flesh than in virtual reality.

        Are you able to take in any MLS or USL games back home? Hopefully the mighty Potters will be over in Orlando soon to take on Adrian Heath’s side.

        Interesting to note you mentioned the OAP price. I paid £40 for all three home Europa League matches (I want to go to Tel Aviv away but it’s looking unlikely). For pensioner’s you’d get in to all three Stoke home Europa games for £15!

        What were you drinking up there? Did you get to any of the distilleries?

        1. No chance to take in live matches. I live in Beaufort on the far edge of nowhere in eastern North Carolina, but it’s a great little seaside town. Guess I’ll just have to cross the Pond again to get that great Senior pricing!

          A lot of cask conditioned ale was consumed. I stuck my son behind the wheel and we took the ferry to Mull. Visited the Tobermory Distillery. Had visited Glenfiddich three years ago. Wanted to get to Islay because Ardbeg is my favorite, but it was pretty much like thinking about getting to Newcastle…a bridge too far…or in this case, a ferry. Next time. :-)

        1. Have seen most of the Rebus shows, but should probably rewatch them after our second time in Edinburgh. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Great article, Guy!

    I can totally relate. In 2008, I studied in Paisley just outside of Glasgow for four months and made my way to 13 matches in total (SPL, EPL, and International), and the visits I made to St. Mirren Park to watch the Saints/Buddies are moments in my life as a football fan that I’ll never forget. Glad to hear that Easter Road made a similar impression on you!

    Please tell me you had some Bovril! Don’t you love how the sky just spittles on you all the time? Amazing country. Seriously.

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