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.