An Aberdeen Fitba Escapade
Sometimes stuff comes into my head and doesn’t leave it. There has been many examples of this over the years. Fitba related, music related, travel related. One thing that had been gathering dust in my brain , yet never forgotten was a walking tour of Aberdeen and all its grounds from Juniors up to the Dons. I would go as far as saying it had become a bucket list item given how long it had been on my mind. I always had the route mapped out roughly in my head, it was more on finding the time to pull it off that held me back. There had to a gap in my diary big enough for this challenge to be conquered. Recently a couple of things also forced my brain to put the idea into the forefront of my thoughts again meaning I was looking for that gap in my calendar with a bit more gusto.
What brought it on? Rewind to the 16th of June, I travelled north to Castletown FC in the Caithness FA set up who were hosting Thurso Swifts at Back Park. I got my usual thumb up photo as I do at every new ground. A couple of days later I printed the picture and it hit me. I realised I was a beer bloated multi-chinned behemoth. I am really not a vain person but seeing that disappointed me as I have always been able to stay in a decent enough nick even after quitting fitba this despite being more than partial to a beer. But adding at least a beer everyday plus losing the more manual aspects in my working life I found my head was now shaped like a Mr Potato head, no definition at all. In short I was fattening up. When I saw the photo I decided that when I went back to Indonesia for work I would make an effort to shift the excess. Then to install this plan more firmly on my to do list, Wee Man told me my belly was huge. After almost five weeks of running in the hotel gym and only four nights with a drink, I shifted nine kilos and felt a whole lot better for it. I am definitely the fittest I have been in a long time. To add, as I was getting myself into better shape I noticed something unfolding on Twitter one day. Craig Telfer, host of A View From The Terrace was doing exactly what I fancied doing but a Glasgow version. On the 17th of July he started at Easterhouse FA’s Stepford Complex and ended at St Rochs’ James McGrory Park. I followed it throughout the day enjoying seeing the sights of Glasgow. This plus now feeling fit and good in general, I found myself thinking more and more about the Culter to Dyce quest again, hoping an opportunity would arise to finally carry out my own idea as it was a good time to do it and continue the good fitness work once I was home.Would the opportunity rise? This would need to include no Wee Man or any plans and an early start. It ended up falling in my lap surprisingly easily. Friday 5th of August turned out to be perfect. Only one week after I got home.
With little research on my route as I felt I knew what was best and my only preparation was messaging Craig for some tips on what to watch out for and what he recommended, I was in a car heading to Culter. At this point I will say the response from Craig was huge, supportive and extremely detailed. I was expecting a couple of lines back. A big thank you goes out to him for taking the time and then to wish me luck on the day too. Back to the back roads of the Aberdeenshire and I was being told I was daft and asked “what happens if you don’t make it?”. A doubt came into my head. I would look like a dick to everyone who knew I was doing it. It was actually motivational. I was going to do this no matter what happened. Then I was asked “whats the point?”. To this, I had absolutely no answer. I did not have a purpose and had not even thought of one. At the time I had 15 stops planned ending with a few beers at the Greentrees in Dyce, that was it. Every single point inclusive of the pub finale I had graced with my presence in the past. Nothing was new at all. This making it sound even more daft. As the car pulled up in Culter, I jumped out with a bag full of bananas, Jelly Babies and water, turned on my I-Pod and kicked off my journey tracking app. Was this a fucking stupid idea? I would find out in about 8 hours and 30 miles time.
1 – Culter Football Club, Crombie Park, AB14 0XB
Played – No
Spectated – Yes
When the idea first came to me I thought Peterculter fell into the boundaries Aberdeenshire by a a fag papers width. As it turned out, it was in fact the opposite way round. It actually falls just within the city boundary. This adding eight more miles on to quest. No big deal? I had no idea to be honest. At 6.30am with a nip in the air, I found myself at Crombie Park, home of what could be called a sleeping giant of the northern Junior game. A tidy set up it is here. One I have never kicked a ball on. Also a club I never played due to division differences when I was playing Juniors. Viewed them numerous times throughout the years though.
Culter have a bucket load trophies to their name inclusive of seven top tier titles this century, with the last coming eight years ago. The club have played in the Senior Scottish Cup on four occasions reaching the third round on three occasions with their most famous match being a home draw versus Partick Thistle in 2011/12 , unfortunately heading out after the replay at Firhill. A valiant effort none the less.
The ground is one of the best in the North Region with a covered area at the clubhouse, a mini stand and board room. The pitch always looks good no matter what time of the season. With the views as you look west you can see it really does sit on the edge of the city.
With Banks o’ Dee now gone, Culter will surely fancy a good run at the title this season. I’m sure they are up there with the favourites.
2- Banks o’ Dee Football Club, Spain Park, AB12 3AB
Played – No
Spectated – Yes
After a quick wave to Rob Roy, I was was head down, tunes on and offsky in the direction of the city centre. Through the more affluent areas or the “burbs” on North Deeside Road I headed. Surrounded by greenery heading along the trail of the River Dee it is hard to believe there is the big grey city incoming. Some of the scenery as you look south is beautiful and hammers home how in the middle of nothing Aberdeen is. Google maps told me it was two hours and forty minutes to Spain Park. I beg to differ as I shaved off half an hour and rocked up in West Tullos at 08.40. To walk eight miles in two hours is quite the speed.
On arrival I was more than chuffed to find the gate to the pitch open. In I went (possibly illegally) to grab a few photos of the ground of a club who I have a lot of time for. Something I have not hidden. They were the club most watched last season by Wee Man and I and also the ground most visited over the 2021/22 campaign witnessing four of five trophies being won as we viewed the Rechabites.
Obviously they are now out of the Junior grade but were highly decorated at that level with their greatest triumph coming in 1956/57 when they won the Junior Scottish Cup vs Kilsyth Rangers in front of 30800 at Hampden. A result which at the time was seen a huge upset.
Now on to pastures new in the Highland League, they have added to the competition of their new league by replacing whipping boys Fort William but also releasing what was becoming a stranglehold on the top tier of the Juniors.
3- Cove Rangers, Balmoral Stadium, AB10 1ZT
Played – No
Spectated – Yes
Looking for team on the up, look no further than Cove Rangers. After what was a bloody challenge, by this I mean walking up the Wellington Road hill from Spain Park. The equal hardest part of the whole walk. This probably because I had just done 8 miles quick sharp prior.I made it to the ground with what I imagined was shin splints. Ignoring the pain I noticed the gate was open so I entered on my own free will to find a groundsman with a distinct “who the fuck are you?” look on his face. But after explaining my daft idea I was allowed on the pitch for photo opportunities. Wee Man and I frequented the Balmoral toward the back end of last season to take in some of the local Aberdeenshire AFA cup matches, since then there are big changes with two seated bleacher type stands behind each goal. The club are ambitious and expanding. That is clear. It will be interesting to see how they get on in their maiden Championship season. As I left I will not lie, I was over the moon I was now facing a decent on a downhill stretch.
4- The former Albert Hotel, Correction Wynd, AB10 1HP
Down Wellington Road, along South College Street and on towards Union Street took no time at all en route to the next stop. The AFC Heritage are a great foundation who do fantastic work . This was the first plaque they erected, commemorating the meeting which led to the formation of the original Aberdeen Football Club (pre-merger). Easy to find between the Prince of Wales and the Moonfish Cafe on Correction Wynd.
5 – Denis Law Statue, Marischal Square , AB10 1BL
A tour of Aberdeen in a fitba sense would always be incomplete if a wee visit to “the King” was excluded. Two minutes walk from Correction Wynd at Marischal Square, you will find this statue of a proud Aberdonian and a man who has worked tirelessly to give back to his city, and ensure people get access to what he couldn’t dream of as a kid. Denis deservedly had a statue erected in 2022. A true Aberdonian legend and the Denis Law Legacy Trust are a brilliant organisation. My cat was named after him too.
6 – Donald Colman Plaque, King Street, AB24 5AP
Off up King Street I wandered after “The King” to see the AFC Heritage step up again. Player, coach, innovator, inventor of the dugout and Dons Hall of Fame member. He was part of the club as a player from 1907 until 1920 returning as coach in 1931. His plaque is found at 342 King Street. Directly across the road from the Pittodrie Bar.
7- Pittodrie Bar, King Street, AB24 5AP
A 180 degree about turn from Donald’s plaque and I am off to the next stop. You can’t head to Pittodrie without whetting your whistle in the famed Pittodrie Bar. Many a pound I have spent in there over the years. Starting with the fact it was not open when I got there turned into bit of a blessing. This leaving me time to scoff a banana and half a bag of Jelly Babies to get my energy up and generally get a rest. I was approximately half way to Dyce at this point and hadn’t took a break once in 15 miles. Two pints were scoofed while reading about players I had never heard of on Sky Sports News. This and overhearing a concerning conversation in regards to the pub. One thing of note, I found myself thinking there is not as much of doodling legend Gordon Reid’s stuff on the walls these days compared to the past. Anyway, I was now off towards Valhalla.
8- Aberdeen Football Club, Pittodrie Stadium, AB24 5QH
Played – Yes (7-a-side tournament counts)
Spectator – Yes
“By far the greatest team, the world has ever seen”. The place where I found my liking of fitba. The place where I used to love spending every other Saturday with my dad and brother. The place where I witnessed Duncan Shearer score that overhead kick. But it’s the place with a thousand memories. This is where the journey took a turn in my brain. In the pub prior I remembered some great nights but at Pittodrie after the photos were taken, I sat on the wall outside the Merkland Road End remembering all the great times. This from back when I was a wee nipper right through to more recent times. The place has more memories than anywhere else on earth for me, spanning as good as all my life. From Copenhagen, that 94/95 season, Torino, Shearers overhead, thinking Jim Bett was the greatest player on earth, being with my old boy and his Extra Strong Mints, being with other family. Even remembering being a wee worried boy entering for my first ever game against Dunfermline in ’91 came back. It was a great trip down memory lane. My active supporting may be down just now due to a “little game” aficionado sidekick, but I will love the club and Pittodrie until the day I meet my maker whether I have a season ticket or not.
Aberdeen are obviously the biggest club in the city with a rich 119 year history. They are also the only team to win two European trophies in Scotland. After regaining a bit of pride in recent times, there was a stagnation. But with the club making what looks like some brilliant signings over the summer and a man in charge who I championed at the time of his appointment and still have a lot of faith in at the helm, I genuinely have a good feeling going forward.
Speaking of going forward, will there be a new stadium? I am sceptical because we have been here before. I am sure we will know if its all crap again soon enough. One thing is for sure. I’ll shed a tear if the old girl does get pulled down.
Will I ever end up back in section Y? I am not in charge of that decision, ask Wee Man
9- Bridge of Don Thistle Junior Football Club, Aberdeen Sports Village, AB24 5RU
Played – Technically (In its Chris Anderson Stadium guise)
Spectated – Yes
A block away is all it took to come to the next part of this journey. To the Sports Village. As I turned up I was glad to see the gate open meaning I just strolled in for photos after taking a couple and I got further in I noticed a heap of kids getting coaching. I sharply left as I did not want to come across as a wrong one. So this ground visit was the swiftest of the trip. Another place I have memories from as it is somewhere I smashed my teeth as a Buchanhaven Hearts player. This because I turned into a Lewis United forearm. A wisdom tooth and a molar were to come out after that match. Since then, the place has had a massive revamp with pretty much only the pitch remaining. This is not a good thing as it is terrible to watch football at. Wee Man and I saw Thistle destroy Ellon United 7 v 1 there last season and even he was complaining about it. You are so far from the pitch when in the stand it makes play on the far wing unwatchable. It was much better as Chris Anderson Stadium.
Bridge of Don Thistle must be another team fancying their chances now Banks o’ Dee are away. So they should too as they have a decent side with plenty of goals in them and a decent management team. With no honours to their name as of yet, could this be the year to break the hoodoo? I would put money on it.
10- East End Football Club, New Advocates Park, AB24 1RG
Played – Yes
Spectator – Yes
Another ground in the Pittodrie vicinity and another with an important memory. I played my last ever game of fitba here for Ellon Thistle against MS United so it holds an importance to me. I also saw Ellon Thistle win the Dickie Trophy here in 2015/16. Seeing the delight on my old boys face was quality that day. It also put a smile on my face and almost eliminated the memory of what happened before just up the road at Pittodrie where Ross County had scudded Aberdeen 4-0 in one of the worst performances in my living memory. I left at 3 v 0 to catch the final.
Wee Man and I went to see East End v Bridge of Don Thistle three days before my quest hoping to watch the closet derby in Scottish fitba(the clubs share a perimeter fence) but found out it was to be played at Hall Russell’s Denmore. I was told it was due to vandalism. However when I appeared at New Advocates I spoke to the groundsman and was informed it was actually a contractor who had destroyed the pitch. This due to a dandelion outbreak. The chemical used to get rid of the yellow weeds killed the grass too and the pitch has bald spots all over(see first photo). This could potentially see East End having a nomadic existence this season. A share with Bridge of Don has been mooted
East End are the oldest team in Aberdeen, founded in 1887 with moderate success over the years. This mostly coming in cup competitions. Their latest coming last season when they defeated Dufftown in the final of the Regional Cup.
11- The Cruickshank Botanic Gardens, The Chanonry, AB24 1RP
The AFC Heritage working their magic again. This time the old clubs, old ground before Pittodrie. This being the latest plaque to the collection. Easy to find at the entrance to the Botanic Gardens between St Machar Drive and Seaton Park on the Chanonry
12- Aberdeen University Football Club, Keith Park(Hillhead), AB24 1WU
Played – Yes
A walk through Seaton Park where a refreshing rain shower started on entry and went off on exit took me to the next stop. When I turned up I thought pictures were going to be hard to come by and I would have to stretch over the fence. See picture 3. Then I noticed that’s someone had flattened a chunk of the fence at the far end. In I went, possibly trespassing for the umpteenth time in the day .The place is in a sorry state these days. Lots of it is boarded up, it looks dirty and could do with a paint. However its still a great wee ground. One that I will have to take Wee Man too as he is yet to visit.
Home to Aberdeen’s second oldest club Aberdeen University FC nowadays, it was once home to Wilson’s XI (now Bridge of Don Thistle). This brings me to a memory from my Buchanhaven Hearts days where our keeper got injured in the warm up and I ended up between the sticks against Wilson’s. 4 v 1 we lost that day under the scorching Aberdeen sun. I am sure this was a Grill Cup game
13- Hall Russell United Football Club, Denmore Park, AB23 8JW
Played – Yes
Spectator – Yes
After crossing the Don for the first time on the hike I was heading to another two very close grounds. The first being one that I was in three days prior. Denmore Park, home of a club currently in abeyance for the season, Hall Russell United. Not the hardest place to get photos at but I was in luck anyway as the groundsmen were working and let me in. These two were actually connected to the other tenants, amateur side Nicolls. After a good twenty minute blab about the local amateur game I grabbed my photos, wondering what the future holds for Hall Russell United.
As I was exiting towards the carpark it dawned on me that I had been sent off here while playing juvenile football. Meaning out of the whole trek it was the only place where this had happened. (Halved someone on the touchline for the record)
14 – Hermes Junior Football Club, Lochside Park (Uniconn Park), AB23 8JW
Played – Yes
Spectator – Yes
A quick nip through the nettles and I was now at Hermes. One of only four teams to win the Junior top flight in the last 20 years (Sunnybank, Culter, Banks o ‘Dee being the others). Twice they did it in 2011/12 and 2014/15. Again a team that will fancy their chances this season after a third placed finish last season. But will they be able to deliver?
After showing Wee Man how close it was to Hall Russell he immediately added it to his list. No doubt we will head through this season.
The ground is a basic affair but nicely hidden next to the A92 aka Ellon Road.It also hosted the first Junior Cup final that I attended in the early 2000s, with Glentanar defeating Formartine United. Which cup escapes me though.
After Lochside Park I decided for an impromptu pint at the Buckie Farm on the Parkway as my phone needed a decent battery boost, my feet were starting to hurt and in all honest I was flagging a bit after approximately 25 miles walking.
15- Albion Boys Club, Grandholm, AB22 8AF
Played – Yes
Spectated – No
Left in an Ambulance – Yes
The reason I stopped here was for a personal as his was the only ground I ever left in an ambulance. This after being knocked out by my own keeper. After heading a corner clear the big goalie and one of my best pals at school Baillie was a second late with the punch. Unfortunately for me he landed it behind my ear knocking me out cold before I hit the deck. I was told this was clear as my hands never went out to break my fall and I hit the deck head first. I don’t know how long it took but I came round on the pitch, by which time I was in a neck brace and surrounded by worried adults from both teams inclusive of my Dad. Also in attendance was my cousin who got the best view in the house of the incident as he was closest as it happened. The amusing part of this was the first thing I said when I came back was “Dad geez my Mars Bar”. Bizarre. We still laugh about that over twenty years later. There was no damage and I played the following week. But its something I will never forget.
It was sad to see the place in such a sorry state and it was a great ground to play back in the day and housed some seriously successful teams. Juvenile teams that won Scottish Cups.
The location of the old place was very handy for the next stop at Glentanar. I probably would have had to pass it regardless after heading down towards the new Don crossing from the Buckie Farm
16-Glentanar Junior Football Club, Woodside Sports Complex, AB24 2UL
Played – Yes
Spectated – Yes
A hop and a skip over the Don from Grandholm and another ground comes into view. Woodside, home of Glentanar JFC. As stated already the first club I saw lift a cup in the Juniors. When I started watching back in the early 2000s the Glens were a decent outfit. Not so much these days though and were playing in the bottom tier prior to this seasons reform of the leagues.
Woodside is another basic affair situated next to Aberdeenshire Rugby Club. Nothing more than a fenced in park with dugouts. However the OCD in me picked up on something highly infuriating. One side of the park has two dugouts that are incredibly unsymmetrically placed next to the half way line. There is absolutely no excuse for it. (See photo).
With Sunnybank next I had to attack the hill up to Great Northern Road, my legs really didn’t need it. 3 to go
17- Sunnybank Football Club, Heathryfold Park, AB16 7DS
Played – Yes
Viewed – Yes
My timing of arrival at Heathryfold could not have been worse as what looked to be a wake was being piped out of the social club and it was very well attended with folk everywhere. I would have felt wrong taking photos. So I snuck one and left for the final push towards Dyce.
Getting here threw up a surprise. I have only ever used motorised means to get here in the past but after walking West on Great Northern Road and then Auchmill Road from Glentanar I found out its just a stones throw from Auchmill Road. Meaning it is very bussable for me, also meaning for a change I could get a good scoof before a game. Mental note taken.
I said Culter are a sleeping giant somewhat. This famous old club definitely are. Winners of the Scottish Junior Cup in 1953/54 when they defeated Dundee’s Lochee Harp at Hampden. A side which included none other than Aberdeen FC legend Teddy Scott (who is pictured in the Pittodrie Bar section above). The Black and Whites have thirteen top flight titles to their name but currently sit in the second tier. Somewhere they have been for around ten years
I always liked Heathryfold Park, but its been a while since I have been. I need to take Wee Man though so I imagine it wont be too long before I am back. I cant comment on it’s current state as I haven’t seen it but it was arguably the best pitch in the city at one point and a great example of a Junior ground. I also saw a headed goal from around 50 yards when I played for Buchanhaven Hearts. This when Kenny Watson headed a sclaffed goalkeeping clearance back where it came from. Incredible goal that was.
18- Stoneywood-Parkvale Football Club, ArjoWiggins Park, AB21 9JL
Played – No
Spectated – Yes
Sunnybank to here felt like a real challenge. Stopping and waiting at crossings was now leaving me stiff as a board and I just had to keep on the move which wasnt always possible.
Not the easiest place to get a photo, but to be honest I wasn’t looking to be any sort of David Bailey . I was just looking to get down the road to Dyce and wrap this up.
Named for sponsor reasons, ArjoWiggins being the company involved with the local paper mill its another simple affair. But has its own wee quirks. Upcycled wooden shelters in the corners for example. The low flying choppers and planes given its proximity to the airport being another.
Stoneywood Parkvale are only six years old founded after the merger of two old Junior teams, you guessed it, Stoneywood FC and Parkvale FC. They have just been promoted to the top flight for this season
19-Dyce Football Club, Ian Mair Park, AB21 0BA
Played – Yes
Spectator – Yes
…..and then there were none. At this point I was utterly jiggered and relieved. I did not even fancy the pre-decided pints at the Greentrees. I just wanted my bloody shoes off my feet. I had powered through pain from about Glentanar and I just wanted a seat.
However it is a quality spot to end at. I have always been a fan of Ian Mair Park and I still am. With all the new imagery at the place now the club have a new badge after dropping the Juniors from their name it looks good with a huge welcome as you walk in the gate. Dyce always seem to be an ambitious club to me and I think they would like a crack at promotion(my own opinion). I would be interested to know the status on gaining SFA accreditation. I would suspect they would not be too far away ground wise.
Ian Mair Park always makes me think of one incident especially. Watching Dyce v Cruden Bay from the sideline( I was a Cruden Bay player but decided to hack into my hand earlier in the week so was out injured full of stitches). Martyn Duncan received the ball out wide and proceeded to bomb up the line in front of the dugouts, only to get snapped by a pitch invading member of the Dyce coaching team. It was one of those, “did I just see what I think I did” moments. Totally surreal and never fails to make me laugh thinking back.
After a photo from the adjacent railway line I was done, in more ways in one. This after seven hours and eight minutes walking over a distance of 48.10 km which is 29.89 miles. As I stood a fag papers width away from Aberdeenshire like I did in Peterculter, it struck me that I had pretty much covered the the city good and proper. Culter in the west, to Cove Rangers in the south, to Aberdeen in the east, finishing at Dyce in the north. I also got thinking, am I the first first person to do this?
I set out with no purpose to this. It was just for fun. However the longer it went on the more it became something. It brought back so many brilliant memories of playing and watching the game across the city. It brought back memories of being with my Dad at Pittodrie and with him always on the sideline at all the teams I played for . There was also my bother Gareth and my cousin Barry too who there are many a story watching Aberdeen . Although it is not everything, fitba is more than a game, people don’t always see or believe it. It is bonding, family time and it creates memories that last a lifetime. All of which I am doing with Wee Man these days. Hopefully in years to come his brain brings him back to our fun when he heads past Spain Park, Harlaw Park, Pittodrie or wherever. Yes my feet ended up falling to bits with blisters that resemble third degree burns. Yes my hip was preventing me from walking properly in the following two days. Yes it was a lot harder on the body than expected. But the bringing back a life time of fantastic flashbacks made it absolutely worth it. Am I glad I did it? Too right I am. Would I do it again? I already have my next one planned, starting where I left off this time…………maybe a bit better foot preservation is needed next time though.
Great story. Well done. Looking forward to the next one.
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