In the recent Streets of Glasgow post about Cathcart Road, I forgot to mention that particular thoroughfare’s resonance in my own life. I grew up in East Lothian and visits to Glasgow weren’t all that frequent. It was after all the other side of the country. When we did we were usually passing through en route to Paisley, where one of my aunties lived. One time we came through was to go to the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park, Scotland’s national stadium. We got the train to Mount Florida and walked down to Cathcart Road, all brown tenements, the street absolutely jumping or so it seemed to my 13-year-old country bumpkin self. For a long time that was one of my main mental images of Glasgow. Even when I moved here, I knew how to get to Hampden and that was pretty much it.
I have written about Hampden before, including a visit last year to the Scottish Football Museum. Rather than repeat myself, I wanted to write about what Hampden means to me. I’ve been there three times to see the museum plus to see Hibs play five times. My Hampden scorecard is two wins, three defeats. That one of those wins was one of the greatest days of my life, 21st May 2016, brought about by the head of Sir David Gray, doesn’t bear repeating. I have a reverence towards any football ground, big or small, and the National Stadium strikes awe in me every time. I know it’s got many faults – the west and east ends are too far away from the action, food is ridiculously expensive, it’s a good 15,000 seats smaller than Murrayfield and that’s before mentioning those who manage the game from the offices there – but for better or worse it’s Hampden and it’s where the Cup Final happens. It’s a day for pomp and pageantry, for Sunday best and hopefully going absolutely radge come full time. As Stephen Watt said in his poem to celebrate Queen’s Park’s 150th anniverary, home is where the Hampden is. It’s a place for history, of great internations, of Puskas and the 1960 European Cup Final, of record-breaking crowds (149,515 against England in April 1937, even 122,714 for the 1973 Cup Final between Celtic and Rangers). The last time I walked by Hampden I tried to imagine that scale of people passing along these streets, just a sea of bunnets. And the roar of the crowd.
Not so long ago, the fixtures came out for the new season, emanating naturally enough from the SPFL’s offices at Hampden. The Premiership fixtures are more spaced out than those of the Championship, League 1 and League 2, and I looked at the fixtures for the lower leagues to see if there were some Saturdays I was off and when Hibs weren’t playing that I could get to another game. I would like to get to Palmerston Park where Queen of the South play, partly because I like the hurl to Dumfries, but also because Palmerston looks a nice, old-fashioned ground with terracing and everything. Edinburgh City is another one since they only came into the SPFL last season and they gave Hibs season ticket holders a discount. But I would like to see Queen’s Park most of all. The Spiders are 150 years old this year and make a virtue of being the last amateurs in the senior leagues in Scotland. They also play at Hampden to an average crowd of 645, some 51,000 fewer people than the ground’s capacity. It’s that which makes me want to go, as well as Hampden being a mere 4 miles from here. Plus it would back up that I’ve often said that Queen’s Park is my Glasgow team, owing to my deep dislike of Celtic and Rangers. I’ve checked and there are a grand total of two Saturdays this season when Hibs aren’t playing but Queen’s Park are at home, on 11th November against Arbroath and 6th January against Stranraer. Hopefully I’ll get there. I don’t imagine 645 people can roar that hard but I hope to be proven wrong.
Next to Hampden is Lesser Hampden, where Queen’s Park’s offices are. It is also a football ground, though mainly used for training. The Queen’s Park crest is etched into the wall outside Lesser Hampden and it’s a nice reminder that yes there is football here outside the Cup and when Scotland are around. What I didn’t know was that the pavilion building backing onto the Mount Florida Church and Cathcart Road was a farmhouse and barn, of Clincart Farm, in fact, only in 1923 turned over to footballing purposes. In a sprawling city like Glasgow, it’s good to remember that it wasn’t totally urban until comparatively recently.
I don’t know when I’ll be back at Hampden. Hopefully the Hibs will be there soon, obviously, but here’s hoping I make even one of Queen’s Park’s games, even for the novelty of sitting as one of very few when once this ground held hundreds of thousands. Still the same game, though, and that’s what matters.
Sources and further reading –
O’Brien, Ged, Played in Glasgow: charting the heritage of a city at play, 2010, Malavan Media
Scottish average attendances – www.european-football-statistics.co.uk/attn/avesco.htm
SPFL fixture list – www.spfl.co.uk/league-one/fixtures/
STV recently broadcast a special edition of the People’s History Show dedicated to Queen’s Park’s 150th anniversary, available at http://player.stv.tv/episode/3i0e/peoples-history/ for those in the UK.