Sunday 28th February 2016 ko 14.00
Scottish Amateur FA Inter League Trophy Final
ABERDEENSHIRE 2 (McDougal 56 Franchi 82)
AYRSHIRE 3 (Connell 62p 64p O’Conner 79)
Att 126 at Lesser Hampden, Glasgow
When you look at it, Lesser Hampden is a real oddity. It’s situated at one end of Scotland’s National Stadium, Hampden Park, and as such is seen by many but visited by very few. But to understand it you need to know who owns Hampden and why.
The main stadium is owned by Scotland’s oldest club, Queen’s Park, and is leased to the Scottish Football Association, and yes the Amateur “Spiders” do play home games in the 52,000 capacity UEFA compliant stadium.
Lesser Hampden was constructed in 1924 on the site of Clincart Farm so the club’s other teams could have a base. To save money the farmhouse was retained, and converted for use as changing rooms. With the farmhouse being built in the 19th century it is now believed to be the oldest football building in the world.
The trouble is that since then Lesser Hampden has struggled to maintain its use and identity. It was commandeered by the Home Guard in the Second World War and the pitch came close to being turned back to agriculture. It was bypassed altogether when main Hampden was rebuilt in the 1990’s but its salvation came when Glasgow was awarded the Commonwealth Games for 2014.
With the main stand temporarily converted into an athletics stadium, and Queens Park relocated to Airdrie, Lesser Hampden was used as a warm-up area. That saw new offices for Queens Park, and a 3G pitch installed, creating a mini-stadium that allowed the returning club to use Lesser Hampden for training, and non-first XI games. But unlike it’s big brother the Lesser Hampden of today has not even got a domestic stadium license (let alone a UEFA one) so its scope beyond youth team games is limited, and those limitations became clear for this game.
The SAFA were not allowed to charge for entry or the programme, and were under clear instructions not to allow anyone beyond the balcony in front of the offices, or further than the seating bank. Those seats are completely uncovered, the only cover being a small area in front of the historic farmhouse. The only toilets for spectators are in the changing rooms, so after the game, I made a quick dash to the main stadium! It worked for this amateur game, allowing the players to play under the shadow of the national stadium, but much more than this would see the historic venue stretched beyond its capabilities.
But it was a fascinating afternoon, and the sense of history clear. The clutch of groundhoppers rather puzzled the SAFA officials, “Why exactly do you need the team lines pal?”
The game took an age to fire into life, perhaps the occasion intimidated the players. Eventually Ayrshire prevailed courtesy of two penalties, one controversial, one not, and after the final whistle it all became too much for the Aberdeenshire keeper Paul Noble. He stormed off the pitch and into his changing room putting his foot through a bin bag full of litter, sending the detritus everywhere. Officials cleaned up the mess, but very quietly let his management know that he would not be welcome in the bar afterwards.
It was a bizarre end to a highly successful day for most present. By any standards this was an enjoyable afternoon’s entertainment, excellently hosted. I for one will keep an eye on this competition, if only to see where next year’s final is held. What about Cathkin Park chaps?