Dons down Caley to win their first silverware this century


Six weeks ago, The Daggers Diary team were fortunate enough to attend the semi final between Inverness and Hearts, while on a weekend trip to Edinburgh. As one of the more attention grabbing games that they had attended in a long while drew to a conclusion, they were offered tickets to the final if Inverness (down to nine players at this point) held on and won the tie.  Of course it was a no-brainer that they would go. 

1926863_10153907861090223_588616766_nAs we strolled back into the city centre with the game still very fresh in the memory, we wondered how we were going to break the news to Dan’s wife that we would be attempting to head to Glasgow for the final. Those twenty minutes or so were spent trying to come up with kind of story that would tug on the heart-strings, and at least allow Dan out of the house for a day trip to Scotland’s second city.

Unfortunately, the walk produced nothing of note, and so when we all met up, Dan just asked outright. Luckily, there was swift agreement, and so it is how we find ourselves on a flight up to Glasgow from Stansted on a bright sunny Sunday morning.

Our main concern was tickets. The average Inverness home gate isn’t huge, and so while we were assured by our contacts that tickets wouldn’t be a problem, I always like to be a bit on the cautious side. Dan though found a decent flight and so went ahead and booked it. Confirmation of the tickets came through a few days later, and now we were off to the 68th Scottish League Cup Final. Continue reading

Daggers the Brave


Whilst the rest of us spent an afternoon in the shops as our games fell by the wayside, the Daggers Diary team headed north to take in a couple of games in Scotland.

I know that I am quite lucky to be able to do what I do. Most weekends I attend a game, whether it be with the Daggers, or venturing slightly further afield. Take this weekend for example. A whole hour before the coach leaves Victoria Road for the Daggers trip to Rochdale, Dagenham Dan and I are sitting in Southend airport for the first time this month, waiting for a flight north to Edinburgh for a two game weekend.

Despite the fact that Scotland is next door (and for the moment) still part of the UK, this will be only my second football trip north, while this will be Dan’s first ever trip across the border. The only other game I have ventured to in Scotland was up in Inverness, for a comprehensive win against Dundee United, in September 2012. Hopefully our two games this weekend will be as good as that one.

Although we have done plenty of these trips, the early alarm is still a shock to the system, and when it shatters the silence at just after 4am, it is at a snail’s pace that I clamber out of my pit for our trip to Southend airport.

Our flight up is by not full, so we have plenty of space to spread out. We are also the first flight out, and leave roughly on time. With a flight time of an hour, it won’t be long before we are back on the ground, and in the Scottish capital.

Saturday 1st February 2014, Livingston v Queen of the South, Energy Assets Arena

IMG_3268Not only is this Dan’s first game in Scotland, but also his 1300th in total. It’s taken just over twenty-two years to get to this total, which works out at a fairly decent average number of games per year.

Having spent the morning at Edinburgh castle, we head out to Livingston around 1pm, for our first game of the weekend. The journey from Edinburgh is not too bad by train, with it taking only about twenty minutes to reach our destination station. The twenty-minute walk at the other end is thankfully completed without it raining.

As a club, Livingston FC didn’t exist twenty years ago. Ok, that isn’t quite true, as it was formerly Meadowbank Thistle (and previously Ferranti Thistle). Back in 1995, the club moved from the Meadowbank stadium in Edinburgh where they had been for twenty years, to the new town of Livingston, meaning not only a new stadium, but a change of name as well. The clubs history pages in their website makes it clear that the move was simply because the owner at the time, Bill Hunter, felt that there was limited potential sharing a City with Hibernian and Hearts, so the club was moved twenty miles down the road.

The early part of the 21st century were clearly good for the new club, finishing third in 2002, and winning the league cup two years later, but financial problems have beset the club in recent times. Now though, they appear to be stable and promotion back to the top flight of Scottish football must be the aim. Continue reading

Early doors


And so 7 years and 3 weeks since we were awarded the games, the London Olympics is upon us. How could anyone in Great Britain not be excited by the next 18 days featuring the world’s greatest athletes? And here we were, ready to experience the opening events. Whisper it quietly, but the London Olympics didn’t start with the multi-million pound opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium, but actually started on Wednesday in Cardiff when Team GB ladies took on New Zealand. Even the official Olympic website suggests the games start on the 27th July – as if someone is embarrassed by the fact that football even exists in the games.

It has hardly been a surprise that virtually every game outside of London or not featuring Team GB has struggled to sell tickets. I have argued on these very pages about the logic in using such big stadiums in the far flung areas of the United Kingdom. Those romantic few told me that the residents of Glasgow and Cardiff would flock to watch the likes of Honduras, Morocco, Belarus and Gabon because it was “the Olympics”. Last week, LOGOC took the decision to remove over 500,000 unsold tickets for the football tournament from sale and simply close down parts of the stadiums, obviously making sure that the TV facing seats were full.

It is too late to argue the merits of using smaller grounds closer to London for the football (Reading, Southampton, Brighton for instance), but it still leaves a bad taste in the mouth that such a logical outcome was ignored. However, that hadn’t stopped me heading north of the border to notch up event one of ten I would be attending during the games. Hampden Park would be our destination for a double bill of Morocco v Honduras, and then a little throw-away tie between Spain and Japan. I mean, who would want to watch Spain these day? What have they ever won eh? Dull, negative football. Give me Allardyce route one anyday! Who wants to see the ball on the pitch. There is a million times more room to hoof it in the air….I’ll stop now.

Despite my frequent trips north of the border, Hampden Park has never featured on the TBIR radar for a game (great tour and even better museum) so when it was announced that games would be held in the Scottish National Stadium it was too good an opportunity to miss, especially as tickets to any events in the proper Olympic venues were impossible to get last year. One thing you could not complaint about was value for money – £61 for four tickets for a double-header of international football. Of course a year on and tickets can be acquired for just about any game – the football was to be the first of TEN events that we would see in a 12 day period during the games (and we will bring you action from all 10 right here). But confusingly, wherever you went, all the signs/websites/newspaper articles said the Olympic games was due to start on Friday 27th July with the opening ceremony. The website told us Big Ben was to chime 40 times on the first day (i.e Friday 27th); the countdown clock was to the 27th July and all of the official records say the games run from Friday 27th July to Sunday 12th August. Continue reading

Football’s coming home – well nearly anyway


Four weeks ago the Football Associations of Scotland, Ireland and Wales surprised the football world by expressing an interest in hosting Euro2020 in a three-way love in.  Whilst not formally stating their intention to bid for the tournament, their dipping of the toe into the murky waters of International football was received in favourable terms by many people.  Faced with competition from Turkey and Georgia at the moment, the Celtic bid looks very appealling.

Michel Platini, however, may think otherwise.  He wasn’t very keen on inheriting the joint bid from Poland and Ukraine and has expressed his Gallic frustration on a number of occasions with the progress of the infrastructure which still isn’t quite finished despite the tournament kicking off in a week’s time.  He also feels a bit guilty about France winning the bid for 2016 7-6 over Turkey where essentially he had the casting vote, so Turkey will be firm favourites.  That is unless they win a bid for the 2020 Olympic Games.But do they really fit with UEFA’s vision for the Championships?  We can glean quite a lot of information from the bid document for bids for 2016 on what UEFA expects from tournaments in the future.

The first thing to remind you is that from 2016 the tournament is being farcically expanded to a 24 nation competition, which based on the potential Celtic bid, will mean that 50 UEFA nations will be competing for 21 spots – hardly a taxing qualifying tournament.  In terms of the tournament, UEFA set their infrastructure criteria for 2016 as:-

  • 2 x stadiums with at least 50,000 net seating capacity (net meaning seats free from any obstructions) of which one should preferably have up to 60,000.
  • 3 x stadiums with at least a 40,000 seating capacity
  • 4 x stadiums with at least a 30,000 seating capacity

In addition there should be a maximum of three stadiums to be used as backup that fall within these parameters.  All stadiums need to be at UEFA Category 1 level prior to the commencement of the tournament which has very little to do with design, facilities or even a fancy roof but more to do with the size of the Referee’s dressing room, the TV compound and the number of corporate boxes (40 for 30,000, 80 for 50,000+).

It also states that stadium must be well connected to public transport hubs (well that must rule out Turkey for a start – have you tried to get to the Ataturk stadium by public transport?) and be within a two hour drive of an airport.  At least three roads from different directions should lead to the stadium (to avoid “crossover” between fans, media and VIPs), and there should be specific number of parking spaces for the different catagories of VIPs.  In the past, UEFA (and FIFA) have not liked a concentration of stadiums in a small number of host cities.  Portugal was ideal for spectators who were able to travel between 7 of the 8 venues by car within a couple of hours, but UEFA felt that the teams training camps and accommodation were too close together.  So, despite its size and facilities, the day will not be anytime soon when we see a London European Championships, despite the fact the city  currently meets the stadium criteria (Wembley, Olympic Stadium, Twickenham, Emirates, Stamford Bridge, White Hart Lane, Upton Park and The Valley – almost). Continue reading