Of the four “proper” ground visits we made on our Scottish adventure, New Douglas Park was probably my second favourite behind Firhill, but it was easily the angriest I got over the course of the day.
We were getting on for 3.45pm when we set off from Cliftonhill, home of Albion Rovers. The excitement of the previous three grounds had made way for hunger and we faced a dilemma – call it a day at three stadiums and go for some food, or soldier on and go for the fourth? Myself, Nick and Lee had all expressed an interest in a mug from one of the clubs we visited and had been let down so far. Partick’s shop was shut, Albion’s entire ground was shut and we’d have struggled to be enthusiastic about a free mug from Airdrie, never mind get out the car and look to see if they had a club shop.
We decided to check Hamilton’s website, which helpfully declared that their stadium shop was open until 5pm on Thursdays and Fridays, just as we passed a carvery on the outskirts of Coatbridge. Our sat nav told us it was a 16 minute drive which meant one thing and one thing only; we were going to drive to New Douglas Park, get us a bloody Hamilton Academical mug then drive back to Coatbridge for a bloody carvery as a reward. Oh, and do a gig as well, but that was definitely a long way down our list of priorities.
We approached New Douglas Park and one thing struck me immediately; I’ve never encountered a ground surrounded by so many supermarkets. It is opposite a Sainsbury (the site of their former home Douglas Park) and behind a Morrisons (no idea). It’s also bloody hard to find. You can see it, and you can get a good view of it from Morrisons’ car park, but getting into the stadium itself is something else.
We did find it and were immediately struck by how odd it was. Living in the shadow of two supermarkets, Hamilton have responded by only bothering to build two stands. There is a third stand, but honestly, it looks like a hospitality tent and the sorry excuse for a marquee must hold about a hundred people tops.
We had a quick wander around the ground, peeked inside at the play area in one corner of the ground that is part of a kindergarten within the stadium (they’d basically built a row of shops and offices within the stadium). We then headed off to the club shop to get our cups.
Only, we didn’t get our cups. The club shop was closed. And not “back in 5 mins” closed. It was shutters down, nobody home closed. At 4pm in the afternoon. We checked their website, to make sure we’d not imagined it. No, definitely open until 5pm. We checked our watches and phones and anything else with the day on. No, definitely Friday 22nd March. Friday, 4pm. Club shop shut.
We sat outside in the car and stewed. We could have been men and popped into the club’s Football In The Community office to ask what was going on, but really, the odds of them opening up the club shop seemed remote. So instead we seethed a bit more, triple checked the Accies’ stupid incorrect website and left. If they couldn’t be bothered to keep their site up to date, did they really deserve our money? Absolutely not.
The stadium itself seems nice albeit weird, but with a weird quirky charm (playground inside the stadium, a marquee instead of a stand, easy to watch games by simply parking up at Morrisons instead of buying a ticket) that should have made us fall in love.
Instead we sulked off to our carvery, mug-less and furious at Hamilton Academical FC.