Fans have returned to stadiums, and in some cases, returned in full capacity. After 18 months, normalcy is returning to football and wider society. In amongst the loosening of restrictions, some baffling stuff remains – for example, we still aren’t allowed to shower after matches. On Twitter, the statement, “But we still can’t shower after games” has become the new “But I still can’t hug my gran” amongst footballers. “So, you are saying that I can go to a full capacity night club but I can’t shower after games”. It’s a strange one but we move. As long as I am awarded compensation for the levels of sweat encrusted all over the interior of my beautiful KIA Ceed, I can accept it.
An interesting part (well for me anyway) of football being behind closed doors for the last year or so, has been the experience of using alternative changing facilities. Due to social distancing concerns, teams have had to find alternative changing rooms to cater for the away team. We have experienced the concourse, the portacabin and the disused boardroom to name a few. Here I give you my thoughtful verdict on these facilities.
It’s been quite some time since I used to regularly walk through the turnstiles, up the outdoor steps to the Gorgie stand and into the concourse. It’s also been a while since I last experienced the delightful mixed scent of scotch pies being undercooked and the scent of piss emanating from the 15 metre toilet troughs. This year I was back baby! Well back in some regard. At Airdrie and Clyde, our makeshift changing room was the concourse. Surprinsingly It wasn’t the worst changing experience. Despite the toilet doors being vandalised with graffiti from the old firm, with artistic slogans like “WATP” or “UP THE RA”, the toilets weren’t all that stinky. The concourse was a surprisingly comfortable temperature, which meant we weren’t freezing our balls off pregame; that could be down to the fact that we visited on fairly warm days. There was ample space to change, foam roll and get yourself fully prepared.
My verdict: 7/10
The boardroom/bar/hospitality box
We are currently changing in the bar/hospitality facility for our home games at Bayview and we have also experienced this type of facility at Partick and Peterhead. At home we have a selection of white plastic garden chairs separated 2 metres apart and there is space aplenty. Without a designated place to sit some players have become particularly attached to their garden chair and have made it their own. I’ve seen a couple of teammates protect their chair with the same energy of an animal protecting their young. Pathetic if you ask me, but both individuals were physically harder than me so I won’t mention names. On away days, these facilities are equally spacious, are well heated and are overall decent places to change. However, navigating the stairs down the stand to the pitch can be tricky and at times soul destroying. Firhill wasn’t a pleasant experience for me personally. My performance in the first half, whilst dealing with marauding full back Ryan Williamson and tricky winger Joe Cardle, can only be described as honking. Feeling slightly dejected while walking up the stairs to the changing room, I slipped and fell face first onto a step. Not a good day at the office. Despite that, it was probably an upgrade on the concourse.
A popular new feature at some lower league grounds, usually utilised for hospitality etc is the Portacabin. Forfar and a few others have used this structure to house away teams getting changed. Each cabin is quite short of space so you end up spread out over several cabins. The cabin you find yourself in, will dictate your pregame happiness. If you are stuck in the cabin which houses the sound system you will be accosted by GBX beats bursting your ear drums. Terrible music, too loud and generally upsets me. Others obviously feel differently. If you are stuck with the lads who are seriously lacking in the personality department – it can also be a slog. Some would say people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, but here I am launching them. If you managed to avoid these two things then you should be all right.
The actual changing room
On occasion we still get use of the proper changing room. It now feels alien and like a blast of nostalgia. Ample room for the tactic board, pegs to hang up your clothes and a fair bit of privacy; it’s a wee treat for me. My overall happiness is dictated by the quality of the changing room, and to be fair to Montrose and Dumbarton, this facility is cracking. That being said, I may just be lucky that Cowdenbeath and Albion Rovers are not in league 1. Both fine historic clubs in the heart of Scottish football tradition… However, the changing rooms do not meet the standards of the high maintenance molly coddled diva behind this keyboard. Still, I’m praying that we are soon allowed back into these more conventional facilities on a more consistent basis.
So, there you have it, another one of the riveting big issues in Scottish football tackled again. For staying with me this far, I’ll treat you with the inspiring words printed on the wall on our recent changing experience up at Peterhead.
“It aint abo how a d you hit… t’s about ho hard you can et hit nd keep moving forwa” o ky Balboa 2006.
You tell him O ky.