St Mirren Park - St Mirren
Sunday November 7th, 2010
V Rangers, Premier League, 1pm
By Jim Prentice
1. Why you were looking forward to going to the ground (or not as the case may be):
In short, just another ground to tick off the list! The Rangers supporters' club I am a member of, the Harrogate True Blues, organises a few away trips every season and, having been to the usual suspect such as Easter Road, Tynecastle, Celtic Park etc, a lot of us fancied going somewhere 'a bit different', so plumped for a Sunday lunchtime kick off at St Mirren's new home in November 2010. I'm a bit of a traditionalist and love old grounds so wasn't really savouring the prospect of a trip to yet another new breezeblock-constructed stadium, but I was prepared to give it a go if only to say I'd been. We took an almost-full bus to the match, although travelling 250-plus miles for a Sunday lunchtime kick off in Paisley meant we were always going to be in for a long day!
2. How easy was your journey/finding the ground/car parking?
The ground is quite close to both Paisley railway stations and is only just off the M8 motorway, just a few short miles from Ibrox, which we passed while en route. The ground is situated on an industrial estate and there is both a decent-sized club car park in addition to plenty of off-street parking for cars and supporters' buses. It is perhaps one of the more accessible stadia in Scotland.
3. What you did before the game pub/chippy.... home fans friendly?
There are a few bars close to the ground and it's not too far from the town centre, but being a Sunday all of these were most definitely closed until after the match was due to kick-off. I didn't notice any chippies or other eateries in close proximity of the stadium, although there were a number of fast food vans on the aproach roads. We didn't arrive in Paisley until about 45 minutes before kick-off so we just headed in the direction of a long queue of Rangers fans waiting to get through the turnstiles. Putting it lightly, fans of non-Old Firm clubs tend to be a wee bit hostile to Rangers and Celtic supporters, so there was exceptionally limited inter-club mingling prior to the match, although St Mirren fans seemed about as friendly as anyone outside of the 'big two' is ever going to get!
4. What you thought on seeing the ground, first impressions of away end then other sides of the ground?
The ground is still very new and is quite smart and functional, if a little characterless and on the small side. It is quite reminiscent of Shrewsbury Town's New Meadow stadium or Chesterfield's B2Net ground. The away end holds around 1,500 fans and, with Rangers' allocation behind the goal taken, St Mirren had also allocated part of the West Stand, which runs along the side of the pitch, to away followers. Although small, the rows of seats in the away end were sufficiently steep to give a decent view of the playing action, and the legroom and space between seats was okay. There is quite a balanced and compact feel to the ground, although something about it just felt a bit unfinished - perhaps it just requires 'bedding in' over the next couple of years!
5. Comment on the game itself, atmosphere, stewards, pies, toilets etc..
The concourses and toilets are pretty basic but the service was both quicker and friendlier than most I've come across over the years. There are television screens along the concourses that show Sky Sports News (it always makes me wonder why they don't pipe just a bit of sound through when you're trying to lip read what the presenter is saying!). I didn't see any programme sellers outside the ground but there were plenty to be had once I'd made it through the turnstile. The stewards, thankfully, were pretty quiet and unlike at some grounds didn't demand that standing fans retake their seats, and while the Rangers fans were unusually quiet for much of the game, some of the St Mirren fans in the West Stand tried to create a bit of an atmosphere by showing off some creative and interestingly designed banners.
Despite having had a barnstorming start to the season and sitting at the top of the league prior to kick off, Rangers hadn't quite found the knack of playing well for 70+ minutes and had thusfar only managed one decent half in every match played. This encounter was no different, and after a lacklustre first period, Rangers took a stranglehold on the game after 48 minutes when St Mirren's Mark McAusland could only direct a header into his own net. Ten minutes later, Steven Naismith made it two from close range and, after another ten, Kenny Miller pounced on a defensive dalliance before roling home the third. Michael Higdon replied for the hosts, firing home a dubiously-awarded penalty, but Rangers ran out convincing and deserved victors.
6. Comment on getting away from the ground after the game:
We didn't experience any problems at all - upon leaving the stadium small groups of us met up and walked the 10-minute journey to our bus. As soon as everyone was on board we got away immediately - the crowd was just under 6,000 which meant that most of the traffic managed to get away much quicker than after games at Ibrox. There was, however, a bit of a queue for the exits at the club car park give that there was only one way in and one out!
7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out:
I had a good day at St Mirren - not the best ever but certainly not the worst. The ground has a nice new feeling about it but it might take a good few seasons for it to feel as familiar as Love Street, the Buddies' former home. Love Street was not as practical as New St Mirren Park but, having been the club's home for so many years it had a real traditional feel about it where you could sense the history of the old place. Looking at both the pluses and the drawbacks, a trip to St Mirren isn't the best day out I've ever had but it certainly one worth making - even if only to tick it off the list!
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