Earlier this month, English champions Manchester City announced that building work was about to commence on a new training complex which is estimated to cost £100m. The new complex, expected to open in time for season 2014/15, will be a state of the art facility with 16 pitches and a 7,000-capacity stadium for the reserve and youth teams. I also read somewhere that the complex will have a state of the art facility to recreate different atmospheres from different grounds. For example if City are due to play at Liverpool, the stadium will be adapted to try and re-create the atmosphere of Anfield presumably with replicated crowd noises of You’ll Never Walk Alone while a trip across Manchester to Old Trafford might mean the reproduction of 70,000 Cockney accents…
It’s a novel concept and it set me thinking (there’s a first time for everything) Hearts may not have £100m to spend on such a luxury facility but just imagine if they did. I can see the present Riccarton campus being transformed and Hearts having their own mini stadium with the provision to recreate conditions experienced at other grounds in Scotland.
A trip to the Highlands is always an enjoyable experience. Recreate the atmosphere at Ross County and Inverness by replicating the sound of a combine harvester and a recording of a former England centre half bawling about the injustice of Maradona’s handball against his compatriots at the World Cup in 1986. A forthcoming fixture at Aberdeen, for example, could see the reconstruction of a force ten gale, ice-cold conditions and a crowd urging people to stand free while still declaring their team is famous. Preparation for a trip 60 miles further down the east coast to Tannadice could see a look-alike of BBC Scotland’s Jim Spence leading the singing of ‘I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You’. For the trip across the road at Dens Park Hearts could engage the services of Rent a Crowd and arrange for a few fans with 1980s style perms and moustaches chanting ‘There’s Only One Albert Kidd’.
Facing a Sunday afternoon fixture at St. Johnstone? No problem. Get a farmer to bring his flock of sheep to Riccarton to recreate the rural atmosphere at McDiarmid Park.
For future fixtures in the west of Scotland, there may be more of a challenge. To prepare for a game at Celtic Park, for example, the hiring of an Irish accordion band might prove problematic but if this fails then blasting out the old Depeche Mode number ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ and recreating the sound of 60,000 fans howling for a penalty every time a Celtic player falls down in the penalty box might be sufficient. Of course, there’s no SPL fixtures at Ibrox for the foreseeable future but playing Tina Turner’s ‘Simply The Best’ might be an idea (although as I write this Rangers are in fourth place in the Irn Bru Third Division so perhaps this might not be appropriate)
I don’t think we would need to bother too much about recreating the atmosphere from St. Mirren Park - just get someone to dress up as a panda (and it shouldn’t be difficult to get a panda outfit in Edinburgh) and play a recording of BBC Scotland’s Chick Young’s incessant chatter. Similarly, Kilmarnock’s Rugby Park - if anyone has an old Subbuteo set they could just take in the grandstand along with a record of Marie Osmond singing ‘Paper Roses’...
For a trip to the home of Motherwell, we could get BBC's Off the Ball presenter Tam Cowan to crack a few gags at Riccarton along with the reconstruction of one giant stand to dwarf three others.
Which just leaves our city neighbours. This might prove the most difficult test of all as it’s the Hearts fans who create most of the atmosphere at Easter Road and it can prove difficult to hear what the handful of fans in the home end are trying to say. Some were boasting to me today about how their team were about to beat Inverness Caledonian Thistle and go top of the Clydesdale Bank SPL. When they went two goals up, I received more than one gloating text from Hibby associates. Then the Highlanders spoiled the party by storming back for a 2-2 draw and the ‘Top of the League’ chants were silenced. So perhaps the sound of bottles crashing may recreate the atmosphere of Easter Road.
Although after the events of 19th May at Hampden, perhaps a more apt sound would be a constant beeping sound - recreating the sound of an empty open top bus reversing back into a garage…