As a Hibs fan, it is only natural that I should follow other teams. After all, I need to keep my sanity somehow. Therefore through family ties I also support Olympiacos, but if I want to feasibly get to a game I head to Craven Cottage and watch Fulham.

Fulham seemed the natural choice to be my second team. Condition 1: it had to be a London team as that’s where my family stay. Condition 2: The level of football had to be better than Hibs to make it worthwhile. Condition 3: I’m a sound guy (ruling out Chelsea and West Ham) So that left Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Fulham, Queens Park Rangers and Charlton Athletic.

In terms of footballing ideologies, I would like to think that Arsenal’s aligns most closely with Hibernian’s. Although I’ve been known to frequent the Club Level of the Emirates in the past, the cost of tickets at Arsenal is prohibitive to a full time support, not to mention the sparse availability of briefs. Tottenham Hotspur is not a club I am averse to but don’t think I could adopt a team whose derby requires Arsenal to lose. At the time of consideration, Briatore and Ecclestone were buying QPR and if I wanted dodgy owners I’d be a Hearts fan. Charlton were sliding down the footballing ladder leaving only Fulham as a viable choice. A club with a good family ethos, their stature within the footballing world improving all the time but maintaining reasonably priced tickets (I’ve never paid over £20) despite being in the best league in the world. They ticked all the boxes. Therefore I keep up a Fulham membership and try and get to a few games a season, timing my family visits with Fulham home matches and decent gigs in London.

The weekend just past was one such occasion. Typically, Hibs were at Pittodrie on Saturday, two minutes away from my flat yet I was in London… c’est la vie. The match on offer was Fulham v Bolton. Good in prospect as they are two teams with more quality than their league placings suggest and I predicted that they would both be going tooth and nail for a win. Throughout the matchday I observed and compared the experience one gets at Fulham with the Hibernian day out.

Pre Match

Fulham I have to admit I was feeling a bit rough on the Saturday morning, having been out at Soulwaxmas at Brixton Academy the previous night. I took advantage of my relative youth though, soldiering on and getting the tube down to Parson’s Green to scout out a pub that would show the Hibs game. I succeeded a lot more easily than I imagined, and to my surprise I managed to get a pint of real ale for £2.30 in a pub fairly close to the stadium. Who says that London is expensive?! Well.. maybe the person who buys a matchday programme does. £4 for a wee magazine seemed just a bit steep for me. Inside the stadium the London stereotype further proved to be true. £4.20 for a 500ml bottle of Carlsberg was the offer. Still, at least the option was provided. Always wanting to try different ‘cuisines’, by way of catering I opted for a ‘Craven Cottage Pie’ and I can truly say that it is the first time I have ever eaten a football snack with a fork. The price coming in at again £4.20 or £3.90 for a normal style pie was excessive, but then again I don’t get a London weighted student loan! Inside the Johnnie Hayes stand there was a kids ‘funzone’ where free gimmicks like inflatable sticks were being handed out to Children. Surely at a very low cost to the club I felt this was a high reward scheme smacking of good PR.

Hibernian

For a pre-match pint I feel that I’d like my money to go straight back into the club if possible, and to this end Hibs open their Famous Five Stand hospitality suite to season ticket holders as a pub, calling it ‘Behind the Goals.’ Once you could get a nice plate of Stovies and a decent pint for a mere fiver however it has gone downhill in the last few seasons with staff seeming largely incompetent and a flat Carling no longer satisfying my palate. What it does have going for it is that the board of directors are available for a chat. Sure, they’re hardly going to give away state secrets to random punters, but it does make you feel like the board are at least in some way approachable. Let’s just say that I have never heard Mohamed Al-Fayed offer such an opportunity! A programme is now £3 which I still feel is overpriced, not to mention the £2.20 for a Bovril and £2.40 for a pie. Clocking in as quite a bit cheaper than Fulham it seems not too bad, but the profit margin on totally mediocre goods sticks in the throat a little.

The Match

Craven Cottage I took my usual seat in the Johnny Haynes stand. From outside it is not dissimilar to the Rangers main stand and is also a listed building. It even goes as far as to retain the original wooding seating, something that definitely adds to the charm of the stadium. I sit just off centre, where tickets for an under-21 come in at £20. I paid £18 after incorporating the 10% discount for having a restricted view seat. This is just £1 more than it would have cost me to go to Pitoddrie and I guarantee you I had a much better view of the match down south in a supposedly shoddy seat than I’ve ever had in even the best seats in Aberdeen. So this extra £1 is not only getting me a better seat, but an entirely different kind of match. There were many occasion where simple passes were completed and I was bursting into spontaneous applause and adulation of what I was seeing. However, those sat around me were thinking that I’d been on the happy juice that afternoon. The difference between us is that they are not only used to a few passes linking up and creating chances, but they fully expect it. I saw two good goals that day, a pinpoint Clint Dempsey header and a delightfully cheeky Bryan Luiz lob – the kind of goal that even a ‘star’ like Sparky Griffiths can only dream about. These players were all on at least ten times what their counterparts in Leith would be receiving in a way of a wage, and it showed. An amazing 41 attempts at goal were recorded between Fulham and Bolton according to the official Opta stats. To tell the truth, I don’t think I’ve seen 41 shots in total in Hibs games this year – evidenced nicely by Rangers 2 shots, 2 goals policy in the SPL fixture the week before.

Easter Road

Hibs really do have a good stadium these days. 20,250 seats all with a good view of the pitch and I consider myself lucky to have what I consider to be one of the best. I sit directly behind the tunnel, which means I’m a wee bit elevated from pitch level giving me a good view but I’m close enough to be involved in the action. I can hear what both managers are shouting and observe both dugouts closely. I’m right in the middle of the row so never have anyone squeezing past me for the toilets or a pie, nor anyone in front of me to block my view. Last but not least, the tunnel provides a nice ledge to put my Bovril on. Since moving to that seat I’ve had a spillage rate of 0%! The cost for a student of all tickets at Easter Road is £12 or £14 for a Category A match (the Edinburgh and Glasgow ‘derby’ matches). I actually feel this is a reasonable price as the club needs to make money somehow and I don’t think £12 is unaffordable. However it can never be said that it feels like good value for money. The quality is just not there and as I sat in that London pub watching the Hibs game with a few Fulham fans I got chatting to, I was almost embarrassed that they knew I was primarily a Hibs fan given the derisory play we were seeing on the screens.

So, as I slinked out of Craven Cottage on the 87th minute (a real rarity for me but I had to get across town to see the Manic Street Preachers at the O2 (don’t be too jealous now)) I was feeling quite smug that I had managed to give myself a genuinely enjoyable day out at the football. I’m not trying to suggest that everyone should give up on Scottish football – but if you can then afford yourself the luxury of a wee trip down to London, Wigan, Newcastle or Stoke. It might just restore your faith in football!

By Calvin McDonald – you can follow him on twitter @CalvinMcD

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