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Official Review by Jeremy Inson, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Pittodrie Stadium holds the distinction of two firsts among major football stadia. It was the first to become an all-seater and the first to use a dugout, both of which are now standard in stadiums around the world.
It opened in 1899 and since 1903 has been the home to Aberdeen Football Club. Aside from being host to some of the club’s greatest nights, it has also hosted Scottish internationals in both football and rugby and been used as a concert venue, with Rod Stewart a particularly popular visitor.
The most recent major development came in 1993 when the Richard Donald stand was constructed on the eastern side, while electronic turnstiles were introduced for the 2006-07 season.
The glory days for both club and stadium came in the late 1970’s and early 80’s under a young Alex Ferguson, whose success in breaking up the traditional duopoly of Rangers and Celtic helped secure him a call from Manchester United in 1986 and nearly 30 years of success at Old Trafford. Pictures and reminders of Ferguson’s years are ubiquitous at Pittodrie, days when the ‘new firm’ of Aberdeen and Dundee United dethroned the ‘old firm’ of Rangers and Celtic. Ferguson’s team, which featured the likes of Willie Miller, Alex McLeish, Jim Leighton, Jim Bett and Eric Black won the European Super Cup, three Scottish Premier League titles, four Scottish Cups and one Scottish League Cup.
Their crowning glory came in 1983 when they defeated Real Madrid 1-0 to win the European Cup Winners Cup. Along the way Pittodrie was packed to the rafters for the visit and defeat of Bayern Munich, a night still talked about long and proudly on Scotland’s northeast coast.
While Ferguson’s departure signalled the end of those glory days, Aberdeen are re-establishing themselves among Scotland’s leading clubs with the 2014 League Cup their latest success.
Meanwhile the town itself is thriving as the hub of Britain’s North Sea Oil businesses. It means that for the fans heading down to Pittodrie, there are reasons for optimism and while the club are still searching for a site for a new, modern stadium, Pittodrie provides a characterful and more than adequate home for the time being.
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Pittodrie is somewhat out on its own from the rest of the town, meaning that the stadium itself is the only option for a drink and something to eat.
For about £5 ($8) fans can buy a savoury pie of their choice, drink and a chocolate bar, with a slight reduction if the drink is soft rather than alcoholic.
The traditional Scottish pies aren't the most sophisticated of dining options, but they are just what are needed when the wind blows.
Ask most Aberdeen fans and in the stereotypically dour Scottish way, they will tell you that the stadium atmosphere isn't as good as it could be. In truth though there is a good snap and crackle to even the most low key of matches, though the red hot atmospheres only really come with the visit of Celtic and Rangers, with the blue half of the Glasgow duo particularly disliked among the Pittodrie faithful.
Back into town Aberdeen isn't short of fine dining options, with a number of well recommended restaurants opening up to feed the oil executives who visit the centre of Britain's offshore oil industry.
Aberdeen's greatest gift to the culinary world is the Aberdeen Angus beef and Angus and Ale is the best place to head to for a tasty bit of red meat.
There are no shortage of Indian restaurants, with Shri Bheema's reckoned to be the best, while Ciao Napoli will fill the bellies of those desiring some pasta or pizza.
Pittodrie is located about two miles outside Aberdeen city centre and a short walk to the North Sea coast. While the beach and esplanade are pleasant for a pre or post-match stroll, the Scottish cold and winds will put off all but the most hardy when it comes to going for a dip.
This being Scotland, golf isn't far away, across the road in the case of Pittodrie. Kings Links course provides a fun but challenging course, particularly challenging for those who rarely play on a links course. Paul Lawrie, the 1999 Open champion and a Ryder Cup winner, is the biggest name to hone his skills at Kings Links, a club that dates back to the city's 'Society of Golfers' formed in 1780.
Like most Scottish football fans, Aberdeen's faithful are on the whole a friendly and welcoming bunch, though woe betide anyone who heads to Pittodrie in a Rangers shirt.
The southwest corner of the ground is where the most vocal of fans gather.
They have also developed that black humour prevalent among fans of smaller clubs, but know how to celebrate when the good times do pop their head around the door.
There are good links by rail and road from Scotland's two major cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, which in turn provide the link to London and other southerly destinations.
The airport also has connections further south and there are a number of flights from London Heathrow, which in turn link up to trans-Atlantic services that whiz oil executives back and forth across the pond.
Driving is not advised as parking is limited with the spaces in the stadium car parks reserved for pass holders and disabled badge holders.
The club runs a number of park and ride schemes from three locations in the city, with the top price for a ticket £1.50 ($2.40).
Energetic fans who arrive by train can walk to the stadium or they can jump on the number 1, 2, 13 or X40 buses, which will drop them off a short stroll from the venue.
Ticket prices for Aberdeen matches are well-priced, with the most expensive ticket in the main stand costing £28 ($44).
There are discounts for pensioners aged over 65 and over 75, U18s, U12s, and students in full-time education, though proof of id is required.
As well as the North Sea Oilfields, Aberdeen also provides a good entry point to the Cairngorms National Park, which is about an hour and a quarter's drive away inland. The Park is Britain's highest and biggest mountain range and features native forests, spectacularly clean rivers and lochs, moorland and farmland and a stronghold for Britain's wildlife.
Just short of two hour's drive away to the north is Lossiemouth and the Forth or Moray, which provides some of the most spectacular coastal walks in the UK.
While the fans and upper directors of Aberdeen FC are keen to build a new stadium, the club and Pittodrie seem to be a perfect fit.
The stadium itself is full of character and the setting is unique. As such, one wonders what benefits a new stadium would provide and how exactly it would help Aberdeen establish themselves as the next best team in Scotland after Celtic, which realistically is the best that teams in Scotland can expect.
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