“Where you watchin’ the game? ………..the Paddock”.
If, like me, you are into street art or football fan art then its a bit of a dream when the team you grew up supporting decide to decorate the first place you ever watched a football match from with colourful murals.
There has been a culture of artwork at Pittodrie since the RDS was build (the former Beach End). Some appeared in the new Richard Donald Stand during the 1990’s others in the south stand. Most were related to the characters from the fanzine ‘The Red Final’ but few were of any significance or even noticeable to most supporters.
A new set of images dedicated to the club, previous players and its fans appeared at Pittodrie Stadium in the summer of 2021. These appeared in what the club now call the Merkland Stand or the ‘Red Shed’.
The artwork can be seen as an attempt to spruce up a locality that has become very tired over the years and attract a new breed of fans to what had previously been a family stand.
As with the Nuart street art scene in Aberdeen – a globally acclaimed street art festival that has decorated Aberdeen centre with huge murals – so Aberdeen FC commissioned the artist Reckless and his team of artists to bring this often understated part of Pittodrie to life.
For those of us of a certain vintage the Red Shed was always known as the Paddock.
Whether the title of the Paddock came from it being a place were police horses were exercised after a days work back in Victorian times is unknown. What is certain is that it is more likely the area got its name from being an enclosed terraced area.
Back in the glory days it was a benched enclosure. The firm wooden benches that you could stand on contributed to the all seater status of the stadium – one of the first of its kind in the UK. Even when the new South Stand was filled with yellow and red bucket seats so the Merkland had its grey wooden backless benches.
But despite it now being the home of the club’s most vocal fans the Paddock was never really the place at Pittodrie where the most diehard fans congregated.
By the 70’s the Paddock at Pittodrie was the away end of the ground. Then by the early 1980’s that changed again when away supporters were pushed down to the Beach End; the true spiritual home for the club’s most loyal and vociferous fans. Often the Beach End would be split between home fans and away fans with a no mans land in the middle.
The Merkland Stand (or ‘King Street End’) sits behind the goal at Pittodrie Stadium. It is a place where some of the most famous goals in Aberdeen FC’s long history were scored – from international goals to UEFA football. To reference just a few – John Hewitt’s winning goal versus Bayern Munich was scored here; Sone Aluko versus Bayern in 2008; Neil Simpson versus Waterschei; Mark McGhee versus Ujpest Dozsa and Willie Miller’s headed title clinching goal against Celtic are just a handful of the goals the Paddock has witnessed.
It is also worth mentioning that the Paddock provided the backdrop to one of the European Cup’s greatest goals – Terry McDermott chipped winner for Liverpool in 1980.
With two pillars supporting the roof its probably not the best for viewing but in terms of an entrance its amongst the most unique in the UK. Part of the entrance to the stand is dominated by a façade constructed from granite, a local stone associated with the city of Aberdeen. Some of the most well known stone masons of the era created that Granite entrance point – no others exist in British football.
The Red Shed
Ahead of the ill fated 2021/22 football campaign preparations were stepped up at Pittodrie for the return of supporters, including a revamp for the Red Shed.
Central to the renovations was an investment in commissioning a local artist, Reckless Graffiti, to transform the family stand Merkland into the Red Shed enclosure. A series of art pieces inspired by suggestions from local fans were rolled out bringing huge colour and symbolism both to the exterior and interiors of the stadium.
The four young men, who carried out the art go under the names Reckless, Skeps, Hobble and Pliskie.
Based in Scotland they specialise in Murals, graffiti, canvases and have made a fantastic job of making the Red Shed one of the most colourful football enclosures in Scotland.
You can see images of the Red Shed here.