‘We’d welcome the Tartan Army’ - Murrayfield residents on Hampden stadium swap

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HOSTING the likes of David Bowie, the ill-fated Scottish Claymores American Football franchise and many more in between, Murrayfield has been a sort of omni-venue down the years.

But one constant throughout the varied musical and sporting comings and goings has been residents and businesses in this usually quiet Capital suburb.

Residents have had their say on the proposal to swap Hampden for Murrayfield

Residents have had their say on the proposal to swap Hampden for Murrayfield

So what do they make of news this week that the home of Scottish Rugby could also become the home of Scottish football from 2020 as the SFA consider decamping from Hampden?

For Prego convenience store worker and Galatasaray fan Ibrahim Ozdemir, differences between rugby and football extend beyond the shape of the ball.

“Football is a little bit different because there could be a little bit of trouble whereas rugby there’s never any problems.

“With football fans a small number can start swearing at each other,” said the 44-year-old, diplomatically.

Ibraham Ozdemir, owner of Prego convenience store. Pic; Jon Savage

Ibraham Ozdemir, owner of Prego convenience store. Pic; Jon Savage

Opened on the corner of Saughtonhall Drive and Western Terrace more than a century ago, Prego is a popular last beer and snack stop before Murrayfield – and the Tartan Army will be welcome also.

“It’s perfect for business, of course,” said Ibrahim of possible future football clientele. “It’s not easy working here with a match on because it’s really busy – but it’s good for business. If you ask me, rugby or football are both good because it’s usually very quiet in here – they’ll come in and buy beers, chocolate, crisps or whatever they want.”

But proudly posing for photos behind the counter, Ibrahim also had a word of concern on behalf of his more regular shoppers.

“We have very old customers here, mostly over 60 and some over 90. They’ve retired here and want the quiet life. They walk slowly, slowly, and don’t want too much noise.”

Paul La Greca from La Greca barbers.

Paul La Greca from La Greca barbers.

Across the junction, barber Paul La Greca, 43, has split loyalties. “It’d be bad for my business because customers can’t park outside – but I’m a Scotland fan so it’s not a problem personally. Come 3pm on a match day, we’ll have no customers – and Saturday is our busiest day. But it’s going to happen regardless of what I say – if they decide they want it, then it doesn’t matter what I think.”

Postman Darren Nicol, 35, said he feared for the impact on some of the more elderly residents in the area – of which there are many.

“There’s three old folks’ homes and when there’s been concerts on, they’ve had people peeing in their gardens and drinking all over the place,” said Darren. “It’s about their quality of life. They’re used to big crowds because of the rugby fans but football fans are a bit different.”

Edinburgh University PE teaching student Robert Jamieson, 19, lives on Riverside Crescent, and recalled Hearts hosting Rangers at Murrayfield in October. The Jambos decamped to Murrayfield while awaiting a safety certificate for their much anticipated new stand at Tynecastle.

Gavin and Justyna at Cocobean Cafe. Picture; Jon Savage

Gavin and Justyna at Cocobean Cafe. Picture; Jon Savage

“It made me think rugby fans are better behaved than football fans,” said Robert. “Just the noise and it was so busy walking down the street.

“For us it wasn’t so bad because we’ve got a driveway but if you haven’t got a driveway you’d have to park far down the road depending on where they put the cones on the day. I went out one night and was coming back and there were thousands and thousands of people coming down here – everybody coming down this road.”

But after pondering for a moment, he added: “All that said, I’m a Scotland football fan, so it’s fine by me!”

Gavin and Justyna Wales run the Cocobean Cafe on Western Terrace – stockpiling cobs and fillings for Murrayfield’s Six Nations curtain raiser next weekend.

“It’s like a ghost town down here on Saturdays so we open just for the matches – so it’s great for us,” said Gavin, 38. “It’s usually rugby games but we’ve had Hearts playing here too.”

Justyna, also 38, adds: “They’ll order carry-outs, sandwiches, paninis – we can’t make them quick enough, that’s the problem. We have to get extra staff in.

“We support it... it’s good for our business – I’m sure not everyone feels like us. Residents complain about the parking. We have to ask a neighbour if we can park in her driveway because there’s nowhere for us to park.”

Murrayfield Tory councillor Scott Douglas, meanwhile, has urged “thorough planning” for any SFA move to the stadium that towers over his ward.

“Many local residents will be hugely concerned at the reports that Murrayfield could host international football. The area already suffers from severe disruption during Scotland rugby fixtures, and the prospect of more large scale events will understandably cause concern.

“Any proposals for the stadium to host regular football matches would therefore have to be accompanied with a thorough plan on how to minimise upset for those living in the area.”