“I couldn’t stop smiling.” “I’m really grateful.” “I’m absolutely buzzing.” “Just delighted.” “You don’t really appreciate it until it’s gone.” “There’s a real buzz around the place.”
Dundee fans have waited 437 days to be allowed back into their Dens Park temple to cheer on their dark blue favourites.
The day has finally come for 500 supporters lucky enough to have had their names plucked out of the hat to return to their own hallowed ground.
And it’s not just for any old game either – the last home match of the season is the first leg of the Premiership play-off final.
A return to the top table of Scottish football is at stake. Kilmarnock are in the way.
Whatever the result, Dundee supporters with the golden tickets are just grateful to be back.
And they are ready to make their voices heard.
“I don’t think I’ve ever answered a call as quick as I did once it started ringing!” says Sean Ferguson, a diehard who hadn’t missed a game, home or away, including pre-season trips, for seven-and-a-half years before the pandemic.
“I couldn’t stop smiling. We’ve been hoping and praying all year to get in at some point and it was just a great feeling to be lucky enough to receive the call, I’m really grateful for it.
“It’s been really difficult not getting into Dens to see them every week. It really has been hard because watching my team every Saturday is an escape.
“It will mean so much to me getting to be there on Thursday. I honestly can’t wait.”
Had the phone call to say I’m getting in dens on Thursday night, and I canna stop smiling honestly 💙💙💙
— sean ferguson (@seanfergusonnn) May 16, 2021
Looking forward to getting bum on seat
Russell Hutchison has been going to Dens since 1991 and a season ticket holder, on and off, for the past 15 years.
“I got the phone call on Monday and, to be honest, I thought I had missed out after not hearing on Sunday,” he said.
“I’m just delighted to have been lucky enough to come out of the ballot.
“It’s the luck of the draw and I’m thoroughly looking forward to getting back to Dens and getting my bum back on a plastic seat.
“There will be no pub, though – I usually go with four mates and I’m the only one to get a ticket.
“That’s the big thing I’ve missed, the social aspect of it.”
Bring on tomorrow night!!!!! 💙💙💙💙💙 pic.twitter.com/O6c36rs4vs
— Scott Mcruvie (@scottmcruvie) May 19, 2021
Ross Day, meanwhile, is normally located in the South Enclosure on a matchday.
He’ll be joining the other 499 lucky souls in the Bobby Cox Stand from an hour-and-a-quarter before kick-off.
“I’m absolutely buzzing to get a ticket,” he said.
“It’s like getting a ticket for a cup final.
“No matter the game, if it was a friendly against Brechin, you couldn’t keep me away.
“I’ve missed going to Dens big time.
“You don’t really appreciate how important it is until it’s gone.
“It’s only maybe a couple of hours a week but it’s my time where I can do what I want, let out some frustration.
“It’s just not the same on TV, you find your attention wavers and you end up looking at your phone. There’s nowhere near the same engagement as actually being there.
“I can’t wait.”
Ross has been hard at work over the past year or so setting up the 1893 Foundation for fans to help support the club.
For Saturday’s play-off second leg against Raith Rovers, with fans still unable to attend due to coronavirus restrictions, the Foundation sold virtual tickets.
The aim was to ‘sell out’ the almost 12,000-capacity ground with proceeds going directly to the club.
The latest update from the 1893 Foundation.
• Virtual ticket raised just under 10k
• Now over 600 members
• Over £9,000 a month donated to @DundeeFC from the fans
• On course to top £125,000 in their first year
Join here 👇🏻https://t.co/yT0AtevSEb
— The Dee Archive (@TheDeeArchive) May 19, 2021
He admits that was a tall order but he’s delighted with the money raised to top up their overall tally to more than £100,000 for the past season.
“We were just shy of 4,000 tickets sold which is around about what we managed the last time,” he added.
“Ideally we wanted a sell-out but we’re happy with the end result.
“We raised about £10,000 from the game on Saturday and that brings us to around £125,000 for the entire season.
“That’s phenomenal really in our first year.
“We have around 600 members now and we hope to see some 1893 Foundation scarves on show for the first time tonight!”
The big question, though, is how the match might pan out tonight at Dens Park.
Kilmarnock are the big favourites, being the Premiership team, but Dundee have been in good form of late.
Ross said: “I’ll take a draw. Going to Rugby Park for a one-off game might suit us.
“With these games you go in with more hope than expectation, to be honest.”
— Dundee Football Club (@DundeeFC) May 19, 2021
Russell, meanwhile, has a similar view: “We’ve been playing well and we’ve got goals in us but I’m not bullish.
“I think we’ll score but the main thing is the tie is still alive for the second leg.”
And Sean adds: “I think it’s all about the first leg, if we can go to Kilmarnock on Monday night with either a draw or a win we give ourselves a great chance.
“It won’t be easy keeping Kyle Lafferty quiet but we have good players in our team as well, let’s hope the fans can get right behind them and cheer them on to win.
“It would mean so much to the club and fans.
“With there being no fans in this year the relationship has gotten closer with the club and the fans setting up the 1893 foundation and things like that.
“I feel there’s a buzz around the place.”