Aberdeen could run their Red Shed initiative permanently if it gets Pittodrie rocking against Dumbarton tomorrow.
The Dons have used the wiggle room provided by the Scottish Cup fourth-round clash to transform the Merkland Stand into an “active area” for fans who want to stand and sing in support of Derek McInnes’ team.
Commercial director Rob Wicks says more than 1,500 tickets sold so far is a “positive” response from those supporters who’ve had their long-held wish granted by new chairman Dave Cormack and the rest of the club’s hierarchy.
Wicks, who recognises the need for a boost in Pittodrie’s atmosphere, said: “Fundamentally, we all know – and I’ve been very surprised at it in the two years I’ve been here – there’s a lack of atmosphere at a lot of the games.
“We needed to do something.
“These changes are never easy and you risk inconveniencing people and putting noses out of joint. So what we thought we’d do was a trial and see what reaction we get.
“We didn’t know if we’d get 50 people, 100 people, but we’ve got 1,500 people.
“That tells you there’s an appetite for it, which is good.
“It’s the right place for it.
“The way we’ve pitched it is as a traditional home end.
“I’ve seen the support at away games – it’s phenomenal – and I think when I come back here ‘why don’t we have the same thing?’”
Wicks says tomorrow’s game will be a “learning experience”, and there will also be the opportunity to use the Richard Donald Stand concourse area to better cater for the families who would normally sit in the Merkland Stand.
So why experiment now?
According to Wicks, now the attention-sapping, long-desired training ground is up and running, Aberdeen are desperate to make changes to the match-day experience which will “get people’s heads round what might be possible” when a new stadium at Kingsford is built.
He says the supporters’ views are something which will shape the final years at Pittodrie and the club’s future.
Wicks added: “Perhaps fans haven’t been listened to as much as they could have been in years gone by. The club have also had other priorities and things they’ve been busy with.
“In the two years I’ve been here we’ve been absolutely flat out with trying to get Cormack Park launched.”
The Red Shed could be a fixture at cup games for the rest of this term, and perhaps every home game in campaigns to come.
Wicks added: “Let’s hope we get through and get another home tie in the cup and we can do it again, potentially.
“There’s genuine buy-in and support, so it’s certainly something we want to look at doing in the future on a more permanent basis. Pittodrie needs it.
“The manager loves the idea, he is hugely supportive and wants to see it continue.
“We’ll learn from the experience in terms of what works, what doesn’t and how we might tweak it if we do it again. Then we can look to the future and give it a serious go.”
Supporters’ liaison officer Lynn Fiske is the link between the fans and club.
She’s been buoyed by the reaction to the “active area” plan, saying: “There haven’t been many objections at all.
“We’re still accommodating disabled supporters in Merkland (section) seven with allocated seating and their toilet, so everything stays the same for them.
“The supporters clubs have bought into it big time.
“Away days are really good for the atmosphere because supporters clubs, 30, 40 or 50 of them, buy their tickets all together.
“When they come to Pittodrie they don’t sit like a supporters club.
“But because of the unallocated seating, people can buy their tickets as and when, and then meet up with their friends.
“There are people who haven’t been to games for a number of years who are coming back because they see this as forward-thinking and exciting.
“Other people have moved their seat to be part of it.
“I’ve also had fans who can’t manage messaging to wish us all the best.”
On what we can expect to see, Fiske said: “We’ll have the flag bearers behind the goalmouth, there will be drums and the supporters have been encouraged to bring their scarves, their flags and sing at the top of their voices.”
Wicks added: “We’re also going to trial some flamethrowers to build things up and change the music as well.
“When we talked to the fans, the things they said would be required for it to work was for it to be affordable – we’ve had to negotiate the ticket price with Dumbarton and got to a sensible price in the end, for people to be able to sit with who they wanted to sit with and move around. They were the key fundamentals.
“We talk about a lost generation, a younger generation who haven’t been able to experience Pittodrie at its best.
“I look back to the Burnley (Europa League qualifying) game and it was the best atmosphere I’ve seen at Pittodrie.
“The sooner we can get back to that the better.”