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AFC Heritage Trust | Dating the Dugout

October 10, 2018 6:11 pm Author: Aberdeen FC Heritage Trust


Everybody knows that Pittodrie is the birthplace of the dugout and that Donald Colman was the man who introduced it to the game. What people may not be so clear about is exactly when this happened.

In “The Football Grounds of Great Britain” by Brian Inglis – published in 1987 – Inglis claimed that the dugout was introduced in the 1920s, but Donald Colman did not return to Pittodrie to take up his duties as trainer until the early 1930s. Unfortunately, people somehow tended to accept that the given date was correct – probably because the book was generally authoritative and detailed.

However, the AFC Heritage Trust has dug through many back numbers of newspapers from the 1930s and narrowed down a realistic window when the dugout would really have been installed in front of the Main Stand. Almost no mention of the innovation was made in local newspapers, but by studying match photographs we are confident that the work would have been carried out in the summer of 1934 ready for the 1934-35 season’s beginning. There are few photographs that show the trainer’s area during matches around the time, but in this photo from the Aberdeenshire Cup Final of 7th April 1934 it can clearly be seen that the trainers were using benches.



By November 1934 a picture faintly shows that the dugouts are in place but leaves a small doubt over whether there was one for the visiting trainer as well as that for Donald Colman. Aberdeen always having been a courteous and sporting club, the answer is probably that they did build two dugouts, but we don’t know for sure, although before long it was definitely a case of comfort for all.


And then with this picture from 4th March 1935, there is a clear view of a dugout.


As to the story that Everton were the club that took up the idea and spread it south of the border, we are unable to say for sure, but they did not come to Pittodrie for a match until September 1938. Football was then, as now, home to gossip, and it seems likely that word of Pittodrie’s provision of shelter for trainers would have gone round pretty quickly.
What is known with reasonable certainty ins that Dens Park was an early adopter of the idea – when ground improvements were being made there in September 1935 a columnist in the Dundee Courier was pressing the Dundee club to build a dugout there. He argued “The Pittodrie ‘cubby-hole’ is at midfield and below the level of the field. The view of patrons in the enclosure is not obstructed, and I’m sure visiting trainers appreciate the comfort.”

Incidentally, in the same piece, he mentioned the “arrangement Donald Colman has patented at Pittodrie” – perhaps this signals a potential little earner for Donald’s descendants or even Aberdeen FC since every football park in the world has dugouts in place, albeit they are now usually referred to a “technical areas.”

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