As a former season ticket holder and regular match-goer, I don’t need much persuading to watch a game of football regardless of whether my team is playing. It can be just as fun going to watch a game as a neutral and, for a student like myself, much less painful when checking the bank balance. Amy, on the other hand, has no interest in football whatsoever – the last time she went to a game (sixteen years ago when she was five), her dad tells me she played with Barbies for the whole match and started complaining at half time because she thought the game had finished and she could go home. Now, however, she has shown a willingness to convert to the beautiful game and it is my job to make that happen. So here begins a series of match reports where I drag Amy into the away ends of local grounds- giving her a sample of the highs, lows and half-time pies that English football has to offer.
For the first instalment, we travelled to The Crown Oil Arena (Spotland) to see if Rotherham United could grab their second away in of the season against Rochdale, a side that hadn’t conceded in their last three league matches.
On The Road
Coming from Manchester, the journey to Rochdale was very straightforward. You can get a direct train from Manchester Victoria for well under a tenner and, if you’ve had to get a train to Piccadilly instead, the walk over is only about fifteen minutes. Once at Rochdale station you have a couple of options to get to the game. The ground is well within walking distance if you know where you’re going but just give yourself about half an hour to get there. The rain on Saturday was near biblical though so we instead opted for a taxi- even with a lot of traffic the journey was only about ten minutes and under a fiver as well. If you don’t fancy the walk or a taxi then there’s plenty of buses you can get as well. It’s a half-mile walk to the town centre where you can get these from but it’s worth doing a bit of homework on how frequent they are.
The Crown Oil Arena is on a hill so chin up if you don’t like exercise. You can pay on the door to get in though- always a bonus if you’re in a rush or only decide to go to the match on the day. Away Adult tickets at £22 may be a little steep for League One but there is also the option for a ticket for under 21s at £16 and, if you’re sixteen or under, you’re only being set back a fiver at most. As would be expected, you’re exposed to the elements quite badly from the away end which we found to our peril. Overall though, the ground is pretty good- traditional and tight to the pitch. You’re also really close to the home supporter’s standing end which led to a fair amount of banter between supporters- always something to be encouraged.
We managed to beat most of the food queue but pies weren’t on sale until midway through half time. This was the most devastating news Amy had received since I reminded her that we were going to watch the football on Saturday morning and she had to settle for a hot dog and a hot chocolate. On the upside, a hot dog and a bottle of beer came to £4.50 in a meal deal which is actually very good. Beyond that, there was the option to buy four beers for £15- a cracking shout if you’re going on a rounds system with your mates. Wilbutts Lane chippy is also just across the road from the ground by the away end. Chips and gravy at a very reasonable price- you can’t go wrong if you fancy a quick bite after the game! Unfortunately, Amy’s rating of the catering facilities is much lower because she did not get the pie that she was promised.
Despite only winning once away since April 2016, around 1,000 Rotherham fans travelled to Rochdale in the pouring rain- that deserves credit. Away ends normally make the most noise but we were amazed at how many fans had made the trip and how well they supported the team from the stands. What made it even better was the generally light-hearted nature of the support as well. When a lone Rochdale fan fancied his chances against the entire away end, for example, he was quickly put down in amusing fashion. Hats off to both sets of supporters for being up for a laugh.
The first half began relatively end to end before Rotherham began to take control. A lot of threat was coming from the wings with Anthony Forde and Ryan Williams attempting to get in behind the Rochdale defence when possible. In fact, arguably the best chance of the half came when Williams cut inside to find Forde with a pinpoint pass. Forde scuffed his shot though and his tame effort was easily saved. A smart stop from Rochdale keeper Josh Lillis following a set-piece situation was perhaps Rotherham’s other stand-out chance.
Rotherham made the breakthrough just before the hour mark when centre back Richard Wood headed in at the back post following a corner by Forde. Once the goal went in, Rotherham began to sit back and allowed Rochdale back into the game- the home side squandering a couple of big chances. Steve Davies hit the bar with a powerful header, Ian Henderson had an effort cleared off the line and, right at the death, Bradden Inman was guilty of firing over an absolute sitter from about five yards out.
Man of the Match
Darren Potter – The experienced midfielder has played for eight seasons at this level with Sheffield Wednesday and MK Dons and his calming presence was crucial. He kept up the tempo for the visitors throughout and allowed for others to attack by being disciplined in his positioning and decision making.
Amy’s Man of the Match
It was Ryan Williams because of his, and I quote “luxurious manbun” which reminded her of Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow. I thought he looked like a girl, Amy said I was just jealous because I had a dodgy haircut last week- 1-0. She was devastated to hear however that the King in the North was seen boarding the Rotherham team bus after the game rather than returning to Yorkshire on the back of one of Daenerys’ dragons.
A real clash of the titans as two Stone Island clad twelve-year olds, one in the home end and the other in the away, offered each other out for well over fifteen minutes behind the safety of a row of stewards. Hooligans of this degree do not belong in the modern game and should be given life time bans before someone is seriously injured. Rumours that their scrap will be on the undercard for Joshua vs. Pulev on the 28th October remain unfounded- luckily for both of them it isn’t on a school night.
A very enjoyable day all round, thank you for reading!
George Kelsey and Amy Brogan
George and Amy’s Away Day Experience #4 – Accrington vs. Newport
Match Day With The Missus Sees George & Amy head to Accrington vs. Newport
– “Fortunately for me, Amy wasn’t targeted by the ‘sophisticated sex robot sent back through time to change the future for one lucky lady’”
– “We thought we’d switch it up this week and went for a cheeseburger instead of the normal half-time pie”
– “The major talking point of the half for us though was the size of David Pipe, Newport’s right back. He could probably lift an articulated lorry with one arm and has without doubt maxed out every machine he’s ever been on in a gym.”
With the cold intensifying and winter drawing in, we thought it’d be a great idea to go to one of the most exposed grounds in English football. Amy, sporting her new yellow coat, was perfectly kitted out in Newport County’s colours to see if they could put an end to their poor run of form.
Up against them were Accrington Stanley, who started the day just a point off top spot. With everything to play for, it was time for Amy to experience her first ever League Two game – she couldn’t contain her excitement…
On the Road:
As per usual, we opted to travel to the game by train, only setting us back a tenner. Some trains are direct to Accrington from Manchester Victoria so it generally it isn’t too bad getting there. Sadly though, the seating was clearly designed for hobbits. At Six-Foot I’m only slightly above average height but it wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say my knees were above my head. I looked like Peter Crouch driving a reliant robin.
From the station you’ve got about a 20 minute walk ahead of you with a fair majority of it uphill. This is where Amy seriously regretted overdoing the Romanian deadlifts at the gym the day before. She frequently let me know about it of course… Amy complaining? Short odds on that one. On the plus side, there’s plenty of places to eat or drink on the way to the ground whether you want a sit down meal or just something to take with you.
Next to the viaduct there’s a McDonald’s and a couple of pubs on the way up as well. For all you cheapskates there’s an off-licence too, should you wish to wet your whistle pre-match.
This isn’t meant with any disrespect, but the Crown Ground or, by its current sponsored title, the Wham Stadium, really emphasises how impressive Accrington Stanley’s recent success has been. It holds just over 5,000 people with almost 2,000 of that being terraced. The match was hardly a long ball fest but, to put into context how small the ground is, three balls had gone out just twelve minutes in.
The away end has no cover so you are at the mercy of the conditions. When we arrived Amy and I started having flashbacks of our trip to Chorley just 15 miles down the road during the height of Storm Brian (with hindsight, the worst decision we’ve ever made). It was stupidly cold but, luckily, remained dry. The toilets and club shop reminded me of the poor sod who got the box room in a shared flat at uni but the staff were excellent and dead welcoming- all you can ask for really.
Tickets on the day were £20 for an adult, £15 for concessions and under 18s and £5 for under 12s. These are universally accepted prices in English football- I understand why my Dad was always keener to go to a match whenever it was ‘kids for a quid’ now. Shocking that not a single Wham song was played while we were there though.
We thought we’d switch it up this week and went for a cheeseburger instead of the normal half-time pie. No complaints about the pretty standard £4.00 but the option of having ketchup or mustard in bottle form was a real game changer. This may sound overdramatic, but the disappearance of bottled condiments around English football grounds is one of the biggest tragedies of the modern game. Well done Accrington Stanley, we salute you for not bowing to convention.
Amy felt the burger itself was pretty good and the meat-onion-bread ratio was also impressive. I can’t comment- to say I was hungry would be an understatement- it wasn’t eaten, it was absorbed. Beyond burgers, there were plenty of food and drink options such as hot drinks, hot dogs and pies all priced at £2.50. A bottle of beer was £3.00 so, again, kind of what you’d expect. Overall the catering facilities weren’t bad at all.
Newport took just under 200 fans which, at first glance, isn’t many. At the same time though, it’s a four hour car journey (410 mile round-trip) before you even consider the traffic around Birmingham or Manchester. It’s not necessarily about the quantity of your fans but how vocal and supportive they are.
Newport find themselves only just outside the play offs after last season’s relegation scare but the Exiles ticked all the boxes in this case and had some funny original chants. A personal favourite was “1-0 to the sheep-shaggers”… it’s always important to be able to take the mick out of yourself. They were also Amy’s favourite away fans so far given her worryingly irrational obsession with the Welsh accent.
Newport started the game the brighter of the two and not just because of their yellow kits. The Exiles’ Frank Nouble got involved early on and had a couple of decent chances while Accrington’s main threat came from the in-form Kayden Jackson. The latter’s pace in behind was beginning to cause problems and he managed to beat goalkeeper Joe Day to a 50-50, drawing a foul in a dangerous area.
The major talking point of the half for us though was the size of David Pipe, Newport’s right back. He could probably lift an articulated lorry with one arm and has without doubt maxed out every machine he’s ever been on in a gym.
Into the second half and Newport were out the traps quickly to break the deadlock. A short corner caught Accrington’s defence napping and Frank Nouble smashed a right foot shot, on the turn, into the top corner.
Although the lead at that point was probably deserved, the away side sat back and invited pressure, hoping to catch Accrington on the counter. After hitting the woodwork and having a shot cleared off the line, Stanley eventually equalised through Mallik Wilks in the 88th minute following a goalmouth scramble. Overall, given the balance of play, a draw was a fair result and both sides could be happy with their efforts.
Man of the Match: Frank Nouble
The centre forward had a thankless task leading the line with Padraig Amond but took his only clear cut chance to make it 1-0. He was always a threat with his pace, power and aerial ability too. Special mention also goes to Newport’s Ben White, currently on loan from Brighton. Composed with or without possession, the young defender has got a bright future.
Amy’s Man of the Match: David Pipe
Amy liked his nickname ‘Pipey’ and how he “ran around a lot and shouted at people”. She also thought he looked more like a rugby player than a footballer… not sure how that warrants Man of the Match but this isn’t my segment so I’ll ‘pipe’ down. Pun 100% intended, sorry, not sorry.
Highlight of the Day:
On the way to the game there was a lad on the train who was the spitting image of American Pie’s Chuck ‘the Shermanator’ Sherman. Fortunately for me, Amy wasn’t targeted by the ‘sophisticated sex robot sent back through time to change the future for one lucky lady’. Hopefully that reference isn’t too dated.
Amy’s Highlight of the Day:
A young mascot who couldn’t have been older than two or three was having a kick about on the pitch before the game. The ball just about came up to their waist as they took Roberto Carlos style run ups to kick and dribble. They were decent as well… Liverpool will likely put in a £35 million bid in January.
Thanks for reading! George and Amy
George and Amy’s Away Day Experience #2 – Chorley vs FC United
After Amy went to and mildly enjoyed Rochdale vs. Rotherham in League One, I thought, as a brilliant boyfriend, I would really test her mettle and take her to her first non-league game. And so, we ventured North to see if high flying Chorley could continue their fine form with a home win against a struggling FC United of Manchester in the National League North. Spoiler: we got very wet, suede is not waterproof, and I am a moron.
On The Road
Chorley is only about a 40-minute train journey from Manchester Victoria so getting there is easy. Trains are frequent as well so don’t worry too much about getting to the station at a particular time. From Chorley station it’s only about a ten-minute walk to the ground but make sure you know where you’re going as there aren’t signs directing you. Don’t put your faith in Google Maps either, it betrayed us like Fabian Delph at Aston Villa by deciding to switch its route to the ground after we’d been walking for ten minutes in the wrong direction. If Piccadilly is a better station for you (like it is for us) to come from then you can get trains from there too. We didn’t know until we got off to change at Bolton on the way back to Victoria only to see that our first train stopped at Piccadilly. In effect, we got off the train to get back on and give up our seats. Turns out Trainline are snakes too.
I was a big fan of how the ground hides in between rows of terraced housing. It shows that the football club is not separate from the local fans or has been moved to the outskirts of the town like so many are these days. Victory Park was built-in 1920 and, apart from a new roof last year on one of the stands, I don’t think there’s been much work done since.
Being exposed to the elements is an understatement, we were as ill-equipped for the monsoon as the German soldiers were at Stalingrad, but it had the charm that a lot of modern stadiums don’t. The match wasn’t segregated so we began in the Duke Street Terrace standing end before succumbing to Storm Brian’s will and sitting in more shelter for the final thirty minutes. The only problem with the sitting stand, which is a row of benches rather than separate seats, is that the higher up you go, the more restricted your view of the game is. Adult tickets were £12 for the match whereas Students could get in for £7, 12-16 years old’s for a fiver and under 11’s for free. If you support a Premier League club but have a local side at this level we’d recommend going to matches when you’re free- you can travel, get in, have a pie and a pint and still have change from £25.
I have never been to a ground where you can choose gravy, mushy peas or curry sauce (all for just 70p extra) as stuff to have with your food which was a welcome surprise. When we got in there was a club house open to the fans but then during the match food and drink came from a small café in the corner of the ground. Amy’s eyes lit up like she’d seen the second coming of Christ not only at the sight of the pies but also from the prospect of brief shelter from the conditions.
Meat and potato pie with chips and gravy for under a fiver, could it really get any better? We both agreed that these were the best catering facilities we had come across so far and Amy was the happiest she was all day when we tucked into our half-time feast.
Both sets of fans were excellent, Chorley seem like a proper community club who will back their side rain or shine. For FC United, to fill out a stand during a major storm when your team is in the relegation zone is no mean feat. I know Chorley isn’t too far to come but that still deserves respect. One bloke cracked us up as he updated his Facebook status with one finger (reading: ‘bloody heck it’s wet’) slower than if Per Mertesacker was on the turn and had wrecking balls strapped around his ankles. He’s probably just posted it now to be honest. Overall both sets of fans were up for a laugh and a joke about either the weather of the football but still vocal in their support except for a bit of trouble towards the end of the match, in true Arsène Wenger style, I didn’t see the incident so can’t comment.
FC United started the better side and had a couple of chances to take the lead. Chorley were always a threat on the counter though, using the length of the grass to their advantage by putting balls in behind the full backs to their pacey front men. Chances fell to both sides; FC United hitting the crossbar with a deflected free-kick before being thankful to their keeper, Lloyd Allinson, for saving smartly at the feet of Chorley forward Marcus Carver.
As the game wore on and the conditions became worse, the away side started to tire and Chorley began to dominate. The game’s only goal came when, after a goalmouth scramble, the ball fell at the feet of Nick Haughton. The midfielder calmly converted the chance as the surface began to resemble a swamp more than a football pitch. From then on, the match was marred by the conditions, one particular example being Allinson attempting the throw the ball out to his full back, Kallum Mantack, only for the ball to stop dead as soon as it hit a puddle. To compound FC United’s misery, Centre Half Zac Corbett was sent off in stoppage time following his reaction to being rugby tackled. Yes, you read that right, he was rugby tackled.
Man of the Match
Adam Blakeman – Chorley’s left back was always solid defensively but also offered much going forward, always looking to overlap his winger. For the first hour he had to deal with someone who tended to drift inside and wanted to ball to feet, before facing a winger for the final thirty who hugged the touch-line and played on the shoulder of the last man. He dealt effectively with both.
Amy’s Man of the Match
Adam Blakeman – He looked like one of our mates from school at a distance.
Highlight of the day
Not a highlight from the match but a little lad on the train to the game gave the best rendition of ‘Hey Baby’ by DJ Otzi I’ve heard since every British kid’s birthday party in 2001. I have never come across someone more pumped to be on a train to Blackpool North on a rainy Saturday in October. Instead of either trying to calm him down or ignoring him, his parents filmed the whole thing for future humiliation on his 18th birthday or wedding day. Textbook parenting, hats off for that.
Amy’s Highlight of the day
Getting home, getting dry and catching up on the next episode of Riverdale on Netflix. Also, the pie at half time and the chips and gravy.
Thanks for reading,
George Kelsey and Amy Brogan
Away Day Confession – In The Eyes of a Steward
By Mike Jones
In The Eyes of a Steward
If you mention the word “steward” to a football fan, they will probably come out with something like “they’re all wankers in yellow coats” or “they’re power hungry idiots pretending to be something they aren’t.” And I used to think and say the exact same. A matchday would come, and occasionally we would all chant ‘wanker’ and point at the poor fat old bloke just trying to earn a bit of cash, and I would have continued doing this… Until I became one.
I decided to get into stewarding because I love the game, I love my club, and being a steward pays rather well. (Don’t forget the free admission, too!)
Being a steward gives you a sense of being a part of your club, being one of the very little cogs in the entire machine so to speak, being able to make someone’s day better, make them smile or laugh, which is something I have enjoyed doing.
So, it’s matchday, a cold and pretty boring Tuesday night. Coventry are coming to town, a lot of them too. I was ready. I got my nice ironed shirt, my tie and trousers, and obviously the extremely smart shoes no one can even see in the dark. After my briefing had ended, and the “all stewards to post” announcement had come on we got into position. They came in short groups at first, mostly lads who had been on the piss, but then they started flooding in. It was like a never ending stream.
In numbers they sang and sang, and as much as I hate to say and admit this, they completely outed our fans. The prediction was only 550-600 of them, but we weren’t expecting another 150 to turn up on the day. In all honesty, they were good fans, loud, showed so much passion and commitment to their team (a thing I love) and never really stopped singing.
On the whole they were quite good really, just the odd fan saying he’d smash my fucking head in, or giving me a threat. That’s fine, that’s football. I used to do the same and I loved it. If anything it makes me smile, gives me a good laugh. And of course you have the fans shouting to their players, saying things ‘kill him’ or ‘f*ck the c**t up’ and one young fan kept shouting “break his Fibula” at the top of his little lungs, which was rather funny. Stuff like that does make the time go very quickly.
Behind Closed Turnstiles
However, there is so much stuff that goes on behind the scenes, things that the majority of fans would never find out. From racism to stewards and police to fights and smoking in the toilets. It’s actually scary to think what goes on behind closed doors.
You see, that was my first ever game as a steward. And they threw me in the deep end. Doing the away fans on your first ever shift as a steward isn’t too easy, but it sure as hell is fun. I will continue to do it. I still get to watch a fair amount of the match, and it’s nice to talk to some of the away fans, especially when a drunk one comes up to you yelling “HELLO HANDSOME” and then tries to give you a hug.
With hindsight, I think I may have been a little bit too harsh on stewards. They just want to earn a bit of money, and most of them love the game too. Apart from the stewards at Stevenage, they’re tw*ts.
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