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Away Days

George and Amy’s Away Day Experience #1 – Rochdale vs Rotherham

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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.

George and Amy’s Away Day Experience #1

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.

Venue

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.

Cuisine

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.

Clientele

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.

Entertainment

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.

George and Amy’s Away Day Experience #1

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.

George and Amy’s Away Day Experience #1

Highlights

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

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Away Days

Lewis Cook’s England debut bags grandfather £17,000

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Bournemouth midfielder Lewis Cook’s Grandad managed to bag himself £17,000  after his grandson made his England debut against Italy on Tuesday.

Trevor Burlingham placed the bet four years ago that Cook would make his debut for England before reaching his 26th birthday.

The 33-1 shot came in when he 21-year-old came on as a substitute as a 71st minute replacement for Jesse Lingard in the 1-1 draw with Italy at Wembley.

Bookie William Hill said it was their biggest payout of its type since Harry Wilson’s grandfather secured £125,000 after his grandson made his Wales debut in 2013.

Peter Edwards had put the bet on when Wilson was just 18-months-old, at mammoth odds of 2,500-1.

Speaking to the Daily Mirror Cooks grandad said.

“Lewis has obviously already had one call up but didn’t win a cap and it now looks like a case of when, not if his grandfather is repaid for the faith he showed in his grandson,” said William Hill spokesman Joe Crilly last week.

“He has been in fine form this season and is well deserving of a call up, so let’s hope he can go one better and bag a cap in the next few days.”

Nice, little bonus.

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Away Days

We went and saw the madness of the Belgrade derby with HomeFans

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After several trips with Homefans, we decided it was time for a new trip and a new destination. We wanted something special, something crazy that not a lot of people would even think of.

Eventually, we decided right away, when we got invited by Homefans to join the small group trip to the Eternal derby in Belgrade. There was not a chance we would miss this one. We asked some mates, and got a group together of five people.. perfect!

It was a day before the trip started, we were all thrilled and excited to leave on Tuesday morning to Belgrade. But bad luck started at the airport as the weather in the Netherlands as quite bad with a lot of snow. As soon as our plane took off, lightning hit the cockpit of our plane, so we had to return to Amsterdam for inspection. It was a chaos at the airport and the moment we left it was 6 hours later.

Finally, we landed at Belgrade airport and the best football trip of our life started! We joined Homefans and got to learn our local host, Ivan, who joined us for these days. We got picked up by the taxi to drop our bags at our hotel where we decided that is was time to take on some beers and food at the hotel! It was delicious!

We went to the city and joined some local bars where we learned more about Ivan and his great stories about the country, city and of course football. After some beers, he guided us to a crazy nightclub what looked like a big cave. We right away saw that the Serbian girls are with many and looking very hot. It was a great and crazy first night in Belgrade!

The next morning… MATCHDAY! With a big hangover, we got up to join the stadium tour of Maracana, home of Crvena Zvezda. It was great to see the club and the legendary players tunnel.. but it was clear to us we were supporting Ivan’s team: Partizan! After the tour, we went to the Partizan stadium and walked past thousands of armed police officers.. great and very intimidating!

That was what we expected and wanted to see in Belgrade after all the stories about this derby. After a short visit to the fan shop of Partizan, it was time to drink some beers and have a dinner before the match starts. Ivan guided us to some pubs and told, even more, stories about this derby. We were all excited and couldn’t wait for the match to start!

Finally, it was time for us to head to the stadium. We got asked on our way to the stadium by several Serbian groups where we came from and we were happy Ivan was with us. One wrong answer and we would never make it to the stadium!

It was an awesome feeling walking into the stadium. Everyone could stand where they want. We chose to stand near the ultras of Partizan called Grobari. We were all very curious what we were about to see.. 15 minutes.. 10 minutes.. 5 minutes.. and we’re off! The Eternal derby started…

Partizan v Red star, one of the most intense derbies in football and we were there! A lot of noise followed with some fireworks and pyros. After about 15 minutes a sick pyro started at the Red Star stand were the whole side turned red and white with pyro! We were stunned.. but then everyone was looking at the Partizan fans? What was happening? We saw fans running and fighting the people were everywhere! It was crazy.. surprising for us to see!

Everybody was fighting and later on we came to know why. Groups of young ultras tried to take the control of the older groups. Everybody was fighting. some fans were covered in blood and being escorted from the ground. The referee whistle blew and it was halftime.. what? We haven’t seen anything from the game, have we?! The score was 0-0, but we all looked at the stands for  most of the first half.  At this time rumors were that a subgroup (Young Boys) in Grobari tried to take over the stand from Alcatraz, but the group got beaten up and also got their clothes thrown away when they were thrown out of the stands by the Partizan fans. Crazy. Second half…

After that crazy first half, the fans of Partizan regrouped and started, again, supporting their team. A great atmosphere again. Finally, we got some time to watch the game. On the pitch, there were also a lot of tough moments. But then, a breakout of Partizan. The player goes into the box and was tackled to the ground. Everybody was watching at the referee. And he did what we hoped for and Partizan deserved it.

He gave a penalty to Partizan. Partizan scored the penalty and the stadium exploded. What followed was a great pyro show from Partizan, with the pyro that was left from the riots in their stand. Red Star equalised 5 minutes before full time. Too bad for Partizan, but we saw an amazing Eternal derby. It had everything we were looking for and it truly is one of the most intense football derbies around.

After the match, our hero Ivan guided us to a great restaurant with fantastic food and a Serbian band. We were celebrating this amazing experience. Loads of beer and many, but I mean many, bottles of Rakija later, we returned to our hotel. Everyone was satisfied with this trip, it’s been an amazing experience in Belgrade.

Many thanks to Daniel, Luke and especially, Ivan for arranging and guiding this perfect trip! We will be back soon again for another trip.

Homefans provide football experiences for groups of supporters beyond the 90 minutes. bringing groups of fans together and help them tick off their football bucket list. Follow the link below to get money off your next trip.

Kevin van de Zweerde

 

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Away Days

George and Amy’s Away Day Experience #4 – Accrington vs. Newport

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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.

Venue:
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.

Cuisine:
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.

Clientele:
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.

The Match:
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

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