The life of a football supporter in the UK means a lot of travel to away games. I was reflecting on the adventures I had in my teen years, being a football supporter. I thought I’d take a trip down memory lane and discuss all of the different experiences I’ve had while
Sadly I’ve been unable to attend football matches since life has gotten in the way, but it’s really nice to reminisce about having travelled to different locations to watch football.
I’ve attended several different matches, most of them were in the local area, but others were a bit further away, for special matches.
I’ve seen my fair share of poor quality stadiums, ours included. The Sands Venue Stadium (formerly known as Glanford Park until 2019) has a capacity of 9,088, of which the Britcon Stand (more commonly known to supporters as the Donny Road End) is a fully-standing area. It hasn’t really seen any drastic improvements to the stadium itself since its opening in 1988, and plans for a new stadium have fallen. However, planning permission has been granted in order to redevelop the stadium, so I’m waiting to see if it’ll actually happen.
I also want to talk about a stadium that no longer exists. Saltergate, the former home of Chesterfield, was my first lower-league away match I’d ever been to, so it does have a fond place in my heart. But the stadium itself was awful. The away stand was an open-roof standing stand, so we had to be careful just in case it rained (it was mid-March, it was likely). One of the stadiums, even long after the Valley Parade fire in 1985, still had wooden seating. Chesterfield moved stadiums for the 2010/11 season, and Saltergate was not long afterwards knocked down for housing.
Finally, due to financial constraints, I want to discuss Rotherham back in the day. When I first went to a match against Rotherham, it was at Millmoor. Rotherham was facing financial difficulties which threatened liquidation, and some of the seats in the stadium had been ripped up, I assume to pay for the costs – that wasn’t really the worst of it. The second time, they had temporarily relocated to the Don Valley Stadium, which is basically a multi-purpose stadium, and it was quite hard to see the action as the seating was quite far away from the action. This stadium also no longer exists, as it was demolished in 2014.
The first away match also featured one of the best stadiums that I’d been to. The Etihad Stadium (formerly known as the City of Manchester Stadium) is the host of Manchester City. We faced them in the FA Cup in 2006, and compared to Glanford Park, it was a stark contrast, and it showed just what the Premier League was capable of, in terms of architectural design of its stadiums as well as the capabilities of the players – not that we couldn’t get a leg-up in the match, of course. The stadium reached much higher than I was used to, and the facilities were amazing.
I can’t talk about the best stadiums without highlighting the new Wembley Stadium. It opened in 2007 on the site of the original Wembley Stadium and incorporates an arch running over it, and serves as a landmark. Fun fact: the stadium contains 2,618 toilets – the most in any venue in the world. Wembley is also used as a music venue for large-scale performances, and other sporting events such as NFL and rugby matches.
I think the atmosphere was the best when I was at The Valley, the home of Charlton. The announcer had a massive personality and was ready to ring in the start of the season. I can never forget the first time I was in Nottingham, at the City Ground and watched as Scunthorpe beat Nottingham Forest 4-0 back when we were at our best.
Although I mentioned the Don Valley Stadium being the worst in terms of the stadium, the hot dogs were lovely, and I really enjoyed the chanting we all engaged in on the way back to the coach. We had progressed to the final of the (then) Johnstone’s Paint Trophy (now the EFL Trophy).
A lot of people talk about football hooliganism and violence between teams at heated and critical moments. However, meeting Luton Town at Wembley Stadium for the JPT Final back in 2009 was fun. They had been having financial issues, much like Rotherham before, and were set to be relegated to the non-FA leagues. There was a collection going around to raise money for the club, and even as the opposing team, we chipped in – I don’t like seeing any club collapse due to financial issues. The supporters were lovely too, engaging in a bit of friendly banter. We lost though, but I think Luton wanted the victory more.
So I’d like to know if you’ve had any great stories to tell about your sporting support, whatever the team or sport.