Friday, 19 January 2007

Man City vs Owls

Cast your mind back, if you will, to Tuesday. Following on from a very enjoyable 1-1 draw at Hillsborough, the FA Cup 3rd round replay finally provided me with a decent excuse to go to Man City's ground. I've lived within five or so miles of City's stadium (either Maine Road (now rubble) or Eastlands) for the last four years. It's a nice ground, and certainly much more impressive than Hull's or Coventry's new grounds which are of a similar (slightly Meccano looking) era. Unfortunately it was barely half full. The full allocation of away tickets had been sold, but even £15 tickets couldn't attract the home crowd for a televised, Tuesday night game against a lower league side. The Owls fans observed "You got your ground from IKEA", and "This ground's too big for you".

Travelling to football matches by bike is to be recommended. I left straight from work and arrived well before kickoff - early enough to make use of the minimal cycle parking facilities available. A modern, all seater, 47,726 capacity stadium with parking for about 10 bikes. Even Reading have done better than that, and cyclists are a vastly more common sight in Manchester than in Berkshire.

I purchased my ticket with insufficient posting time, so needed to collect it from the ground. Unfortunately my ticket was travelling with the Wednesday fans in a coach from Sheffield, and I arrived well before it. The ticket office kindly offered to phone me when it arrived.

Now, with an hour and a half to kill, I set about the task of all away fans with time before a game: locating a decent pub and obtaining beer. At the first game, I'd got chatting with a pair City fans sitting at the wrong end of the ground (away tickets had sold out, so, providing you can keep quiet when your team score, sitting at the home end is a decent move), and was meeting up with them again for a beer. I found the pub we'd arranged to meet at, a dim little building looking fairly shut. This turned out to be due to electricity failure, so I found another pub, namely Mary D's, via a quick nosy at The B of the Bang. Good pub; decent atmosphere while still being able to get to the bar and hold a conversation, and a mix of home and away support.
While waiting for Rob and Anthony (the aforementioned City fans) and my phone call from the ticket office, I got texts from both Pete & Rosy asking if I was up for a pint (beer is apparently like buses...). After a quick beer with Rob and Anthony (who arrived not long before kickoff), it was off to the match.

Possibly the second worst time* to phone someone would be when they're about to join a large boisterous queue of football supporters singing rude songs (in this case about Sheffield United). With a minimum of shouting, Mark and myself agreed to talk another time.
Four pounds for a burger. Seriously. Four pounds for a burger. It might be Aberdeen Angus steak, but unless it's also gold-plated, that's overpriced.

The match: you can read the report here if you're interested. Good game. Man City look vastly better with Joey Barton in the team, and were the better side, though not by too much. It could well have gone to extra time if we were able to shoot straight. Dissapointingly, all the atmosphere was generated by the away fans. There were a few younger City fans waving large inflatable bananas for some reason. Chants of "You're just a small town in Stockport" and "You're just a town full of smackheads" finally provoked a few of the sheepshagging chants I've only previously heard aimed at Derby.
A nice touch was the singing of "If you don't let one in then you're a Blade" at Nicky Weaver. Assuming you know that he's City's goalkeeper, that he supports Sheffield Wednesday, and that the Blades are Sheffield United, it's quite amusing.

Getting home is where the bike comes into it's own. Road closed by the cops? Not to cyclists. Huge queue of traffic to exit the stadium? Go round. Smug? Me? Never.

*For anyone wondering what the worst time to phone someone would be, this was achieved by Ruth, who phoned me 30 seconds after the final whistle of the League One playoff final a couple of seasons ago. We'd just won, so it was a tad noisy.


Pete said...

I'd argue that while the structure is more impressive than Hull or Coventry's ground, as a football ground it is much less so.

Mostly because it's too big and you get a crap atmosphere. I like Hull's as it's enclosed and therefore creates a good atmosphere for home games.

(Also I'd expect a premiership club to have a much better structured stadium ;) )

Adrian said...

It was too big, certainly for the crowd that turned up. I'd have to see it more than 1/3 full to judge properly though. Hull's is a good size for Hull, and I do like the way that 100 riot police greet you on the way out. I don't know about City. Midweek cup games which are on Sky anyway can't be a good way to assess.

What do they usually get?