Away matches – Blue Square Premier. My review of away game touring so far this season.
Woking – the cardinals or cards. The first of the away games. Went by train, came back on the coach. Woking has one very nice, new seated stand at one end, the rest is pretty old, a mish-mash of random buildings and stands.
I heard that they weren’t particularly friendly to visiting supporters, herded them into an open stand, even those who were clearly unable to stand for over an hour and a half. At a previous encounter in the play-offs last season, it was recounted that despite having an empty partly covered stand at one end of the ground, Woking deliberately allocated an open standing area even though it was pouring with rain. Needless to say, Woking’s hospitality is questionable and not viewed with much enthusiasm by supporters I spoke to. After the match, we were shoved off site to a rambling snooker club several hundred yards away, having to negotiate an uneven, gravelly pathway poorly lit back to the car park and the waiting coach. First impressions tend to last. Unimpressed.
Cambridge Utd – the Lilywhites.
Information overload. They do love their rules and regulations. Odd rule about not sitting along the side of the pitch during the match, only photographs from the ends. They provided a sheet of rules for the current season, including one about photographers not discarding anything around the pitch – do they honestly believe that in 2012 photographers are still using film and leaving the canisters behind? Their mascot is a moose, and on enquiry seems to stem from some travel weary unwashed supporter who came to a match smelling like a moose. The mind boggles.
DFC occupied a stand at one end, made enough noise to drown out the home supporters at times.
Macclesfield Town – the Silkmen. A longish trip of four hours. Nice stadium, seemingly being refurbished a bit at a time.
They seemed to enjoy issuing elaborate printed passes for various things – e.g. photographers, media, directors. They segregated supporters. Expensive refreshments reported. £1.80 for a polystyrene cup of tea.
Gateshead – the Tynesiders. A long trip. Overnight at Pontefract in a Premier Inn. Gateshead International Stadium is one of those do-it-all jobs, running track round the edge, football game too far away from the spectators, stadium too large and mostly unoccupied.
There were only a total of some 700 spectators rattling around in the huge stadium.
Very friendly, though. Nice security man kindly guided me towards a vending machine for a lovely cup of hot chocolate. Fond memories of eating Dominos pizza on the coach as we left, and the huge super team coach winding its way up narrow little streets to pull up outside a little fish’n’chip place where orders had to be collected, much to the bemusement of the locals. Even caught a glimpse of the angel of the north on the way home – six hours – yeech!
Wrexham – the Dragons. A four and a half hour trip each way.
A warm Welsh welcome, even had a comfy media/WAGS room with complementary tea/coffee. That was a novelty. Lovely stadium, the most supporters ever, some 3,700 total. A very odd rule about having to photograph from behind the pitch barriers. Bit of a nonsense, really. Managed to set up behind the goal and got a few good pics that way. One of the regular Wrexham snappers reminded me of Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses. He was keen to tell me he’d been doing this type of thing for forty years. I idly wondered if he’s finally got some good pics. The one on the front of their programme was out of focus. Great match, ending in a draw.
Braintree Town – the Iron (due to their historic connection with Crittall Windows – for those of you know have ever owned or visited a property with those rusting, condensation running window frames) The least impressive of any of the away venues so far. On a huge Kings Ferry coach, negotiating the bendy roads around Braintree quite a challenge. On final approach to the ground, the route was through a narrow council-estate, how on earth they didn’t take off wing mirrors or end up in gardens is a testament to the driving skills of the coach driver. Braintree seems to consist of various portacabins for directors suite, bar etc. Facilities, including floodlighting, upgraded for the higher league. Wonder what it was like before?
Was surprised that wearing hi-viz tabards was not considered necessary at this ground. First time I’ve encountered that. Old-fashioned tea and chips kiosks around the ground. Nothing more really worth talking about. Mercifully a shortish trip, back home just around midnight.
So far all of the away matches have been played in fair weather, sunny and quite warm despite weather forecasts to the contrary. I hope this luck and the team’s success carries on. Next away match is against Grimsby at Cleethorpes.