Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Stoke trip did not disappoint

We had to leave the house at 9am on the Saturday to ensure that we could get passed any unexpected traffic delays on our way to the Britannia stadium. It was our first visit to the stadium so there was plenty of excitement and having missed the Norwich away game I was hoping to see a good AFCB away crowd and a good rocking atmosphere.
Destination - the Britannia stadium.
The route would take us along the M25 and up the M40 in fairly quick time and without any delays for once. We did start to hit trouble though on the M42 and the M6 where we suddenly saw a fair few reminders that the Rugby World Cup was on and Villa Park was one of the venues. Not surprisingly the traffic started to swell and our fast pace became more of a snail's crawl as we came up to the Dunlop offices and Birmingham's congested motorways.
An early start for Robert.
We stopped off for a quick bite to eat before going on to the Stadium.
At last we did find our way through and the A500 suddenly appeared in front of us and we soon had our first sight of the Britannia stadium situated high up on a hill. We shot past the stadium as we wanted to get some food inside ourselves before the big match and we had already picked out a well-known fast food chain on the map so it was easy to find. Stoke fans out numbered us hugely but they were happy enough to see us on the table next to them.

We had lost quite a bit of time on the road so we decided to eat quickly and look to park up at the ground by 1.30pm as I knew that it was likely to be a crowd over over 25,000. Navigating the nearby industrial estate with its roundabouts was pretty easy as it was well signed and well patrolled by marshals on every junction. Having handed over a fiver we were directed up towards the Stoke Academy building which was just a short walk away from the stadium.
We parked up a short walk from the stadium in one of the official car parks
 which meant find a space by the side of the road.
It wasn't too busy when we first had a full view
of the stadium. Note the big gap in the corner between the stands.
I started taking my pictures of the ground and we thought we would take a tour around the outside of the stadium to see all four sides. It always amuses me to see the stewards wanting to direct away fans to their section straight away, but we always like to see everything we can when visiting a new ground. Stoke's stadium is impressively tall and while only one corner is closed in it seemed fairly compact and not that different to Dean Court in some ways with the exposed stanchions and rugged looks.
The club shop was doing a good trade.
Shop window. 
The club shop was very ordered and adorned mainly with club shirts more than anything else. The absence of a big trophy cabinet was perhaps a bit telling of where Stoke City are as a mid-table club of recent seasons. Still they had a dedicated shirt numbering area and the ticket office was covered and large - not quite like ours.
The Marstons Pedigree away stand.
Plenty of cantilever metal work is on show around the stands.
I was keen to get an interview in with some Stoke fans and to assess their recent form so we spotted three fans who were the perfect guides to their team as it turned out and they all had something to say on why things had started slow for Stoke City at home. The loss of Steven Nzonzi to Sevilla this summer seemed to be the main reason for their difficulties but they were still scoring goals with Mame Diouf up front.
Plaque on Sir Stanley Matthews statue.
I just took this to show you the sun does shine in Stoke
and well it's a nice arty shot with our shadows.

Sir Stanley captured in motion.
John Ritchie 1941- 2007. I don't believe he was relayed to our  Matt, but you never know.
Stephen spotted a huge statue of the legendary Sir Stanley Matthews CBE so we went over to get a picture next to it and to see the sculpture close up. The three profiles really brought over the style of the man and his balance, but I wondered why it was set quite some way from the stands on the far side of the car park?

We spoke to a couple of more Stoke fans who were very open and pleased to exchange thoughts ahead of the game. Far from being down they were optimistic about their team and we soon found out that they had good reason to be confident. We entered the stadium at the Marstons Pedigree stand and ran up the steps to get a good view of the pitch and facing stands. Sadly there was a lot of netting behind the goals so I knew it would be hard to get many good photos pre-match, but there were a lot of empty seats and I moved around to try and get what shots I could get of the players while listening into the local radio station to try and capture the team list.
Lots of flag waving.
It was quite a good atmosphere before the game with applause ringing out for school children doing a charity fund raising event. We heard that there were no changes to the AFCB line up and having done a Cherries fan interview we were soon in our allotted seats watching the game. While the first half did not go well for the Cherries I was confident that they could still get something from the game. The Stoke fans were fairly quiet and I wondered if they sang more when it was an evening game than in afternoon matches or whether it was the fact that they had not won at home yet that they dare not sing up too much for fear they would lose again.

For AFCB it was all about how the team would respond having seen Callum go off injured and they played extremely well to get back in the game at 1-1. From that point I just thought hang on and don't concede, but Stoke conjured up a bit of magic and all the points were lost with just five minutes to go. The defeat was disappointing only because the team had fought so well to get back on level terms, but I couldn't say that anyone had a really bad game. Sometimes the game just goes away from you and that was the case on this day. Well played Stoke.
Dan Gosling leads the players off the pitch.
The walk back to the car was fairly uneventful and we had a bit of a queue leaving the roads around the stadium with most of the traffic being diverted to the A50 Uttoxeter and Derby. We decided to go with the flow even though it meant a slightly longer journey back via the M1, but by the time we reached Redhill at 8.40pm we knew that whatever route we had gone on it would have been busy.

Job done, another away ground ticked off. Just time for me to get the laptop out again and start writing up the match report. These jouno's at the match with their laptops on tables have it easy compared to us paper and pen bloggers!

There are more pictures on Match Day Gallery. Please also listen again to the Mick Cunningham interview on All Departments' website.

1 comment:

  1. Stoke fan here..

    Can I just say how refreshing it is to read a well written, friendly and professional account of events from an away fan. Glad to see you enjoyed the day (regardless of the final score).

    I didn't think Stoke deserved the win to be fair, a draw would have been more accurate to events. The reason our home support has been so quietly lately is mainly due to the team's effort - seem to fade off in the second half!

    Many thanks to all your fans who clapped with ours in memory of one of our own on the 28th minute, very sorry to hear about your club photographer too - I was sat just up from him and saw the medics attending to him. Thoughts are with his family.

    Enjoy the next game, and best of luck for the season :)