This is now an edited version of the original blog… you can read the full one by downloading my Football Neutral 2013/14 season review on Kindle. Well over 300 pages of daftness. Less than £2! Thanks!
It seemed seriously busy around the Memorial Stadium, and whilst I’ve enjoyed my recent excursions to smaller stadiums I realised this would be the biggest crowd that I’ve been a part of for a while. Parking was oddly easy, a couple of hundred meters away. I walked down to the ticket office and bought one for the Blackthorn End, which I’d been reliably informed was where the best atmosphere is to be found (thanks Twitter).
There must be something about the air in Bristol that strips the years away from my tired face, as just like my trip to Ashton Gate I was asked if I was over 21 when buying my ticket. You have no idea what kind of spring that puts in my step, nice lady in the ticket office.
Most of the fans seemed to be crammed into a bar behind the Blackthorn End, watching Palace vs Arsenal on the TV. The windows were steamed up from the sheer humanity pressed up into every spare corner, and drinkers spilled outside, their pints getting gradually diluted by the steady drizzle.
Once inside the stadium, as always I sought out sustenance. I found a concession stand that had no queue because they’d run out of hot water and everyone seemingly wanted Bovril. I’ve never ever met anyone who enjoys Bovril. Do people only drink it at the football in social situations? I bet nobody ever drinks it at home when they’re just sat on the sofa watching the telly. They’re the hot beverage equivalent of a Mojito.
You can’t buy burgers or hot dogs at the Memorial Stadium. You can only buy pastry, ideally in the pasty format. I feel that I was being judged by the guy that served me for choosing a steak and kidney pie. Even better, for a mere £5 I got said pie, a bottle of water (emptied into a cup, grrr), a massive bag of crisps and a huge twix. Everything had started rather well.
The terrace seemed empty until about two minutes before kickoff, then the steamy bar emptied and all of a sudden we were all very snug. A cacophony of noise accompanied both teams arrival, and it enabled me to see where the Chesterfield fans were – sat up the other end, to the side of the pitch without any cover. The stand behind the other goal seemed to be topped off with the remnants of a marquee, but the rest of the ground seemed busy and certainly decent enough to host football….
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