Tuesday, 1st Aug 2017 17:24 by Tim Whelan
We start the new season with a visit to Bolton Wanderers, with kick-off at 4.30pm, as it’s being televised live on Sky Sports. We’re not famous any more!
You’ll find the Macron stadium on the western edge of town. If you come off the M61 at junction 6 you really can't miss it, though the surrounding roads always get very congested on matchdays. Out of town stadia are supposed to benefit those who drive to matches, but it always seems to me that fans simply get stuck in more traffic due to a higher proportion of the crowd coming by car.
There is a large away car park right outside the Macron (visiting fans use car park 'A') but it costs £7 and you wait at least half an hour to get out afterwards as the police hold the traffic back to let the buses get away first. A lot of the off-street parking in the nearby Lostock Industrial estate is allocated to home fans, although there are some units in the industrial estate which will let you park for £4-5. One other option is to park at the Beehive Pub (see below).
And if you fancy a bit of exercise and want to avoid the congestion, you can park at the ‘Brinsop Country Inn’ on the Chorley Road (A6), on the other side of the M61, which is about a 15 minute walk from the stadium. It costs £4 to park there, but the pub has good beer and reasonably priced food, with home and visiting fans mixing together. From here you can easily get away after the game straight back onto the motorway.
There is a railway station called Horwich Parkway a few minutes walk from the stadium, but unfortunately no trains will be serving it this weekend, as the line is closed while it’s in the process of being electrified. Bolton did ask the league not to give them any ‘high profile’ home games while the trains weren’t running, but naturally this request was completely ignored.
Another disadvantage of out of town stadia are the complete absence of decent traditional pubs and takeaways, and the bars on the nearby retail park are for home fans only. This is strictly enforced by the usual burly chaps on the door, who will only let fans in if they have a match ticket for the one of the home parts of the stadium.
But you can find a couple of decent places by continuing past the stadium once you have left the M61. There is the Barnstormers on Lostock Lane (from the M61, go past the stadium on your left, move into the right hand filter lane and turn right at the traffic lights into Lostock Lane, the pub is down on the right) which does admit away fans. There is also a mixture of street parking and paid parking (at some industrial units) in this area. Or you could continue to the roundabout at the junction with Chorley New Road (the A673), where you will find the Beehive. This establishment charges £5 for parking, which you can reclaim at the bar.
There are the usual drive-through Pizza Hut and KFCs that you get in most retail parks, while the nearest traditional food outlet is 'Settles' at the top end of Burnden way (the main road that goes past the stadium). So for once it's an attractive option to eat and drink inside the stadium, where the pies are highly recommended as well as the John Smith's, while the refreshment area has an excellent view of the fans who are still gridlocked on Burnden way and desperately trying to get in for kick-off. The loos however have an almighty scrum to get in and out of whenever the visiting team bring a decent number of fans.
The Macron cost £45 million to build and has a capacity of 28,723, opening in 1997 after the club decided that their old ground at Burnden Park could never be brought up to the standards demanded by the Taylor report. At the time I was sorry to see them leave such an historic venue, not least because the old ground still had terracing for a couple of years after the Premiership had gone all-seater, but at least the design of the Macron is a bit more stylish than all the identikit new stadia that have popped up in recent years.
Away fans get the two tiered South Stand at one end of the ground, where up to 4,800 supporters can be accommodated. The usual allocation is nearer 3,000 (with the end being shared with home fans), but with Leeds being such a massive club they’ve given us the whole stand.
Generally the away accommodation is pretty good (as you would expect from such a new stadium) but there are one or two little niggles. The roof does not cover the bottom rows of the lower tier and therefore you may get wet if it rains, but at the moment the forecast for Sunday is looking reasonable by the standards of the north-west . The stewards at the Reebok can sometimes be a bit over zealous, and tell fans to sit down, but I’ve yet to see them try to do this with a full Leeds end who are all standing!
Tickets cost £30 for adults in the lower tier, though concessions are available for senior citizens and under 23s (£29), under 18s (£12) and under 12s (£10). The upper tier costs £5 more for adults and the first category of concessions, but the same for the under 18s and under 18s. We should expect a better view for the extra money, but this tier is so steep that the local authority insisted they put handrails along the gangways, which block the view from some of the seats.
We’ve sold our allocation, and although home tickets are now on general sale, they are only available to those “with a previous booking history with the club”.
Apart from the lack of trains this has the makings of a great day out, with a large contingent of Leeds fans making plenty of atmosphere. I’m told that we’re usually the noisiest away fans to come to Bolton and I’m glad our efforts are appreciated. Happy days!
Some of this stuff came from www.footballgroundguide.com .
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