Friday, 23rd Aug 2019 21:56 by Tim Whelan
Our visit to Stoke City is tomorrow, with kick-off at 3pm. That’s two Saturdays running we’re not live on Sky, so perhaps we’re really not famous any more.
Stoke moved to the new Stadium now known as the ‘Bet 365’ in 1997, which is next to the A50 on the southern edge of the city, on the site of the former Ham Heath colliery. Like all new stadia it has excellent facilities, but has a rather sterile and soulless feel, with all four side of the stadium looking the same.
As with all other out of town stadia there is a dearth of traditional pubs and takeaways nearby, it's inconvenient for public transport and gets gridlocked with traffic, as a higher proportion of the crowd have to drive. But unlike most out of town stadia the car parking isn't that great at the Britannia. By car you need to leave the M6 at Junction 15 and then go straight across the roundabout onto the A500 towards Stoke.
There are quite a few options for parking, and they are all listed on the football ground guide website, link at the bottom of this piece. A common theme seems to be that wherever you park you’ll be stuck in loads of traffic after the game. And on no account park on wasteland around the stadium, as the traffic wardens are very keen round there and you may end up with a parking ticket.
Stoke railway station is just under three miles from the stadium, so they really ought to have built a new station where the main line to London passes within a few hundred yards of the Bet 365. But they didn’t, although there is a matchday bus service from Glebe street, which costs £4 for Adults and £2 for Concessions.
To catch this bus, turn right from the station and head down Station Road. At the bottom of Station Road at the traffic lights, turn right to go along Leek Road (A52). Then go straight across the A500 dual carriageway and into Glebe Street which is straight across in front of you. It has also been known for them to run a special bus service from the station whenever the away team brings a decent-sized following.
On one of our visits in the mid-2000s the police took the served a 'section 60' on all our fans who were travelling by train, and took all our names and addresses, which is a bit over the top when we hadn't done anything wrong. But at least they’re usually on hand outside the station to give out leaflets to direct us to either the Terrace Bar on Leek Road, or the Venue Bar at nearby Staffordshire University.
The best pubs next to the stadium are the Holiday Inn and Harvester Pub, (which allows car parking for £3), or the bar at the Power League complex (car park £4.50). And on the nearby canal there are two boats, one called the Boatcake, which mostly sells oat cakes and the other called the Bargain Inn Booze which sells beer and lager, which costs £2 a can or bottle.
When Stoke were last in this division away supporters used have the whole of the south stand, with an allocation of 4,500, (out of a stadium capacity of 30,089) but now we have to make do with only 3,000 tickets and only part of this stand. Stoke made more space for their own fans when they got promoted to the Premiership and so far have kept this arrangement since coming back down.
This might be through delusions of still being a big club, but it’s starting to cost them a lot of money, with their own fans staying away in droves now that they’re bottom of the division. Maybe one day they will wake up to the possibility of making more cash by giving visiting clubs more tickets, to get a few more bums on the seats that would otherwise be empty.
Our tickets cost £25 for adults, with three categories of concessions from £12 to £19. Our allocation sold out as soon as they went on sale to members, but it you didn’t get one there is always the first ‘beamback’ of the season at Elland Road.
The views are excellent from every seat as there are no pillars to get in the way, and as the pitch is below outside ground level you walk off the concourse onto the stand about 20 ft above the pitch. They usually sell beer from the bars on the concourse, but it remains to be seen if they will do so on the day of our visit.
There is also a large sign saying that persistent standing will result in ejection from the ground, which could lead to a bit of bother if they’re daft enough to try to enforce it when Leeds are the visitors.
During the Premiership years they increased the capacity by about 2,000 by filling in the gap between the Boothen End and the John Smiths Stand, but no further expansion is planned in these more difficult times.
Some of this stuff came from www.footballgroundguide.com .
Photo: Action Images
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