Tuesday, 25th Feb 2020 12:57 by Tim Whelan
Our visit to Middlesbrough kicks off at 7.45pm on Wednesday, and once again we’re live on Sky TV, this time on the Sky Sports Action channel. We’re not famous any more!
The best way to get to the Riverside by road is to take the A1 up to Darlington and then the A66 exit. Carry on through the centre of Middlesbrough and you will pick up signs for the Riverside Stadium. There is a small amount of parking available at the stadium itself, which has to be pre-booked at a cost of £8.50, but there are a number of private parks (mostly on waste land) nearby.
The best option is to follow the route marked "away coaches" from the A66, which passes many private car parks along the river, all priced at £5, although these can take up to 45 minutes to clear after the game. Another option is to park in the town centre, which is a 15-20 minute walk from the stadium.
Finally, when you reach the turn off the A66 signposted for the stadium, you can turn right rather than left at the top of the slip road. This takes back across the A66, into an area with plenty of street parking. It is then about a 15-20 minute walk to the stadium.
It’s just over a mile from the railway station. From the main station entrance, turn left onto Zetland Road, then left again into Albert Road and carry on under the railway bridge. Turn immediately right into Bridge Street East, going past the Bridge pub (not recommended for away fans) and then take the next right into Wynward Way. The stadium is down this road and you can’t miss it.
When the stadium first opened there was talk of building a halt on the site of the former ‘Cargo Fleet’ station (the closest point to the stadium on the railway line heading east to Saltburn) but unfortunately this has never happened.
With the stadium being built in an isolated spot on a post-industrial wasteland there are very few pubs or takeaways nearby, It seems that the official away pub for this game is the ‘Spensley’s Emporium’, which is in Albert Road, very close to the railway station on the town centre side. Reviews on Google give it an average of 3.7 stars out of 5, so we can hope it’s at least half decent.
For real ale fans there are five Micropubs, all located very close to one another a bit further for the ground in the town centre. They are; the Infant Hercules (Grange Road), Sherlocks, The Slaters Pick, The Twisted Lip (all in Baker Street, hence the Holmes theme of some of them) and the Devil's Advocate (Borough Road).
The usual away pub in recent years has been Doctor Brown’s, a ten minute walk away from the ground at the bottom of Corporation Road, in the city centre, which also serves real ale and usually allows both home and away fans inside. But for some ‘high profile games’ (which presumably includes our visit), it can be home supporters only. If you get turned away from there you can try your luck getting into ‘La Pharmacie’ on the other side of the road, which was once a chemists’ shop (as French speakers will already have worked out).
The riverside was opened in August 1995, as Boro could never bring Ayresome Park up to the standards demanded by the Taylor report, so the site of the old stadium is now a housing estate. The Riverside was built in only 32 weeks, and at the time of it’s opening it was the largest new stadium to be built in this country since the war. The initial capacity was 30,000, though this was increased to 34,742 in 2008, and there is room to expand even further if the need should ever arise in the future.
As with most other modern stadia it lacks character, but the facilities are very nice. The away section is now in the east stand and there would be good legroom if we ever sat down. There is a good view, but one downside is the concourse is rather narrow, so it can get a little bit crowded. Our allocation has been increased to 4,400 compared to last season’s 3,000, but of course we have still managed to buy them all. They cost £30 for adults, with over 65s paying £20 and under 18s £17.
Despite giving us an extra section of the stadium, home tickets are still on sale of Boro’s official website, but only available to anyone “with a pre-existing ticketing account and a booking history with the club within the last three years”. And it also says “home tickets are strictly for Boro supporters only, any visiting supporters found in the home areas will be ejected in accordance with EFL regulations with no refunds given”. So if you have managed to get into any of the home stands despite the ticket restrictions, you will need to avoid drawing attention to yourself.
There is a bar at the back of the away end which serves lager, bitter, cider and even wine. Food-wise, the catering is mostly the usual football ground stuff, though they do have something called a 'Parmo in a bun', which is apparently a local dish involving chicken in breadcrumbs, creamy sauce and cheese. It costs a mere £4.20, so look out for that one.
Finally, those awfully nice chaps at Cleveland police are planning to search for pyrotechnics (our usual smoke bombs and flares) and drugs at the turnstiles, with the intention of arresting anyone found in possession of either. They are also going to clamp down on any missile throwing and have obtained extra powers to disperse any large groups in the town who look like they’re up to no good.
This follows a few disturbances in the town centre after last season’s game. A Cleveland police statement says “Officers have been working closely with Middlesbrough Football Club to ensure the game is an 'enjoyable evening for those attending. We’re hoping for an enjoyable game for all those attending, although we’re not ignorant that there have been incidents of disorder at previous Middlesbrough FC and Leeds United games and we are prepared for that should that happen.
All in all it sounds like a fun night out!
Some of this stuff came from www.footballgroundguide.com .
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