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Ewood Park
Blackburn Rovers v Leeds United
Saturday February 23rd 2013, 3pm
Championship League
By John Rogers
(Leeds United fan)

1. Why you were looking forward to going to the ground (or not as the case may be):
A new ground for me and unusually, I was going to be on my own (other than in the company of 3500 other Leeds fans). I had seen Ewood Park many times on television and had not been particularly impressed, but the reality proved to be somewhat different.

2. How easy was your journey/finding the ground/car parking?
The journey (M65 from West Yorkshire) was easy as I have regularly passed the signs for Ewood - J4 from the M65 - and on the A666. From the motorway junction the signage directs one down under the motorway bridge and the ground is at the bottom of the hill. Ewood Park is also within walking distance from the railway station.
Other reviews of Ewood directed drivers to one of a number of club-linked car parks or pub car parks, all of which charge between 5-10. Personally, I think football is dear enough without adding unnecessarily to the overall cost (my ticket was 32, the price hiked by Blackburn in tit-for-tat retaliation for what Ken Bates had charged away fans at Elland Road). I was therefore pleased to find early arrival gave me a choice of on street parking: to the left of the Gold Cup pub (immediately under the motorway bridge) or on the main road after the traffic lights, leading down to Ewood Park. The walk to the ground took no more than 10 minutes.

3. What you did before the game pub/chippy.... home fans friendly?
Having plenty of time before the game, I took the opportunity to add to my collection of stadium photographs. As kick-off approached there were plenty of Leeds fans around wearing colours with no suggestion of trouble. Watching the teams arrive home fans were quite happy to engage in conversation, perhaps partly due to the fact that we have had similar experiences in recent years (owners and managers we have not been happy with; performances failing to live up to expectations etc).
For those looking for a pub, the Golden Cup, just off the motorway, is designated for away fans.

4. What you thought on seeing the ground, first impressions of away end then other sides of the ground?
A statue of Jack Walker stands outside the Blackburn End and Ewood Park is now very much 'The House That Jack Built'. I suppose he was the ideal football club owner: a fan, with the money to build a successful side and a ground to match.
As with many traditional football ground locations, Ewood Park is flanked on one side by terraced housing, but on the other by a small river. The stand adjacent to the latter is somewhat incongruous, being a single tiered affair with pillars, whereas the other three stands are modern steel-and-glass and bigger than I had anticipated.
Inside, the ground is similarly modern: clean concourses (at least in the away end), great lines of sight and close to the pitch.

5. Comment on the game itself, atmosphere, stewards, pies, facilities etc..
The game was reasonably entertaining, with Leeds looking the more likely scorers. It was therefore a surprise when it ended 0-0 - our first goalless draw in 50-odd games. The 3500 Leeds supporters easily outsang the 14500 home support who had perhaps lost their collective voice having eventually persuaded the owners that Steve Kean was not the man to take the club forward.
Stewards were polite and unobtrusive. Refreshments were typical unimaginative football fare and overpriced (2.20 for a cup of tea). Toilets were clean but probably inadequate at half time after the quantity of beer that was presumably consumed before the game.

6. Comment on getting away from the ground after the game:
The police had a well-rehearsed procedure for handling the crowd after the game: much of the road immediately outside the ground was cordoned off to traffic. I had a ten minute walk back to the car, which I had parked close to the motorway, followed by a ten minute delay as departing coaches were given priority over side roads. Once on the motorway it was a clear run home on the M65.

7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out:
Although the result was slightly disappointing, this was a great day out. I liked the fact that there was none of the faux atmosphere some clubs (e.g. Wigan) create to try to cover for the lack of noise coming from the crowd - we don't need that sort of Americanisation in football. But the main memory of the day was the people I came into contact with at Blackburn: home fans, stewards, programme sellers, ticket office- and catering staff were friendly and unusually (in my experience) courteous - a real credit to the club.

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