Stadium - Cardiff City FC
Championship League v Nottingham Forest
Sunday, November 1st 2009, 5pm
Having lived in Cardiff for the past three years while I was at university, when the fixture list came out at the start of the season this was one of the first I looked out for (after the Derby game, of course). Having been to Ninian Park on numerous occasions and having played football on the pitches directly next to the new stadium as it was being built I was excited to see the finished article.
Getting there was, as usual, a bit of a pain. There are very few signposts for football fans and lots of tight roads and awkward junctions between the city centre and the ground but once you are there the away fans have their own designated own car park within a compound, which is a revelation really.
As the game was being televised, the kick off was 5pm on a Sunday evening, which I found a bit strange but it enabled me and a few of the boys I went to Uni with to make a weekend of it. It was a good job it was so late because I was only just getting over the hang over by the time we got there!
The most striking thing about the ground is the fact that right next to it what is now a demolished pile of rubble which used to be Ninian Park. It was quite a sad sight to see a little piece of Cardiff’s history reduced to a pile of bricks and metal. The new ground, unfortunately, is lacking in any sort of character whatsoever. In fact it looks like it has been built out of giant blue and grey lego pieces. There is also a tacky looking MDF archway for the home fans to walk through, which makes matters worse.
The away fans are forced to walk an extra hundred yards down the road to get to the turnstiles so nobody is left in any doubt as to which team you are supporting, thankfully though there was never any sign of any trouble and despite their fearsome reputation I have never seen any problems from Cardiff fans.
Inside the ground the concourse feels like a car park with portaloos but they had Sky on the plasmas so we were able to watch the Premier League game. Prices were pretty much the same as everywhere these days, though my mate did pay £1.80 for a glass of water which I thought was ridiculous.
The view from our seats was excellent, the away fans are tucked away in the corner under the big screen so I don’t know how much atmosphere its possible to create from there but I couldn’t fault the view. My favourite thing about Ninian was the fact that the home fans and away fans stood side by side in the stand behind the goal. In the new stadium, while there were some noisy fans to the right of us, to the left was the family stand and we spent the entirety of the game being sworn at by 8 year olds, which is hardly intimidating. In fact most of the rest of the stadium was quiet, even when they went a goal up. The Forest fans were, as usual, brilliant throughout and the 91st minute equaliser to maintain our unbeaten away record topped off a cracking performance and ensured we left the ground singing.
On the whole it was an enjoyable away day but not one that really stirred the blood. I can understand why clubs decide to build these fancy new stadiums but I think the real challenge is in maintaining the old character and atmosphere and in that respect I think that Cardiff City have failed.
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