Pride Park -
Derby County FC
Sunday 20th October 2002
V Nottingham Forest, Division 1, 1pm
By Chris O'Hanlon
1. Why you were looking
forward to going to the ground (or not as the case may be).
This was the game all Forest and Derby fans had been building up to since the day the football fixtures were released. I had never personally been to Pride Park before although I had seen the ground many times from the A52. This was the first time since 1999 that Forest had played Derby and I hoped that it would be an entertaining derby game with the passion to match.
2. How easy was your journey/finding the ground/car parking
Even with my knowledge of Derby I thought the ground was very poorly signposted considering it is a new ground and sits on a business park pretty much out of town. I live in the West Midlands, so approached Derby from the south along the A38. I took the A516 past the Derby City Hospital, and then I hit the nightmare that is Derby
After going round in circles for pretty much 10 minutes I saw the sign I wanted, parking for the Eagle Centre. I had decided to park in the Eagle Centre and walk to the ground for a couple of reasons. I thought my car would be safer there than just left on the street, especially as this was a local derby and I thought that there could be some unsavoury characters around. Secondly, I thought the traffic queues would be horrendous getting off Pride Park Business Park after the game, as is so often the case with these new grounds, there only tends to be a few routes away from the area.
The walk to Pride Park took about 25 minutes, which although is quite a long walk, the route takes you through the Riverside Gardens and then along the river itself, which was quite pleasant. It was well signposted and the path was clearly marked. There were plenty of other people around so even though some parts of the path were quite secluded, it felt safe enough.
3. What you did before the game pub/chippy.... home fans friendly?
As Pride Park sits pretty much on its own in the middle of a business park there is very little in the way of pubs/eateries in the vicinity of the ground. Therefore I decided to head straight for the away end and take my seat. I followed a couple of Derby fans to the ground and received no hassle from anyone even though my Forest shirt was clearly on display.
4. What you thought on seeing the ground, first impressions of away end then other sides of the ground
As I approached Pride Park I was impressed with its overall appearance. It is a completely enclosed ground with 3 stands of the same height, and a larger stand down one side of the pitch. It reminded me very much of the Riverside Stadium in
Middlesbrough. I walked across the main car park, which lies in front of the impressive Toyota Stand. Here it was a hive of activity, with several promotions taking place…I even got handed a free chocolate bar!
I made my way to the back of the McArthur Glen stand where the stewards were very friendly, however when I got inside I had the shock of my life. Cue pandemonium in the concourse. It was packed, no-one could move anywhere due to the volume of people. The concourse was simply not wide enough for the numbers of people on it. The queues for the food outlets stretched back to the toilets on the opposite wall. It is no joke that it took me 10 minutes to get from the turnstile to my seat.
The view from my seat was excellent, with no obstructions and plenty of leg-room. The rake of the seats was such that you could easily see over the person in front, even though the Forest fans spent the entire game standing up. On looking around the stadium from the inside I was again impressed, particularly with some of the extra touches around the ground that set it aside from the monotony of other new grounds (i.e. you could be at Stoke, St Mary's or
Middlesbrough and not really know the difference). The north-west corner of the ground is taken up mainly with continental-style executive boxes, with some seating underneath, which looked good.
The only thing I was disappointed with was the poor quality of the PA system in Pride Park. I had read it was one of the best in the country, however it was almost inaudible above the noise of the crowd, and I had to rely on the scoreboard in the north-west corner to keep up with team news and substitutions.
5. Comment on the game itself, atmosphere, stewards, pies, toilets etc..
The game itself, it has to be said was a poor affair, with two very young sides out on the pitch and not much in the way of quality. In the end a game of few chances finished 0-0, which I think was a fair result, with both teams feeling it was good not to lose to the local rivals. The atmosphere however was terrific, with both sets of supporters in fine voice from the moment I stepped into the ground, which was some 30 minutes before the kick-off.
The south-east corner was where the more passionate Derby supporters were sat, and I had the "pleasure" of being sat next to the segregation netting between the two sets of fans. As was to be expected the Derby fans were very vocal, even before the teams had come out, and this made for an intimidating afternoon for me, being sat so close to the Derby fans.
I did not buy any food in the ground (the chaos in the concourse put me right off going down there at all costs), however I did notice that there was a good selection of pies, pasties, burgers and hot-dogs on offer, as well as hot and cold drinks and beer and lager. The toilets were very clean and spacious, and even had hot running water!
6. Comment on getting away from the ground after the game
After the final whistle had been blown the local police kept the Forest fans in the ground for approximately 20 minutes. Apparently they had advised us of this on the PA system, however I don't think many people heard it as there was quite a lot of chaos at the back of the stand before people realised we were being held back.
I can think of better ways to spend a cold, Autumnal Sunday afternoon (like being in wrapped up in bed) than standing in a car park with little cover and drizzle falling on your head, however most Forest fans were in good voice as we waited patiently to be let out.
As I walked back to the city centre my decision to park there proved its worth, as there were long queues of traffic waiting to get out of Pride Park Business Park. The most pleasant surprise of the day was the cost of parking at the Eagle Centre (£1.50 for what must have been over 4 hours). After that it was an easy drive home, although the weather was awful.
7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out
I enjoyed my trip to Pride Park, not only because of the occasion that was a local derby, but the ground itself is not bad at all. I personally did not see any problems between fans on the day, either inside or outside the ground, however there was a minor incident on the concourse at half time with the
Police trying to keep some Forest fans away from the steel shutters that had been bought down to keep the rival supporters apart. Had I not been caught up in the ensuing baton charge from the police it would have been a pretty good day out, however this spoilt it a little for me.
One last thing, the price of the tickets. Now I know that this was a local derby, and that Derby have financial problems, but I think £25 for a Division 1 fixture is outrageous. You would do well to spend more than that at a Premier League ground. Come on Derby, sort it out!!!
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