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Elland Road
  Leeds United v Ipswich Town
ip League
Saturday, March 12th , 2011, 3pm
By Tim Sansom
(Ipswich Town fan)

1.Why were you looking forward to going to the ground?

My perfect weekend would be to see my beloved Ipswich Town Football Club playing at a ground where I have never been to. I always enjoy watching Town away from Suffolk, and having a chance to explore a city that I have never visited before. It is my instinct or in built desire to explore a new place which has made me think like this.

My perfect weekend would continue with my invite to friends, who live in the local area, to inhale a little bit of the Ipswich atmosphere that has been part of my body for so long. The match will vary in quality, and I would claim that I could not personally engineer goals, but I would reward their persistence and suggesting that we go for an after match curry. I did have that perfect weekend in early March 2011, when I visited a ground that I had never been to in a part of the UK that I did not know that well.

Until that Saturday, Yorkshire had been a barren land in terms of football watching or catching Ipswich at play. I know that Yorkshire is a proud sporting county and it is surprising that this region defined for me by ‘Countdown,’ ‘Calendar,’ cricket, the Kaiser Chiefs, yellow chevrons on the TV, John Charles and ‘3-2-1’ currently does not have a team that is regularly playing in the Premiership. Leeds United would like to return to the Premiership, and Elland Road is a Premiership stadium, although I had been told that it was a stadium that had seen better days. They were not wrong.  

2.How easy was your journey/ finding the ground/ car parking?

My journey to Elland Road was easy. I had taken a coach service up the M1 to Leeds and then I was helped by two friends who were local to the area. They knew where the stadium was and how to get there. As we meandered around Leeds’ exciting yet baffling dual carriageway system, where roads seemed to launch themselves over junctions for no apparent reason, there was no question that I would not get to Elland Road in time for the game.

I have done some travelling across the UK but I do not know Leeds that well and if you are new to the city, it would be wise to stick to the dual carriage ways and follow the brown signs down the M621 into the city. The stadium is well signposted.  I was told that football buses do run from the station and may be an option for people arriving by train or want to arrive by public transport. I was meeting with my friends at the railway station and the Leeds station seemed full of friendly and approachable people who could direct you in the right direction to the bus.

We paid three pounds for car parking at a site near to the ground and there are various car parks close to the football ground that vary in price. Like any trip to the ground on a matchday, it is a simple case of following the crocodile line of other fans to the ground and the stadium quickly appears near to a railway line and nestled next to some random houses, a characteristic pub (which I sensed was for home fans only,) some car showrooms and a fast food operative that sells Big Macs. I immediately sensed that there was an aura of history about the place, which has not always been the case in certain football grounds. In contrast to some of the modern stadia that are full of concrete and not much soul, this ground did seem to have a heart and some friendly stewards too. How many grounds have you been to where you have been welcomed in person by a friendly steward? He even hoped that I had enjoyed a pleasant journey up the M1.
3.What did you think when seeing the ground/ first impressions of away end then other sides of the ground?

TV distorts the size of grounds and my first reaction to Elland Road was a certain amount of surprise. It seemed to be very small even though we were high up in the away section towards one corner of the stadium. Being a fairly enclosed area of the ground, the chanting and the all-important ‘atmosphere’ can be generated with ease in the away end. You are right next to the Leeds Kop and as the Leeds team song was played out over the loud speaker (and that was a pleasant change to the Electro Pop that is standard material at most grounds around the UK,) everyone seemed to be emotionally ready for the game. It was just a shame that it was obvious by around 3:20pm that 0-0 was likely to be the score. Despite being very close to an automatic promotion, Leeds played like mobile phones with two cells left on their batteries. Ipswich played like a team that will finish in the mid table of the Championship, which is a distinct improvement for Town from earlier in the season.  

4.Comment on the game itself, atmosphere, stewards, pies and toilets etc..

It has been a long while since I was watching football from behind poles but that was what I was facing at Elland Road. It did seem for a while, that all of the various contentious tackles enraging the home supporters and the Leeds manager were taking place behind the poles. The referee became a key figure in the game facing anger from the home dugout and the stands and the atmosphere became undeniably tense. Half time came to defuse the tension although the game continued to be played in an air of injustice made worse by missed chances. With the rain starting to fall in a typical northern way, I really did feel that my team were playing the role of party poopers who were frustrating the rise of Leeds United back to the Premiership.

When you turn up at a football ground, you should not expect Ritz like facilities unless you are taking the corporate experience. There is a fast food bar at the away end with some bucket seats where you can eat your pies and fast food grub and drink your pop or beer. It does feel that you are eating and drinking in a concrete wind tunnel but you do have some room to stand around and talk to your mates about how your team were lucky with various decisions and were really rattling the cage of the home fans.

A toilet is a toilet in my opinion but there seemed to be less than the normal amount of facilities in the away end compared to other grounds where I have visited. If you are a bloke that needs to visit a convenience at half time, you are liable to spend most of the half time break in the action in a queue wondering why you should be expected to pay 80p for a single chocolate bar.

Stewarding seemed to be fairly light in the away end although Ipswich Town fans are generally not known as particularly notorious across the UK. The game meandered to a 0-0 draw despite the anger of the home fans, and Leeds generally being on top of the action without never quite managing to reach top gear and score that important goal. Town were riding their luck at certain times but were sufficiently dogged to secure a point. My friend turned to me an wondered whether Ipswich Town were a long ball team. At that point in the game, I could not quite argue against him.

5.Comment on getting away from the ground:

At the final whistle, we had to turn right at the junction on to Elland Road. Fellow Ipswich fans had seemed to disappear into thin air, and I found myself on my own and walking against a tide of home fans who seemed frustrated with the 0-0 draw and I also wondered whether they were annoyed with the referee too. For the first time in a while around a football ground, I felt fairly intimidated and wished that I could have managed to have zipped my hoodie entirely over the football shirt but I was in a rush with a desperate search to find our little car.

After a couple of minutes, I was subject to a little bit of what some people would regard as ‘banter,’ and I can take ‘banter.’ However this was ‘banter’ with a slightly harsh and personal undertone to it, but I had disappeared in a rush without even thinking about the first word in a reply. I would strongly advise discretion when wearing club colours around this ground and whether it is even worth wearing your shirt if your team is a local rival or has had any particular ‘history’ with Leeds.   

I know that I am spoilt at my home town club in Ipswich with the railway station within easy walking distance from Portman Road, and I can walk home from the ground too. I also accept that it may not be the job of a football club to run a suitable traffic management system to let their supporters head for home, but getting out of Elland Road was difficult.

Like bees around a honeypot or the average rush hour around the centre of Paris, it was every car for itself to get out of Elland Road to reach the M621 out of the city. Having arrived late back to the car, we were towards the back of the queue. As a result of my previous uneasy encounter with a group of home fans, I was collapsed on the back seat of the car like an escaped fugitive with the hope that no other home fan could see my blue shirt.

Once onto the M621, the journey was fairly simple, but you have to remember that Leeds v Ipswich had not attracted a full stadium nor was it a high profile game like a Leeds v Manchester United fixture. Is it traffic gridlock around the area when bigger teams come to town? If you are coming to a game at Elland Road and especially for a bigger match, I would recommend parking in roads around Ring Road Beeston but beware of Matchday restrictions.    

6. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out:

Regardless of what happened following the game, I felt that I had visited a key football ground in the UK that may not be showing Premiership football but does show some fairly impressive ‘b’ movie action (although the Leeds team seemed bizarrely lethargic on that Saturday afternoon. If you are on a trip around important football grounds in the UK, you have to visit Elland Road, but you have to be slightly more discrete than usual if you are an away fan. In general, I did get a very polite and warm Yorkshire welcome and left for my trip back down south wondering how long it will be before Leeds United may become giants in the English game again.

Are you an away or general football fan who has visited Elland Road Stadium recently?
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