City Of Manchester Stadium
Saturday September 23rd 2006
Ham United, Premier League 3pm
By Chris Ackrill
I look forward to visiting any ground for the first time, and
in a city like Manchester you have all the attractions that make an away
day enjoyable; specifically some fantastic real ale pubs. I normally park
for free in residential Altrincham, then get the tram into the city.
I was soon enjoying a fine lunch and a pint at The Knott by
Deansgate/GMex station. Another pint was enjoyed at the more traditional
City Arms behind the town hall, before I continued a pleasurable walk to
From here I paid £1 to take the bus to
Eastlands; though plenty of people seemed to be making the long trek on
foot through Ancoats Ė not the most picturesque journey. Outside the
stadium, fans sat around enjoying some late September sun. This relaxed
atmosphere, coupled with the modern stadium exterior reminded me of going
to American football matches. Once inside I was further convinced that
City have embraced the fun-for-the-family ethos associated with the modern
stadiums. About 100 little girls were dancing to Saturday Night Fever and
Kung Fu Fighting just before the teams came out.
Eastlands has had
mixed reviews, but I found this bowl-like stadium very impressive. The way
the side stands rise up to the sky give it some character, and the tiering
gives everyone a good view. It was all sky blue, and looked fresh and
modern. The stadium concourse was less crowded than at most other grounds,
and the refreshment queues were bearable. The toilets would have benefited
from some paper, mind.
There was a high police presence, but they
didnít appear to have much to do, and the stewards allowed fans to stand Ė
though why people want to stand in such a stadium is beyond me. Leg room
was fine. Some people have said Eastlands lacks atmosphere. Any stadium
can lack atmosphere at certain games, but I had no complaints today. City
have had a poor start to the season, and there was speculation over Stuart
Pearceís future as manager. West Ham hadnít won since the opening day and
have looked similarly dodgy since. Both sets of fans got behind their
teams though, even if it was only the city fans nearest to us that sang.
We didnít hear a peep from the opposite end. The banter didnít really
start though until late in the first half, when fans tried to outdo each
other with Bubbles and Blue Moon. It was pretty good-natured and all
involved seemed to enjoy themselves.
It was a fairly entertaining
game, though chances to score were lacking. City had the best
opportunities to score, though as the game wore on 0 Ė 0 looked the most
likely outcome. West Ham still havenít found the form they enjoyed last
season: the Argentinian circus might have upset things, or our return to
the Premiership honeymoon might be over. Cityís Samaras was always the
player most likely to do something, and indeed it was he who shot the home
side into the lead in the second half. Once he got another goal the game
was beyond West Hamís reach. The closing minutes were the most boring Iíve
experienced for a while. City fans might have sang ďwe can see you
sneaking outĒ, but plenty of their fans were streaming out too as things
fizzled down to nothing.
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