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Riverside Stadium
Middlesbrough v  Aston Villa
Premier League
Saturday 14th April 2007, 3pm
Matthew Richards

(Aston Villa fan)

1. Why you were looking forward to going to the ground (or not as the case may be):

Villa were desperately in need of points to stave off any remaining fears of relegation.  Despite the long journey from the Midlands, I wanted to go and support the lads after a very unusual season (last side to lose a game in 4 divisions then going on to draw the most games in the league!).  As for the ground, I was looking forward to seeing what the fabled North East football atmosphere was like and to experience one of the new breed of stadia: al la Pride Park, The Walkers Stadium as oppose to the more traditional grounds like Villa Park.

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

Despite being nearly 190 miles, the journey didn't seem excessively tiresome.  There are many places to stop for refreshments although beware of paying over the odds for motorway food - 7.99 for a  breakfast!  There were no traffic jams on the day and we arrived there at 1pm after an 8.45am departure with breaks.

3. What you did before the game pub/chippy.... home fans friendly?

Me and my mate walked into the town centre looking for a pub, directed by a friendly local bobby.  There was one pub in the town called The Central (I think) which was a Wetherspoons type pub that showed big screen football and served food. The beer was usual fayre: Carling, Fosters, Worthingtons etc.. but there was no real ale which I found disappointing.  One downside to this ground is that it is quite isolated from the town centre, or indeed anywhere, it took us 15 minutes to get to the High Street and, crucially, the signposting wasn't very helpful. There were no signs outside the pubs either which stated whether away fans were welcome or not. Having said that, in the pub we were at the locals were top notch, all were wearing their colours and there was no bad atmosphere between away fans who also wore their colours.

4. What you thought on seeing the ground, first impressions of away end then other sides of the ground?

The ground struck me as being smaller than I had imagined - it was though strikingly set on the bank of the river Tees with the famous Transporter Bridge in the distance.  It was unusual as we didn't know where we were in relation to any pubs (important!) or anywhere for that matter, it seemed to be quite isolated. The numbering on the turnstiles was strangely out of order for away fans and all of the stands looked the same - a shame really as the only thing of character about the ground are the gates from the old Ayresome Park which was a nice touch.

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

The food was very nice though and well priced (for a football game) 3.75 for burger and chips and I have to say it was the best burger I've had at a ground - delicious. The stewards weren't overbearing.

6. Comment on getting away from the ground after the game:

Police escort for official supporters coach - 'nuff said.  Mind you, there were no traffic jams which I was amazed at.  Our away coach didn't stop on the return journey so if you need a ciggy or some food, stock up because it's a long journey back.

7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out

I regret that the coach had to depart straight after the game.  I would have liked more time to see Middlesbrough but I had no choice. The food was lovely and the away fans coach park is basically behind the away stand so getting lost isn't an option. Oh and Villa won 3-1 so it was even sweeter.

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