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Hillsborough, Sheffield Wednesday
v Preston North End, Division One 
Saturday 1st March 2003, 3pm
By Paul Sammons

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

I'd decided earlier on in the season that I wanted to do a lot of the away matches this season as a pre-cursor to doing all 92. And Hillsborough was definitely on my list as I like to go to grounds that have a history. Also I wanted to visit as I have friends who went there last season and said that it was a great day out, so I thought it was time that I found out for myself!

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

I travelled down on the train from Preston, changing at Stockport. It took just under two hours (not bad with a change!), and it was a great trip down because there were a lot of PNE fans on the train talking football and a lot recovering from the night before!
Getting to the ground is easy, just walk into the town and catch a 'Yellow' service tram to Hillsborough. We caught the tram from outside Sheffield Cathedral, and it took about 15mins to get to the ground. A little tip is to get a 'Day Rider' ticket, at 2.20 it's cheaper than two singles and you can use it to get around the city if you decide to stay a while after the game.

After getting off the tram at Hillsborough, it's about 10mins walk to the ground, and you can get there by either the scenic route through Hillsborough park (which we did!) where there happened to be an amateur Rugby Union game going on (which we watched for about 10mins!), or you can walk down the main road, turning right at the traffic lights, again it's about 10mins.

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

After getting off the train at Sheffield station we headed straight for the 'Howard' pub across the road. It's a cracking pub, with a pool table and is very friendly. We had used this pub earlier in the season when we went to Bramall Lane so we knew what to expect in there. After leaving there it was straight to the 'Yorkshire Grey' (on the advice of a very friendly policeman who admitted to being a Sheffield Utd fan!). This is a nice pub but a little on the studenty side, that said the beer is really good, and the food is excellent, you've got to try their 'Real Bacon Sarnie' it was like a door stop! Also my friend insisted that the ham and eggs were good too! After there it was on to the 'Hogshead' near to the cathedral, on the way there we stumbled across a morris dancing festival in the city centre, which provided much amusement! (Sheffield has a rich culture you know!). With all three city centre pubs they were welcoming and friendly, and had no home supporters in them at all.

 

On arriving in Hillsborough itself, we headed for the 'Shakespeare' or the 'Shakey' as the locals call it! This pub was full of Wednesdayites but was very welcoming and friendly, and we had a great time watching Newcastle Utd on the TV! The landlady even offered to let us go back there after the game so that we could meet up with our friends. Note to Mick the Sheffield Wednesday fan who we had a drink with before and after the game, if you stay in Div 1 you'll have to come to Deepdale we'll have a pint in the Sumners!. So that answers the question of whether the home fans were friendly! But we were told that 'The Blue Ball' and the 'Old Crown' were very partisan and because we were wearing colours it would not have been a good idea to go into them!

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

We walked through Hillsborough park to get to the ground, so the first thing we saw was the south stand which looks very impressive when you see it from the far side of the park especially when you take in the hills and trees around it. But as you get closer to the ground you do realise that while the ground is huge, and the outside of the south stand is impressive, once you can see within the ground and you get a good look at the other three stands you can see that it's an old ground.

On entering the turnstiles behind the Leppings Lane end you can tell instantly that this stand could do with a bit of a facelift, you access the upper tier by climbing some covered steps on the outside of the stand and as you get further into the stand you start to see more and more of the same, the concourse at the back of the stand seems rather dark and dingey, but nothing that perhaps a lick of bright paint wouldn't fix! 

The view from the upper tier would be excellent if it wasn't for the huge supporting pillars that are in your way (and they are huge!), I sat in the middle of the stand and they obscured my view of each corner flag at this end of the ground, so I didn't see any of the corners being taken at that end!

That's then end of slagging off the ground, it has it's good points. It is one of the most picturesque grounds I have ever seen, and this sort of makes you forget that the ground has a few faults. The ground has a very compact feel, and it means that you can make a lot of noise, I'd liked to have seen what the atmosphere was like when the Wednesday were doing well and the ground was full. Overall I'd say that the ground is excellent, but could really do with a lick of paint.

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

A great result for PNE but not for Wednesday, we won 1-0! Although both teams played rubbish, we didn't play as bad as they did. I could see why the Hillsborough faithful are a little disappointed at the moment. The home stands were half empty, admittedly the fans that were there made one hell of a noise, and there was a great atmosphere. I think that this was spurred on by the fact that both clubs have rousing bands that played though out the game and they seemed to be trying to out do each other!

I thought that the facilities inside the ground were good, if a little basic compared to some of the more modern grounds. A lot of the PNE supporters couldn't understand why there was no beer available inside the ground, because there is no lack of space stopping them from doing this. However, the service was relatively quick and I thought that 1.20 for a 'giant' sausage roll was reasonable, and they tasted rather good.

The stewards were excellent, and didn't mind me nipping down to the lower tier at half time so that I could see my friend who was with the disabled supporters. But I did think that the club as a whole are very cautious regarding safety within the ground, as they didn't like us standing (even for short periods), and even put out an announcement over the PA stating that they would 'remove from the ground' all the people who were standing at the back of the stand near to the band. These people do this at Deepdale and nothing is really said! Overall the match and ground were great but I think that I've seen better!

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

We headed back to the 'Shakey', and it took about 10mins to get back there. The atmosphere inside the pub as still good even though Wednesday had lost, and we were celebrating! We caught the tram back to the cathedral without any problems and had a quick pint in the 'Penny Black' on Ponds Lane (next to Ponds Forge), Weird place, has a mix of Utd and Wednesday fans, can be fun for visitors as the Utd fans congratulate any visitors if they've beaten Wednesday and vice versa! Then back to the station, about 5mins walk.

7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out.

I was a little disappointed by the ground when I got there, the photo's on this site make the ground look better than it actually is. But the ground does have character and history so it was not a complete loss, and the result went our way, so the visit to the ground was good, and my experiences of it are reasonably good. I found Sheffield itself an excellent place to be, both before and after the game. This my second visit to Sheffield for a football match, but I go there quite a lot for the night life, so knowing the city perhaps proved an advantage over a supporter who didn't know where anything was! Overall great day out, the best this season so far.

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