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Hillsborough, Sheffield Wednesday
v ,
Nottingham Forest Division One 
Thursday 26th December 2002
By Chris O'Hanlon

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

I have a vague re-collection of going to Hillsborough about 12 years ago, when Teddy Sherringham was playing for Forest. However, having not been up there for so long, I decided it was time to pay another visit to the grand old stadium and with it being Boxing Day, it was a nice day out.

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

We traveled from the midlands, via Mansfield (to pick up my Dad) and then headed up the M1 towards Sheffield. We decided to head into Sheffield along the A57, past United's ground and then round the ring road (A61) to Hillsborough. The traffic was quite bad near to the ground, and we eventually got there at about 2pm. We hadn't the faintest idea where to park, so as soon as we saw people walking, we parked the car on the side of the main road, and headed for the ground on foot.

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

After my Christmas Day exploits I decided the pub was one thing I should avoid, so we headed to the ground. The home fans seemed ok and there was no sign of any trouble or tension between the two sets of supporters.

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

The ground can be seen from a fair way down the main road, and that is when it is at its most impressive. As you get closer, you begin to see the cracks appearing in the paintwork, and that this really is a grand OLD stadium.

The away end, as you would expect for such a big ground is massive, and it was estimated there were over 6,000 Forest fans there for this match. We sat in the lower tier, which is probably the worst place you can sit. The rake is low, there is little legroom, and there are a few supporting pillars that have a canny knack of being right in the way wherever you sit. The seats are also bolted onto the old terrace, which to me never feels quite right; terraces are for standing on!

 

The upper tier afforded a much better view from what I could see, for a start it was raised about 12 foot above the highest point of the lower tier, so that in itself was an advantage.

The 3 other sides of the ground are equally large, equally old, yet still retain their character. The stands are all of pretty much the same height and the very tops of them are joined together with curved advertising hoardings. 

It's a shame the corners have not been entirely filled in, as this would make a truly magnificent stadium. As it is only one corner, between the Leppings Lane end and the North stand, has had seating put in, though this is uncovered so looks somewhat temporary. This section of the ground is also for away supporters, but is only used if the lower and upper tiers are full.

Due to Sheffield Wednesday's failing in the last few seasons, the stands are usually more half empty than half full, as the saying goes, but you can imagine what sort of atmosphere was once created from the colossal stands around the ground, as the atmosphere today can be very intensive.

Underneath the huge South Stand is a concourse that has some areas of brickwork dedicated to former SWFC players. The two that are there at the moment are David Hurst and Chris Waddle, and supporters can pay to have their own brick inserted in to the wall.

Overall I would say it's a great stadium, one of the best in the country in terms of size, layout and character, but one that is starting to show its age.

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

The game itself was a shocking one for Forest, quite possibly our worst performance of the season led to a 2-0 defeat by the team bottom of the table at that time. 

However this poor performance on the pitch was eclipsed by the inept catering facilities in the lower tier. As we had walked into the ground we noticed there was a long queue for the single window serving pies, pasties, chips, drinks etc. With this in mind my brother made the decision to head for the refreshments well before the half time whistle. He still had to queue for 25 minutes and ended up missing the last 5 minutes of the 1st half and the first 5 minutes of the 2nd half! 

Quite outrageous really, and something that SWFC should do something about. A tiny window capable of serving one person at a time is far from adequate for over 3,000 fans in the lower tier.

We each had a carton of chips (as this was the only thing left), which I have to say are the worst chips I've ever had. Greasy, under-cooked and tasteless. The carton would have probably tasted better.

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

After such a poor performance we wanted to head straight home, but were made to walk round of the stadium due to policing restrictions. When we got back to the car, the main road was busy again and it took us a fair while to get out of Sheffield and onto the motorway for the journey home.

7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out

It is always nice to go back to stadiums and see how they have changed. Unfortunately Hillsborough has not changed one bit, and that is what is its downfall. It is in need of modernisation, not the actual arena itself, but the facilities that we have all come to expect from bigger grounds are severely lacking here.

However as it is such a big stadium and with Sheffield Wednesday only pulling in crowds of 15,000, it is easy to see why their debt has risen and their ground is starting to show its age.

Apart from the performance on the pitch from Forest, it was a nice Boxing Day out, and the Forest fans were in good voice as usual from the very start. I didn't see any trouble, which is always good and I would certainly go back to Hillsborough again, only this time I would take my own refreshments!

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