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Britannia Stadium
Stoke City v
Ipswich Town
Championship League
Saturday, February 23rd 2008, 3pm
James Burgess
(Ipswich Town fan)

Why were you looking forward to going to the ground?

I had heard that the Britannia is quite a smart stadium and as it is quite new I assumed it would be a good away trip to make. I was excited by the prospect of my first away trip in 2 years and the fact that Ipswich were in 6th and Stoke 1st, promising a good encounter. I was a little worried coming up on the train alone that it could be a little intimidating as Stoke has a bit of a reputation for trouble.

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

On arrival at Stoke on Trent I was directed to Stoke City centre by
staff  at the station. I arrived very early due to train timetables in Wales giving me the option of arrival at 10am or 3pm. In the City centre I found people friendly and ready to help me find a bus to the ground. The bus driver then told me where to get off and how to find the ground from the bus stop. It took me about 15 minutes to walk although I believe later in the day buses were running directly to the ground. I was able to wander around the stadium and fans and staff were all friendly (not intimidating at all).

I met a friend at the ground, who had driven to the stadium and we went to find somewhere to watch the 12.45 televised game. Driving back to the ground, we found parking easy.

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

We went into Stoke before the match to watch the early kick off. It took a long time to find a pub let alone a pub with Sky. We went into a pub called the Varsity where food and drinks were cheap and good. Fans we met were friendly and even in the bookies when we put down bets for the away team to win people were friendly with a little banter. After the match we went back into Stoke for food and drinks. Stoke was surprisingly empty for a Saturday night after a home win and we found it hard to find anywhere that did food and wasn't home fans only territory. It did not feel as friendly and we did not feel as welcome.

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

The ground is quite smart and the away end was quite well positioned with decent seats (if you got one). There was no designated seating and around 30 people were left standing on the stairs for the whole match. There is only one scoreboard and it is placed where the away fans could not see it. Entry to the ground was quick with no queues. There is a Stanley Matthew's Memorial statue at the end of one car park which was quite interesting. The pitch looked in very good condition.

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

The atmosphere was a bit muted, the away fans were noisy and vocal but the home fans rarely joined in. When they did, however, it was nice to see the whole stadium joined in, not just one stand. It was hard to distinguish where the hardcore home fans were so we could direct some banter because it was so quiet. This could have been due to the wind and open corners of  the ground. The wind was a factor as it was behind us one half and against for the other. It caused problems with corners and free kicks as the ball kept being blown away. It also meant the ground was freezing. Stewards ignored us on the whole except when we tried to enter our seating block when they told us we couldn't enter. Further investigation turned out that the seating was a free for all and the nice seats we thought we had were taken. This led to us finding seats up at the back of the stand. The view was still good with no obstruction. The toilets were as in any ground and the queue for the bar was much too long.

With the score at 1-0 and the away team putting considerable pressure on the home team it was somewhat surprising to see home fans streaming out 5 minutes early. I suppose regulars would be used to the poor traffic after the game but by the final whistle some parts of the ground were empty.

Comment on getting away from the ground after the game:

After the game the car park descended into chaos as all cars drove straight for the exit. There was no stewarding after the match in the car park and it took 45 minutes to get 50m to the gate. Once out of the car park we headed towards Stoke and the traffic was flowing nicely. If we had turned right however, there were massive queues.

Summary of overall thoughts of the day out:

I was not impressed by the lack of places to meet up with fellow supporters and the traffic was terrible. The lack of noise from home fans was disappointing because when they did sing it was good. I had looked forward to hearing Delilah but they sang it only once and stopped midway.

I do not think I would go again just because of the transport issues.

Otherwise, people are friendly and willing to help. I did enjoy my trip but that was mainly due to the atmosphere in the away stand, which could happen at any ground.

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