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Britannia Stadium
Stoke City v Queens Park Rangers
Premier League
Saturday, November 19th 2011, 3pm
By Ben Buckingham
(QPR fan)

1. Why you were looking forward to going to the ground (or not as the case may be):
After another pointless international break, I was looking forward to seeing some proper Premier League action. Two weeks without seeing the Rangers is always hard, so imagine what I’m like in the summer months! In the previous game, QPR battled well and we enjoyed seeing Man City come to Loftus Road, unfortunately we didn’t get the point we deserved. To be honest, the thought of going to Stoke wasn’t something that excited me too much but I knew it was a ground where Rangers have done really well at in the past. My only previous visit to the Britannia was a 2-1 win back in 2005 with some ugly scenes on and off the pitch. This was the first time we had met in the Premier League so I was expecting a good atmosphere and a tough game.

2. How easy was your journey/finding the ground/car parking?
Originally it was myself Mark and Chris all set for the trip to Stoke. Chris pulled out due to ... (wait for it)... ‘tiredness’. ‘The worst excuse not to attend a football game ever!’ Other than our old mate getting bit on the head by a tarantula spider! Obviously big Chris has taken plenty of stick for this and rightly so! The third ticket wasn’t to popular to sell and we thought we might have to sell it on the day. Late on the Friday Mark’s mate a Charlton fan John decided he would tag along!

We headed off around 11am from Ickenham after a brief stop at a garage and the usual Tesco extra for the essential supplies. Mark did the honours to drive which was a nice change for me! We arrived at the Britannia Stadium at 1pm and took the advice of the guide and headed for the Harvester next to the stadium (there was very little else to choose from!!). The guy who sold us our parking ticket for £5 made us laugh, he insisted we parked on the ‘Brow of the Kerb’ as we might not get away at the end of the match. By this he meant the space next to the kerb! When we returned there were just 4 cars left!! No idea what he was on about to be honest, but he had done the job for 6 years (he kindly informed us) so who were we to argue!

3. What you did before the game pub/chippy.... home fans friendly?
Other than look around the different car showrooms there is very little to do before the game here. We opted for the Harvester to grab something reasonable to eat and drink. It was at this point we came across ‘The Cretin of the Year!’. The guy working on the door here was a complete jobsworth idiot. We put our name down for table for 3 and were told to wait 20 minutes and to go to the bar which we did (wearing our QPR colours). It was pretty hot inside so we went out the side door for some fresh air (well foggy cold depressing air in-fact) and enjoyed our beers. I walked off to grab a programme and then decided to go back inside when I came back ten minutes later. The attitude we got from this guy was incredible, he said we had been called and that he had to walk through the pub to find us. We apologised and he said he would add us to the list again. For twenty minutes we watched him letting other people in in-front of us so I approached him. He then had the cheek to say he called 5 more times over a microphone (which didn’t exist) so I had a few choice words with him and then the security staff stepped in. All was resolved and we got our table....eventually!
A salad cart at an away day was a strange thing! Not something big Chris was impressed with when we sent him a picture message. Had no bother with home fans and enjoyed the next hour in there enjoying more beers and our pub grub.

4. What you thought on seeing the ground, first impressions of away end then other sides of the ground?
Approaching the stadium, it looks impressive enough like most newer stadiums do. Other than the West Stand, the rest of the stadium looks the same all around. No real character or features that stand out but its functional enough. I did think the West Stand was also too far away from the edge of the pitch but was the nicest looking side of the ground. QPR were only given literally a block and a half for this game (1200 Seats) which sold out. The away end had decent enough views of the action and there was plenty of leg room. The problem with the out of city centre stadiums (like this one) is the lack of things to do before the game (or shall I say, lack of places to drink!).

5. Comment on the game itself, atmosphere, stewards, pies, toilets etc..
After just 8 minutes QPR went behind to a Jon Walters tidy finish. I did fear the worst at this point as Stoke were on a bad run and thought we would be on the end of a backlash from them. After 20 minutes Heidar Helguson scored a stunning bullet header which the Stoke keeper didn’t even move for. A great cross from Armand Traore (I might add too). Just before the break Jamie Mackie and Shaun Wright-Phillips played some lovely link-up play before Mackie teed off Luke Young to smash us in front 2-1. 10 minutes after the re-start Heidar was at it again and increased our lead to 3-1. The atmosphere here is said to be ‘intimidating’ and ‘the best in the country’. I would agree it is pretty good but when we scored our first and second, the Stoke fans seemed more interested in abusing the ref. It wasn’t intimidating in my opinion but loud. With 20 minutes to go Stoke got back to 3-2 and gave us a few nervy moments but we held on for another great away win. The facilities here were reasonable enough, nothing spectacular but adequate. Didn’t even see a steward during the game and there were no problems.
In the 89th minute the guy sitting next to me made me crack up. His tactical knowledge was brilliant and kept shouting out crazy things. He was adamant Paddy Kenny should be substituted because he kicked the ball out too quickly – hilarious! I think he missed 2 of our goals and was wearing an all brown 2-piece hoody tracksuit. Neil Warnock be ready – this guy wants your job!

6. Comment on getting away from the ground after the game:
There was a little bit of a queue trying to get away from the stadium, probably took half hour to reach the main road leading to the motorway. Luckily though ‘we parked on the Brow of the kerb!’. We were all in good spirits (even the Charlton fan) after they won too. Took two and half hours to get back home with no hassle either way on the motorway. One thing I did find a bit poor was the policing on leaving the ground. As you come out of the away fans section there were stewards and police for 100 yards going both ways along the road about 2 metres apart. Once you pass this stretch of police/stewards there was nothing anywhere else. So making your way back to the car park or around the ground you were really exposed to the home fans where anything could kick-off but I didn’t see any trouble.

7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out
Any Premier league away win is brilliant and enjoyable. The game was very entertaining and end-to-end but at 3-1 I was confident we would keep hold of the 3 points. It wasn’t a game I was overly excited about going to, kind of a routine away day really. It’s a stadium with a good atmosphere like your attending a proper football match, unlike our trips to Fulham and Wigan this season (which felt like entering Lords Cricket Ground). The locals weren’t exactly welcoming with open arms but this time we didn’t see any problems around the ground. It wouldn’t be a place I would go back to year after year but definitely worth the visit if you haven’t been. The lack of places to drink near the stadium really lets this away day down. Looking forward to our trips to Anfield and the Emirates coming up! You Rs!!!

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