The County Ground
Swindon v Crewe Alexandra
League Two, Saturday, August 6th 2011, 3pm.
By Diana Bowden
1. Why you were looking forward to going to the ground?
I’d been to Swindon with Crewe before and enjoyed my day so I had high hopes this would be the same.
2. How easy was your journey/finding the ground/car parking?
Took the train down from Crewe and it is a long one. Got to Swindon easy enough and the ground is easily spotted from the station. I didn’t come by car but a fellow fan who did bemoaned the £10 car parking charge at the cricket ground.
3. What you did before the game pub/chippy.... home fans friendly?
Me and my mate went and grabbed some food in town first then headed towards the ground. After a toss up between the cricket ground bar and the pub we settled for the latter. The pub in question is the Merlin and is very easily located from the ground. Be prepared to be ID’d by both the door man and the staff at the bar. Your also best advised to arrive early as the Merlin fills up with home fans quite quickly. I kept my club colours covered up just in case and whilst the atmosphere wasn’t intimidating, it wasn’t overly friendly either. We then got some cheap and cheerful food from a kiosk outside the stadium.
4. What you thought on seeing the ground, first impressions of away end then other sides of the ground?
The County Grounds most noticeable feature is its four massive floodlights that can be seen for miles around. In the modern era of floodlights along the roof of stands floodlights like the ones at Swindon are a dying breed. It’s a big ground by League Two standards but the away end is easy to find. We had to buy tickets first then go to a separate turnstile to get in. Why we couldn’t pay on the gate I don’t know.
The away end is quite spacious if you have a modest following, but for bigger away crowds the concourse could become very cramped. The view from the away end is fine but is hindered to your right by a pole, which lets it down. The seats are also wooden which is a shame as the rest of the stadium has plastic seats.
5. Comment on the game itself, atmosphere, stewards, pies, toilets etc..
The stewards for some reason felt the need to really box us in, we only had a small following of just over 300 but they only gave us 1 ½ blocks and about 20 rows. It made things very cramped and some fans had a few problems with one of the stewards, I think for swearing. The game wasn’t too bad from a Crewe perspective in the first half, but a stupid error by one of our defenders led to the ref giving a penalty and low and behold we went in 1-0 down.
The toilets were average and again with a bigger away following things could get very claustrophobic. There was only 1 kiosk for fans to get food and drink, but it was more than adequate for us. 2nd half and we don’t turn up, concede 2 more and it finishes a comfortable 3-0 win for the home side.
6. Comment on getting away from the ground after the game:
Got away no problem and we were at the station within 10 minutes.
7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out:
In summary a decent day out result aside. The price to get in was a scandalous £25, which for a cramped away end, with wooden seats and a pole to hinder your view is stupid. The stewards were unfriendly and the decision to box us in was even dafter.
Overall I’d say the day out was a 6/10. Good location, good pubs, good food (outside the ground and in town), but the away end, whilst being fine for us, would struggle with bigger followings and there isn’t any real value for your £25. I would go again, but only if they lowered the price of entry.
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