Last night, my friend Tony and I went to the famous Bramall Lane ground to watch our team - Hull City - play Sheffield United in a hotly contested Championship match. Of course it was also a Yorkshire derby.
It would have taken forty minutes to walk from our house to the ground but we went down in Tony's Ford Focus and parked behind the health centre where Shirley used to work. Now we only had a ten minute walk to the stadium which has hosted games since the 1870's. In fact, it is the oldest major stadium in the world still to be hosting professional association football matches. It has been the permanent home of Sheffield United since 1889.
For February, it was a pleasant evening. Balmy temperature and no rain. As we came closer to the ground, the nearby streets were filled with spectators. I bought a programme outside The Railway Hotel for £3.50. Inside that hostelry, United fans were swigging ale down their necks.
We found our way to turnstile number eighteen and queued up. A drug sniffing dog nosed along the line led by a police officer in a dayglo coat and when we reached the head of the queue we were body searched like all other "away" fans. This is something that incenses me but of course I kept my temper in check and endured the indignity. "Home" fans are not searched.
Under the Bramall Lane stand, there's a big lobby area with food and drink concessions and steps leading to allocated blocks. We were in Block 4 which meant we had to head to Gangway G. This involved pushing through two or three thousand other Hull City supporters. They were mostly younger than us and nearly all were male. They were having a wild time singing football songs, chucking beer around and laughing with mates but all Tony and I wanted to do was to make it to our seats. There were no signs of police or club stewards at this juncture and as I pushed my way through the massing fans, I naturally thought about COVID, past restrictions and the infection lottery that is still very much with us. Reaching one's seat at Hull City's MKM Stadium would not require progress through such a crowded bottleneck of supporters.
In England, it has become the custom for visiting supporters to stand up throughout the game even though they would of course be far more comfortable sitting down on their seats. People who wish to sit down - like me and Tony - are forced to stand in order to have sight of events on the pitch.
The floodlights illuminated the scene in a theatrical manner. Emerald green grass like a huge carpet and Sheffield's players in their traditional red and white stripes while our lads wore the famous amber and black of Hull.
Our team played like true Tigers against the mighty Blades who were in The Premiership just last season. They had far more possession and more shots on goal but seemed to lack the vital killer touch. It was as if our goalmouth was surrounded by an invisible force field... They Shall Not Pass! There were 27,000 people there to witness the clash.
We had breakaway opportunities and came close to scoring on three or four occasions but when the referee blew the final whistle the score remained 0-0. I turned to Tony and said, "It feels like a victory!" and he agreed.
Then we made our way back out into the bustling Sheffield night before strolling up Cemetery Road to the health centre. Tony had a ninety minute drive ahead of him - back to his home in East Yorkshire as I made it up to "The Banner Cross" pub just in time for last orders. Though it was an "away" match, it was in fact my only "home" match of the season! Up The Tigers!
I'm not sure I quite understand the reasoning of "home" fans not being searched. I'm assuming the only way to tell a home fan is by the color of clothing or jersey being worn and it would be quite easy for someone up to nefarious intents to simply dress appropriately to avoid being searched. I guess that is why searching is always equal opportunity here in the States.ReplyDelete
I have never understood why people pay good money for a seat at an event and then stand the entire time. I guess that explains why I don't attend such things anymore.
In England fans are segregated at football matches. Anyone found in the wrong end will be ejected from the stadium.Delete
Perhaps I may be a bit of a girl, but that doesn't sound like a particularly pleasant experience to me.ReplyDelete
You are indeed "a bit of a girl" Jasmine because that is your gender!Delete
That photo is spectacular!ReplyDelete
Good that you made it through the crowds without catching a beer shower (I hope?), and of course I hope even more without catching the virus. An event like that is still unthinkable for me; here, everyone is still required to wear masks, and even open-air events are allowed only with about half of their usual capacity of visitors.
From your description, it does indeed sound like a victory for your team, in spite of the 0-0 result.
On reflection, it was the most concerning situation I have been in throughout the pandemic.Delete
The searching of only the away fans is a head scratcher.ReplyDelete
Also at many stadiums there are no body searches at all.Delete
Good to know you made it to the pub for last orders! While not being a football fan, I can appreciate that a draw was better than a lost game.ReplyDelete
I, too, hope that you didn't catch the virus - did you wear a mask or are they not necessary now?
Johnson and his government have ignored "The Science" and have given the green light to abandon masks. I still wear a mask on buses or in the supermarket but nobody was wearing a mask in that crowded area Carol.Delete
Incredible live action photograph YP. It's a wonderful atmosphere at night when the floodlights are shining down on the pitch.ReplyDelete
It's all so very different from a daytime match isn't it?Delete
I'm too old for such shenanigans. But. I have a friend in Phoenix who went with her children and grandchildren to an Arizona Cardinals football game this season and was surprised to find she had to stand, along with everyone else, for the entire game. She did it in spite of her age. She's 90 years old!ReplyDelete
Was it because the mass of supporters wished to stand up or was it that there were no seats? Kudos to that lady!Delete
Ghastly. Wasn't it on tv?ReplyDelete
You cannot beat the thrill of watching big matches live - rather than on a TV screen. It is just not the same.Delete
The whole thing sounds like a nightmare to me but it must feel like a little bit of freedom and normality returning?ReplyDelete
I love football - always have done - but with COVID still around I hated being in that boisterous crowd beneath the stand.Delete
I have no interest in competitive sports but that said I understand and respect others like of sports. So the season has ended and when does it start again? What goes on all summer?ReplyDelete
Pay attention in class Keith! The season has not ended. It ends in May. In the summer break of around eight weeks, players go on holiday then get back into training for the new season.Delete
I think "Home" fans should also be searched. It's unfair that they aren't.ReplyDelete
I agree. Searching seniors seems ludicrous to me.Delete