Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Ground 123: Pirelli Stadium, Burton Albion

Nigel Clough, a Conference title and two FA Cup third round ties against Manchester United might have put Burton Albion on the football map but the town itself will always be synonymous with beer. Bass Pale Ale, Worthington's Bitter, Carling Black Label, Marston's, Burton Bridge and, erm, Coors / Moulson. Coming out of the tiny train station the first things we saw were massive metal fermentation vessels. The second was a group of Oxford fans. “You got the flags?” asked one. “No, but I’ve got all the poles,” replied another. They went left for the stadium; we turned right for the pubs.

First impressions of the Pirelli Stadium? Grey

The air had the smell of beer lorry fumes, malt and hops but the only pub we could find anywhere near the ground was the Great Northern, where we drank Burton Bridge Bitter while watching Newcastle lose to Rangers on a big screen. We searched for somewhere else to drink (“That’s one up there, isn’t it?” “Nah, it’s a tile warehouse”) but gave up at two o’clock and headed for the ground instead. “"Where you from lads?" asked the steward. "Will you be supporting Oxford at all?" There was a car park on two sides, a housing estate on another, and warehouses and factories everywhere else you looked. Except for the red brick exterior, the stadium had been done out entirely in grey: grey crash barriers on grey concrete steps, grey breeze block walls, grey floodlight pylons, grey loudspeakers by grey metal posts.

We went straight to the bar, drinking Worthington’s Bitter from plastic glasses that were impossible to pick up without slopping beer over the sides, and doing our very best not to listen to a woman who could loosely be described as a singer whipping the crowd into a frenzy of mild applause – “This next one’s My Girl, I’d love to hear you singing”, “Come on Burton, show ‘em how it’s done”, “Sing it!”

Those flags

The entertainment was no better after three o’clock. Burton had the impressive Darren Moore, ex- of Derby and the Premier League, in defence and a new goalkeeper from Crewe (“Good kick, keeper” and “Look at the kick on him,” admired the man on the step behind), but the afternoon’s only show of creativity came from the Oxford fans behind the far goal, who unveiled giant Oxford and The Resurrection flags before kick-off (looks like those poles came in handy after all) to mark their team’s return to the league. There were chances at neither end until just after the hour mark when a Burton player blazed a shot wildly over from the edge of the six-yard box. “How the hell did he miss that?” someone asked. Like a goal or an accurate cross, the answer never came.

Entrance: £13 (standing)

Date: 7th August 2010

The new stadium in the middle of nowhere look.

Yellow, Yellow

The Burton Ultras in reflective pose

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