Ground Guide: Stoke City
The Britannia Stadium - Stoke City
Over the years there's been some real hum dingers between us and the team from the Potteries. I remember them setting fire to the advertising hoarding on the Kop many moons ago and only last year Pool went down to a last kick of the game heart break defeat in the Carling Cup, that despite the home team missing a penalty and being reduced to 10 men.
One thing will always bind us together - Sir Stanley. It could be said that Stoke lay their claim to the world's greatest player more than us, they even have the statue outside the ground but he'll always be remembered for 'that game' despite making almost 400 appearances for the Tangerines. What either team would give for a player of that caliber now.
How to get there:
Take the M55, M6 South. Leave the 6 at J15 and go straight across the roundabout onto the A500 towards Stoke. Continue along the A500 passing over the junction with the A34. Leave the A500 at the next slip road following signs for the A50 towards Derby. Turn right at the next roundabout and then move into the left hand lane and then onto the slip road. You can see the stadium over on your right. Turn right at the top of the slip road and then right at the next roundabout for the stadium.
For the sat navvers amongst us - ST4 4EG.
For the Virgin lovers - The ground is a good 2 mile + trek from the station. My advice get a joey, but if walking deep in Staffordshire bandit territory appeals to you then turn right from the station and head down Station Road. At the lights, turn right along Leek Road (A52), under the railway line and then left down on to the tow path of the Trent & Mersey Canal. Follow the tow path all the way until you are level with the stadium, where two footbridges take you over the canal and then the railway line, straight into the ground near the South Stand away end.
The Britannia Stadium replaced the not so friendly Victoria Ground in the summer of 1997 thus ending a 119 years relationship.
At a cost of £15million pounds the capacity has been slightly reduced since their promotion to the Premiership due to segregation behind the goal.
The land for the Britannia was formerly owned by the National Coal Board and operated as Hem Heath Colliery until its closure in the early 1990's and along with the Trentham Lakes site, the whole area now employs more people than it did when it was the colliery.
Ironically the first competitive game played at the stadium was a Carling Cup game against Rochdale, which ended in a 1-1 draw.
The L-shaped Boothen and East Stands cover the north and east sides of the stadium and hold a total number of 6,006 and 8,789 supporters respectively.
The main West stand is a two-tier construction seating over 7,357 fans as well as hosting the media and main hospitality areas.
We'll be sat behind a goal in the South Stand. There is room for 4,996 supporters but as this area has become segregated to accommodate home fans too overall capacity has dropped by almost 900 to 27500. The view from the stand, if you get up high enough, is pretty decent. Despite this weekend being the historical worst for football attendances I'm surprised it's gone to POTG.
Where to drink:
Like many of today's new grounds there are not too many 'away friendly' pubs within easy reach due to its location. There is a Harvester which is close to the stadium which allows away fans in, there is also a local Power league 5-a-side complex which has a bar in and allows away fans in. About a 5 minute drive from the ground is a retail estate - Festival Park, on the left as you leave the motorway and approach the ground (cinema / Quasar / Pizza Hut etc) which has a family carvery pub near the canal - The China Garden otherwise ale is on sale within the ground.
Plod + Stewards:
Nothing to recall from the stewards following our recent visits to the Britannia. This will be considered a relatively low key affair for the OB as it's become a bit of a love in between us over the last couple of seasons.
Fear Factor rating - 5
Last week's postponement allowed the Mighty to relax before the festive period's hectic schedule of games. Stoke are a team that are becoming harder to beat but Saturday presents possibly our best opportunity to pick up some points over the next 3 weeks. Holloway and Pullis are the best of friends but here's hoping come 5pm on Saturday that it's the Mighty that Sir Stanley has smiled upon and it's us who are stood there laughing, ha ha ha ha.
Altogether now, you'll never score from a throw in...
Onwards + Upwards.