The Walkers Stadium - Leicester City
Guess whose back, back again…… No not Eminem but the Fear Factor feature with a whole new 20 grounds to guide, advise and take you to. It would have been easier to stay in the 3rd division (old money) and dust off last season`s efforts but who couldn`t say that they aren`t looking forward to visiting some 'old friends`. There will be the 2 derbies that everyone will be looking out for, but they`ll both be out of the way by Xmas, and the season won`t even be halfway through by then. There are some 'massive` teams in this division, and one thing we will notice straight away, the prices charged will make all the moaning about going to Swindle`s ground seem like a long distant memory.
How ironic that we begin the season with a ground that we have visited in recent seasons on our cup exploits. A draw and a narrow defeat in these visits must leave Pool fans with the thought -'3rd time lucky?' One things for certain when your stuck in the traffic jam that is the Walkers Stadium at 1700hrs on Saturday night you`ll have plenty of time to reflect on what the seasons going to throw at us before you get anywhere near the M6 heading home.
How to get there
By car, say hello to the M6, head south to J15 when we cross in to Stow ke territory. The A500 / A50 takes you to the M1 J23 again head south. Leave at J21. At the roundabout take the 1st exit onto the A5460 (signposted Leicester). Then take the 1st exit onto the A5460 (signposted Leicester). Continue forward (signposted Outer Ring, Leicester South and East), at the traffic signals continue forward, continue forward onto Soar Valley Way - A563. (Entering Leicester) At traffic lights continue forward, (signposted Outer Ring, Leicester South), and at the traffic lights turn right onto the A426. At traffic lights turn left onto Raw Dykes Road (signposted Walkers Stadium) At roundabout take the 1st exit, your there! Now comes the fun part - finding somewhere to park. It`s a nightmare. We`ve previously parked near the retail park opposite the away end, clamper city and a fiver to park IF you can get in. A big crowd is expected on Saturday, my advice park up where you can and take the shanks` pony to the ground.
The train station is a 20-25minute walk away, so they tell me - 'Come out of the station, cross the road in front of the station and proceed to the left. Follow this round to the right and now you are walking with the main Central Ring Road (Waterloo Way) on your left. Keep this to your left as the pavement becomes a separate path and the road sinks down into a dip down to your left. A quick left and right to stay on the pathway as it crosses New Walk and you go down the left hand side of New Walk Museum. The pathway rejoins the main road as pavement again and you see a small recreation ground (Nelson Mandela Park) on your right. Turn right into Lancaster Rd and then cross the park to the crossings over the main road by the public lavatories. Head for the Victory pub opposite (not recommended for away fans), turn left across the front of the Leicester Royal infirmary. First right into Walnut St and you can see the stadium behind the old Filbert Street ground'.
I have been to the Walkers 3 times in recent years, twice to see the Pool and once to see them play Leeds on the last day of the season. It`s an impressive stadium, no doubt the hunting bugle will be blown full pelt for opening day. Having sampled their hospitality in the "Shipman suite" - no it wasn`t a visit to die for, the away seating pales in to insignificance. That said it`s still not a bad view. We`ll be penned in the corner with room for just over 3000. Sales aren`t at the fever pitch levels expected and I`m hoping for around the 2000 figure will travel. Recently we took 3000 then 8 months later 300 I know which made for the better atmosphere for us. We can really make some noise here.
The stadium does look impressive, queues for drinks inside were long, and if I remember rightly they didn`t serve beer at half time.
There`s a bookies for the bets - 35/1 Peter Clarke first scorer please = kerching for many of us on that FA Cup day.
It`s a complete ground and certainly up to Premiership standards. Capacity of 32000 it won`t be far off for the opening game of the Mandarich era. The first game of Mad Dog`s reign, oh, how he loves us, wonder if he`ll take the players off this time if it`s going belly up for him like he did at Bloomers a couple of years ago?
Where to drink
In the FA Cup we ended in some pub up one of the roads away from the ground which made Rotherham not appear quite so bad. On my last visit I came in from Northants so I drunk on the other side of town. Generally around the ground all pubs are 'homers` -as the stadium is 15 -20 minute walk from the town centre I presume most fans will end up drinking ale inside the ground. The Counting House is considered a pub where fans can generally mix, and The Leicester gateway near the hospital also accommodates away fans.
Plod & Stewards
I personally found the stewarding to be completely over the top when we last visited. Whether this was a follow up to the previous cup game, when the Muckers made one of their first shows to the
Leicester BFS I`m unsure, but it was a case of sit down shut up, and they literally carried one fan down and out for smoking in the seats.
Despite my normal placid restrained self I was visually confronted for the whole game by 2 stewards who appeared itching to have a piece of my SI jumper, whilst I was still in it. They satisfied themselves by taking on an OAP complete in her home knitted tangerine cardi who, wait for it, dared to cross the concourse to speak to someone in the disabled section. They even attempted to take my mobile off me, quoting "you can`t film that". Having spoken casually to the OB I found them much more relaxed, but they appeared to be guided by the stewards to take on the tastier of our fans in a joint operation.
Fear Factor rating - 6
Hopefully a relaxing visit on our opening game back in the promised-land. There`s no love lost between the 2 sets of fans, as after our last big turnout here there was trouble both during and after the game. I expect the policing + stewarding to be of an energetic nature, let`s hope the result at least puts a smile and not a scowl on our faces.
Onwards + Upwards