Manchester City
The City of Manchester Stadium

Ground No. 37
Visited - Saturday 10th April 2004
Result - Manchester City 3-3 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Competition - FA Barclaycard Premier League
Attendance - 47,428

I'd been quite looking forward to going to this ground after seeing pictures of it, so was quick in making sure that I got tickets, which seemed to be the same as everyone, as it sold out within a couple of hours. The tickets themselves were a new experience, being made out of plastic and looking like a credit card, this was to be the first time that I would use this type of pass.

We caught the train up to the ground, but because there were no seats we had to stand in the luggage compartment, however, having had to do the same thing for the journey to the Play-Off final, we were hoping that it was a sign that we would eventually get our first away win of the season!

Before too long we arrived in Manchester and left the station trying to find a pub. Unfortunately we ended up walking around for a while, as most of them had signs saying either ‘No Football Fans’ or ‘Home fans Only’, but we eventually came across one near the cathedral and spent a couple of hours in there before finally getting a taxi up to the ground.

After leaving the taxi I met up with a city fan I knew and bought a fanzine from him in the process, and after a brief chat went into the ground. From the outside it looks quite good, but once inside it really is amazing. I was sat at the top of the lower tier, just under the overhang and had a great of view of the pitch and stadium. Looking around, you can't describe the ground as four individual stands, as they really are just one great stadium, from the high points on the two sides, to the opposite end that curves round it is probably the best domestic ground in the country and is certainly a ground that the City fans can be proud of.

The game started and before long Mark Kennedy scored a cracker against his old team, before Carl Cort scrambled one over the line, the atmosphere in the Wolves end was brilliant, we were totally dominating and deservedly leading the game. Unfortunately though, due to the incompetence of our defence, we managed to let City pull two back before half time and so that put a bit of a downer on the mood. In the second half, we came out again and Henri Camara managed to continue his impression of being a good player by putting us ahead early on. A short while afterwards he won a dubious penalty, only for Colin Cameron to give David James an easy save. It didn’t seem to matter too much, as we were on the up and City were looking pretty dire. The game went on, and we were looking good for the first away win of the season when from out of nowhere the referee produced 3 minutes injury time. Of course rather predictably City went on to score in the final seconds. It was heartbreaking stuff, and so typical of our season. We deserved to have won the game, yet opportunities thrown away such as the penalty, and decisions going against us in the 3 minutes that were given when they never should have been summed it all up. We had had no luck all season and it should only have been expected that this game wouldn’t have been any different, I know that you have to make your own luck, but sometimes whether it's poor referees or decisions that go against you, every team needs just that little bit of luck and we were having none of it.  

After leaving the ground we walked back to the station, and drowned our sorrows in a pub nearby before getting the train south. Overall what was literally seconds away from being a brilliant day was turned into a bit of a disappointment, but it was still nice going to the ground, as it really is a superb stadium, second only to the Millennium Stadium, which it was noted that the two best football grounds in the country weren’t built by football clubs for the sole intention of being football grounds, which is perhaps something to be thought about for future stadium projects.

Ground No. 37 (return visit)
Visited - Sunday 12th February 2006
Result - Manchester City 3-2 Charlton Athletic
Competition - FA Barclays Premier League
Attendance - 41,347

Just after Christmas I’d been looking through the fixtures and had seen that this game had been moved to a Sunday, so with no away trips planned for nearly a month in between Carlisle (the 4th of February) and Hull (the 25th of February), I half-planned a trip back to COMS to see the ground that I’d remembered as being the best in the country. Unfortunately, in the weeks running up to the game, I’d changed my mind and decided to save the money and use it elsewhere to get another ground done, but come the morning of the game, sitting around with the prospect of another dull Sunday doing nothing in particular, I made the snap decision to go for it, and so after checking to see if tickets were available, it was a bit of a rush to get ready and out up to the train station to catch a train northwards.

The journey didn’t take long, and despite a bit of a delay between Wolverhampton and Stafford, we arrived into Manchester just a few minutes late, with about 1½ hours to spare until kick-off, so off I went, leaving the station and going straight down to the ground, walking the familiar route through the back streets before reaching the Ashton New Road, which led to the ground itself.

Unfortunately it had started to pour with rain, and with overcast skies it wasn’t the best of conditions to be taking pictures in, but nonetheless I went off around the ground, stopping off to buy a ticket on the way, and to go into the club shop, firstly to buy a badge and programme, and secondly to take a respite from the rain!

Last time I came here, I hadn’t really had much of a chance to look around the outside of the ground, so a lot of it was new to me, and so I was slightly disappointed to see the rather grey, moody appearance of the exterior. It has been noted by City fans about the lack of club signs/colours around, and unfortunately it is something that somewhat detracts from the ground, and although that does make it quite unique, it isn’t really something you would like to see more of in football. For the design itself, the curves and dips are impressive, however it is a ground that looks a lot better from a distance than close up, especially with the roof supports that you can’t quite appreciate, or see the full effect of whilst walking around the outside. One new feature was the ‘B of the Bang’ statue that had been erected near to the away end. Again, this probably looks better from a distance (certainly as you come into Piccadilly station on the train), but despite the critical reviews I’d seen of it, I did quite like it. It was different and although nothing to do with the football club, it did help add to the stadium.

Having taken enough pictures of the outside, I eventually went in to escape the rain. Due to the process of having to sign up for a fans card before getting the tickets, I’d decided to simply go in the away end and avoid all that hassle. Although my seat number was near to where I was before, due to Charlton only travelling in small numbers it was possible to sit anywhere in the away end, so after having taken some pictures of the inside, I found a good spot and settled down to read the programme, which had a number of interesting articles in to keep the neutrals interested prior to kick-off.

By the time the players had come out, the ground had filled up, however like with the away end there were a number of spaces around the ground, which was sad to see, especially as it had been full on my previous visit, but sitting close to the City fans the atmosphere was good, and despite a small area of segregation (we were actually using the same staircase to get in and out, bar a couple of stewards in between the two sets of fans), there was never a hint of trouble throughout the game.

The game had been billed as a clash between two potential England managers (Stuart Pearce and Alan Curbishley), and it was Pearce who looked to have got the better of his counterpart with a bright start from City, who went close on 5 minutes with Andy Cole forcing a corner from the visitors. With Charlton limited to counter attacks, it was no surprise when the hosts took the lead halfway through the first half. From another corner, the ball eventually came out to Richard Dunne, who hit it home from the edge of the area, making it 1-0. Charlton did have their chances, and they could have equalised about 10 minutes later when Marcus Bent aimed a shot just wide of the post, but with City finishing the half the dominant side, they were looking good for their one goal advantage at the break.

In the second half, Alan Curbishley had obviously had words with his team, and Charlton came out fighting, taking the game to the home side. With just five minutes gone after the restart they were on level terms after a break down the right side resulted in a cross into the box where the other Bent, Darren, was unmarked and able to poke it home from close range. Undeterred by this setback, Pearce, in typical style drove his team forward, and just three minutes later they were back in front, when following a cross into the box Georgios Samaras rose to head home, giving Thomas Myhre no chance. Ten minutes later, and even the Charlton fans were applauding when City made it 3-1, after a wonder goal from Joey Barton. The action didn’t stop there though, and with the City fans still celebrating that goal, Charlton pulled one back, after more good wing play by the visitors resulted in a good cross for Marcus Bent to head home. With both teams on the up, either side could have scored next after numerous chances to score, but the game eventually finished 3-2 with City deserving of the win.

Throughout, there had been a good atmosphere from the home fans, although sitting right next to them had helped, Charlton weren’t exactly the loudest of supporters, but as with their reputation, seemed a friendly bunch with no obvious hooligan presence looking to spoil the afternoon for others.

After leaving the ground, it was a fair walk back to the station, in the rain again, before finally catching a train home, which thankfully wasn’t delayed, arriving back in Wolverhampton at 8:30pm.

Overall, I was quite glad that I’d decided to come, the game was one of the best that I’d seen for quite a while, and as for the ground, well it was as good as I’d remembered it with its fluent, curving style really making it stand apart from most other grounds. Without doubt it is easily the best new ground in the country, and certainly up there with others that have been around for much longer. At £23 a ticket, (less than a considerable number of Championship clubs), who says the Premiership isn’t value for money!

Rear of the West Stand

The Club Shop

The North Stand

Main Entrance to the East Stand

Rear of the East Stand

Rear of the South Stand

Rear of the South Stand

The B of the Bang Statue

The West Stand

The North Stand

The East Stand

The East Stand

The North Stand

The West Stand

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