Stoke City
The Britannia Stadium


Ground No. 40
Visited - Sunday 16th May 2004
Result - Shrewsbury Town 1-1 Aldershot Town AET (Shrewsbury win 3-0 on pens)
Competition - Nationwide Conference Play-Offs (Final)
Attendance - 19,216

With so much resting on this game, it was guaranteed as being one not to miss for the neutrals, never mind for the fans of each club. Also with the Britannia having a ‘less than savoury’ reputation, this was perhaps the best game to take it in as part of the 92 instead of as an away fan. 
Getting tickets was surprisingly easy, and the attendance of a little over 19,000 suggested that both clubs could have done better to promote the game, even though 13,000 of that was Shrewsbury fans!

You would think that with a major sporting event taking place at the ground, the local authorities and club would try to make extra arrangements to the usual reduced public travel on a Sunday, however this wasn’t to be, and the busses from the train station to the stadium were infrequent, and poorly advertised. With this, we decided to take the long hike down there. We did get lost on a couple of occasions, but the locals were helpful in providing us with directions, and being in no real rush we managed to make it taking us around about an hour to get down there.  

Despite the long (and very hot) walk, we had probably chosen the right option, as the queues on the dual carriageway next to the ground were horrendous, and especially in the heat of one of the hottest days of the year, public transport (or in this case, lack of it) was probably the right option to choose.

Due to knowing it was a long walk, we were in that type of situation where you know that there’s more than enough time to get to the ground, yet not quite enough time to stop in a pub or anything, so we made our way directly down there, and milled around the ground beforehand taking in the atmosphere. With this being a neutral game, there were of course no home fans, so despite a heavy police presence there wasn’t really an air of trouble.
We came to the ground from the opposite side of the A50, so although when you enter Stoke towards the city centre the ground looks to be on top of a hill, we actually descended down onto it.

The outside of the ground isn’t one I would tend to like, being very bland, and done almost on the cheap, but with the area you walk through being rather run down, and with not much in the area directly around it, it does tend to stand out, and look an impressive sight in among the hills.

Whenever Wolves aren’t playing, I try to pop along to the Gay Meadow, and so although being semi-neutral, it was a natural decision to support Shrewsbury, and because of this we were sat in the Sentinel Stand, and had a good view of the action, the ground was a good size, with the impressive John Smiths Stand opposite, but the 3 open corners really don’t do it any favours, although again, not being a fan of the bland ‘bowl’ type stadiums, I think that design would vastly improve the overall look and feel of the ground.
The facilities were as expected with a new stadium, although I did think that the concourse underneath the seats was unusually cramped for a stand of that size, but couldn’t really have any moans about that, or the stewards on hand in the stadium, who seemed generally quite helpful.

The game was very tense, with neither side looking to stretch themselves too much. Aldershot scored first, and were looking like they would capitalise on the game, but Shrewsbury got back into it with a scrambled goal from Duane Darby just before half-time.

The second half was much the same as the first, but without the goals, Shrewsbury probably had the better chances, but like their fans on the atmosphere front, Aldershot really dominated. With the 90 minutes up, the game went into Silver-goal extra time. If we thought the game had been tense up until then, then it doubled in the anxiety stakes. Id managed to get along to the semi-final second leg versus Barnet, which after Shrewsbury had levelled the tie with winning the game 1-0 we thought that the 5-3 penalty win was exciting as it gets, but this game was to beat even that.

Like in normal time, neither side really went for it, but for the first time in the game, Shrewsbury really started to capitalise on their opponents, with Aldershot starting to tire. Again there were no goals and it went to penalties. Shrewsbury were to go first, and the penalties were due to be taken at the opposite end of the ground to us, in front of the Boothen End (or as it was renamed for the day- The ‘Shrew’-then End!). Up first was Luke Rodgers, this was a banker, having scored the penalty goal in the semi-final and subsequently scoring a penalty in the shoot-out there was no way he would miss. So up he steps, and bang, apparently its still in orbit to this day! Oh dear, its all gone wrong, so up steps the Aldershot player, against hope of all hopes, Scott Howie guesses the right way and dives to save it, brilliant, back in it! Jamie Tolley stepped up next, and buried it with no problems, back in front, easy! The next Aldershot player came, and Howie saves again, 1-0, in front, brilliant! Jake Sedgemore (someone who I used to go to school with) had no problems in making it 2-0 to Shrewsbury, before Howie made it 3 in a row, with yet another save. Ex-Telford full-back Trevor Challis was the man given the responsibility to win it, and he had no problem in securing a swift return to the Football League, so from the initial disaster of Luke Rodgers miss, Scott Howie had been instrumental in securing the overall victory for Town.

It was hard on Aldershot, whose team had probably been the better overall, and indeed the clubs fans had been magnificent with non-stop singing throughout the game, drowning out Shrewsbury fans who were there in twice as many numbers.

Getting away from the game wasn’t too bad, of course staying behind to celebrate had given the Aldershot and neutral fans the opportunity to get away, so it was no problem leaving. Once more there was no public transport, but walking was still the preferable option with the traffic queues around the ground being horrendous again.

Overall it had been a very good day out, a tense, but good game and the joyous outcome for my adopted team had meant it was certainly better than having a typical boring Sunday doing nothing!

Football is of course full of coincidences, and with this being the last game and ground of the 2003/04 season that I went to, perhaps unsurprisingly Wolves were drawn away to Stoke for the first day of 2004/05! In all honesty its not a ground I will look forward to going to as an away fan, even with there being no sense of trouble from Aldershot fans, the ground itself, and the surrounding area has an aura of a place that you wouldn’t really want to be and stand out as not being a Stoke supporter, but as a neutral its definitely worth a trip, although probably one of the less memorable ones of the 92.

Ground No. 40 (return visit)
Visited - Saturday 24th September 2005
Result - Stoke City 1-3 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Competition - Coca Cola Championship
Attendance - 18,183

In the days leading up to this game I was in two minds whether to go, with not really being able to sum up much enthusiasm about either watching Wolves, or returning to a venue that I’d visited twice previously without really growing to like, but in the end, I decided to go for it, and so set off relatively early on the Saturday morning for the trip northwards. 

The journey didn’t take long, just over half an hour from Wolverhampton, arriving into Stoke-on-Trent at about 10:30am. As with most grounds, I’d wanted to be here early to take pictures, so after a fair walk down to the ground, via the local canal (makes a change!), I arrived to find the familiar site of the Britannia Stadium perched on top of the hill, looking down to the city around it.

After finding an open gate, I managed to get in past the stewards, and had enough time to go the entire way around the ground, taking my time to cover every angle, from the smart looking John Smiths Stand, to the rather unoriginal Boothen End/Sentinel Stand. Whilst going around, what was quite an odd site to see was a large number of policemen lining up in front of an empty South Stand, practising holding back an invisible crowd!

Unlike on my other two visits, this was the first time that I had had the opportunity to walk around the entire stadium, and although not the most original, I did find myself growing to like it somewhat, although as I’d noticed last season, when sitting in a different stand from my first visit, it does look a lot better from the Boothen End, compared to where the visitors sit in the South Stand. For what reason, I’m unable to say really, but somehow it just seems better there.

After finally leaving the ground, I went back into Stoke town centre for a few hours, making sure to have a quick look at the former site of the Victoria Ground, which sadly stands quite desolate these days. Once it was gone 2pm though, it was time to head back to Stoke’s current home.

After getting through the turnstiles, I eventually found my seat, which offered quite a good view, directly behind the goal, and a good height up.

When the game got started, both teams immediately went for each other, and the home side had a good case for a penalty early on, when Gabor Gyepes made a clumsy challenge on Stoke striker, Sidibe. We soon began to dominate though, as Stoke started to sit back deeper and deeper, and despite missing several good chances, we eventually took the lead 3 minutes before the break, when Seol put in a good cross to Carl Cort who had an easy tap-in to put us 1-0 up.

In the second half, it didn’t take us long to score once more, and it was once again from the right, Seol, who crossed the ball, this time to Kenny Miller, who got a slight header on it, to direct it past the oncoming Simonsen. It wasn’t all Wolves though, and Stoke had a golden chance to get back in the game when one of their players broke through into the box, but ballooned it high over the bar, leaving the score at 2-0. That wasn’t to last though, and in the 73rd minute, Lee Naylor made it 3, when he curled home a beautiful free-kick from all of 30 yards, over the wall and into the top left hand corner of the goal. After that, the game petered out somewhat, and although the result was secured, it was slightly annoying when the defence let Lewis Buxton in, to head home from a corner in injury time. Buoyed by this, the hosts did seem to have found an urgency to get something out of the game, but sadly for them, they had left it too late, and the referee finally blew his whistle to indicate a relatively easy win for Wolves in the Staffordshire derby.

Throughout the game, despite the attendance being below 20,000 (not really helped by a poor following from ourselves), the atmosphere was fairly good, with several renditions of Delilah quickly drowned out by the jubilant away fans, who were in a good mood after a rare win on the road.

Coming out of the ground wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences, despite a heavy police presence, there were plenty of Burberry clad idiots hanging around looking for trouble, and coming out of the pen, (where the police suddenly disappeared!) having to keep your eyes open and quickly try and merge into the crowd wasn’t easy, but thankfully I managed to get away, and back to the station for the train home.

Overall, it was quite a good trip, which I was glad that I decided to make in the end. The ground was better than I had remembered it, and it was certainly good to get the opportunity to go all around beforehand. As for the game, well, it was the best that Wolves had played in quite a while, beating a Stoke side who were higher in the table than us with relative ease. Despite the threatening atmosphere outside of the ground, Stoke isn’t too bad a place to go to, and no doubt I’ll end up there again sooner rather than later.

Welcome to the Britannia Stadium

Rear of the South Stand

Rear of the Main Stand

Main Reception

The Ticket Office

The Club Shop

The Sir Stanley Matthews Statue

Plaque on the Statue

Rear of the Boothen End

Rear of the Sentinel Stand

The South Stand

The Main Stand

The Boothen End

The Main Stand

The Sentinel Stand

The Main Stand

The Boothen End

The Sentinel Stand

The Britannia Stadium Panoramic 1

The Britannia Stadium Panoramic 2

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