Derby County
Pride Park

Ground No. 14 (return visit)
Visited - Monday 13th April 2009
Result - Derby County 2-3 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Competition - Coca-Cola Championship
Attendance - 33,079

Formed in 1884, along with Wolves, Derby were one of the founder members of the Football League and after Albion, the club who we’ve played the most, 143 times in all. The first fixture between the two sides was way back in November 1888, a game Wolves won 4-1 at the old Dudley Road ground, and coincidentally that’s the same scoreline as when I first visited Pride Park just short of 114 years later.

Opened in 1997, the ground is one that regularly seems to come in for criticism, written off as one the new breed of generic bowls, but I’ve always quite liked it, feeling that it has a bit more class to it than its clone up on Teeside. It had been a while since my last visit, so with Wolves doing well in the league, then I decided to complete a ‘hat-trick’ for the venue and make my third trip there, circling the Easter Monday fixture.

There were three of us travelling, and the talk on the train journey was just how significant a result could be. Having beaten Southampton on Good Friday, then results in the other games had all gone our way, and whilst we couldn’t achieve promotion, things could certainly take a huge leap forward if we could gain three points. After arriving in Derby, we quickly found a pub called The Station, and settled down to a few drinks before the police came in just before 2pm to round all the fans up! They were forming a cordon outside to march away supporters up to the ground, but it’s fair to say it wasn’t the best operation in the world. After walking out the pub we merely walked the opposite way and round the corner before making our own way with absolutely no hint of trouble, despite fans mixing all the way up on the walk to the ground. 

Situated on the edge of an industrial estate/retail park, then the first impression of the ground is how grey it is. The Main Stand has a nice finish to it with the cladding, but the other three sides are more akin to the generic bowls that it receives the criticism for. Since my last visit, then there had been some attempts to spruce it up, with some writing on the outside having been added and the steelwork painted to represent the clubs colours, but no major changes, except for the unusual sight at a football ground of a Starbucks outlet situated in one of the corners. You somehow struggle to image that having fitted in with the image of the clubs former Baseball Ground home (although maybe there’s a tenuous American link going on!) Having had a quick look round, then we made our way in. We were in the same stand as before, although unlike last time, away fans had been shoved up the one side of the South Stand to accommodate the increased number of home supporters. It’s the reverse situation of previously when the club moved home fans to give us extra tickets such was the demand, yet refused us any more this time around. A compliment perhaps on the way their fanbase has held up following relegation. As with the outside, then segregation policies aside, nothing has changed inside the ground. Three sides are still single tier stands split over two levels, whilst the Main Stand to our left is a larger two tiered stand with executive boxes in the middle and a corner section of more boxes at the far end, which nicely breaks up the bowl.

Going into the game, County had little to play for. Whilst not safe from the drop, relegation was unlikely, but even so, new manager Nigel Clough was still looking for a result, and the opening to the game was frantic, both sides going close before Andy Keogh opened the scoring in just the seventh minute. A long and high ball forward had found him battling with Derby defender Martin Albrechtsen, before the ball dropped favourably and he lashed it home on the volley to make it 1-0. There were more chances to be had, before the home side eventually started to take a grip on the game, gaining the equaliser on the half hour mark. A soft free-kick had been awarded on the edge of the box, and Przemyslaw Kazmierczak (try saying that after a few drinks!), curled it home beautifully into the bottom corner beyond Wayne Hennessey. Mile Sterjovski (whatever happened to English names!) gave the hosts the lead after the break, and the game was looking all theirs until against the run of play we made it 2-2 in the 73rd minute. Kyle Reid had put a poor cross into the box, but despite bobbling along the floor, it went past no less than 8 Derby defenders before Matt Jarvis strolled in at the back past, running past a stationary, ball watching Gary Teale to slide in for the goal. The hosts had chances to win it, but with just three minutes left then a superb break down the right from Marlon Harewood on the counter attack saw him cross the ball into the centre where Keogh was unmarked to grab his second of the afternoon and see the visiting section erupt. There was only going to be one winner after that and with Sheffield United, Birmingham and Reading all drawing, then it left us 7 points clear with three games to go and virtually promoted.

After leaving, the party was continued back in the Brunswick (a great pub), before catching the train home having enjoyed the day out.

The ground, whilst not what you’d call a classic, really is my favourite of the new ones, the black seats and black/white boards that separate the two levels all the way round really give it a touch of class that the others lack. It was Graham Taylor who ordered adverts ripped down from Villa’s old Trinity Road Stand, claiming they defaced the pride of the club, and it seems like Derby, intentionally or not, have followed a similar line here (a Taylor Report we can all enthuse about!). The only real downside to the ground is the location. If it was more central, then it would perhaps have everything, but that aside, I’ll be glad to come back another time, especially given the value for money having seen 16 goals in the three games here!  

Welcome to Pride Park

Rear of the West Stand

One on every corner...

Rear of the North Stand

The Club Shop

Rear of the East Stand

The West Stand

The North Stand

The East Stand

Never in doubt!

To keep a grounds theme... look at the, erm, club coloured panels!

The West Stand

The North Stand

The South Stand

Pride Park Panoramic 1

Pride Park Panoramic 2

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