Rotherham United
Don Valley Stadium

Ground No. 159
Visited - Saturday 9th August 2008
Result - Rotherham United 1-0 Lincoln City
Competition - Coca Cola League 2
Attendance - 4748

Rumblings between Rotherham and the owners of their ground had been going on for a few years over rent and improvements to Millmoor, so in the summer of 2008, when the relationship appeared to go from moody to outright hostile then to the outsider it left the club in an intriguing position, with the threat to move to the nearby Don Valley appearing to be the bluff they needed to reduce the rent. Whether it was just a bluff that was called or not will probably never be known, but the Booth’s weren’t having any of it, and after 101 years at Millmoor the club left the ground and moved across the border into the steel city to add a new ground to the 92.

On a personal level, I was a bit annoyed, having wanted to go back to Millmoor to get some better pictures, but it wasn’t to be, and having completed the 92 four months earlier at the end of 2007/08, then it meant another trip northwards, with the opening game against Lincoln looking quite attractive.

I set out early, leaving Wolverhampton just after 7am, and arriving in Rotherham just after 9:30am after changes in Birmingham and Sheffield. Now that’s not a mis-type, I hadn’t forgotten that they didn’t play there any more, but I had wanted to go to Millmoor to see if there was any chance of getting in to take pictures, but after a quick walk down from the station then the ground wasn’t just closed, but completely boarded up, with access impossible. It was a shame to see, as from the outside it is still obviously a very serviceable ground and the situation seems quite ridiculous really with both sides losing out. With this in mind, after leaving, I set off for the town to spend some time there before going on to Sheffield.

Once back there, the rain that had been drizzling all morning had turned absolutely torrential, so I decided to head up to the ground a bit earlier than planned, with the tram journey taking a little over 10 minutes from the city centre. From the tram stop, then the walk to the ground is quite pleasant, with winding paths taking you up a wooded hill before the stadium eventually emerges beneath you.

From the outside, all that is really visible is the Main Stand, which is quite unique with its yellow metalwork that supports the roof being quite prominent. The turnstiles are on the edge of the site with the ground itself actually set inside with a car park in between. Organisation still seemed a bit chaotic, with most stewards and police standing around not knowing what to expect, but the atmosphere was good and when the gates opened I managed to achieve a notable feat, going through only to be congratulated as being the first person to pay in to watch competitive football at the stadium! Not that I’d planned it, I just wanted to get out of the rain!

Going into the stand, then the first impressions are very positive. From the attractive outside, then the concourse is quite smart, with high roofs and big windows making it feel light and airy. There are also doors on the vomitories, helping make it feel notably warm as well, with no wind blowing through. After going in to the seats though, then this is where the ground starts to become let down.

For most games, then fans will only be taking up the Main Stand, and this day was no exception. The thinking behind it was that it is the only part covered, but what looks like quite an attractively designed roof you soon realise is one that the designer should hang his head in shame for. Firstly it only covers the upper tier and rear parts of the lower tier, not that that’s particularly unusual, but if you look at the pictures then you can see the gaps in the yellow metalwork aren’t covered at all. You wonder how the conversation went when the ground was being designed. 

Architect: I’m going to design a roof for the Main Stand.
Ground owners: Sounds great.
A: It will have a unique look that helps brand the stadium
GO: Excellent
A: It will even be cheap, with the roof material made of Teflon coated glass fibre to cut costs
GO: Fantastic
A: And I’m going to put holes in it from back to front every 20 yards or so
GO: Genius. That won’t defeat the point of it at all.

Unsurprisingly, with the ‘masts’ situated over the gangways then it meant that the first four or five seats at the end of each block had got soaked where the rain had come in, and throughout the match there was a drizzle that affected those of us unlucky enough to be sat in those seats.

Anyway, the rest of the ground is a great design for an athletics stadium, with a single tier of seating running in a bowl effect around the athletics track. The Main Stand has this, but an additional upper tier with the aforementioned roof that is only slightly more useful than a good old chocolate fireguard. At each end of the upper tier is a slight gap and then another upper tier with just a single block of covered seating. Away fans were situated at the Eastern end of the ground in the corner, with most choosing to sit in the upper tier of this separate block, although by kick off, they had spaced out into the uncovered lower tier adjacent to it.

When the players came out and lined up for kick-off (and it seems that stupid line up and shake hands thing from the Premier League has now reached the Football League as well) then it really became obvious how far away the pitch is. Having grown up going to a Molineux where the nearest touchline was over 40 yards away (see here), then it took me back to my early days of going to football, and that wasn’t particularly a good thing. Whether it was just a particularly dull game, or the distance involved distracted you from enjoying the match, then I’m not sure, but the 90 minutes weren’t really one that will stick in the memory.

Rotherham dominated the first half, having most of the chances without really ever troubling Robert Burch in the visitors goal, but they did take the lead in stoppage time when Reuben Reid scored on his debut, chasing a long ball before poking it home. They say you’re most vulnerable to conceding straight after scoring, and that nearly rang true when Lincoln went close just seconds later when Gary King had an effort saved, before the rebound was scrambled away.

In the second half, Lincoln looked to make amends for the quiet opening period, with Rotherham rarely getting the ball out of their own half. Despite this though the visitors never really looked scoring and other than a fingertip save by Andy Warrington from a Stefan Oakes free-kick, then the game eventually petered out with the hosts claiming all three points in the first match at their new home.

After leaving, I made my way back to the tram stop, where the tram back to Sheffield was packed, but we got back in one piece, and I made my way home, getting back in good time.

Overall, despite the rain and a less than awe-inspiring match, it hadn’t been too bad a day. The ground certainly offers better facilities than Millmoor, but with the pitch so far away, then it really isn’t a great place to watch a game at. The atmosphere wasn’t too bad, Rotherham fans got a few chants going, and once they establish a singing area, then it probably will be decent, but in terms of the ground, then it isn’t really one I’ll be in a rush to get back to be honest. The crowd was 4748, 500 up on last years average, but it will be interesting to see how that holds up, especially in bad weather and night games as you can see a lot of people staying away when you take into account various factors like poor view, travelling and weather. The £20 admission costs won’t exactly help either, but hopefully the club can get through it and the plans to move back to Rotherham into a new ground materialise.

Welcome to Don Valley Stadium

The Home Turnstiles

The Away Turnstiles

Rear of the North Stand

Rear of the Main Stand

The Concourse and Club Shop

The West Stand

The North Stand

The East Stand

The Main Stand

Ready for Kick Off

Don Valley Stadium Panoramic 1

Don Valley Stadium Panoramic 2


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