Posts Tagged ‘pepper spray’

Stoke City v Middlesbrough, Saturday 11th December 2021, 3pm

December 15, 2021

The Bet365 stadium, or the Britannia Stadium as it was formerly known, is another of those grounds that I’ve never been to but feel as if I should have done. Still, it’s never too late until they’ve been demolished and so I got myself a ticket in the Boro section behind one of the goals. The tickets didn’t quite sell out but with almost seventeen hundred there it was still a sizeable away contingent.

Jen and I decided to stay over on the Saturday night and booked in at the Sutherland Arms which is about half an hour’s walk from the stadium. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful with food and beer suggestions and as it was raining quite heavily kindly arranged me a taxi to the ground.

They also suggested that we tried oatcakes from a shop over the road. I’ve a feeling that oatcakes are the Stoke equivalent of a parmo and that everyone visiting town will be asked if they’ve had one. As breakfast choices were limited and the oatcake shop opened at seven on a Sunday morning we had one before we left the next day. It was ok, just a pancake style wrap really, but when filled with egg, bacon and sausage it hit the spot.

The taxi dropped me close to the ground and after initially heading for the wrong turnstiles and then a quick body search outside the correct ones I was soon inside. The concourse area was far too small for the amount of fans that we had brought and it was a squeeze to move around. I eventually jostled my way to the bar for a final pre-match drink. It didn’t seem wise to try and carry a pint so I opted for a bottle of cider but still had to put my thumb over the opening as young lads around me bounced up and down.

The air quality in the enclosed space was already suffering from the usual farts and body odour but got worse when someone lit a flare. Maybe I’m just too old for that sort of thing but who would think that it’s fun to light one of these indoors in an over-packed space? Oh, and what’s the idea behind the song calling a former Geordie number nine a ‘sex offender’? Don’t we have enough historical local experience of false allegations in this field to be better than that?

I chugged my cider as quickly as I could and headed up to my seat. Boro had made a couple of changes with Lumley returning in goal and Fry at centre-back. I’m not sure that I really rate any of the keepers that we have so I don’t suppose it matters much which one plays. It was good to see Fry back in the side though and I thought he had a decent game, directing operations from the back and looking to drive forward whenever there was a gap.

The Britannia Stadium appeared to be not much more than half-full to me so I was surprised to read that there were more than twenty-one thousand there. Perhaps a few season ticket holders had gone Christmas shopping. Three sides of the ground were in a horseshoe but the main stand not only stood alone but stood well back from the pitch. When combined with a very gradual incline it meant that fans in that part of the ground were a long way from the action. With all the money that the Bet365 owners have they might want to consider building a new stand next to the touchline.

Neither side created much of note. Duncan Whatmore had a reasonable chance for us and one of the Stoke players put a header wide towards the end but otherwise it was a game where not much went on. I think a goalless draw was about right.

On leaving my seat at full-time I found myself trapped in the concourse with the exit gates locked and more fans coming down the steps behind me. It’s bad enough being packed in like sardines during covid anyway but there really is no excuse for potential crushes at football. Eventually the gates burst open under the pressure, clattering a steward on the other side.

The issue arose from the local police decision to stop away fans leaving the stadium for half an hour after the game. I hopped on a shuttle bus that was headed for the station on the basis that I might as well sit down whilst waiting and it would be easier to get an onward taxi from there. Other fans weren’t so comfortable as they were kettled and then pepper sprayed. It’s as if we were in the eighties all over again.